Home Poetry The Wonderful Spinning

The Wonderful Spinning

by Ber Weyde

First it’s story…

Above the entrance to Glen Roy, the West side of the Laxey valley is seamed with a series of small watercourses, beside each of which was perched a cottage surrounded by a few miniature fields. The cottages are now mere ruins, and many of the fields are only distinguishable by the remnants of their former hedges. The first of these places, going Northward, is “The Raby” or “The Raby House,” which was presumably an intack belonging to the large farm of Rheaby or Raby on the table-land above the valley.

A story, of which the following is the gist, reached me from an elderly sheep-farmer of the neighbouring hills. The Rabyhouse was inhabited by an old woman named ‘K’ and her servant girl. One morning when there was a great deal of spinning on hand the girl ran off and left her, and she was at her wits’ end to get it done. Finally, in despair she went down to the river and asked it, or asked the spiders (accounts differ on this point) to help her; and it, or they, promised to do so.

Not only did they spin her wool for her, but after the work was finished they wove her, all out of their own silk thread, a shawl of miraculous delicacy and beauty. It was preserved in the family for several generations, but has now disappeared,

The poem…

(By what I’ve heard from Jemmy Dan,
Them Killyas out at Gliodn y Can
Once owned…well, this is how it ran.)


Old Moggy rose at break of day
And called the girl to waken;
She crossed to where her pallet lay,
And found the nest forsaken:
“Young Ibbot to the Fair has run
And all my wool is yet unspun
How will I get my spinning done?”


Out went she to the shady wood
That edged her apple-orchard,
To tell the Stones that in it stood
The way her mind was tortured;
She made the turn about them twice,
She made the turn about them thrice,
She stepped it Southward with the Sun
For help to get her spinning done.


In came she to the Trammon-tree
That leaned against her gable,
And prayed him most respectfully
To do what he was able;
She laid three fingers on a bough:
“Good neighbour Trammon, help me now
Young Ibbot to the Fair has run
And left me with my wool unspun
How will I get my spinning done?”


Up toiled she to the hoary Drine
That writhed above her garden;
She curtsied thrice and made the sign,
Then humbly begged his pardon:
“But Ibbot ere the break of day
To Laxey Fair has run away
And won’t be back till set of sun,
And here’s my spinning not begun!”


* * *

She stood and wrung her withered hands
“Auch, auch, not one that understands!”


Low knelt she by the River then
And wept into his flying bubbles,
His bubbles whirling down the Glen,
And told his water all her troubles:
“Young Ibbot to the Fair has run
And not a stroke of work begun,
And all alone I cannot spin
The rolls and rolls of wool that ‘s in
And must be balled ere daylight ebbs
To give the weaver for his webs;
O River singing ever by,
Swift River, tell me how will I
Get all my spinning done?”


The River left his lazy song
And rolled a thunder loud and long
Up all the rushy gills that fed
The rapids in his rocky bed;
From Laxey Mines and Glen Agneash,
The Foss, the Lhaggan, and the Rheash,
From hedge and tussock, bush and wall,
Obedient to his drumming call
The Spiders gathered at his banks
And clustered thick in ready ranks.


He took them on his back and ran,
For he had hit upon a plan;
To where old Moggy’s ground began
He bore his hairy riders.
He took a boulder in his stride
And spilt them on the Raby side,
They scuttled up the ferny broo
That glistened yet with morning dew,
Through cracks that would not pass a mouse
They poured into the Raby-house,
They covered ceilings, walls and floors,
They crowded Moggy out of doors
And made a workshop of her room;
No need of wheel, no need of loom,
For each was loom and wheel in one,
And all day long till set of sun
They strove and spun and wove and spun
To get old Moggy’s business done,
These magic-fingered Spiders!


At dusk when she crept sadly home
Her window gray as midnight foam
Betokened to her sleepy head
Young Ibbot back and off to bed;
She plucked the sneg and peeped inside,
Her mouth grew round, her eyes grew wide,
She tossed her withered hands and stood
Dumbfounded in a deep jerrude;
For not alone her thread was spun
And round a score of cinders run,
But something stranger faintly lit
Her kitchen with the sheen of it,
As though the Moon an inch or more
Had pushed her horn above the floor
A Wonder by the Spiders left
Of their own silk in warp and weft,
A mist of gauzy gossamer
Enveloping her high-backed chair,
A shining SHAWL! more beautiful
Than moonlight on a river-pool,
More flyaway than thistledown,
And warmer than a woollen gown.
She wrapped it round her, danced and sang,
(Lame Moggy with the yellow fang),
Until the solid rafters rang:


“O spotted Spiders from the Glen,
My blessing on your spinning then,
And on your weaving twice again,
You long-legged airy gliders!
O River singing by the broo,
My blessing on your water too
That floated down this clever crew
Of swiftly-spinning Spiders!
The River ran, the Spiders spun
From rise of sun to set of sun;
They wove a Shawl that passes all,
And got my spinning done!”

trammn = elder tree
drine = thorn
jerrude = reverie, forgetfulness
broo = riverbank or bank of a hillside

(source: A Manx Scrapbook by WW Gill 1929; artwork is Freya at her Spinning Wheel by Portia St Luke)

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