Picture of George Head

George Head

places mentioned

The Foxdale Mines and the Calf of Man

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A Benefit Society—A Manx Peasant—Waterfall of Glenmaye—Church and Church-yard of Kirk Patrick— Slate Tomb-stones—Waterfall of Foxdale—Foxdale Lead Mines—Slate Quarries at Barrule—Mills—Indigenous Mill-stone—Improved Aspect of the Country—Kirk Christ Rushen—Port Iron— A Night's Lodging in the Public-house—A rough Landingplace—Gulls protected—Brada Head—Lead Mines—Their extraordinary Position—Calf of Man— Beautiful Natural Quay—Rats and Rat-catchers—Aspect of the Island—Rabbits—Boswell's House.

IN a subsequent year to the period before alluded to at the commencement of my second Chapter, I took up my quarters for the night at the principal inn at Peel Town, intending from thence the next morning to proceed on an excursion on horseback, by a mountain route, again to the south of the island, where, as a great part was still unexplored, I entertained, particularly with regard to the inhabitants, in consequence of the events related in my former visit, not a little curiosity. Accordingly I proposed, after the morning's ride, to rest at night not far from Poolvash, at the little fishing village of Port Iron, and return on the third day to Peel Town, or Douglas.

I was provided at the inn with comfortable apartments, and experienced the same kind hospitable attention that one usually meets with at rural inns in England. As I rambled about the streets after an early dinner, I encountered a benefit society, who, on one of their days of festival, were marching in procession through the town, and I could not refrain from observing with satisfaction the brotherly feelings that seemed to animate this body of men. It were well if always, the demon of party spirit were strangled by the bond of union. For first and foremost, three and three, hand in hand, in token of amity and universal toleration, marched the clergyman of the parish, the dissenting minister, and another of the principal inhabitants. These were preceded by a band of music, and followed by the rest of the fraternity, walking two and two, each bearing a white wand ornamented with narrow strips of ribband, and for the remainder of the evening, in the streets of Peel Town, notwithstanding a convivial meeting was celebrated on the occasion, there appeared no deviation whatever from good order and sobriety.

After the procession had disappeared, I strolled leisurely into the country to see the waterfall of Glenmaye, three miles distant, which is considered by the inhabitants of the Isle of Man, where rivers are of small dimensions, a formidable cataract. I had proceeded a little way when I encountered a Manx peasant, who seemed comfortable after his dinner, and moreover mightily inclined to be sociable; so we walked along the road together. In fact he accosted me with an air of kindliness and ease, as if I were an old acquaintance. "A fine evening, master," said he, holding out at the same time the hard hand of honesty, which I shook accordingly, for it was tendered in good fellowship, and in a manner not devoid of grace, as an action sincerely intended, and of ordinary habit. My new friend, however, inquisitive to a superlative degree, asked me all manner of questions. Whereupon, resolving to be even with him, "Who made your coat?" said I, abruptly looking steadily on the garment he wore on his back, of blue coarse cloth, such as is commonly used among the Welsh peasantry, his trousers moreover were loose, and of the same material. "Who made my coat?" said he, repeating my words crustily, and looking keenly in my face, to see whether or not I were quizzing him; however, as I kept my gravity, "Why who the devil d'ye think made it? It was made at home;" added he rather reservedly. "And the cloth?" said I. "That was made at home too," said he. Having obtained the required information, I readily replied to all further interrogations, and then by degrees he became in his turn, good humoured and communicative. He paid eight pounds a year he said, for six acres of ground adjoining his own cottage, nor had he ever in his life been out of the island. "I was born," said he, "in that very house, and my father lives there still;" and then he pointed to a little hovel in the distance embedded among the mountains, and so small, that it really looked like a haycock.

Having left him to descend the bank of the ravine leading to the waterfall, I scrambled through the bushes by a zigzag path, in some places almost perpendicular, and found myself in a few minutes standing on the bank of the small basin or pool of the cascade, serenaded by a cloud of mosquitoes.

