[From Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 1 pp221/3]



Funerals.—It was the custom at funerals for the mourners who were near relations and wore crape hatbands to keep their hats on during the service in church, and on the second Sunday after the funeral the relations would come to the morning service in church, and sit during the whole of the service. Mourners always sat.

Some years ago I happened to be present one evening in the death chamber when the corpse of a deceased lady was about to be placed in the coffin. As I was standing by the bed I heard the undertaker say in a whisper to the nurse, who was there, "Have you loosed everything ?" She announced that all was right. The body was then placed in the coffin. Being curious to know what this conversation referred to, I asked, and was told that it was an old custom here to loose everything before putting a body into the coffin, so that there might be no impediment or hindrance at the Resurrection. Would this have any connection with the words used by Our Lord in the case of Lazarus, " Loose him, and let him go" ?—W. K.

" Wakes " were commonly kept in a house where anyone lay dead. Three or four of the neighbours taking it in turn to sit up at night in the room with the corpse, all the family retired to rest excepting one, who would sit up to provide for the wants of those who were watching. They were provided with books, and tobacco, and candles, and so passed the night, the house being for the time spoken of as " the wake house."

The people have a strange dislike to bury an animal, assigning as a reason that by so doing they would be cheating the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field of their rightful food, and fearing lest they should cause more to follow. The body is to be left on the surface of the ground to decay away, and, as may be imagined, the result is sometimes not agreeable. Some twelve years ago a farmer in Ballaugh who had lost a calf caused it to be buried in a field. When his wife and daughter heard of this they went and had the carcass dug up, and placed on the sands of the sea shore. The late Dr. Wood, some few years ago, saw the carcass of a dog on the railway line near Michael, and had the greatest difficulty in getting it buried, though he insisted that it was dangerous to health.

Weddings.—It was always customary, when paying a first visit to a bride, to bring some little present in the hand. This might be instead of, or in addition to, anything given before the wedding.

The custom still prevails of blowing horns the evening before a wedding outside the house where the bride and bridegroom live. These dreary sounds, produced generally from a cow’s horn, continue for several hours.

Sometimes, also, a large boulder held in the two hands would be rolled backwards and forwards against the gable of the cottage.

Birth.—It is considered unlucky for the child to carry a baby down stairs before it has been taken up, and to this day a Manks nurse will see that the newly-born is taken up at the first opportunity.

Bread and cheese must be left out at night for the fairies, lest they should take the baby and change it.

Baptism.—It was in former days considered very unlucky not to have every child baptized, and parents were most careful to see that this was always done—of course, in those days, only by the "parson."

Confirmation.—This was always most carefully observed, chiefly, perhaps, because only those who were confirmed could be lawfully married.

This was a Canon of the Manks Church introduced by Bishop Wilson, and made law by Act of Tinwald, 1705 Good Friday.—I recollect an old lady, who always put away her sewing on Good Friday, and gave as her reason that no needle or any pointed piece of iron should be used on the day of. Our Saviour’s Passion in remembrance. of the nailing to the cross.—W. K.


Saturday.—The last day of the week seems to have been held in considerable reverence. Many of the old women would put away their spinning at noon, and do no more that day. This was evidently in preparation for the Sunday, and it was said to be in accordance with the injunction, " the evening and the morning," &c. Others would not " cast on " stitches for a new stocking during the day, supposing the old one were finished.

Fishermen would not put to sea in their small boats.


The belief in Fairies was very strong ; there was no limit to the things. that the little people could do, and many and strange were the precautions taken against them. On going into a workingman’s cottage, some ten years ago, the baby was found alone and asleep in the cradle, the mother having gone out for water. A Bible and a pair of tongs were lying in the cradle; these had been put there by the mother to preserve the child from harm during her absence.

The following story is told by a woman still living :—Her father had field of potatoes, and he noticed that some of them were often taken during the night. He thought it was the work of the fairies, so he resolved to sit all night in the field and watch. His family tried hard to dissuade him from so doing, for they feared some harm would happen to him. However, he would, and he did. Next morning he came back to the house, white and trembling with fear, but would not tell anyone what had happened or what he had seen. He took to his bed, and shortly after died in great agony. Then it was believed that the little people had revenged themselves upon him for his meanness in grudging them a few potatoes.

Not many years ago a man of the name of " Gill-y-Currie," living in Jurby, was accustomed always on Sundays, when he came from church and was preparing for his own dinner, to put spoons under the table for the fairies in order that they might help themselves.

The old people used always to leave bread and water in the house for the fairies when they went to bed at night, and if there was no water in the house they would even go out and fetch some rather than neglect doing this.

The fishermen say that fairy boats sometimes came out among the herring fleet. When seen, the men said to each other that it was time for them to go ashore, as there was sure to he a storm.

There was a spot in Ballaugh Glen which had a very bad name. A young man and his sister were coming down there late one night, when, just as they were passing the place, something came up against her. She touched her brother’s arm to draw his attention, but he whispered her to say nothing, and then they both saw a Fairy, with a red hat and red jacket, cross the road before them, and disappear into some old buildings.

The old trammans (elder trees) at Ballakoig having been cut down, the fairies (teat/lag) came every night to weep and lament. So many met that a fight ensued, and the following morning the people of the house found the "sthreet" strewn with fairies’ thumbs.

At the limekilns by the mouth of Ballaugh river a woman was baking bonnags, and a little child appeared, to whom she gave a bonnag. As soon as it touched her hand, the child disappeared.


Candlemas Day.—The 12th day of February is called " Caillagh-ny-groamagh’s day." The story is as follows :—Caillagh-ny-groamagh, the gloomy or sulky witch, was said to have been an Irish witch who had been thrown into the sea by the people in Ireland with the intention of drowning her. However, being a witch, she declined to be drowned, and floated easily until she came to the Isle of Man, where she landed on the morning of February 12th. It was a fine, bright day, and she set to work to gather "brasnags"—sticks to light a fire, by which she was able to dry herself. The spring that year was a wet one. It is said that every 12th February morning she still goes out to gather brasnags to make a fire by which to dry herself; that if it be fine up to noon, and she succeeds in doing so, then a wet spring will follow. But, if the morning be wet and she cannot get dry, then the spring will be a dry one.

On this day the old people say, " Laa fadther. laa ail"—half of the fodder, half of the fire—meaning that, as the winter is only half over, there should be as much straw, hay, and turnips for the cattle, and turf for the fires, unconsumed, as had already been used


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 1999