The Three Wonders of Manann – The Second

The Three Wonders of Manann – The Second

Rather unexpectedly both the second and third Wonders are associated traditionally with the parish of Onchan. Castle Rushen claims within its walls a well which rises and falls with the tide, although of fresh water – but it can scarcely be said to be “far from the sea,” so Onchan has a better claim to this Wonder in a well at Ballig which is about a mile and a half from the nearest sea shore.

A very impressive well it is too, with a stone-built covered entrance and steps leading down to the water level which is under an arched stone roof. There are niches in the walls beside the steps and in these, according to the late Sophia Morrison (d.1917), who spent much time at the farm in her girlhood, butter used to be placed to harden after churning and milk in summer to cool it.

She claimed that the alternation in height of the well-water was enough to cover and uncover the three bottom steps and corresponded to high and low tide at Douglas. And she said that in some of the niches offerings of food and milk were left at night for “Themselves” (or possibly for the well spirit?). That would be sometime in the 1880s.

Whether or not the well is still in use I don’t know – probably the farm is now on the mains and the well later neglected, so that nobody would notice if the rise and fall continues. But as late as the mid-1930s it was still in use and food and milk were placed in the wall niches.

(source: photo by Phil Catterall; This is Ellan Vannin Again: Folklore by Mona Douglas (1966))

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.

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