The jet of the cataract during freshes from the mountains, possesses no mean capabilities of display, but. the stream at present falling from a height of about twenty feet, might have been contained in a cylindrical pipe of a foot diameter. . The features of the glen, expanding towards the sea, produce an effect of space not here to be expected, and in the variety of landscape, thence spots are to be selected, for almost every description of rural habitation; the elevated mountain, the craggy ravine, the bluff cliffs of the sea shore, the bubbling stream, or the lowly valley.

On my return to Peel Town, I visited the churchyard of the diminutive village church of Kirkpatrick, where, on many a grave-stone, formed of slate split from the rude rock, I observed inscriptions apparently scratched with a common nail or spike, as far back as the year 1744 and 5, which, though continually exposed horizontally on the ground to the open air, were still perfectly legible; and slate-stone, no doubt, from its smooth texture, notwithstanding its softness, is more durable as a grave-stone, and retains characters longer than harder material. Slatestone in the Isle of Man is not only abundant, but, for every possible purpose to which it can be applied with economy, is universally used. The lintels of doors, the porches of cottages, the gate- posts in the farm-yards and fields, and the mooring posts for vessels on the quays, are all made of slate-stone; and it is only extraordinary, that, being impervious to water, and fissile in quality, it is only of late years that people have become aware of its general utility. Now cisterns in Lambeth, and in many places other important articles, such as billiard-tables, and what not, are made of slate-stone; and in point of fact, there is hardly any part of a human dwelling, within or without, from the roof to the foundation, beams, rafters, and all, that might not if required, be readily sawn, planed, and bored, the same almost as in wood, from blocks of native slate-stone.

The next morning I mounted my nag, and proceeded on my intended way by the Douglas road as far as St. John's, whence, turning to the right, I made progress to the village of Foxdale, about seven miles from Peel Town. Here also, adjoining the road, is a waterfall, superior, I think, and at all events easier of access, than that of Glenmaye. The fall is higher, and the space below is planted with fine young trees,—an inviting spot whereon to pass the time in shade, during the sultry day. The cascade, propelled from above through a chasm of slatestone rock, whereof by its friction it has rounded and polished the edges, pursues afterwards its course at the bottom, through a self-cut bed of the same material, indented, and worn smooth withal, as the work of human hands. With my horse's bridle on my arm, such was the clear blue colour of the natural trough, and the translucent clearness of the stream, that I could readily have loitered here a long time, even self-acquitted of the charge of indolence; but like water, so is life; lovely in tranquillity, and lovelier still by motion and variety. Profiting by this sentiment, and accordingly contented with what I had seen, I remounted my horse and rode away.

I was now among the mountains; and quitting the road on the left or east, proceeded forthwith towards the Foxdale lead-mines, over a wide expanse covered with heather, whereon a few years ago, grouse were tolerably plentiful, and even now in the winter, are plenty of snipes and woodcocks. These mines are church property, at present rented of the bishop by the Chester mining company, who have recently undertaken to work them, notwithstanding the whole surface of the ground being a morass, the operation of pumping the water out of the shafts is rendered more precarious, and moreover every ton of coal for the use of the steam-engine is unavoidably carted seven miles, almost eveiy foot of the way uphill, from Douglas. It is in contemplation to sink for coal, and, they say, with expectation of success. At any rate, the ore is rich enough to induce people to work the mines under all disadvantages. Hitherto, labour has been chiefly exhausted in preparation. I observed a steam-engine of fortysix horse power applied to the purpose of pumping one shaft; a water-wheel of forty-one feet diameter in another, and not far apart from these, another large water-wheel and shaft.

