Copied from some handwritten notes by Sir J D Qualtrough (manuscript margin note says written about 1950) these are placed on the web by permission of the current owner
There is an old saying in the Island which goes like this:
Ramsey for Royalty
Peel for Antiquity
Castletown for History
Douglas for Iniquity
There is no place to equal Castletown for history. I think I can begin by saying that the town of Castletown has seen better days. I do not suggest it has come down in the world, for it still retains much of its ancient dignity. But the fact must be admitted that while parts of the Island have gone ahead Castletown has stood still. The tourist industry which has brought prosperity to other places has passed Castletown by. This is partly if not largely Castletown's own fault. I am old enough to remember the determined opposition of the old Castletown families, now unhappily no longer with us, to having anything to do with the "Trippers" or the "Cotton Balls" as they used to be called. When I was younger, I remember that two parties fought in deadly battle, one for and one against encouraging visitors. The House of Keys and the Commissioners elections have been fought on the issue. But the battle was indecisive, to this extent, that the party which stood for progress and development never was able to gain a clear victory. An attempt was made many years ago to provide accommodation for visitors, by building a row of large guest houses at the end of the promenade. Approval was obtained to build further large houses with the aim of making the promenade look something like a promenade. But somehow the people of the town never took to catering and the houses were never built. Those on the end of the promenade became private dwellings. 40 or 50 years ago they were principally occupied by people who came over to educate their sons at King Williams College College. To that extent they did some good, by bringing some extra money in, and so helping local trades. But in the main Castletown has remained unchanged - or as I have so often heard - "quite unspoiled by modern advances".
I imagine we view the fact with a twinge of regret today, as it is not easy to see how the life of the place is to be maintained without some development. We cannot live by taking in other's washing, Even if Clucas's didn't make that unprofitable.
Castletown did however possess some little industries in the past.
I cannot remember it, but there was a ropeworks at Springfield where our Yard now stands. This was run by the BOYD family. Their store and workshop stood where my present office now is and they used as their ropewalk, a path along the mill race. This factory produced the ropes that were used by the smacks and fishing boats in the old days - and good ropes they were, I have been told. The Boyds were reputed to use nothing but the very best Manilla hemp and their ropes were always well spun and "hard topped".
Their operations go back to the days before the railway line and Alexandra Road existed. When the railway and the Alexandra Road were built, stone archways were made for the rope walkers to pass under. I remember as a boy, playing in our yard with the old rope machines. Simple machines they were with three great hooks that revolved when you turned the handle. But they have long ago disappeared.
This was by no means the only local industry. There used to be a Tannery between Malew Street and Hope Street at the bottom of the garden of the house where Mr William Hams died. It was worked by the Hudgeon family, the last representative of whom, George died in Castletown many years ago.
I need not refer to the brewery, which is more flourishing today than ever. It is a very old brewery, and is believed to have supplied beer to the castle in the Derby days (Earls of Derby). It was worked for many generations by the Quayles who lived at Rushen House and were distantly related to the Quayles of Bridge House.
Another industry was the burning of lime at Scarlett, Billown, and Balllahot. Cargoes of lime used to be shipped from Castletown to English ports, and in its heyday created much trade and employment.
Castletown was also a notable centre for boat building and indeed some fair sized ships. Older people can still recall the launch of the "PROGRESS" in 1876. This vessel was built in the yard now occupied by Mr Alan Collister. It was launched into the harbour across the space where the Iron Bridge was built. The launch caused great excitement, as the vessel stuck in the "ways" when halfway down, and some anxiety arose about its safety. When at Birkenhead recently, watching the launch of the new "King Orry", I noticed that the principle of launching was exactly the same as that employed by the old boat builders in Castletown. The last boat built in Castletown was the Nobby "Cicely", about 16 years ago. Previous to that the last launch of a new boat was the Lugger "Florence" built by my father for a Scotch buyer about 50 years ago,
Castletown also had quite a reputation for building smart racing yachts and the regattas here have been a great feature for a long period. I suppose the most famous of all these yachts was "Gretchen I", built by Cubbon Bros, which won many races. In the old days the regattas were a lively occasion. The day was always declared a general holiday in the town and the liveliness was intensified by the presence in the town by soldiers in the Barracks. It was not unusual for arguments about the merits of the respective boats and the handling of them to continue late into the night and sometimes at least to be settled by fisticuffs when all other methods had failed. The method of handicapping by an elected committee of elders, it is understood, together with the state of the sea, wind direction and strength, added to the general atmosphere of animosity and excitement.
