The Isle of Man
Family History Society

Notes from presentations - 2016

January 2016 – ‘Emigrants Lament’ with Keith Teare

The guest speaker Keith Teare presented his talk on a sad song his father, Danny, used to sing all the time –“An emigrants Lament”.

Danny loved to sing no matter where he was but Keith has not been able to find any record of this song being published so he has researched it himself. He only had one verse and a chorus to work on, beginning:

“My Mother she stood on the Liverpool Dock with her handkerchief over her eyes, And when the ship sailed out of the dock, it was then she began to cry….
There’ll be no one to welcome you home.”

In 1890 Keith’s grandfather, Willie Teare, sailed on the SS Serena to America via Cobh as a miner and in 1893 he married Mary Cannell. He later returned to the island and the family farm at Slieu Whallian, Foxdale, seemingly having made some money.

Keith could not find any more about the song for several years but eventually Googled it and found 3 more verses submitted by Mary Ward Utterback of Illinois, America. She had found it among some old family papers but did not have the tune, so Keith was able to send that for her daughter to sing. Mary added a fifth verse with a happy ending after returning to her homeland, Ireland.

“As family joined family, new cousins too, no longer strangers afar, I found myself back to that land of my birth, There was someone to welcome me home.”

With the help of several people the song was sung at a Homecomers’ Service, a year after Mary unfortunately died in 2013. Keith has found one other Manx family who knew the song but would love to hear of any others anywhere in the World. He suspects that it originated in Ireland as it has an Irish lilt to it. The audience enjoyed joining in with the song throughout the talk.

February 2016 – ‘Stranger than Fiction’ with Hampton Creer

Hampton Creer made a welcome return for his talk, Stranger Than Fiction. Through an ancestor who was possibly Jinny the Witch Hampton, he has been looking into all reports concerning alleged witchcraft. The subject has largely been hidden in the records. In England the topic seems to have emerged with the Pendle Witch trials and the unsettled times of the Spanish Armada, Henry V111’s break with Rome and the Gunpowder Plot. In the 1500’s the island held its first trial, that of Alice Keys who was charged with charming rather than sorcery. With Lord Stanley often away, legal matters became muddled, but Alice and her partner were burnt at the stake. In 1618 Margaret Quane and her son were also burnt after charming a man who died and her husband accused them of murder.

In the 17th century, it was easy to blame women who acted to help the sick if the patient died and this apparently happened in the case of Margaret. Subsequently the Church decreed that such a sentence was not to be carried out again. Accused people would be imprisoned in Castle Rushen and by 1696 twelve prisoners on death warrants were deported to Jamaica instead atlhough it was likely they perished on the way there.

Hampton’s ancestor, Joney Lowney, revelled in her status as a charmer but she was one of the deportees who didn’t survive. There really were no Manx witches, just women desparate to eke out a living by trying to charm and cure both people and animals. The Manx have tended to be superstitious and there are many examples of this. Today medicine would explain the cause of death and nobody would be called a witch. Rolling witches down Slieau Whallian is rarely mentioned in Manx records. Charles 1 was responsible for revoking the witchcraft laws.

March 2016 – ‘Memories’ with Peter Kelly MBE

We enjoyed the welcome return of Peter Kelly with his presentation of old photographs bringing back ‘Memories’. Most of the photographs, dating from 1930 to 1970 were rescued from a fire at the Isle of Man Times Office. With his usual humour and knowledge of architecture and people, Peter took us through the years many of us remembered. During the 1930s we saw the old buildings down the harbour, through Strand Street and along the promenade as well as the TT Grandstand at Nobles Park and the building of Pulrose Estate. Post-War we saw a show at the Gaiety Theatre, art classes at the art school and the International Cycling races. In the 50s there were street parties for the Queen’s Coronation, a fire damaged King William’s College and Westminster Garage was built for Mr. Mahon. Entertainments included the bathing beauties at the Villa Marina and Soldiers in Skirts in the theatre. The nurses’ home in Westmorland Road was built and and there were visits by the Queen and the Queen Mother. On to the 60s and the Rolling Stones and Tom Jones played at the Palace Lido, the Howstrake Hotel burnt down and the Wild Life park opened. In the 70s we first saw tetra packs for milk, Sayles shop closed, a new block was built at Noble’s Hospital, Great Meadow held an anniversary of the Derby, the Spinners appeared at a concert in Peel and Pam Ayres left the island after living here for several years. This is only a swift resume of all Peter had to show us.