Within a mile of the lead-mines, are the extensive slate-quarries of Barrule, whence slate of the finest quality is procured and transported toward other parts of the island. The site of the quarries is so elevated as to afford a view, in a clear day, of the coasts of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, altogether; nevertheless it is a curious fact, brought by the opportunity of a prospect so unintercepted to one's observation, that notwithstanding the whole country is as much exposed to the wind as it is deficient in water, yet all the mills are water-mills, I think with only one exception. In the south, near Castleton, there is certainly one wind-mill, and if there be another, which I doubt, it is at all events in the north of the island. The water-mills, such as they are, are usually of exceedingly small power, those of Granaby, where three or four pair of stones are driven, being I believe the largest establishment of any; they are generally situated in secluded situations on the mountain rivulets, where, were it not for the water-wheel that scatters the stream in the sunshine, the spectator as he passes along, would overlook, from its diminutive proportions, the lowroofed cottage itself. Hitherto the supply of water for mechanical power is everywhere as precarious as nature first designed it; and abundant quantities during rainy seasons are wasted in the sea, that might readily be economised by means of artificial lakes and reservoirs, so as to increase equably the mill-streams to an indefinite amount. At present, so far from such means having been adopted by experimental or speculative persons for their own, or the public interest, with the exception of drainage for ordinary purposes in another part, no work worthy of notice has been performed; neither is there a lake, or large pond, either natural or artificial, within the limits of the island.

Besides the slate here dug, a hard stone is found in abundance, usually in large loose blocks near the surface of the ground; it nearly resembles the French burr, and though not quite so hard, answers the purpose of inferior mill-stones; from this material almost every one of the mills is supplied with one pair of stones, wherewith barley and oats are ground.

From this commanding eminence the country below to the southward, including the whole distance to Castleton Bay, consists of a wide tract of rich alluvial soil, spreading from the mountain's base to the Bea, where agricultural opulence and rural comfort are contrasted in pleasing diversity to the country about Douglas or Peel Town. Larger farms and more extensive fields, whereon lime is used abundantly as a manure; and comfortable looking white-washed houses, so profusely scattered over the land as to create the appearance of a continuous, straggling village, take place of the meagre features of the aforesaid barren district.

Hence I descended, passing by the Granaby mills before mentioned, which mills lie low in a pleasant glen, and traversing the alluvial space just alluded to by the neat village of Colby, and the church and church-yard of Kirk Christ Rushen, where the gravestones equal, number for space, those in any cemetery I every saw; I rode on in a direction straight between the cliffs of Brada and of Spanish Head, and took up my quarters, as previously intended, on the sea-shore, at the small fishing village of Port Iron. Of the cottages, two are public-houses, and in number about a score, occupy altogether a shelving sandy beach, at the head of a narrow bay, both sides of which are bounded by towering rocks of considerable elevation. There is no quay or landing place other than is formed by craggy projections of the aforesaid rocks, so well adapted by nature to the purpose, that for small craft, the fishermen can hardly require better accommodation.

The woman of the public house, whose husband was absent, when I rode up to the door, kindly undertook to provide me a lodging for the night, and fare as good as the premises afforded; and consigned, by the hands of a bare-legged boy who acted as hostler, my horse to the stable. Here I saw him deposited within an empty shed, wherein the former tenants, the cows, had profusely left behind the means of cooling his feverish hoofs, and I moreover presented him with an ample feed of good oats, though fortune was not equally favourable with regard to fodder. At all events I obtained the best I could, for I consider it a duty to see the poor tired horse well provided in all his wants, while under our charge. Providence has placed an animal for the time being under our especial guardianship, and he certainly fails, in a sense both moral and religious, who, not only withholds from the patient slave his hard earned right, but subjects him by consequent weakness, to say nothing of the present pains of hunger, to unmerited punishment as a laggard, by the whip of a future master.

