[From Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 3 pp129/191] - first part pp129/134




My love for Ellan Vannin and the Manninee drew me this summer again to the heathery purple hills of the South, and where the golden gorse and cushags grow and dream. I went with the intention to renew my Manx reading, to gather botanical specimens, as well as Manx plant, place, and field names, to study the peasantry, live in their midst in daily intercourse, and, above all, to devote my chief attention to the gathering-in of the old, fast-vanishing legends, beliefs, and customs of the country. I purposely limited the area of my wanderings, which extended from the Mull Hills right up to Dalby, taking in a radius that includes on the east Lhingague, Ballakilpherric, Ballagawne, right down to Port St. Mary, and coming round the Chasms over Cregneish to Port Erin, Spaldrick, and Bradda, so that I might ascertain the prevailing colour of legendary lore that attaches to that partcular soil. I was incessantly on the move, and there was neither country-side nor cot I did not struggle up to for friendly talk or examination. I spent, indeed, some very happy time in the midst of these hospitable and warm-hearted people, and our acquaintance, in many instances, ripened into intimate friendship. Many were the long summer noons we sat together at the turf fire, talking and laughing, and smoking and feasting in true old Manx style. I visited alike both chapel and school, and lodged for the time with a fisherman’s family, much to my benefit in my inquiries. Amongst the young women and children I met some of the finest types of black and blue eyes, the tint of deep brilliant jet, or blue-bell and hare-bell.; amongst the men, specimens of such build, endurance, and physical power, and withal so shy and gentle that it often made me wonder and think. With a deep feeling of earnest religiousness and God-fearing I found implanted abiding traces of much primitive cult that unconsciously lingers yet in their mind. I also discovered that the old Manx know their Scriptures well, and was struck with their readiness to quote this or that passage, either in Manx or English. I also give a broad sketch of rural life, manners, and domestic existence, as it is remembered yet by the old people, which throws us back some two or three generations—a faithful mirror of a social state of days gone, that gives us glimpses into the internal life of the Manninagh who is gone, or going quick. It will be seen that I have put myself in the background, and I prefer to let my friends act, and talk, and relate their charming tales in their own racy fashion. I have not mended or clipped, and thus their speech runs and tinkles on in a channel and vein I was fain to fix and preserve, to show the native pulse. There you have the true fragrance and gossamer that floats in the country. I encountered much genuine kindness, and desist from pointing out by name all those many helpful friends and hands who freely have given me their time and ear, if not confidence, otherwise this paper could never have been produced in its present form ; and the following pages are the flowers I culled in my happy way-farings and journeyings up and down the bright and glorious hills and glens, or along the shore line, that adorn and endear to us this sequestered and romantic region which forms the South-western corner of Ellan Vannin. Where I have given now and then a rendering of some already previously ascertained matter, it has been done either to elucidate or point out some valuable variation.

*Previous Folk-Lore Notes have appeared in former numbers of this Magazine (Vol. I., Part 2 collected by the Folk-Lore Section of the Society (Miss A. M. Crellin, secretary). Others have been received, but not yet published—ED.


" The old men in our time dressed something like the Irish in the west do at present. They had coats of white flannel, and keear lheeah* knee breeches, the colour of the wool being dyed, and carranes of raw hide for shoes. The white coat they called Perree bane, and generally wore felt hats.

The women wore petticoats of linen and woollen mixed together, they called it linsey wolsey, and a short jacket of cotton called a beggon (bed gown) and checkered aprons. When a young woman got an on print beggon, and a checkered apron on her, she was full rigged. The women wore great big black silk bonnets, and you could not see their faces unless you went round that point, while they donned cotton hoods for everyday use. The head dress were bonnets, something nearly like a coal-box, and if you wanted a kiss on one of the young women there was a fear that both of you would tumble and fall, as you did not know how to approach that promontory-bonnad. Some of the women wore men’s hats, black big top hats, and my grandmother was married in one of these Belles toppers. The old and married women wore white caps (mob caps), made of muslin, and the young ones went bare headed."