The battles between the "Gretchen" and "Lorna Doone" were the talk of the South of the Island - a real Castletown versus Port St Mary fight. The story is told how Dr Rowley Jones in the "Echo" lured a Douglas yacht with a deeper draught than the "Echo's" over the Seal Rock when the tide was ebbing, and how the Douglas boat got stuck on the rock while Rowley went on to win the race.
Now about the old town itself, there is not much new to say. The main and central feature is of course the Castle from which it gets its name, and which was the seat of the Island's Government for many centuries. I won't attempt to give you any history of the Castle. If you want to hear it brought to life, visit the Castle under the escort of the present custodian Mr. George Braid.
A notable feature of three centuries ago was the large number of English names in Castletown - probably those of retainers, officials and troops brought over by the Derby Family (and most likely added to as a result of the "Protection Act 1737"). The result was that in many respects Castletown was the most English of Manx towns. I extract the following names from a list of over 250 years ago:-
Lake, Preston, Litherland, Goldsmith, Laurence, Standish Miles, Clarke, Stolt, Walsh, Parr, Marshall, Carr, Abel, Girard, Corbett, Rushton, Coke, Aleyn, - It almost sounds like a roll-call of Cromwell's Ironsides.
The Keys met in Castle Rushen up to 1706. Whether they moved straight from the Castle to the building on Parliament Square now used as the Westminster Bank, or whether they occupied another building in the interim I have not discovered. Though the Derbys did not reside to any real extent in the Castle, we know that James - the great Stanley - certainly did in the years between 1643 and 1651. I think it was he who built for his comfort, the apartments now occupied by the custodian. The Castle itself must have been a very cold and dreary residence. The Castletown of those days consisted of poor and mean dwellings in the main. But times were lively, for Lord Derby with his large household and garrison entertained the people with fantastic marquees. He encouraged horse racing - and the Golf Links was known up to recent times as the race course, where it is said the first Derby was run. It is believed there was once a kind of canal, through the narrow part of the race course, joining Castletown and Derbyhaven Bays.
When Lord Derby crossed to fight for Charles 2nd he took with him 300 Manxmen, a large number of whom were probably Castletonians and it is unlikely that any of them returned again after the Royalist defeat at Worcester.
Among notable persons confined within the walls of Castle Rushen, was Bishop Wilson, whose cell can still be seen. It is interesting to record that the origin of the quarrel with the Governor which resulted in his imprisonment was a squabble that arose probably from women's gossip. While the good bishop lived in Bishops Court his Archdeacon - Horrobin, lived in Castletown; although it seems that Arbory was his parochial charge. His doctrines seem to have come under the episcopal disapproval, and it seems likely that some controversy arose in which the Archdeacon was supported by the Derbys. He defended himself vigorously. However, there was in Castletown a young widow, a Mrs Puller who took sides against Horrobin and gave evidence against his orthodoxy at an enquiry in Peel, with the result that the Archdeacon refused to administer the sacrament to her. The lady appealed to the Bishop. The Archdeacon appears to have parried the charge by a counter accusation of loose living against the lady and that she had in fact been guilty of undue familiarities with a certain gentleman in Castletown - a Sir James Poole. The Archdeacon quoted Mrs Horne the Governor's wife as his authority. Judicial enquiries were set in motion resulting in Mrs Horne's evidence being rejected because it could not be supported. Mrs Horne (the Governors wife) was then censured as a result.
Thus the scene was set for a first class row. The Governor who had the confidence of Lord Derby was angered and the matter dragged on from bad to worse until eventually Bishop Wilson found himself in prison. Far be it from me to suggest that it was owing to the part he took in this quarrel that the Bishop was ultimately imprisoned. It must be added and noted that the situation between himself and the Governor had already become strained, and the lists (challenges) were set for the final struggle for supremacy in the Island between Church and State, which was bound to happen in event, but was probably considerably hastened by the Earls' and Governors' aggressiveness and the Bishops' equally stern and unbending resistance to civil authority. But there can be little doubt that the bitterness aroused by this affair of Mrs Puller added fuel to the flames, and increased the unfriendly tension between the Bishop and the Governor at a time when a policy of conciliation would have been more advantageous. A more reasonable attitude would probably have saved the Bishop from prison.
Popular sympathy was with the Bishop and on his release he received a tremendous ovation.
But this is merely history - and from the point of view of these notes - a digression.
