[From Mona's Herald 15 July 15 1896]

 Old Douglas - part I

[note the three articles were unsigned]

A photographic picture of Douglas Bay, and a letter describing alterations made and being made in the good old town-sent by a grand daughter to the far-away land in which I live - brought vividly up the Douglas of boyhood's days as it appeared to me, after a two years' absence on the occasion of a mournful visit in the year 18-- (well, no matter now) in the good old steamer " Mona's Isle," Edward Quayle commander -to my young mind the smartest man in the port, red-faced, sour-looking, brave as a lion, and said to be without fear of either God or devil.

"Quayle" sang out the master of the Clarence Dock as we hauled though the basin, " it's not a fit day for you to put to sea ! "

"Do you see that funnel there, Mr Williams ? " jerking his thumb over the left shoulder.

"Yes." .

" Well, as long as she'll put smoke out of that, she'll go."

Captain Edward was in a fairly good temper with himself, digesting a hearty breakfast of Will Maddrell's best fish and choicest Cumberland ham, with eggs, in the Manx Hotel in James'-street, where the cards and the pipe and the glass and the yarn and joke had been going merrily to an hour past midnight, as usual ;.had called in at the Company's agents,Moore & Christian, on his way down; and was altogether feeling as fit as a trivet.

Going down the Crosby Channel (the Victoria Channel had not been discovered), Ned came off the paddle-box on which shone in resplendent gilt the strange device of Three Legs, of which some one wrote :

"READER, thou'st seen a falling cat
Light always on his feet so pat;
A shuttlecock will still descend,
Meeting the ground with nether end.
A persevering Manxman's thus
A shuttlecock, or pauvre puss:
However through the world he's tost,
However disappointed, crost,
Reverses, losses, fortune's frown,
No chance or change can keep him down;
Upset him any way you will
Upon his Legs you find him still;
For ever active, brisk, and spunky,
Stabit: Jeceris: Quocunque.

And going to the cabin companion, called " Trumble." Up came the old steward, his enormous nose the most prominent, feature of his face. " Will," said the old sea-dog, " give all hands a glass of rum ; it's hell or the Isle of Man for it to-day ." It was blowing great guns. Ned Watt and his second both stood by the engines as they alternately raced or slowed, atop of a wave or in the trough of a sea. I am not sure whether Joe Skillicorn or Ned Kneale was mate ; but I have a clear recollection of Dippy Dido in his oilskins hopping about on his toes (he had been frost-bitten on an Arctic voyage) ; and all hands were busy making everything secure on dock for what was evidently going to be an extraordinarily dirty passage. However, after bellowsing at it for weary hours we closed up on the land at Daddy Poker's cave.

We had " discoverers " in the Isle of Man in those days — Captain William Gell, of the " Queen of the Isle," of the Victoria Channel into Liverpool, only it was known to the Liverpool trawl-boat men years previously, and " Billy," watching the trawlers go through, thought he might try the Queen through that course also; and Neddy Quirk, a stone-cutter in Quiggin's Yard. " discoverer " of Daddy Poker's Cave at Pigeon Stream. Quirk was an original, of meditative mood and fancy free, and when no fewer than ten stiles were in existence in the fences `between Douglas Head and Derbyhaven Bay, often on a summer's eve rambled down the hollow where Pigeon Stream found a resting place in the sea. Observing a large fissure in the face of the cliff, he peered in and noticed that it widened considerably. He may have conceived a romantic; idea of smugglers and treasure ; and with the help of a fellow-workman named Clarke, enlarged the entrance, cutting into the rock approaching from below. Quirk often wandered to his cave, remaining until a late hour of the night. Occasionally, Clarke and he would take a spree of a week or fortnight at the case. Sometimes, when credit was stopped, they resorted to strange devices to obtain the "'rhino" for the continuance of a jollification. Once they sallied forth from John Nellie's, the one with a little toy drum suspended from his neck, the other with a penny whistle ; and marching through the streets, visited the shops, soliciting, pence (there were fourteen to the shilling to those days), obtaining sufficient amount to invest in a bottle of rum and one of Neddy Lawson's or Boscow's four pound loaves and some butter, perhaps a couple of salt. herrings, or of Jemmy Holmes' Reds, and betaking themselves to their rocky abode, would remain days together. In his latter days, Neddy was brought under the influence of the teetotal movement which originated in Douglas, and remained a firm disciple until his death, refusing to take the alcoholic stimulant which the doctor ordered in his last illness. Exactly one year from the day of Neddy's death, Clarke died, and their fellow-workmen in W. & R. Quiggin's erected memorial stones in Braddan churchyard.

