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Jimmy Squarefoot

by Bernadette Weyde

At the bottom of the Ballagilbert Glen on the Isle of Man lies Grenaby, where the valley narrows and squeezes its river under Grenaby Bridge into the upper part of Silverburn Glen. Just below here comes in the Awin Reash from the Moainey Mooar and a brooklet from Ballalonna, and in bygone days Grenaby was thronged with old-fashioned inhabitants, as became a meeting place of many waters. A humble member of the fraternity was the unnaturally large black cat with flaming eyes nearly as big as saucers, which used to be seen in a field here. There was also the water-monster of bovine appearance which occasionally haunted one of the riverside meadows. The tall man without a head, and the “something dark like a big chest or box” which moved about the road, have been identified by one of my informants, rightly or wrongly, with a much more unusual phenomenon called “Jimmy Squarefoot.”

Broadly speaking, Jimmy Squarefoot was a man with a pig’s head and face, “and he had two great tusks like a boar.” He haunted all round the Grenaby district. In a purely porcine shape he had belonged to the giant living on Cronk yn Irree Lhaa, who, in the course of an altercation with his wife on South Barrule, pelted her unsubmissive head with rocks of which one is now the Creg yn Arran and another – distinctly a wide-dropped at Cloughur to the South.

This giant, whose name is regrettably forgotten, rode Jimmy in his pig-form about the country and over the sea, for “he could stramp the waves as easy as he could the ling.” After their quarrel the giant and his wife both disappeared, leaving their pet behind, whereupon he came down to the Grenaby district and has infested it ever since in his various modifications.

Whether it is due to his friendly name or not, there is something engaging about Jimmy when he used to charge out at wayfarers with gleaming tusks and gnashing fangs. How he got the sobriquet of “Squarefoot” I have never been able to learn. Has he despoiled some human ghost of its rightful name, or is it that his spoor has been detected in the moist soil of his favourite haunts? For he seems to have an affinity with water, and though I have not tracked him to his lair with any degree of certainty, I incline to suspect a certain collection of large stones, now diminished in number and much overgrown, forming a sort of den in a field corner high above the Awin Reash, near its convergence with the Silverburn. In that case he would resemble the ‘Purr Mooar’ (big/great pig) of Cosh ny Hushtaghyn in Druidale.

At any rate, Jimmy is conspicuous among the many fragments of the great Manx Pig legend which needs piecing together and comparing with that of other countries.

(source: A Manx Scrapbook by W Walter Gill (1929); artwork is of Jimmy Squarefoot plus forest wallpaper background)

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