For my own part, as regarded a dormitory, I felt much inclined to leave matters to the good will of my hostess, and to chance; for a glimpse of the dwelling on entering the door, made it plain to perceive, that the shape of the upper rooms was precisely regulated by the slant of the roof; in short, that, divided as they might be by partitions, the whole house was, in point of fact, composed only of a kitchen and a cock-loft. There was, it is true, a small den called a parlour, of which the door, not being intended to shut, afforded no protection with regard to privacy, so that I could hear every word of the conversation of a group of fishermen, who, rough as banditti, were seated drinking in the kitchen. The colloquy was held in English and in Manx, sometimes in one language, and occasionally in both together; and not only in the above respect, but in manners also, a striking difference is perceptible here between the inhabitants of the southern, and those of the other parts of the island. It is extraordinary in these civilized times, that pains should be anywhere taken, by preserving these ancient tongues, to nourish ignorance and perpetuate barbarism, to preserve contrary to natural laws, by associations and otherwise, provincial dialects originally proper to inaccessible and mountainous districts, which, as communication extends among mankind, would, if left to themselves, die a natural death. However, in the Isle of Man, the steam navigation is quickly overpowering every effort to retain the native literature, and the Manx tongue every year is becoming less and less used. In the mean time, where it prevails, the people are certainly proportionately wilder and more uncivilized in their appearance, than in those parts where it is utterly extinct; and no wonder; for though it really seems absurd to believe yet such is really the case, the peasant, at the end of one morning's walk, transports himself beyond the reach of his mother tongue. The same remark may be applied to the Basque territory in Spain.

The first measure I adopted, having taken quiet possession of my parlour, was to order dinner, and here I experienced some inconvenience from excess Of civility, for I was unable, by all the arguments in my power, to persuade my landlady to prepare herrings for my repast, since she had predetermined to serve up, by way of a treat, a mess of fried bacon and eggs. The former, the staple of the village, though in profusion, and excellent, being considered in the light of a gratuitous gift of the ocean, were undervalued accordingly. In the mean time the good woman had already tucked up her sleeves, and in earnest set to work in her vocation; acting in the double capacity of cook and nurse at one and the same time, besides supplying occasionally her thirsty customers with drink. Under one arm she supported a sucking baby, as if it were a wheat-sheaf; with a fork in the other hand, she turned over and over, from side to side, the hissing bacon in the frying-pan. A lively little maiden, ever on the alert, was continually running up and down the cellar stairs to draw beer for the fishermen; and an aged creature, the mother of the landlady, cold and comfortless, and by surviving all human sympathies grown peevish and helpless, sat drowsily, as it were in token of the monotonous tenor of her own existence, rocking a new-born infant in its cradle. Poor old soul, she longed for relief from mortal trouble, and scrupled not to say so, telling me moreover she was eighty-eight years old and full of misery. With a view to comfort her amid her complainings, "many years you may live yet," said I, whereupon with a scream of agony, and a look of honor, she entreated me with emphatic earnestness by no means to say so; with some reason, no doubt, if repose were her object, for here at the close of life, instead of repose, the unfortunate granny was doomed to bewilderment, stunned by the din of tongues, and jostled by old and young. The bare-legged boy, just returned from the stable, obedient to every body's bidding, had taken again his place among the company, and stood by the fire with a healthy honest face, and looks that candidly declared him capable of eating, if nobody were by, every egg and rasher in the frying-pan.

Notwithstanding the fishermen were rude and noisy in demeanour, they were scrupulously kind and observant towards the females: of these there were none other present than those of the household, but of guests, near a score before night made their appearance. When I returned after an evening walk, I found things precisely in the state I left them, except that people were perhaps a little more argumentative than before.