Thus came up old memories until we passed the lighthouse, Port Skillion, where I had bathed many times, Jemmy Quirk the, High-Bailiff's big house, and Buck . Whalley's, Fort Anne, a boon companion of " the First, Gentleman in Europe." Buck was the builder of Fort Anne, on soil imported from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, and spread over the site of the mansion when the foundations were got out. This strange procedure was in strict compliance with the terms of a bet with the Regent, a bet which Buck lost, viz., that the lady was not to be ; removed from British soil, And she wasn't. A full length portrait of the Regent, and a companion picture of Whalley, his huntsman, and favourite hounds, painted by Northcote, were presented to the town of Douglas by Sir William Hillary, and were hung in. the Oddfellows' Hall, in Athol-street. Their removal occurred by " accident." Power, the actor, rented the Hall, and his men who remained to take down the scenery and ship it, took down these pictures also; when someone told them they " were not Power's.' Enquiring from one and another as to the ownership, Marshall, then owner of Fort Anne, came forward, claimed them, and removed them back to Fort Anne, which he had no more right to do than " Big Clem,' the hobbler, had. Buck died on it pilgrimage which he made to Jerusalem.

We were now alongside the Quay, big porters jumped on the sponsons and swarmed over the bulwarks, to find more porters than passengers; and then we landed, cold, wet and miserable, but looked upon as heroes judging from a remark dropped by a bystander, " There was'n a man bur Captan Quayle cud ha' dun it."

There was the Watch-house and Courthouse, and John Younghusband's with the United Service club overhead, and the old warehouses, and Captain Bacon's new house, and Handby's hotel on the Parade, on whose yacht Roper and Dumbell went to Whitehaven to fight the duel. There were no cars awaiting the steamer in those days; so I tramped past John Clarke, the grocer's, on the corner, by the old Monarch steamboat offices surmounted by two livers which afterwards did duty on the house which Bob Boardman built in Crellin's field. William Gell, the druggist's, (sweet, good-natured William, for he bestowed on me some lozenges after he had drawn my first tooth), as I passed gave me a glimpse of the big elk horns suspended from the ceiling, and recalled the fact that on the floor of the shop old Guinness, the brewer, was restored by Dr Burman after being saved by Ned Kewin when the boat from the Dublin steamer was upset in the mouth of the harbour. Opposite the ferry steps was the somewhat staid and highly respectable looking shop of "Sammy Harris," of Cumberland extraction, silk mercer-and hatter, whose bill for mourning, hat bands, gloves, and scarves for the friends and tenants, on the occasion of old Neddy Gawne's faneral totalled over one hundred aud eighty pounds. And his nephew,Mr John, who married: John Robinson's daughter, and the irrepressible Mister Quilliam, the porter, a man of importance, who, asked by some one his name, replied,-" Mister Quilliam at Sammy Harris's. "

Past the big Custom House, with the Searcher and Landing-waiters' wooden office, and the black boxes' with many fifty-sixes [56lb = ½cwt], and the big triangles from which were hung by Big Clem and Boxer and Dawsey, under the superintendence of Thomas Carroll, the huge scales to weigh the hogsheads of sugar chests of tea, bags of coffee, &c, and where were rolled up the casks of wine, brandy, rum, and gin, to be measured and sampled before delivery to the several consignees, for the most part naval and military men, all of whom had licences from the Governor of this Island, in addition to the merchants.

And many were the abuses under the Licence System, as it was called, until Dr Bowring then M.P. for Bolton, brought the matter under the notice of the House of Commons, who quickly abolished the iniquitous system. For no man, no matter his position in life, could import an ounce of tea or a pound of sugar or a quart of spirits, without a licence from the Governor, to whom necessarily he must cringe and fawn and make a doormat of himself generally. There were a handful of restless spirits, however, even in those days Old Will Kelly, the Chandler, Gavin Torrance, Robert and John Duff, Gordon Kelly the druggist, Col. Campbell, Henry, Thomas , and John Cubbon, the drapers, William Callister, of Ramsey, Bob Farragher the printer; Tommy Garrett, Capt. Hay, Edmund Head, the advocate, Lawrence Adamson, Bower, an English solicitor, and Sammy Rogers-a little man but immensely interested in an Agricultural Society. The Island, methinks, owes some reverence to the memories of these men, who were the pioneers of reform in the rotten system with which officialdom in Manxland was honeycombed.

