To keep the home fires burning…
In the Isle of Man the element takes on a two-sided significance. By fire the Island was discovered for men’s use and misuse, and by fire it has ever since been prevented from reverting to its original condition.
The revealing flame lit by a mortal visitant on the shore where he had accidentally landed drove the gloomy mists up into the mountains and exposed the seaboard to the human race. The belief arose that if the Island should ever be wholly without a fire for even the briefest moment it would vanish again into its primeval mystery or, as Mr. Waldron heard it, “terrible revolutions and mischiefs would immediately ensue.”
How the vigilance of the Laxey people once saved the country is told in the following account of the myth by a Solway-side laird of a century ago. After describing the wonders of a magic island which appeared off the shore of his estate once in every seven years, he continues:
“The Manxmen’s Isle was once enchanted the same way, but a spark of fire, lighted on’t ance frae out a sailor’s pipe, broke the charm, whilk has hinner’d it to sink mair; but war a’ the fires at ony time to gang out, it wad just gae whar it was again; ance they went a’ out but a wee bit gleed in Luxy ; and faith, the Isle of Man was begun to shog and quake.”
(source: A Second Manx Scrapbook by W Walter Gill (1932); artwork by Tomasz Alen Kopera)