As my door declined to shut, I sat with it wide open, the better to see the company; and still farther derogating from the majesty of solitude, as I had hitherto invariably met with civility, in order on my part to conform to the fashion of things around, I desired a pint of beer to be set on the table before me; and thus employed I remained till near ten o'clock, when as I was thinking of going to rest, I saw three men with blackened faces standing outside the window. I was staggered for an instant at their sudden appearance, consequently concluding that under such a disguise—the men's faces being as black as coalheavers'— mischief surely was intended. With reference to myself and to former adventures in the neighbourhood, I really sincerely wished I had let well alone, and, having escaped once prosperously from the hands of the inhabitants, had now staid away. However, I remained not long in suspense, for the three men burst into the outer room, where their appearance was immediately hailed with an universal hollaballoo. They were miners by trade, young men of the village, casually employed to unload a vessel freighted with coal from Ayr, in Scotland, and now in their masquerade costume, after a severe day's work, afforded merriment owing to their appearance, and quickly made manifest their own particular object, by calling for refreshment. Employed in the lead-mines at Brada Head, their services had been temporarily called to another department; for the vessel lay at anchor near the cliff, under a brisk off-shore gale, during the continuance of which, it was indispensable that the job should be quickly completed, for, at that part of the coast, at no other season dare a vessel at anchor maintain her position. The young men, accordingly, had laboured unremittingly, as if the sloop and cargo had actually belonged to themselves, since four o'clock in the morning during the entire summer's day; and again on the morrow, at the same early hour, were about to renew their toil. The animated bearing of the young Manxmen in question beamed brightly through the mask of coal-dust and perspiration that deformed their countenances, as, highly pleased with themselves and all things about them, they rioted in the mere enjoyment of existence—a delight that the young and powerful alone can know, when the elastic fibre serenely reposes after severe exertion, and the moral sense, proportionately wide awake, exults in its prowess. Though wild in his gait, than the English peasant the Manxman is a vast deal more volatile and airy, and though all now conversed in the patois of the island, in wit and hilarity, and in mental calibre, I saw plainly they far exceeded our native clowns. None of the party, notwithstanding the merriment, in anywise exceeded the bounds of sobriety, but in good order and fellowship, before eleven o'clock, all had beat their retreat. The latch of the door having then performed its last office, once more a member of a peaceful family, I retired to rest.

To my comfort and surprise, the preparations of my hostess very far exceeded all previous expectation; and though I mounted a staircase which resembled a ladder, I found ready with curtains and coverlid, a bed stuffed with harsh straw and clad with coarse sheets, but, like every thing else in the apartment, tidy, and scrupulously clean. Indeed such was the vigilance displayed for the sake of even the semblance of decency, that I actually dislodged sundry articles, including a bran new cheese and an old pack of cards, craftily deposited in ambush between the bed and the tester.

At daybreak in the morning I walked down to the bay, where I was speedily joined by the owner of a boat with whom I had previously made arrangements, and his two assistants. As we approached the skiff, which lay moored to the rocks, we were surrounded by numerous gulls that hovered close above our heads, all of which were so tame, that being on the ground, and walking about at their leisure on the sea- shore, they took little notice as we passed, but flapping their wings gently, either in compliment to us, or to recreate themselves, merely made believe to rise. Protected by the fishermen, the law of the land inflicts a penalty of three pounds upon whomsoever, either wilfully or wantonly, shoots one of their race; and such, accordingly, is the good understanding between those of the heavy boots and the web-footed, that the latter here in the neighbourhood of Port Iron, walk about as securely and peaceably as ordinary ducks in a farm-yard. The keen eye of the gull when the herrings appear, enables him to discover the first twinkle of their scales, and detect the myriads that swim crowding together beneath the wave; and collecting in flocks, they hover over the spot, continually marking, by their progress in the air, the finny phalanx below. The sagacious manoeuvre infuses life in the village, and the fishermen receive the signal with joy. Ever on the alert, they throw their nets in the boat, and when after the toilsome day they return laden to their homes, the auxiliary gulls receive the reward of their services in the small fry and garbage.