Most visitors to the Castle enquire whether it has a ghost. The evidence is that it has - or rather did - the famous white lady. I remember some 20 years ago when taking a party of journalists from England through the Castle, I was asked the usual one - has the Castle got a ghost. When I replied yes, I was asked whether I knew anyone who had seen it. When I again replied yes. I was asked to produce the witness. I offered, and the offer was accepted. To satisfy the party's curiosity I took them along to the wife of a former custodian, Mrs Gray, who gave a most convincing account of an experience she herself had had of the apparition. The journalists were very intrigued and vigorously cross questioned Mrs Gray, who however was not only unshaken, but surprised and pained to find that anyone should think of doubting her complete veracity.
Castletown has been the home of many of the Island's most influential families, those who have played a powerful part in our history. Names like the Christians, Gells, Quayles, Stevensons, Moores, Crellins, Taubmans, and Karrans spring up again and again. Most of these have produced Deemsters, Attorney Generals, Receiver Generals and other prominent officials. The influence of these families in the life of the community, has been powerful - at times even autocratic - and few dared to challenge them. Even after the House of Keys ceased to be self elected their reign continued. It was vigorously challenged however about 50 years ago when the sitting member, a Stevenson of Balladoole and heir to an old name, was opposed and defeated by a very narrow majority. His defeat was at the hands of a tradesman, the late James Mylchreest the grocer.
The election was bitterly fought. Every form of coercion was exercised, but for once the village Hampden* in the person of Mr. Mylchreest prevailed against the old aristocracy. It says much for the democratic and independent spirit of the town's people that such a result was achieved.
The Taubmans hailed from Castletown before they went to the Nunnery. They lived at the Bowling Green, and their burial place is Malew Church yard. Their house stood where Corvalley now is.
William Christian (Illiam Dhone) lived at Ronaldsway and certainly spent much of his active life in Castletown. There was another William Christian living at Knock Rushen. Like his namesake Illiam Dhone, he was also for a while Receiver General. He was imprisoned in Castle Rushen on suspicion of having incited the people to revolt against the Earl. He was acquitted of the charge, but kept in prison for some months afterwards. He was implicated in the Illiam Dhone rebellion. He was also a member of the House of Keys.
As you probably know Bridge House was built by the Quayle family to block the view of the sea from the Governor who then lived at Lorne House, and with whom they appear to have had a quarrel.
Beach House was built by a Deemster, John Fressil Crellin (ancestor of Mr. J. F. Crellin MLC). He died before it was ready to live in. It was Mr. Quayle who started the first bank in the Isle of Man. The offices were at Bridge House. It only lasted for about 13 years. It is interesting to record that while the RAF was in occupation of Bridge House, the boys broke into some old panelling and discovered some of the old bank's papers, including a quantity of bank notes which they even brought to Douglas and tried to cash without success.
There was also a family with the unusual surname of "The Saints" living in premises which are now gardens today known as Ellerslie. The lane running up to it was consequently known as Paradise, as it is still known today. It suggests that our ancestors had a rough and ready sense of humour.
I would like to be able to tell much about the buildings in the town. Some of the houses in which you live could tell interesting stories if only the walls could speak; stories of joy and sorrow, ambition and disappointment, love and hate. Some of them have been inhabited by chiefs of this Island. Some have heard plots hatched and plans of good and ill formed. Earls and Governors and Deemsters have lived here but their walls are silent.
There are a few interesting old buildings in the town; chief among these is undoubtedly the old grammar school formerly the church of St. Mary which is certainly very ancient. Its most notable feature is the Norman arches which have a striking resemblance to arches at Rushen Abbey. The theory that has been advanced that they were brought from Rushen Abbey at the time of the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry seems a bit far fetched. After its disuse as a church it became a grammar school and continued to do excellent work up to modern times. It had a succession of Head Masters of outstanding scholarship, and many of its pupils did well.
There was formerly a house in Malew Street called the "Big Tree" house, which was demolished to clear the space to build the Malew Street Methodist Church, built about 50 years ago by Primitive Methodists. This house was early 18th century and for one period was occupied by Thomas Harley, brother of Robert Harley 1st Earl of Oxford*, who is believed to have been sent over here because of his Jacobean tendencies. Harley spared no money on the building and it possessed much elaborate panelling and grand staircase.
Harley was buried at Kirk Malew. Among his main interests was the "South Sea Bubble" in which he lost money. This house was later occupied by David Harrison 1st Chaplain of St. Marks and later Vicar of Malew. The house ended its life as tenements before falling into ruin.