* Keear lheeah, two colours of wool (grey mouldy), spun and woven into cloth, are so called, which cloth was formerly the garb generally worn by the Manx peasantry—CR.


" On Sundays we used to have Manx broth, porridge and milk, potatoes and herrings, and in the morning sollaghyn for breakfast, which was made of porridge and meat broth. On Saturday night we took binjean, milk turned to crud (curd) with rennet or " steep," which was terrible good, then we had cowree (sowins, or flummery), and the leavings of it were used on Sunday morning for breakfast, along with new boiled milk. A favourite dish was the prinjeig, of which we had prinjeig baagh keyrragh, and prinjeig mart. It is a " hackage,"* made of the plucks, the livers chopped up, and this pudding is stuffed with chopped onions, groats, pepper and salt, and potatoes. If sometimes they overfeasted themselves with it, they would say, " Oddagh yn prinjeig ye brisht ayn-ym " (the paunch might be broken in me). We had also batter puddings, made of milk and eggs, on Sundays, and dumbling oarn, made of barley meal. I remember the coming-in of rice pudding, which was called first by the people " sweet porridge with currants in," and quite a new thing with us at that time. Tea, when it was first used, they ate the leaves with butter, throwing the water away, and then they made it in the pot and boiled it, and I still recollect getting tea once a week on Sunday evening, and I was always sick with it on the night. Things used to be put on the table on wooden trenchers, scoured with white sand. There were no forks, and the knives had black handles of horn. The potatoes came in on a long wooden tray. The mashed potatoes were put in a dish ; beside, there was a cup of butter, and we dipped all in it ; the fish and all were eaten with the fingers, which is the Manx fashion now in the country. Of cakes we have the Manx bonnacks, and the arran oarn, arran corkey, and arran flooyr. + In my time they drank as they do yet, but a generation or two before they had large " coffers," or what they called pans, and everyone, as could afford, made malt and brewed for themselves, and those that couldn’t just joined together, the same as we did with beasts. We killed a quarter, or half a beef or pig amongst ourselves, when a whole one was too much, or could not be afforded. I think beer was the chief jough, and we had good Manx ale ; as for strong drink, they could have it if inclined for it, as it had been of old."

 * Haggis.—Lit. Sheep’s belly and cow’s belly—ED.
+ Barley, oaten, and flour cake.


" I remember fiddlers going to weddings. I have been at a wedding myself; the fiddlers going with us to church and back, and the young men and girls dancing at intervals on the road. There would be four or five dozen young people at the wedding, when I was young, walking in pairs, but that is given up for many years. It was a custom for the young men to run a race, when returning from church, the first that reached the house broke the wedding cake into small pieces, and scattered them out of a plate over the head of the bride, as she entered, which was thought to increase the dreaming charm."

" It was a slice which had been thrice .
Passed through the wedding ring :
To place the cake beneath my head,
Repeating o’er the charm,
I backwardly walked to my bed,
Not fearing any harm ;"
" ... I, on the wall,
Saw Johny’s figure loom."
The Manx Courtship."

" There was some song they used to sing at the weddings in English, but I never heard but very little of it long time : "I’ve laid alone, laddie, lie near me." When women got married, they cut their hair, and put a cap on, ever after ; my mother did the same, and that is 60 to 70 years ago."


"At the death there was a wake kept, a night or two, and plenty: of beer and pipes and tobacco, and the funeral day one going round with a can and quart, serving all who would take it, and some better off sent one with wine and a glass, and another with him with biscuits ; and the bearers, or those as lifted the bier from the door, got about six quarters of crape on their hats, and the ends falling on their backs, and the next-of-kin next the bier, with long scarves, the same. The coffins were generally of fir planks, and the better class had them covered with black stuff."


