[From Mona's Herald 15 July 1896]

 Old Douglas - part III

[note the three articles were unsigned]


Jefferson was not only founder of the Manks Advertiser, but was also a bookbinder and general printer, and from his printing office came most of the card notes, of which the currency of the Inland consisted. anyone, be he farmer or shopkeeper, who chose could issue notes, providing he could pay for the printing, and persuade his neighbours to accept them as currency:-" One Shilling, John Beatson's Wine and Liquor Vaults' ; "One British Shilling, Copeland " ' a figure of Atlas bearing a globe, on which ran the words, " Payable in gold or bank notes, the change to be paid in to the banker": a drawing of the Union Mills on the note issued by Will Kelly. These notes were of value 3d, 4d, 6d, 10d, 1s, 2s, 2s 6d, 3s 6d,5s,7s, and one guinea. An idea of the value of some of these notes may be realised from the fact that a Whitehaven merchant who had, during his visit to collect his accounts, been paid to a large extent in the notes of a Northside farmer, on going to the house of " the banker" to obtain payment, was told by the banker's wife that " they had no money, but would give him new notes for them." Jefferson was also bookseller, and kept a circulating library in his shop in Duke-street, having a bow window which bulged out half-way across the street. Jefferson's wife was a Manx woman, daughter of old Billy Christian Ballure's, Kirk Maughold. On the Market-hill were the drapers Stephen, and Kissack, and Hodson and Nowlin ; and Willie Duff, the grocer's. Opposite was Henry Lawrence the tobacconist's, A short, dark Italian - looking man, son of Mrs Lawrence, who was in partnership with Bob Wetherall's widow in it little shop down steps to the right of John Drinkwater's house at the ferry steps opposite the Tongue. The first trigonometrical survey of the Isle of Man was made at the expense of John Drinkwater. Many a chat I've. had with him sitting on the limestone mooring-post on the quayside in front of his house. He used to tell an amusing story of his being trade a Leghard when a youth, at Port St Mary. Lower down the quay stood the Black Lion Inn, famed for the mellow quality of its rum " when the rum was three halfpence a glass." In and about this neighbourhood were several public-houses where the men following "the fishing" (the boats were mostly open boats, big wholesome yawls) pitched their tents for the time being, drinking their pints of jough and singing-

The King can drink his pint of jough-,
At.' I narr do the same.
The King can love a purty girl,
An' I can do the same.

Out in front, on the Quay, was Walker Topliss's paper warehouse; and on the Market was the British Hotel. It was in Dixon's Assembly Rooms that Edmund Kean performed its 1819, and in 1825 that he played in the new theatre in Athol-street,. Dixon introduced a stage coach into the Island in 1821 in the same year occurred the flour riots in Douglas , and Peel, from which latter town came a man dressed in woman's apparel, and heading the mob, first attacked Cain's shop in Drumgold-street; then Tommy Garrett's in Duke-street., turning on the tap in a puncheon of rum, which flowed over the shop and was set on fire. They next halted at Roger Roney's shop at the corner of Duke-street, and the leaders commenced to batter in the sloping cellar doors when. a voice rung out from the crowd---" Leave Roger Roney's alone, for he brings provisions into the country, but doesn't send them out." And Mr Roney's property was saved. He had been a member of the recently-disbanded Manx Fencibles. The Nunnery Mill was next attacked, and General Goldie and an armed party attacked the rioters and captured two of the ringleaders. Householders were enrolled as a defensive force, army officers wore appointed to different parts of the town, and the Free School, in Athol-street, used as a barracks; the Keys met and laid an embargo on the exportation of oats, barley, wheat, flour and potatoes.

A well-known name in the mercantile world had almost escaped my memory,that of the brothers Duff,-William, Robert, John and James,-fronting the Marketplace, as their shop in Castletown fronted the Market there, and from the door of which you could see the column erected in memory of Governor Smelt, but on which his admirers "raised not a line, and carved not a stone,' for it was inscriptionless, and might just as well have stood as a monument to the memory of " Tom the Dipper" so far as any information was to be obtained from it, From Duff's shop in the Douglas Market-place was a pipe for gas from Tommy Gelling's, the ironmonger's, gasometer-the first gas used for lighting in the town.

A well-known figure in the prominent political characters of the town was Johnny Duggan, whom Alfred Ormonde, of the Manx Cat, christened "'The Manx Kikero." Johnny was married to a sister of Admiral Sir Baldwin Wake Walker, whose connection with the Royal Navy brings to mind the name of a boy commonly known as " Blanoh," with old Charley Voast in the Earl of Surrey, and who entered the Navy, and was the first over the ramparts in the attack of San Joan D' Acre, and planted the Union Jack. I always heard he was held in high esteem with all the officers under whom be served; but what ultimately became of him I don't know.