John Wesley visited Castletown more than once and stayed at 47 Arbory Street now occupied by Miss Alice Clague and her brother Robert - descendants of a well known sea faring family in the old days. In 1777 Wesley preached near the Castle and remarked that he found the women particularly attentive. Connected with the visit of Wesley is the story of old Mr. Gell who was out in the bay fishing one day when he fell asleep in the boat and had a horrible dream. He dreamt that he had fallen into a bog and was slowly sinking. Then a man came to pull him out and he was saved.
Next day he went to hear Wesley preach. As soon as he saw him he cried out in amazement. That's the man who came to me in my dreams and saved me. He was converted at that meeting.
The house opposite the Arbory Street Chapel is known as the "Bagnio" or bath house - a sort of "red-light" house of ill-repute. It is thought to have been built by the Derbys and the Lords stables adjoined it.
The present town Commissioners offices on the Parade Were formerly the Barracks; but there is a tradition that it was first built as an hotel. Among the soldiers who came to the barracks was a young officer called Lieut Fry who fell in love with and married a Miss Goldie Taubman of the Nunnery who is still alive and living at the Nunnery. Lieut Fry with his wife in later years returned to the Island as Lieut Governor. This was a happy climax to a romance which is believed to have started amid much family opposition on the maidens side.
The building now occupied by Martins Bank (ground floor) and the Athol Club upstairs was formerly a kind of arched arcade (actually it was built as a typical open shambles). It was once the butter market to which farmers brought butter for sale (this was just a part of its function later in life when it was also a butchery). The top storey was once the Customs House. The fish market was on the flag stones on the south side, on which now stands the Babby House an ancient sundial with 13 dials.
The monument on the square was built in honour of Governor Smelt. It is interesting to note that it was the founder of the Lifeboat Institution - Sir William Hilary - who was the prime mover in instigating this project. He called together a representative committee from all parts of the Island to a meeting at the George Hotel. It was intended to place a statue of the Governor on the top, but this has never been done through lack of funds. Governor Smelt is buried in St. Marys Church in front of the communion table.
Several points about St. Marys church are worth recalling. The marble Altar slab was given by an Earl of Derby for the previous St. Marys, and there are candle sticks presented by the widow of Capt. Quilliam who was on the "Victory" with Nelson at Trafalgar.
When the rudder of the "Victory" was carried away he rigged up a jury rudder and insisted on steering the vessel himself. He lived in the Balcony House on the parade and also at Balladoole - the residence of his relatives, the Stevensons.
Mrs Quilliam his wife also left candlesticks of her own to King Williams College and also her estate at Orrisdale.
There are some very interesting old houses in Chapel Lane. One was occupied by a Thomas Castley, who was Senior Wrangler in 1758 - the only senior wrangler who worked in the Isle of Man. He was master of the grammar school and chaplain of St. Marys. In Church Lane too stood Finnigans School left by Catherine Halsall, who also gave a parcel of land as an endowment for it. This land is now known as School Hill and tradition has it that is how it got its name.
The Westminster Bank* was formerly the House of Keys down to 1862. On the Speakers Desk in the House of Keys today there is a fine pair of ram's horns which were made into a snuff box. These formerly stood in the old Keys Room at Parliament Square and Archdeacon Kewley told me once that when a lad attending Castletown grammar school he occasionally went into the Keys Chamber during the lunch break an helped himself to a pinch of snuff.
The wooden bridge crossing the harbour replaced an old arched bridge which was high enough for boats to pass under.
The Vicarage - Rushen House - was formerly known as the Green House where once lived John Taubman known as the "Great Taubman" who bought the nunnery from Deemster Peter Heywood.
Lorne House stands on a famous site. There in 1134 was held a meeting of several people of note presided over by King Olaph at which it was decided to erect a monastery on the site of St. Lua, and so was founded the Abbey of St. Mary at Rushen Abbey, From St. Lua we get the name of Malew. An old Irish scholar once told me that he was convinced that Malew was Celtic for "My Lady" though the commonly accepted derivation is St. Lupus.
It is even likely that Lorne House Hill was an early Tynwald Hill. Lorne House Hill was then called "Howyngren" - Hill of the Sun. Alongside it is the Bowling Green. This name has bothered antiquarians as there is no trace of a bowling green ever having existed there. But perhaps we can get a clue to the meaning from 'Howyngren'. Bowling Green suggests the manx words "Boayl yn Ghrian" - place of the sun.
In the grounds of Lorne House there is said to be an ancient Roman altar.
By the Station Road is a field called the "Gallows Meadow" (alongside Victoria Road school). There hanging formerly took place. The gallows stood alongside the river bank and was washed away in a flood. It eventually came ashore at the White Strand near Kirk Michael.
