Hillberry (Cronk y Berry)

Hillberry (Cronk y Berry)

I was born in 1908 at Hillberry in Onchan. My father worked on the farm at Ballakaighen for Mr Caesar Kaighen, there were nine children and I was the fourth born. I was christened at Hillberry Methodist Chapel where my father was secretary and attended the services there every Sunday, often reciting. My father would instruct me in what I would have to do.

My parents spoke in the Manx dialect to one another when we were young children so we would not understand what the conversation was about. Later they taught us to speak some Manx.

My father had an uncle living in Kirk Michael and when I was in my teens I was sent out there to work for him as housekeeper and to help in his coal yard. It was very heavy work and I was a small girl. The farmers would send their labour boys to collect coal from the yard and I would have to fill the sacks and help lift them onto a stiff cart. The coal was in sacks of a hundred-weight and very heavy for me.

My name was Ida Callister before I married but my uncle’s name was Joe Gorry and everyone coming to the coal yard would call me Miss Gorry. I didn’t mind because I would talk to the rooks (anyone).

After about two years my mother and father moved out to live in Kirk Michael and this made life easier for me as mother did the housekeeping. Our home was used as a meeting house for the boys in the village and they would come to play cards with my father. There was no alcoholic drinks allowed but father would say, “Get some supper for the boys, mother.”

Fortunately she was very good at baking bonnag and would serve it up with butter and black treacle. I worried because she did not have much money to feed nine children as the wages were ten shillings a week. I remember father getting a one shilling pay rise and they thought they were so well off.

I joined a girls’ group in Kirk Michael and asked my father what was the difference between church and the Methodist chapel. He said they had always been chapel and called the church vicar ‘sheep stealing’ trying to entice the chapel congregation to the church.

I met my husband Billy Killey at the chapel and he soon wanted to marry me, but I said we were too short of money and put him off. Eventually my mother and father agreed to pay for my clothes and for all the wedding. They dressed me marvellously considering the wages were so poor. I was twenty three years old when I married and had one daughter, Hazel.

My husband worked on estate maintenance at Government House and we lived in a cottage in the grounds. One day my husband came home and said that I had been asked to go to the house and see Lady Garvey. I said I didn’t think I was capable of working for her and that it was above my station, but I had to go and see her. She had spoken to her housekeeper, Ma Kerruish, so when I arrived she already knew about me. She quizzed me anyway and thought I would like the job as parlour maid. I had worked before this with the Bridsons at Harcroft and they had also given her all the gen on me!

As each new governor arrived on the Island, they recommended me to the next and so I worked for Lady Stallard and Lady Paul. The Pauls included me more into their family and would expect me to sit down and eat with them. I felt slightly uncomfortable about this but they were very good to me. After they left the Island they returned each year and always visited me as they still do now that I am living at Glenside.


(source: by Ida Killey from ‘Old Times’ (Shen Traaghy); photograph is of Mrs Killey from the same book; originally posteed on facebook here)

Bernadette Weyde

Bernadette Weyde

I'm a web designer, amateur historian and keen gardener and I enjoy bringing Manx history, folklore and poetry to a modern audience.


Tags assigned to this article:
manx life

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