On the coast of Lonan, about a mile and a half eastward of Laxey is Struan-y-Granghie, a little streamlet that comes tumbling over high cliffs of rock before it enters the sea. To the eastward of the stream the rock rises stern and wild, with here and there patches of gorse and odd tufts of ling; west of the stream there appears to have been at some time a huge landslip, and from the cultivated land right down to the water huge masses of rock have been thrown about in great confusion, forming caves and recesses, providing good shelter for the wild goats, which a few years ago were still numerous on the coast. In one of these caves at one time lived a lone man, and during his residence in this solitary abode a very strange thing happened, which he avowed was the work of his only friend, the good Fenodyree, and which gave him the name by which he was ever afterward known, Ewan y Darragh – Ewan the Oak.
There is a story told that once on a time he was courting a buxom farmer’s daughter in the neighbourhood of the Granaine, who gave him every reason to believe that his attentions were well-received, and that she loved him as sincerely as he loved her. At this time, a lighter or happier heart did not beat on the Ballaragh side. Between singing and whistling, day in day out, all work to him seemed play, and the days passed by like the shadows on the hillsides in summertime.
Little did he think, the story goes, that his Kirry was playing fast and loose with him. He thought there was no one like her – she was the apple of his eye, and too honest for deception, and people might tell him what they liked, for he took no heed. One story seemed to gain ground and soon it was in everybody’s mouth, that a certain other fellow was often seen making his way home in the small hours of the morning on a certain day in the week; so saying nothing to anyone he decided to go and find out for himself what was in, so off he started in the dusk of the evening.
When he reached the place he put himself in hiding and waited to see what would happen. After a while there was whistling coming from the orchard; he crept over there, and hid again – before long the door opened quietly, and some one slipped out into the orchard. The two met, and without saying a word put their arms round each other.
Ewan’s blood now got to boiling heat, and springing to his feet, he walked right up to them.
“Kirry, Kirry,” he said, “is this the way thou’re coin’? I’ve heard it of thee for a long time, but I couldn’ believe it till to-night.”
For a minute they were all silent, then she rounded on him with all beauty for coming sneaking like this. Soon all three of them got to angry words, and then to blows: they were two fine strapping fellows, and they fought with the strength of young lions. For a while Kirry stood terrified at the sight, but seeing she could do nothing she turned and slipped into the house. Ewan gave the other fellow a dreadful walloping, and he was glad to go home; and for himself, he had to go too, and without any explanation. Not long after this the other fellow took to his bed and never got up again. It was long after this before Ewan and Kirry met again, when she told him that whatever she thought of him before, she couldn’t think of him now, and for him never to trouble her again.
The story of the affair soon got abroad, with a black side turned on Ewan, and the fellow who was once liked by everybody was now shied as a man-slayer. This ate on his mind, till at last he made an oath that so long as he had breath he would never make company of man or woman again, and as he had done no crime he would hope for forgiveness in the world to come, and went and spent his days by the lonely streamlet of Struan y Granghie.
Every summer he would be seen going to Slieau Ruy to pull ling for a dry floor, a bed, and a bit of winter firing, for there was no gorse on the broogh (banks) then. He contrived with some coull (hazel) branches and some skins to make a little boat that came in useful to him in fine weather; with this he picked up odds and ends of mychurachan (flotsam and jetsam/wrecked goods found on the shore) that was thrown up by the storms of winter; sometimes a fish or two, a crab, and a bit of dullish.
Once when he was dodging round the rocks in Bulgham Bay, he saw some distance away what he took to be somebody shipwrecked so he shouted. There was a splash and in a few minutes he saw on the rocks quite close to him a woman brushing back the wet hair from her forehead and signing for him to come. Thinking of Kirry and at the same time turning his boat towards Struann y Granghie, he shook his head and said:
“No, no, no more women for me!“
His only friend was keeping a close watch on him all the time, and often when he would be taking a slew up the little gill (small glen) towards the head of the struan, he would be finding things useful left there; it must be for him, although he didn’t know where from they were coming, and it was no use letting them go waste.
Now, as years went on his step got slower and every winter he wanted more fire, and he began to wonder how he would manage. Then a hard winter came and for long, long enough, he was kept to the cave till the fine weather came round again, and by that time his little store was about gone; when on a nice summer day he took a step round, he was astonished to find himself living in a plantation, getting his stick, and climbing up the broogh (bank), he found it was all planted to the water’s edge. A while after this he found another planting a little bit nearer to Laxey Bay. He looked up to the sky, and the tears rolled down his cheeks at the sight of what was round him and he knew it had been done by his friend the Fenodyree. From then on he was never seen going to Slieau Ruy again.
These plantations of oak trees are to be seen to this day growing among the crags below Skinscoe farmhouse.
(source: Mannin Vol. 1 (1915) A Manx Notebook ; artwork ‘The Old Hermit’ by Reneaigner)