April 2016 – ‘Onchan, My Home’ with May and Alan Moore

When May’s father was 26 in 1911, he emigrated to Australia to work on sugar plantations and then fought during WW1 with the Australian forces. In 1919 he married May’s Mum in Brisbane but it was too hot for his bride so they came back to Hilberry. May was born in 1928 at Clypse farm, one of twin sisters for her two older brothers but unfortunately her twin died at 17 months. When at school she walked in to Onchan but they moved into a boarding house, without electricity, in the village when she was nine. One of her teachers, Mildred Spencer recently died aged 101.

May clearly remembers the WW2 years when their house in Royal Avenue West was commandeered for internees. Their furniture not required by prisoners was stored in the Derby Castle. May can name all the shops in Onchan at the time. They eventually returned home to find their house in quite a state and their suite recovered, but in the same material as all those which had been stored. She and Alan married 62 years ago and their lives have revolved around the church and their social life around the Parish Hall.

Unfortunately the power presentation failed so Alan showed their own pictures he had taken off their walls to illustrate May’s memories. These included Kate’s Cottage, Majestic Mansion, Groudle Glen Toll House, a Fur and Feather Show at Derby Castle and Florrie Ford at the theatre. It was a lovely account of a life spent happily in one area.

May 2016 – ‘The Big Press Run ‘ with Frank Cowin

Frank Cowin’s talk entitled “The Big Press Run” was an account of the Press Gangs on the island in 1798. The law enabling the impressing of men into the services originated in the 14th century. In the 18th Century volunteers were sometimes sufficient to man a ship but on other occasions, such as the commissioning of a new ship or one brought back into service, they needed more men. In the 1760’s to 80’s many ships came into Ramsey and Douglas and Manx men would be persuaded, bullied or kidnapped. Fishermen, Fencibles and soldiers were supposed to be exempt but this was not always adhered to. Men used to take to the hills to avoid the press and women were known to attack the gangs. Conditions were poor in the navy although there could be rewards if a treasure ship was captured as the booty was shared out. However if the captain got £5,000 a rating would only get £1. In 1798 The Spider cruised near the island and in August picked up 2 men from Douglas and 5 off ships near Port St. Mary. Later they picked up “a quantity of men” ending with a total of 70 from the Irish Sea. One was Thomas Callister who kept a diary which recounted his voyages on various ships to the Mediterranean and back, then out to Jamaica and Cuba, returning to England in 1802. In 1812 he built his own fishing boat and his crew were exempt from impressment. Other Manxmen ran but Radcliffe Symons is known to have died in service. Frank is still working on this project so we look forward to more in the future.

August 2016 – ‘Ancient Mann’ with Dr Andrew Foxon

The guest speaker on 19th August was Andrew Foxon who leads Tours around historic Manx sites since retiring from Manx National Heritage. He began at the very beginning with the world 390 million years ago and the limestones which now form the island forming in the southern oceans then migrating to the equator 90 million years later. Matter from the land masses washed into the sea to form other Manx rocks and there is evidence of volcanic action at Scarlett. There are also remains of algal reefs. 9,000 years ago Europe was one mass but Ireland, the Scottish islands and, eventually the island, were separated by melt waters by 6000BC. Humans arrived during the latter period. Recent excavations at Ronaldsway Airport have revealed artifacts of a Mesolithic hunter gatherers’ house, one of the best in Europe and other sites throughout the island show the progression of its inhabitants. By 3,500 BC men were domesticating animals and growing crops. Burials from cremations to burials are found in many sites as are huts and forts from South Barrule to Spanish Head and the Braaid spanning Bronze Age, Celtic and Norse. The ship burial at Balladoole covers Norse and Christian customs. There are keeills all over the island and many holy wells and stone crosses. It is well worth visiting such sites and it is good to be reminded of our rich heritage.