The access to the landing-place is inconvenient and slippery. We ascended for some distance over craggy slabs of rock, then descended again to the level of the sea, and stepping into the boat, which floated in deep water, rowed out of the bay, and in a quarter of an hour were pulling with a steady stroke under the bluff lofty cliffs of Brada Head. This magnificent headland—a stupendous precipice—reminded me at first sight of the sea-girt rock of Ailsa Craig, on the coast of Galloway, and the resemblance is rendered more perfect by the legions of sea-birds that continually swarm upon its brow. Hither I had come to see the site of the lead-mines, the scene of operations of the three young miners before mentioned; and I was sufficiently gratified, were it only to have gained a momentary glimpse of the operations here conducted. A situation more extraordinary for works like these is hardly to be found in the king's dominions; for the mines, after a long interval, were at this time about to be re-opened, and a building to contain the steam- engine was in progress of erection. The site chosen for this purpose was an abutting point of the perpendicular cliff, inaccessible from below, and so near the water's edge, that even in moderate weather its foundation is unceasingly lashed by the waves. The masonry of the building is imbedded in the rock, and constructed with corresponding solidity. The main level perforates the side of the cliff close to the aforesaid engine-house, and other levels, far above among the sea birds' habitations, are also about to be re-opened and worked afresh. The access from the village to the lower level first mentioned, is by a perilous zigzag path, that descends the greater part of the way from the extreme summit of the cliff, until becoming absolutely precipitous, the remainder of the distance is completed by a tunnel.

A few fathoms from the shore the collier sloop, of which mention has already been made, rolling and toppling on the wave, and desperately rocking from side to side, held on by a heavy strain upon her anchor; and hence to the engine-house, the coal, as fast as unladen, was first conveyed to the base of the cliff in a boat, and then in sacks, upon men's shoulders, was carried to the engine-house some forty or fifty feet above. The young miners and eight or ten more labourers were already merrily progressing at their work, and engaged in a service utterly impracticable but for the strength and energy of youth. By means of planks laid from crag to crag, some resting unsteady, and all at great elevation, every sack of coal was transported from point to point, across the intervening chasms, and now and then among uneven ledges of rock; so that even with caution and difficulty, and unimpeded by any burden, I could scarcely follow the laden men up the craggy steep. The object once attained, I speedily came down again; but not before recognized by my black-muzzled acquaintance, who with hearty good humour, and a spread of white teeth, as I stepped into the boat gave signal to the rest, who altogether, mistaking me I suppose for an inspecting proprietor, greeted my departure with a lusty hurrah; or perhaps it was mere gratitude for a little contribution, always considered meritorious—namely, a trifle bestowed to purchase strong beer.

Once more in the boat, the boatmen doffed their jackets, and laying sturdily to the oars, pulled across the mouth of Port Iron bay to the Calf of Man. The sea was quite calm during the whole of the passage, which lasted three quarters of an hour; for the wind blowing strong all the while from the shore, we were under the lee of the land. The passage to the Calf of Man from Port Iron is infinitely preferable to that from Port le Murray; for in the latter case, the narrow gut is to be passed formed by the intervening little island of Kitterland, where always exists a bubbling turbulent swell. At present we skirted this fretting torrent, and passing close to the aforesaid Kitterland, whereon, though a mere speck in the sea, I observed a dozen sheep grazing, we landed upon the Calf of Man. Here is a small natural harbour, so sheltered and perfect, that as a place of landing for small craft, the assistance of art is hardly necessary for farther improvement. Within a narrow inlet, a basin of deep transparent water, from whose bottom the long succulent stems and broad spreading leaves of submarine plants sprout, waving backwards and forwards towards the surface, is surrounded on every side by high land; and the rocks which form the landing, consisting of horizontal ledges, abruptly protrude from the shore into deep water; so that a good sized sloop might here, without farther preparation, with the greatest facility either disembark or receive a cargo.