At the Bowling Green we come to the Buchan School. The present buildings were originally the residence of "the Quality", among others the late Sir James Gell lived in one of them. The school is named after Lady Buchan. Who was Lady Buchan you may be interested to know. Well she was the eldest daughter of Col. Wilks one of the finest men the Island has ever produced. He had a distinguished military career and for a time the political resident of the province of Mysore in India. He became Governor of St. Helena and was there when Napoleon arrived to spend his last years as a prisoner. Napoleon evidently grew fond of Wilks and interesting accounts of their conversations have been published, and give evidence of "his power of interesting the bored Emperor". On his retirement, he returned to the Island and settled at Kirby (the home of the Drinkwaters now). He entered the House of Keys and became Speaker in 1823. He had a daughter Laura who married General Sir John Buchan and became the Lady Buchan who founded the school.
Lady Buchan, nee Wilks, was an extremely charming and beautiful girl. When in St. Helena with her father she was introduced to Napoleon who seems to have been quite impressed.
The lady who introduced her to Napoleon wrote afterwards - quote- "I was delighted to chaperon so elegant, amiable and beautiful a young lady and felt Proud that Napoleon should see so perfect a specimen of my fair country women". She also called her "the most charming and admirable person I ever before or since met with in all my peregrinations in Europe, Asia or Africa for the space of 30 years". The introduction to Napoleon is fully described. Napoleon said "I have long heard from various quarters of the superior elegance and beauty of Miss Wilks; but now I am convinced from my own eyes that the report has scarce done her justice". Napoleon presented her with a bracelet.
From this charming lady came the endowment which founded the school. It was intended in the words of the will for the promotion of higher education among girls in Castletown. It has had a varied career. Sometimes under able Head Mistresses it has flourished and at other times it has languished. It received a new lease of life about 25 years ago, due to the exertions of Canon Owen of King Williams College who gathered subscriptions and laid the foundation of its present prosperity.
The rocky shores around Castletown have been responsible for numerous wrecks. There was the "Provider" in 1857. Many of her crew were washed ashore and buried on Langness. I remember some years ago walking on Langness and seeing Mr. Thomas Curphey, Harbour Master at Derbyhaven working with his penknife on a rock. I asked him whatever was he doing, He said that it was the "Provider Rock" and he was cutting in the name afresh. Then there was the "Countess of Eglington" - the Dublin boat lost about 1874. A large schooner loaded with oak bark was lost at scarlett one terrible Good Friday; and there were very many more.
The number of wrecks occurring aroused a great deal of distress
and led a local bank agent -
J. Macmeeken - a scotsman by birth, to such good purpose that he
agitated vigorously for a light to be put on Langness. At last the
Northern Lights gave way and Langness Lighthouse was built. On his
death Macmeeken was buried at Kirk Malew. T. E. Brown wrote an
In-Memoriam poem in his memory which I quote -
A lovely soul has sought his silent firth
Friend of all things weak
Go down to that sweet soil you held so dear
Go up to God and joys unspeakable
Speaking of Brown, I remember the great occasion - though I was not present - when he gave his famous lecture in Castletown when he castigated the snobbery that was prevalent, and used the long to be remembered phraseology - "There are as many classes in Castletown as there are rings around a Portugal onion. The Governor living at Lorne House would be the centre. From there would be the Governor's satellites and then their parasites and so on till you come to the outer cover.
Brown hated snobbery and class distinction, of which he seems to
have met a lot in Castletown this day. Subsequently a poem was
circulated, of which Brown was suspected to be the author, though
personally I have no actual knowledge of this fact
"God of the muse, do thou the muse inspire;
Help him to utter winged words of fire,
To scotch the pride of this caste ridden town
And bring the prudes of Castletown down.
Why should a man fear any face of clay
However moulded, fashioned as it may
Red blood, or blue, it matters not a straw
We brothers are by universal law.
Yet there are those who passing thro' the street
Will scrape and bow to everything they meet
Invertebrate they are, made without bone
Or e'en a soul that they may call their own"
- and much more on the same lines.
There was a number of interesting old customs in the town in my youth. Older folk will recall the "WHITE BOYS" who went around at Christmas from house to house, Playing a kind of mummers play of very ancient origin. Mr. Leignton Stowell revived it in recent years. I have since seen several versions of it and I believe that Mr. Stowell had considerable trouble in setting the correct local one.
