[From Manx Soc vol 16, 1869]


Some of the customs of " Old May Eve " are recorded by a Manx poet, William Kennish, in his Mona's Isle, 1844, as follows :-

Now when arrived the eleventh of May,
As I have heard old Manxmen say,
Each horse was snugly stall'd,
And cows from off the grassy plain,
Ere Sol had kiss'd the western main,
Were promptly homewards call'd
The sheep from off the mountain's height
Were drove in flocks to rest that night,
So fraught with pending ill,
Within the wicket of the yard,
That they from witches might be spared
By counteracting skill:
The rank bolugh* of magic charm,
The infernal legions to disarm
Of all their deadly power,
Was strew'd along the cow-house floor,
And round the threshold of the door,
With many a yellow flower;
And crosses of the rowan-tree
Were form'd by swains in homely glee,
And tied to each cow's tail;
And round the lintels of the byre,
To further cheek their fiendish ire,
If bolugh charm should fail;
For if they once their spell could lay
Upon the kine, they'd pine away
By sure and slow degrees,
And baffte all the goodwife's skill
That year her butter-crock to fill,
Or even make a cheese ;,In vain she'd agitate the cream,
And of new hoards of butter dream
And plunge, and plunge again
The staff into the spefl-bound chum,
With many a skilful twisting turn,
And shoulder-aching pain:
She'd make the kitchen poker hot,
To counteract the spiteful plot
Of the suspected dame,
By plunging it into the cream,
To make the spell fly off in steam;
But still no butter came.
In vain sh'ed try to make a cheese
The whey from 'mongst the curd to squeeze
Surpass'd her, though well skilvd;
For e'en the rennet's influence
Had caught the fatal c onsequence
Before the calf was killed.
To guard against each dire event,
The'old May eve was yearly spent,
Partly as I have said;
But what I have yet to relate'
About this scene of ancient date,
Took place within the glade.
When now protected by each charm
All living things upon the farm;
The youthful swains would take their flight
To some commanding neighbouring height,
And set the crackling furze alight,
Which by creating such a blaze
As fairly mocked the moon's pale rays,
And well kept up till break of day,
Would scare the warlock host away."

*(Bollan-feaill 'eoin, Mugwort) -The Manx name given to a yellow weed frequently found in meadows, supposed to possess a charm against witchcraft.


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001