Sacred Texts  Legends/Sagas  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

p. xi

"Then take the air,
With a butterfly pair
Linked to a petal blue
."--See page 53


p. 1




"I must not think, I may not gaze
On what I am, on what I was

HE wide open Bay of Ramsey, on the northern coast of the Isle of Man, is the largest and safest of all the many anchorages surrounding the shores of this beautiful island. It affords a welcome shelter to vessels of all sizes, from the little coasting hooker of thirty tons to the leviathan Atlantic steamship of three thousand; and it is no uncommon sight, during the season of westerly gales, to see upwards of two hundred ships, large and small, snugly and safely riding at anchor under the lee of North Barrule and the bold headland of St Maughold.

p. 2

North Barrule rises some eighteen hundred feet high, and pierces, with his conical sugarloaf-shaped head, the hurrying clouds as they are driven before the gale. It terminates the mountain range that forms the backbone of the Isle of Mona, or, as it is called in the native tongue, Ellan Vannin.

Although North Barrule always forms a grand and distinctive feature in the landscape of the northern part of the island, it is not when viewed from the shore that it is seen to its greatest advantage, but from the sea; and many a traveller, when approaching the island from the Cumberland coast, must have been struck with its resemblance in shape to Vesuvius.

Many are the streams that take their rise from the rocks and slopes of North Barrule, and, winding down and leaping from Craig to Craig, after uniting with each other in one or other of the lower glens, find their way at last into the sea. The largest of these is the Sulby River, which, after leaving the romantic glen of that name, becomes a considerable stream, winding for some distance at the base of the mountain dividing it from the low sandy plain that stretches away northwards, till it terminates in the Point of Ayre--the nearest approach of the island to the Scottish coast--falls into the sea, forming ere it reaches there a convenient harbour, upon which is built the northern capital of the island, Ramsey, which gives its name to the capacious bay.

Besides Sulby there are two other notable glens, up whose rugged ways the visitor desirous of climbing the mountain has to wend his way. One of these, Ballure, is of surpassing beauty, with its dancing, dashing stream fighting its way, jealous of its greater rival of Sulby, round about and over rocks, between the crevices of which the most exquisite ferns grow in the greatest profusion and array, to find an independent outlet to the sea. The other is the Glen of Aldyn, whither I would take my reader, while I relate to him the sad story of the Phynodderree.

Very many years ago, long prior to the days of parish registers, and before Manx people kept written chronicles or diaries of their daily lives, there resided in a little thatch-covered cottage about half-way up Glen

p. 3

[paragraph continues] Aldyn, an old man, who cultivated a small patch of ground, fed a few mountain sheep, and kept a solitary cow. In his farming avocations--in which, when not engaged with her spinning-wheel, his only daughter, Kitty, assisted him--old Billy Nell, or William Kerruish, added that of tailor; and as the best tailor for miles round Kerruish was famed. He himself imagined, in the simplicity of his heart, it was to the good quality of his work, his moderate charges, and the excellence of his materials he owed this reputation, and so much business that he had hard work to find time for that and his farming duties too. Mrs. Joughin, the wife of a tailor in Ramsey, told her neighbours "that old Kerruish was only a botcher, and knew no more about tailoring than his own cow; and that if his bold-faced girl, Kitty, didn't encourage the young fellows with her smirks and her smiles, ne'er one of ’em would ever give him a job."

Mrs. Joughin was not altogether calculated to give an unbiassed opinion on the subject, and her observations were looked upon as somewhat prejudiced. At any rate, though old Billy Nell's style might not have been quite equal to that of the Pooles and Smallpages of Douglas and Castletown, the young men of Maughold and Lezayre were only too glad to give him their custom, if only to have an excuse to visit his cottage, and, if possible, pass a few words with, and obtain a favouring smile from, his fair daughter Kitty.

The old tailor-farmer was known among his neighbours by the name of Billy Nell, to distinguish him from several other William Kerruishes in the parish, his mother's name having been Ellen; his soubriquet meaning William, the son of Ellen.

The innuendo against Kitty conveyed by Mrs. Joughin's uncharitable remarks as to smirks and smiles was unjust in every way. Kitty was as good as she was beautiful. Such laughing, deep blue eyes, with long silken lashes that would have made an Eastern beauty die of envy; rich, dark-brown luxuriant tresses, well-developed pencilled eyebrows; and cheeks that rose and lily combined to render perfect, with full luscious lips and teeth that dazzled with their whiteness, together with a lithe and graceful

p. 4


Click to enlarge


"Sometimes I saw you sit and spin;
And in the pauses of the wind,
Sometimes I heard you sin


p. 5

figure, afforded a good excuse for any young man taking the longest walk to gaze upon; and when to all these were added the sweetest expression and that indefinable charm that ever attaches itself to a really good and pure-minded woman, little was the wonder she had enslaved the hearts of all the young fishermen and farmers between Kirk Maughold and the Point of Ayre. However hard the wind may have blown at night, and the young fishermen may have had to toil, before bringing their frail barques and catches of herrings safe into harbour, it was no fatigue to them to walk out to Glen Aldyn to catch a sight of fair Kitty's face, and maybe have a few words of pleasant talk, or hear her sing, for Kitty sang sweetly, so sweetly that in the summer twilight, as she sang to her father at his work, while she plied her spinning-wheel, the fairies would come and hide themselves behind the trees or amid the tall waving corn to listen to her voice with rapt attention.

Sometimes when she was singing thus, surrounded by her wee and invisible listeners, a sound would strike their sensitive ears, the sound of the approaching footsteps of some one coming up the glen. They would all scatter right and left, and, though unseen by Kitty or her father, would cause such a fluttering among the graceful ferns and amid the drooping flowers of the fuchsia trees that shrouded the cottage from the roadway, as would make Kitty think it was some sudden breeze of wind from the mountain-top, the sure precursor of a change of weather. The approaching step would probably be that of Evan Christian, or Robert Faragher, the two most persevering of all her wooers; the former of whom was never too tired to trudge from Lewaigue, or the latter all the way from Ballasaig, to pay her a visit and plead his cause.

To both of them, as well as to all the young gallants who flocked to her father's cottage on some pretence or other, Kitty Kerruish turned a deaf ear. A kind word and a sweet smile she always had for every one, and would listen to their compliments and praises with a modesty that only still further inflamed their hearts; but when they ventured to speak to her of love, she would shake her head, laugh, and adroitly turn

p. 6

the conversation. When Evan Christian ventured once to press his suit with more than customary boldness, making profession of his love and begging for hers in return, she firmly but kindly replied: "No, Evan whilst my dear father lives, I can never leave him. At present he has all the love I have to give away."

Next: Chapter II