Then there were the "DARKIES" or "MOLLAG BAND" as they were called. They consisted of boys with blackened faces and dressed in fantastic costumes. They had a few instruments, principally concertinas, mouth organs and triangles with one or two cymbals and a home made drum - made with a sheep skin drawn across a cheese barrel. They made a rare din.
There were always several parties of "HUNT THE WREN" on St. Stephens day - we never called it boxing day in the Isle of Man. There were too the "CHRISTMAS CALLERS" who went around (before Xmas) after midnight with always concertinas and perhaps a fiddle, shouting "Good morning Mr -; Good morning Mrs -; and all the little X's ------- It's One O'Clock in the morning and a fine morning". Everyone got a call and on St. Stephens day they came round to collect "Freewill Offerings".
We all went to the same school, boys and girls. The school is now the Church Room and we brought 2d a week to pay our school fees. As the roll was called on Mondays we all brought up our twopences but some children called "Free" paid nothing. On day I remember with the 2d in my pocket, I was called out "Free" and paid nothing. But the Headmaster Mr. Geldarth who possessed a long cane with a knob on the end took a hostile view of my freedom and applied the cane with a vehemence I still remember.
These notes would not be complete without some reference to the "Old Characters" who once were a prominent feature of the population. I do not know of any other place that had so many. But they have now all gone to their resting place in Malew.
They went about the town seldom working, making a living from the charity of their "clients" swopping the latest news - and scandal and maybe getting a meal and a few coppers for their reward or, as I rather fancy - to keep the peace with them, for they had sharp tongues when they liked to use them; which they didn't hesitate to do when vexed. You know the sort of person I mean.
The last of the race whom I mention with real affection was the late Robert Bridson - Bob Hatchey as some of us irreverently called him. Bob was no fool. But he could solemnly pull our legs by telling of the times he went to the fishing, and how he was the man who fired the gun when they shot the train; or, how one night he fell overboard and such was his presence of mind that he lifted himself back on deck by the guernsey -- and what names they had! There was Billy Darks, Bill Bogus, John Garrett called "Lady in the Famett", Sandy Leeks, Tom Tanner, Kattie Joe, Ricky Powley, Jimmy Lucy, Tommy the Councillor, Johnnie John Jem, Harry the Wing, They gave much local colour to the town. I don't remember them all, but I have heard many stories about them.
There was an old man (I just remember his son James Leyland who once worked as a mason for Mr. Flaxney Stowell). In the old days when St. Marys had a high decker pulpit, he always sat in the gallery, and always fell asleep in the sermon. He was right on a level almost with the parson - it was Parson Parsons in those days. One day however a strange preacher came to St. Marys and the old man so far from falling asleep, listened eagerly. Parson Parsons heard about this and next day when he met Leyland he questioned him about it saying - "How is it you always fall asleep when I am preaching, but you kept awake for this stranger?". "Aw well", said he "when thou're praychen parson we know thars doctrine is alreet. But these strangers wants watchin".
There was Billy Darks, a little very dark man, whom I just remember. I don't know his proper name. When Billy had nearly come to the end, and was very low, the Guardians of the poor were concerned because he lived alone. So they got hold of two men and engaged them to sit with Billy, The men agreed on condition that they got a bottle of rum to "wake"* Billy. From time to time they gave anxious looks at Billy who was slowly sinking, but still alive. At last the watchers agreed that Billy had passed on and that the time had come to open up the bottle - "wake". So when they toasted their departed patient a few times, one said to the other - "Poor Billy for all" - "he was fond of a drop of rum too". "Aye said the other; what do thee say if we give him a drop". So pouring some of the rum into a tin mug they held it to Billy's nose. But Billy had not yet gone - as they had hoped, and smelling the rum, he sat up, grasped the mug and drank. In fear and terror the two men ran out of the room, into the street screaming - "Billy Darks has rose from the dead".
There was Pat Gallagher the "Bell-man". He was possessed of a fine voice that could be heard through a whole street. They used to make all announcements by bell man in those days. Indeed the bell man was a public official and received his appointment from the High Bailiff in the towns, and from the Captain of the Parish in the country.
Pat had no schoolen and could not read or write and when asked how he spelled his name used to reply - P Atrick patrick G galagher Gallagher. On one occasion he had orders to go round announcing a camp meeting to be held by the Primitive Methodists (the Primitives alas, have ceased to hold camp meetings). Pat delivered the following message. "There will be a camp meeting at the Primitives, to be held next sunday in Paradise. Kindly lent by Mr. J. T. Gell". (remember previously the Saints and how the area became known as Paradise).