Here was the Market Place in which from about 8 to 10 on Saturday mornings stood the farmers' wives and their daughters with their baskets of butter and eggs, while at their feet lay fowls and ducks in couples eggs 30 for a shilling, butter 8d a lb, and fowls from 1s 6d per pair. Here came the matrons or the cooks from the Crescent, Finch-road, Athol-street, and the Southquay, and the wives of the carpenters in Aitken's & Williamson's shipyards, and Spittall's yard. and Quiggin's yard, and the other industrial shops of the town, to purchase the week's supplies. For here, too, were the farmers with their carts of potatoes and turnips and cabbages and leeks and carrots, and all that was needful to make a good pot of broth There also stood the butchers' stalls where you got a good sirloin of beef at 6d a pound„and it hindquarter of mutton at five-pence, and a kishen of potatoes for 3d. When business was in full swing there came along Kelly, the Bellman, with his usual official Notis-" The inhabitants of this town are requested to clane their streets, by order of the High Bailiff." The servants and the boys of every household turned out with besoms and swept each in front of their own door, Overlooking the Market Place on the west side was Nelson's British Hotel, and at the corner next the harbour, Burrow's Big shop (Burrow's resided in the big house in Fort-street, afterwards purchased for a hospital). Next Burrow's was Cubbon the saddler's, where gentlemen of conservative and sporting and horsey inclinations oft did congregate to gather gossip. Prominent in the market, of course, was the Old Chapel. At the gable lay Alexander and James Spittall's shop (long will I remember Henry Noble being there), and to the north of the chapel Clague the grocer's, and Moore the druggist's, and Gordon Kelly's, and Robert Duffs, and Gelling's Court, where old Tommy lived adjoining the big ironmonger's shop, where, if I mistake not, Hugh Stowell Brown, or his younger brother, Alfred, was once an apprentice, Opposite the British Hotel and Miller's Plough Inn was Christian Tommy Neddy's, the draper, called the Fire King from the frequent fires he had in his shop in Ramsey. Next door was Gick the shoemaker's, a modest, gentle creature, as full of knowledge and with as perfect command of the: English language as any man I ever knew. His workshop was over Quayle the butcher's shop, opposite Cubbon the barber's. Mr Gick, like many men of small stature, had a majestic wife and two handsome daughters-Jane, whom Will Livesey of the Preston Guardian, married, and Mary, who became wife of Tommy Atkinson the druggist, next door to Cubbon the draper's, in Duke-street.

Up the Court on the right was the Cumberland Tavern kept by Tom Braid, who ran coaches to Castletown, Peel, and Ramsey, starting from the Market-place; every nmorning at 10 o'clock, tooled by Tom Eyre, Will Winder, and Tippo Curphey, and quite a spectacle it was to see them start. Up the narrow lane from Gick's was Tom Bridson the baker's (who introduced the first bread cart), his younger son was of great promise, became a doctor, but died early in life.. Opposite -was Tom Redfern's the Butcher's Arms, where Moore the limeburner, and old Jefferson, ditto, and all big farmers put up every Saturday, a house also much affected by Capt. Spurrier, who drove up to the door at a rattling pace in a tandem, by Tom Harrison, son and heir of old Harrison of the Woodburn, and many roystering blades. Straight ahead from Redfern's lay James'-street, where Mr Douglas (whose son Bob went to Australia) and Paddy Magee both dealt in sailor's jackets, and oil skin coats and trousers, and sou-westers, and flannels, and stockings, and I cannot tell you what beside. Higher up, facing Post Office-place, was the Blue Bell Tavern, with its wide entrance hall, and nearly opposite, the Misses Gawne's, who lodged old Jemmy Grellier, proprietor of the Manx Sun),. Adjoining, on the corner. stood the oldest house in the town., with its thatched roof Christian, the donkey's-so-called from his leaving a donkey and cart, for which I never know the particular use, although except to carry grain to fend the cows he kept in the Howe fields. And right opposite stood the Cattle Market Inn on the site of the first church built in Douglas.

But, I have come off my road. for I was walking up to Athol-street. Twisting in by Bridson's and Peter Moore's the sailmaker, I was in Post Office-place, so-called from the Post Office kept. by Miss Graves, and her brother Peter, and where you paid 8d for a letter. Next, door stood Hughie Stowell's fish shop, with an ancient and fish-like smell, and higher up the lane, on the left, Post Office Place, the market side of which was one block of buildings known as Cain & Lawson's warehouses, where the foreign grants imported duty free from the Baltic was stored to mix with Manks wheat., for export absolutely free to England-a simple process, for all the foreign grain was in the top stores and the Manx in the lowest. I had almost forgotten-the top storey was the Herald printing office of Walls & Fargher. The west side of Post Office Place was occupied by Ailie Cain's public-house, old Cowley's, the joiner, a Captain Christian, with a handsome daughter who married a Frenchman, old Cubbon the Lonsdale, an old man-of -war's mate who had a very large model of a frigate with her guns run out, the admiration of every boy in town who believed be had a vocation for the sea. Passing out of Post Office Place, Morrison the tailor's stood Ï on the right, and adjoining was old Quirk's, who remembered five generations in the Nunnery--Major Taubman, who made a gift of land on the Castletown-road to build a Catholic Chapel; the " warrior " General Goldie, who dismantled the old Nunnery Chapel; Major Goldie-Taubman ; John Senhouse Goldie-Taubman, and his son. Going towards Church-street was Luckman the draper's, Renkin the baker's, Fanny Jordan the confectioner's, Robert Kelly the shoe-maker's, Tommy Cowin the grocer's, Nicholas Boscow's flour mills. Straight up Church street, where are several respectable-looking houses with brass knockers on the doors, we pass Grandin the dyers, opposite Robert Douglas the baker's ; then Crelley's King's Arms Hotel, and into Athol-street., where we come to rest for the night. All which journey from the pier we have come on foot (for there were no cars) over cobble stones-no side walks-your only safety being a doorway if a cart came down or up, which was seldom (for even the household ton of coals was carried; on the backs of ticket porters from the coal boats in the harbour) ; your only place of safety was a doorway or the lee of one the old iron cannons which were stuck in the ground at the corner or at the door of some of the better class houses.

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part 2

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© F.Coakley , 2005