Going up the Quay from Lawrence's corner was Phil Cain's Saddle Inn, nestling in the mouth of Queen-street. Out on the Quay was Fleetwood's and Matthew's, merchants ; and Quilleash & Quay, the painters ; while half-way up towards the Bank-hill (from Wulff and Forbes's Bank) was Dillon the bookseller's, and the Isle of Man Joint Stock Bank, established in 1836, which declared a dividend of twelve-and-a-half per cent. on the six months before it broke and spread ruin and desolation front one end of the Island to the other. Johnny Hogg's brewery stood at the top of the Quay. While over the Douglas New Bridge (the bridge which General Goldie so generously built, afterwards scooping up and enclosing the public's property, "The Lake") on the South-quay' resided half-pay military and naval officers all of whom held, as did their brethren-in-arms, licences to import wines, spirits, tea and sugar, and which licences many of them were accustomed to sell to "The Trade." The South-quay brings to mind Holmes's (Henry, John and James), bankers and herring curers,--and the long row of curing houses and warehouses the full length of the Quay from the point of the Tongue seaward. Poor old Jemmy, a man who never did a good turn in his life out of all his abundance; and whose wealth was supposed to be so enormous that Southside farmers preferred his notes to English sovereigns. One of our judges wrote of him thus in 1850:-" Called to see Mr Holmes, and sat with him sometime. Poor man! his appearance is quite shocking; his clothes are all worn and dirty, and have become too tight or small for him; and his hands- are as black with dirt as a chimney-sweep's, and his whole person is equally so; and he is so blind he only knows me by my voice."

Athol-street, the widest, straightest, and best-built street in the town, laid out by Taggart, the architect; Shaw's-brow, Finch-road, Mount Pleasant, Mona-terrace, Harris-terrace, Strathallan Crescent were all inhabited by half-pay military and naval men. Sand-street was one of small cottages, many of them thatched. In one, the thatch of which as a boy I have touched with my hand, dwelt the " Burns"-John Gell, the mason 'whose lampoons in the local newspapers under the signature of " Tickler" were numerous. One of these, on a harbourmaster, was a " scather" in vigorous Saxon, and was as follows :


" I've seen a bishop dance a reel,
A sinner fast and pray,
A fool at top of fortune's wheel,
And a good man cast away."

When fairly mounted, off he rides, rough-shod
O'er those to whom he used to bear the hod ;
Treats his old "chums" as of inferior race,
And gives a damn with unbecoming grace.

Rigour to power :instinctively he links,
And syne the vain, inflamed creature thinks
He does his duty when he domineers,--
Nor names the name of God but when he swears.

Not baying intellect himself to scan,
He all at once becomes it mighty man-
Mighty forsooth in power, but mean in soul;
Just is the monkey when it climbs a pole,
The higher it ascends with fiend-like art,
The more the creature shows its hinder part.

Sometimes when musing on the demon Burke,
I've thought the wretch, had he confined his work
To the destruction of such men, would not
Have merited the ugly death he got.
* *
'When men of lowly bbirth by merit rise
None should their humble origin despise ;
But Miss I'll hold unto my dying hour-.
No semi-savage fool should rise to power

Mark the inability to even "swear like a gentleman". in the first verse ; and his naming God but when he swears.

And now, Mr Printer, I will leave you to' add " Finis " to this feeble pen-and-ink sketch of "The Past." Dear old Douglas ! with thy tortuous streets of cobble-stones you erstwhile had some good men and true, and women beautiful and good; Let us hope their children and grandchildren find a thought for them in these days, when the absorbing Ambition of Life is the Acquisition of Wealth to the exclusion of the fact that Death here is only the beginning of Life

"There were thriving tradesmen by Nilus' banks,
'Mongst the people that worshipped Isis,
Who pickled the dead of different ranks,
At a varying scale of prices.
So a man through his family vault might stroll,
With a little help from his pedigree roll.
Whilst the torch in the gloom burned dimly„
And there he might see the wife he had loved,
The brother he'd wept, the friend he'd proved,
And his mother fond, and his father dear,
And the babe he had laid on its tiny bier,
All staring out at him grimly.

Reader had you such a catacomb.
How oft, do you think, you would leave your home
To visit a dead relation ?
And how often now, if the question's fair,
Do you turn your steps to the churchyard there,
Where the loved ones lost in the last few years
Wore laid to their rest with blessings and tears,
While the prayer and exhortation
Were hurriedly said by the parson who
Had twenty such funerals more to go through
As part of his day's vocation ?

'There are plenty of ways to preserve the dead
You may solder them up in sheets of lead,
Wrap bushels of spice about them ;
But whether they last, or whether they rot,
'Tis much the same, they are soon forgot,
Arid the world gets along without them.
So 'mid manly weepings and feminine shrieks,
Be this your comfort-ere many weeks
Have passed o'er those who bemoan you,
Your love and your friend, your kith and your kin,
Will laugh and toil, will sorrow and sin,
All though they had never known you."

 Return to Douglas Index


part 2

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2005