There was George Tarney and his wife Sarah. George had sailed foreign in his youth and used to regale his friends with tall stories - then he would turn to Sarah - "Thats true every word isn't Sarah". "Yes George the Gospel truth - what was it thou said George".
George Tarney once persuaded his brother-in-law George Hart to accompany him to the old Queen Street Mission Room. In the prayer meeting which in true evangelist fashion all present took part at some stage, Tarney prayed in a loud voice "Lord give us a new heart" and Hart chipped in "Yes Oh Lord and a new Tarney too".
Jimmy Mucker used to say that he had been all over the world except foreign.
Having mentioned Queen Street let me say that it was considered a fine street in those days and none the worst for being a bit narrow. The late Mr Flaxney Stowell once said the streets in Castletown were purposely built narrow and winding to break the force of the wind. There is something in that, even if they don't suit motor buses and charas. I believe Queen St was originally called Queen Hythe Street. This we learn from an old document in the Record Office concerning the sale of a house in Queen Hythe St.
There lived in Queen St., Tom Hyde, who had won some repute at sea, and his sister Maggie. Some man in the street married a woman from "Cross-Four-Ways" which was tantamount to marrying beneath him. One day Maggie passing the door, saw the woman standing at the door knitting, and exclaimed - "The impudence of her, standing there at the door knitting, just the same as if she was born in the street".
It is said of Tom Hyde that once in Sydney he stood to watch a street fight and the man who was getting the worst of it shouted for help - "Is there a Manxman about". "Yes", said Tom - "Tom Hyde from Queen Street" Well - you can smile; but when, the great exhibition was held at Wembley, it was visited by Miss Quayle of Bridge House who was most surprised that the assistant at the Manx Stall did not know her. "No Madam, I do not", he said, "will you kindly say who you are". "I'm Miss Quayle of Bridge House", which left the attendant quite unimpressed.
The coming of the Railway was not universally hailed as a blessing. Col. Carey who lived at Beach House told his coachman Pat McGarry to take some things to the Calf which the Colonel owned. "You can go" he said, "by train to Port St Mary and walk to the Sound from there". "Navva" said Pat, "navva will I go on a thing thats taking the bread out of working men's mouths, navva". So the Colonel told him he would give him notice if he refused; and Pat said - "Slippery stones at a gentleman's door". What do you mean, said the Colonel. "Here today and gone tomorrow" said Pat, as he walked off.
But besides these quaint, original and much loved characters, I can recall too, many men and women of great strength and influence. I cannot hope to mention them all in the space of these few notes. I would however like to add some memories that are associated with the church. I have frequently attended service with my mother (who was a P.M.) at the old chapel in Hope Street now the Masonic Hall. I can recall the immense excitement and effort that accompanied the building of the Chapel, and the great Bazaar, held in the Town Hall (now the Oddfellows Hall) to raise funds. I remember how proud I was, wheeling through the streets a little barrow which my father made for the bazaar. I recall with pride some of the splendid company of workers who were the backbone of the Chapel gathered around their leader Mr. Quayle Stowell or Quayley as everyone called him.
I can remember many of them yet. Quayley was the possessor of a remarkably rich and resonant bass voice, which filled any hall without effort. I well remember the story told about his speech at the Rechabite Club Dinner in the Town Hall. They were great days - the Club Days. We used to march around the town wearing sashes and carrying wands of various and wondrous design. Then to the College and back to a service in St. Marys and at last tired and dusty we sat down to a real dinner in the Town Hall. On this particular occasion Bishop Bardsley preached the sermon at St. Marys and gave the address at dinner. Quayley was to propose the vote of thanks. As he left his place,Mrs Stowell - as wives always do - warned him not to speak too long with the Bishop being there. Quayley in his speech told about his wife's warning, and with that mock seriousness which he could well assume, drew himself up and said - "I told her I didn't mind the Bishop for I was a Methodist preacher before the Bishop was born". The Bishop laughed heartily at the quip.
The leading spirits in the building of the chapel were the minister, the Rev. James Openshaw and his wife Margaret, who incidentally was my great aunt.
James Openshaw was a fine man of great energy and knowledge. He had a dramatic style of preaching. He used to tell how once when preaching on a call to Peter he dramatized the incident by shouting - "Peter - Peter". A man at the back named Peter, who had been enjoying a quiet snooze suddenly awoke and jumped up saying "Aye, aye what are thar wantin now".