September 2016 – ‘A Tour Round the Calf of Man’ with John Wright

The guest speaker, John Wright, follows many aspects of local history and he has taken a keen interest in the Calf of Man. He took us on a visual tour of sites on the Calf from the farmhouse where a bull was once kept. In the 1890’s rabbits provided a profit of £50 after paying the rabbit catcher. It was also advertised as a pub at one time. The smithy was used by the lighthouse keepers until it fell into bad repair and the slates were removed. Robert Louis Stevenson’s father worked on the land based lighthouses which illuminated the Chicken’s Rock before its lighthouse was built in 1868. Until 1928 semaphore was used to get a relief keeper then the Examiner donated a radio for entertainment and communication. Visitors to the island were discouraged as they sometimes took popguns to shoot the birds so a gamekeeper was employed. There was a lime kiln near South Harbour and the building is now used by bird wardens watching storm petrels and Manx shearwaters. In a cave near Cow Harbour is a cave where the names W. McIntosh and Redfern appear with dates. In 1651,during the Civil War a fort repelled 3 parliamentary ships with cannon but they later returned and took the island. In the 1770’s people building a sod hedge found a piece of an 11th century cross, the Calf Crucifixion, but the rest of it had never been discovered. The last farmer left in 1958.

November 2016 – ‘A Poor Farmer’s Boy’ with Ian Quayle

Ian started off by explaining his daughter, having listened to many anecdotes, had said “You should write these things down”- Ian explained ‘This is as far as I got!’

This introduction led to a very enjoyable evening with funny and poignant tales from Ian’s life and that of his Father and Grandfather.

Grandparents ‘Ma and Pa’ were John and Eliza Quayle of Ballaskellya, Narradale and Ballamenaugh , Lezayre. It was a sad loss that Ma and Pa only spoke Manx Gaelic between each other-and not to the children.

His father was Bobby Quayle (1893-1973) who had plenty of tales of farming life and who also recounted the tales of his father:

The Family had a servant called Nellie who cooked, cleaned and minded the children as well as rearing the best meg lambs. She reared them on stale bread as there wasn’t enough spare milk, -the butchers were none the wiser. Lambs were herded 24 miles to the Douglas butchers- no mean feat with no fences in places. The butchers would always want discount, and kept the farmers waiting until October for payment.

Life was hard in the snow. Brother Tom was sent to gather in the sheep but got caught in the blizzard he was found sheltering by a hedge, blue with cold. Father made him walk behind the cart home which kept his circulation going and probably saved his life. Some years they could lose up to 100 sheep- mainly in ravines.

The passing train helped mark the beginning and end of the working day. Each year there was a trip to the Tailors in the village- suits were made but couldn’t be paid for until the Douglas butchers paid for the lambs in October. John admired and was given one of the big red apples in the tailor’s bowl but was very disappointed with the taste when he bit into it- it was the first tomato he had ever had!

All the Sulby, children used to climb onto the back of the Doctor’s car- so much so that it used to bring it to a halt. The Doctor was very tolerant and used to say “you’ve had your bit of fun now”- no one used to complain.

John once was approached by a neighbour who had lost his horse. He thought it wasn’t on the farm as he could see his own two horses in the high fields. It wasn’t until later that he discovered his own horse had fallen in a dub and drowned and the second horse wasthe neighbours after all. This instilled in the family the discipline to check the whole farm regularly.

Ian’s forbears were very good with horses and used to breed them for the Brewery and the Steam Packet. Horses would go for a two week trial as some stables would only accept horses that lay down to sleep- that way they could ensure they were properly rested. John Quayle was the last man to breed Manx Ponies. They were bigger and slimmer than the Welsh breed and were also good with a plough. This breed died out due to the importation of bigger faster ones.

Bobby got a farm of his own at Meary Veg in Santon in 1927. He was given two carthorses and some sheep and bought some of his own. He used to travel on the train to visit his parents in Sulby at the weekends. His sheepdog was always tied up on the yard but one day he left him loose. The dog went missing and turned up at Narradale 6 weeks later- amazing as he had travelled to Santon in the first place on the train!

Uncle Tom worked in a quarry. A blast sent a stone into his eye and half blinded him. He was given a whippet and used it to ‘lamp’ rabbits. He managed to save enough for the subsidised fare to America. He opened a grocery store there, married an 18 year old and had a son. He told his family about ‘The Ranch Back Home’

Eventually, Tom became homesick and moved back to the Island with his wife, child and Mother-in-law. The only farm he was able to get was at Druidale. There were no decent roads, no water, electricity or neighbours. The wife and Mother in law were very unhappy. Tom took them all to Ramsey and gave them tickets to return to America. He never saw or heard from the women again. When young Tom was middle aged, he began to write to his Father- who never replied. Aunt Dora found one of the letters and started writing. Ian has now taken over and is happy his daughter was able to visit Tom in Oregon.