During the passage from Brada Head, I conversed with the boatmen on the subject of the island we were going to visit, and I was amused by their history, so little did they know of its merits or localities. On making enquiry at Douglas, only fourteen miles distant, few people whom I asked had ever been there; and one would be led to imagine, from general report, that it was a spot visited for no other reason than because two lighthouses are built upon it, and moreover, productive only in two staple articles—namely, sea birds' eggs and rabbits. The boatmen conformed to the latter account, and related exaggerated tales of the rats, that have colonized to destroy the rabbits. Of the former, they said that on a moonlight night some thousands regularly congregated at their gambols, and sometimes, when making war on each other, a multitude might be seen galloping in droves, or in squadron in order of battle. The proprietor of the rabbits, they farther declared, engaged a learned Scotsman from Edinburgh College, who, a few years ago, at a constant salary of forty shillings a week, undertaking to reside on the spot and extirpate the destroyers, for the space of four months received regular pay, and plied them meanwhile with oil of rhodium and deadly viands in profusion. In despite of his best efforts, however, the vermin in the end prevailed, and since baffled skill knows no mortal resource, the Scotsman accordingly left the island.

On disembarking from the boat, I found with some regret, that in accordance with other arrangements, the short period of time remaining at my disposal was limited to an hour and a half; enough, certainly, to traverse the track or road that passes from end to end across the middle longitudinally, and to return by the same route, but insufficient leisurely to make a circuit of the lofty and magnificent cliffs. Nevertheless, at the conclusion of my ramble, I resumed my place in the boat under a perfectly different impression than when I set forward, for instead of a sandy desert, such as I had expected to see from the account I had heard, filled with rabbits and rats, on the contrary, the whole expanse rather teemed with vegetative power; and at any rate during my short sojourn, neither a single rabbit nor rat did I happen to see.

The ground rises immediately from the landingplace to a considerable elevation, towards the summit of which, slate-stone has already been dug from an abundant quarry. Hence the aforesaid road strikes directly across the whole length of the island, over a gently undulating surface, covered with luxuriant heather. Of this moor land there is apparently quite sufficient, were it stocked with grouse, to afford sport for a shooting party for an entire week; while the extraordinary strength of the heather—not harsh stunted plants, but consisting of rich blooming bushes, almost in many places up to one's middle— seems to indicate a soil that, under the discipline of the plough, might be subjected to much improvement. In fact, a great part of the island is now likely to be brought under tillage, having been purchased by an individual, as I understood, for three thousand pounds, who has built a farm-house and offices on a centrical spot, and brought an hundred acres at least under cultivation. The dwelling of this cacique or proprietor is a simple stone building, with farm-yard, barn, stable, and all appurtenances, the whole well supplied with water by a pump, from a spring a few yards only below the surface of the ground. The rabbits inhabit the south-western part of the territory. Of these I found upon enquiry that about seven hundred couple are taken every year; and with regard to their enemies, the rats, it must be confessed that the latter were certainly abundant, and farther, that not only they lived upon the rabbits, but in herds, a sort of imperium in imperii), inhabited their burrows. Of live stock there are sheep and black cattle, together with seven horses; and whatever in future days may be the amount of human population, the present census is easily taken, amounting now altogether to eight families, of which are to be included those people belonging to the two lighthouses. The latter edifices are of brick, situated at the south-eastern extremity of the island, with good cottages, and fields for cultivation, for the use of the men employed there on duty.

Not far from the lighthouses, on the verge of the cliffs, in a situation particularly exposed to the weather, in fact, perfectly unsheltered on any side, are the ruins of a curious old building, called Boswell's House, the scantling of whose walls bears the strength of a castle, while the figure, though consisting of many apartments, is that of an ordinary farm-house. As the spot is one in former days not likely to have been sought from motives of pleasure, it is the more probable the domicile was turned to purposes of profit, and at any rate feasible, that the owner or inhabitant, be when it may the period he flourished, was an arrant smuggler.

On returning to the boat, fifty minutes were expended in pulling across to the village of Port Iron, including a short period disposed of by the boatmen for the purpose of securing the carcase of a ewe, that, having her legs tied together to prevent her from wandering, had fallen from the summit of the cliffs, and lay dead on the beach.

George Head, A Home Tour through various parts of the United Kingdom (London: John Murray, 1837) Conversion to HTML and placename mark-up by Humphrey Southall, 2012.

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