Mrs Openshaw was a grand help person. Her favorite expression was "we must be up and doing". No idle moment was allowed. I have heard her tell how when she was a young women the cholera epidemic broke out and hundreds were dying in loneliness and misery, quite unattended, as no one dared to venture into their houses. She felt a call from God to go and help the people in their terrible affliction. Her parents put their foot down and said no, it was too risky. She sought divine guidance and taking up the Bible, and letting it fall open where ever it would, she took what words her eyes first lighted on as divine will. The words were these:
Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night
Nor for the arrow that flieth by day
Nor the pestilence that walketh in darkness
Nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday
A thousand shall fall at my side
And ten thousand at my right hand
But I shall not come nigh thee.
Pinning her faith in that assurance, she set out upon her task and during the violence of the plague gave help wherever she could and suffered no ill effects.
But perhaps the most outstanding personal memory of my youth was Castletown's grand old man Flaxney Stowell or Flaxen as he was universally called. He was Quayley's brother. One went to Arbory Street Chapel and the other to Malew Street and I never discovered why. But there was complete cordiality and cooperation between the two Methodist Churches in those days.
Flaxen and Quayley were great temperance advocates and one was the perfect complement to the other. While Flaxney made audiences rock with his inimitable humour; Quayley drove home the message with passion and force. Flaxen was my Sunday School Superintendent for many years. He held to his post until nearly 90. I can see him now toddling down Arbory Street from his home at Elderbank with top hat and frock coat, to Sunday School. In his later years his memory failed badly, and I fear we youngsters did not always treat the old campaigner with the reverence that was his due. He told the same stories over and over again. But let me confess - some of them have stuck. We all know the lines -
A sabbath well spent
Brings a week of content
and health for the toils of the morrow
But a sabbath profaned
Whate'er may be gained
Is a certain fore runner of sorrow.
How he used to love to tell the story of the occasion when arriving home late and tired from work he had to make a hurried change of clothes in order to get off to speak at a meeting. He could not have had time to dress very carefully for his wife said to him - "Flaxen for goodness sake, go change thy coat for that one will nevva do". Flaxen looked at the coat and said "Aw it'll do alright - them that know me, know I've got betta. Them that don't it makes no matter".
He used to tell how when he was courting his wife Kate, he was a very shy and hesitant wooer; and they talked about religion, politics, business and every subject else on earth, but the main subject. One night the conversation turned to hymns and Flaxen proceeded to tell her about his favourite. Then he asked her "and whats your favourite Kate". Number 426 she replied. And whats that he asked, but she refused to tell him. Thou can look it up when thou get home she said. That night when he got in the house he took out his hymn book and looked it up. It started thus:-
"Thou shepherd of Israel and mine
Thou joy and desire of, my heart
For closer communion I pine
I long to reside where thou art"
The next night he proposed to her in the words of another hymn
"Oh take me as I am" etc.
Flaxney Stowell published a book on old Castletown. In a foreword in the book the late Archdeacon Kewley describes him thus:-
"This venerable and familiar figure presents the same appearance as it did when I first knew him. The same unruffled and unperturbed temper. The same kind word for everyone, the same unfailing patience; the same intense love for his fellow men; the same fervent and unabated desire to help them to lead better and holier and happier lives. His appearance on the platform was sufficient to make us forget our boyish troubles. It was not necessary for him to speak a word. We were carried away before he opened his mouth. We roared. We applauded. His anecdotes and jokes were his own, part and parcel of himself. His name will be remembered with esteem and affection long after he has been laid to rest in the old Church yard at Malew with Kate who for over half a century was the partner of his joys and sorrows. Many will regard it as a privilege and pleasure to have had Flaxney for their friend".
I can endorse every word of the Archdeacon.
Well - there's my story. I have given you something of the dignity
and history of the town; its quaintness and humour; its essential
charm. I trust it will always be to you as it always has been to me,
a source of pride to be able to say -
"I BELONG TO CASTLETOWN"
These notes by Sir J. D. Qualtrough were kindly loaned to me by his son Ian. They were obviously used for a talk which he gave to a church audience. Because of the style used and in places a slight problem in reading the hand writing there has of necessity been some little editing, but of a very minor nature.
I am indebted to Ian for the privilege of being able to do this - George Callister.]
*Thomas Harley, who died in 1741 aged 65, was in fact third son of William Harley (and grandson of William Harley born Malew 1634) - Wilkins considers that he spent some time off the Island before returning to act as a collector for Poole and McGwire in the 1720's (see F. Wilkins The Isle of Man & the Jacobite Network 2002 (ISBN1-897725-15-9))