Bobby’s first winter at Meary Veg went well but then the sheep struggled with liver fluke- something upland farmers weren’t used to dealing with. A carthorse died but Bobby got no sympathy from Pa, who said it was a good job lowland farmers lost stock so the upland breeders could make money! Bobby never mentioned any losses again.

Bobby bought cows and started a milk round and hired men to help on the farm,. “Boys” were paid 7/8 shillings a week and lived communally. Married “Men” got a cottage and 14 shillings. He bought a ‘Bullnose’ Morris and used it for deliveries. He met his wife on this round at Port Soderick. She was a midwife and also ran a boarding House on Empress Drive.

In 1937, Bobby gave up the farm and moved into the Boarding House. He didn’t like living in town so by 1938 he took Ballacreggan, Port Soderick and lived in Douglas until it could be done up. He went on a horse buying trip to Scotland with Caesar Quayle (who used to travel the Island with a stallion). Bobby found two good Clydesdales-Lady and Bess.

One of the neighbours was unfortunate to discover his wife dead in the chair. The shock killed him too. The family organised the funeral, set to go ahead with a burial for them both at Santon. The lawyer arrived on the morning of the funeral and the family discovered that the man wanted to buried with his family at Jurby. Hasty plans ensured that his coffin travelled up on the train and his wishes were granted, but the mourners were very confused – they didn’t know which hearse to follow!

1939 saw the start of the war. Food had been ordered for the boarding house and the butter and bacon had to be salted-for ever after the Mother preferred salted bacon and butter. Dad bought a bike to save fuel but complained to the shop it was far too heavy!

Ian and his baby sister used to walk past the hotels used for internment on Douglas Prom. The internees used to coax cats inside- cats became quite scarce! They used to fill jars with varying amounts of water and hang them in doorways and then play a tune on them.

Italian internees worked on the farms. A guard would leave the camp with 6 internees. He would drop one at Ellan Brook, 2 at Ballacreggan and take the other 3 to Ballaslig. He had a rifle with a fixed bayonet. When asked why he was so relaxed leaving it lying around he revealed there was no ammunition in it. Tony and Tommy had tea and bread and jam with the family. Mum used to give them 5 cigarettes each. The radio was not allowed to be on but they were allowed to set snares for rabbits. Dad had to report to camp to confirm they had permission.

Extra internees were used at threshing time. Dad was bemused to find all the buttons missing from his waistcoat. It seems that one of the men had been a tailor and stole them when Dad had taken it off. They had a Landgirl- Barbara Cuthbert who was the wife of the Port Erin camp Commandant.

Ballacreggan had no running water or electricity so needed lots of work. It was a 16 room 13 storey dwelling. 1946 was a long hot summer and the well ran dry. The family were making trips 4 times a day to the river at Kewaigue with 14 gallon kegs to water the animals. Cubbon’s the plumbers installed water eventually. A large range with a back boiler and oven was fitted in the kitchen to replace the choillagh. Gorse bons were always gathered on the way home at the end of the day and sticks were put to dry above the stove. Mother loved to bake.

She collected eggs and they were sorted for sale on a Sunday, and delivered to local customers on a Tuesday. Kissack the Grocer would take any spare. A woman from a Douglas cafe was desperate for eggs as there was a boat full of trippers expected the next day. She bought 10 dozen at an over the odds rate of 10 shillings a dozen and carried them back to Douglas- goodness knows how? She ordered them at this inflated rate for the rest if the summer.

They kept ducks. One day Mum was collecting the eggs but they kept disappearing from the basket…no wonder that dog had such a shiny coat! Pullets were disappearing too- a search found beneath the old well cover, a polecat with her babies in the overflow.

Bobby had a red short horn heifer which had not long calved. When he was doing his rounds of the farm with the children in tow, it tossed him his over it’s head. The children thought this hilarious. A few days later it Bobby went to look at the calf and found himself tossed clean over the gate! Bobby spoke to a local cattle dealer- Hershall Cowley. Mr Cowley had a waxed moustache and always wore a starched collar and bow tie. Dad sold the cow straight away- warning Cowley not to sell it to a place where they had children around- he didn’t mention his own incidents with the animal!

Ian concluded by contrasting his Father’s experience on an upland farm with a horse and cart to his witnessing the moon landings on television. What Change!