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More Manx Folklore on Cats

by Bernadette Weyde

More Manx folklore on cats…

• I have heard of an old woman shutting the black cat in the cupboard to make stormy weather.
• A family that kept a black cat without a speck of any other colour would never have anyone drowned at sea.
• There was a feeling among the old-time Manx folk that cats were connected in some way with the sea; that as they came from the sea (or from water) in the beginning, so they must go back to it in the end. The ground for this doctrine is hidden from me, but an underlying animal myth is plainly indicated. The idea cannot be entirely obsolete, for it was put forward by a woman a little time ago as the obvious explanation for her drowning of an unwanted cat in the sea, instead of putting it to death more mercifully.
• The black cat, which appears in the rhyme Hop-tu-naa (“I met a witch-cat”), is of course, a transformed witch.
• We know that it was unlucky to meet a cat on the 1st January in the Island.
• There are still upholders of the theory that the Manx cat is the result of a cross between the ordinary cat and the wild rabbit.
• 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!
• Cats were not allowed to go near the baby in the cradle when it was young. They did not think of the cat sucking the breath of the baby, but that its breath was poisonous to come on a baby’s face.
• Proverb: They live like cat and dog. T’ad beaghey bwoailley er kayt as bwoailley er moddey.
• On animals named according to some striking characteristics about them: The cat, for example, was called foodin, kisert, poosi, raami, voaler, skaavin and skavnashi, the latter means the shaver, the nose-shaver, for the cat’s habit of washing itself up around the lugs and down over the nose.
• Old women used to say this rhyme to the baby about the cat and the mouse:

A mouse was spinning on the mill wheel,
Up came the cat and looked upon her;
What are you doing my landlady?
Spinning silk and gauze for the wife of the king.
Before the milk of the cows increases,
I’ll be even with you before those days.


Lugh va sneeu er queeyl yn mwyllin,
Haink yn kayt as yeeagh e urree;
Cre’n red t’ou jannoo my yen ainshter?
Sneeu sheeldey as srol’ da ben y ree.
Roish my jig bishaght ayn bainney ny baa,
Beeni’s kiart dy liooar my jig yn laa.

(source: A Second Manx Scrapbook by WW Gill (1934); Manx Notes & Queries by C Roeder (1904); Manx Dialect by WW Gill (1934); Mona Miscellaney by Wm. Harrison (1873); artwork by Eldar Zakirov)

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