" We had the rush lights, cainle shuin, which were clamped in the asstayrn (rush candle case), or wooden stands ; there were the farthing, and halfpenny rush lights, of various size, and for that purpose they collected the rushes, and put them. in bundles in the,: water, and the old women used to take the parings, or peels, of which they made sheep-linkets formerly, which they offered for sale. to the farmers. The peeled rush was then dipped in oil, out of the codfish’s liver. They also took a scollop shell and put the rush in. it, which was hanging out from the edge, and the former was filled: with cod-oil. Then we had the cainle slutt, which was made from a piece of rag of linen, or cotton, and squeezed in the hand, into the, shape of a candle ; and mould or tallow candles (of the fat of beef or sheep) with a wick, or rush, in. For striking a light we had tinder and steel. Later there came into use long sticks of wood, dipped into sulphur."


There is an old cottage in Spaldrick, which. I wish to choose as a type, which has been inhabited in succession by four generations of a very long-lived family (who reached the age of ninety), and is said to be 200 to 250 years old. The cottage is 30 feet x 15 x 12), the kitchen (sliamyr aarlee), 18 x 14, the loft (lout),12 x 12 ; the walls whitewashed, and thatched with straw-ropes (sugganyn), made fast to pieces of stones (bwhid suggane), which jut out from the walls. The thatch is sewed through with briars, then called (goll thoo), when tied merely with ropes alone the name is simply (thoo). Outside there is a little muclagh, or pigsty ; the little opening in the outer wall is called the muclagh giark, or hen-roost ; because formerly the hens used to sit in the muclagh. There is always a little garden in front, for the Manx are very fond of flowers ; they generally keep a few useful, medicinal herbs, ready for cures ; the outside of the house or cottage is hung with fish for curing, or has the fishing nets suspending from it ; the floor (sole y dorrys) consists of concrete of clay, hardened by age and use, or stone flags ( flaggyn). The doorway is just high enough to admit a man, called essyn ydorrys, and the lintel goes by the name of clagh linteyr. You go up the loft (pronounced laf or lout) by a few steps (greeishyn irree seose yn lout), which is used for a bedroom. The rafters of the roof, or cass cubbyl, rafters ny thie, consist of a couple of feet, A shaped, hence the name. Under the thatch you have the scaghyn yn thie, or scregs, which are sods of turf, rolled up, two inches thick, and laid under the thatch. The parlour or cuillee is on the left side, and often serves as a bedroom for the parents. It means toe back of the room. The windows are mostly two, and so small that they scarcely admit any light. The door is generally open, and often consists of an upper and lower part, the latter with a wooden latch to open. Coming to the fire-place (chiollagh) — the fireside is keeil-chiollee —you always have the pot with lugs over the fire, suspended on the drolloo’s (pot hooks) from a chain, the slouree (" cur er y slouryn"). For resting your-self you have the settle with straight backs and handles on, and the stool (stoyl), for a table, the form or boayrd, the chairs proper ( stoyl ghrommey) pronounced "cheers" ; for their linen and things they have the chesses (koir or kishtey). In some of the cots you still see the spinning-wheel at work, and the women make jerseys for the fishermen. The price of a spinning-wheel was given to me as 19s. ; for making a jersey you require 3 lbs. of wool, price 1s. 3d. per lb. ; carding, 3d. ; spinning, 7d. ; dyeing, 10d. per lb. each ; total, 9s. , so that, including 4s. for knitting, one jersey cost 13s. There is also still some hand-loom weaving going on at present in Ballafesson, the cloth they make is so strong and durable that it resists wear and tear for many years. It is dyed in the usual old Manx colours. They used also to make a lot of linen, and among old Manx field-names are some faaie lieenatgh (flax field).


"There were the sun-dials, we had in the village, but there were more primitive ways of getting at the time, and the shadow of the big mountain served the shepherds whom I remember, too, blowing their horns." Kennish alludes to this fashion

" The sumimt of vast Snaafield’s crest
Throwing its shadow o’er the lowland plain,
The well-known gnomon of the lab’ring swain."


The ancient custom of the Manx was to call the children after the Christian name of the father or mother and not the Surname, sometimes adding the name of the farm, and extending back to four generations, as, for instance, Jemmy-Jem-Jemmey-Jem mooar. Besides this, nicknames used to be very prevalent. I shall, later on, have more to say on this when discussing the Surnames of the South of the Island.

[as the whole paper is very long I have split into several parts]


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