« НазадПродовжити »
dearth produced high prices, and an embargo was laid upon the exportation of corn. It was a wretched winter to the poor people of Man, and the bishop's heart was with them in their misery. He distributed all his own corn, he then purchased to the extent of his means, and sold it out at a low rate in small proportions, so as to economise to the utmost. In February 1740, he writes again, "Never was such a scarcity of corn I A ship laden with barley was put in by bad weather. I would have bought fifty pounds' worth, but it could not be sold, the master having given large bonds to land it at Whitehaven, but he was cast away going thither. What this poor place will do, God only knows. I shall give as long as I have any; and money, if any be to be bought."
Disease is generally the companion of famine, and it visited the island with much severity on this occasion. The bishop, who had acquired some knowledge of physic at the University, and had exercised it for the relief of his poor neighbours all his life long, now attended the sick and prescribed for them. They had fresh proofs of the goodness of God in sending a man of such an excellent spirit to dwell amongst them.
In their greatest extremity, when the corn of the island was nearly exhausted, the inhabitants despatched a letter to the duke of Athol, (who had succeeded to the lordship of the isle, by the death of the earl of Derby,) and to Dr. Wilson, in London, representing their appalling situation, and beseeching them to use their earnest endeavours and their interest to effect the removal of the embargo which withheld from them the very means of existence.
The application was made, but without success, and as the case admitted of no delay, the duke and Dr. Wilson immediately contracted for two ship-loads of corn from Holland. Meanwhile a small vessel, bound to Dumfries with a cargo of Welsh oats, was driven into Douglas by a contrary wind, where the cargo sustained considerable injury; and the people of the town, urged by famine, and knowing that the means of relief were actually perishing before their faces, boarded and took possession of the vessel without resistance. The action, though riotous, was conducted with good order, for they measured out the corn with great exactness, stored it in the schoolhouse, and compelled the churchwardens to take the care and custody of it, and to sell it out at prime cost, reserving the money for the proprietor of the cargo.
Thus a temporary relief was afforded, at least for that part of the island, until the ships arrived from Holland just time enough to save the inhabitants from starving. Further supplies were afterwards obtained, by the embargo being removed for a certain time and to a certain quantity, in consequence of another pressing appeal to the King from Dr. Wilson, in which he says, "Your petitioner's father, and the inhabitants of that place, labour under the inexpressible want of provisions, especially bread-corn; so that, if not speedily relieved, many thousands are in imminent danger of being starved; and what adds to their melancholy circumstances is, that it has pleased God to afflict them with a pestilential flux, owing in a great measure to the want of wholesome food."
The supply now sent saved the whole people from destruction, yet still the poor would have been very scantily provided but for the help of their good bishop. He writes thus to his son; "What I give at home to poor people, I give gratis; having, through God's blessing, about one hundred and fifty Winchester bushels to spare. But my method in the four towns has been to buy it at the market-price, (which is high enough indeed,) and to order it to be sold, but only to poor people, and not above two pecks to any one body."
In another letter it is stated, " I have given this year about five hundred bushels of barley, which have been the support of very many families, as well as private persons, which otherwise must have perished, I verily believe."
The year 1745 was another time of great want and suffering amongst the poor. The circumstances of their distress, and the bishop's help in their time of need, are sufficiently shown in the following extracts from his letters to his son.
"June 14, 1745. Our harvest last year was so difficult to be saved, that it has reduced us to as great straits as we were in four years ago, only we have the liberty of having corn from England and Wales brought to us, but at an excessive price ; and, which is still worse, there is amongst the people very little monies to be had to purchase it. I have already given most of my own stock of all sorts of grain, and I believe I shall be obliged to lay out twenty or thirty pounds more before August. Ten pounds worth of barley Mr. Murray has promised me this week, which is coming from Wales, and I hope for as much more. It is generally sold for twenty-four shillings our boll: but before this came in, some of our wicked farmers sold it for upwards of thirty; or five or six shillings a Winchester bushel.
"We have also had a very great loss of black cattle and sheep through the whole country, occasioned by the badness of the fodder, and the cold and wet season, having had scarce three days together without rain or snow since September last. In short, I can foresee nothing but distress of one kind or other."
"July 15, 1745. A most sad dear year, even as hard with the poor as 1741; for though there is corn enough, (at a very dear rate,) yet the people have no monies. We are perfectly drained. I have bought already near one hundred bushels, and shall make it up that quantity before new corn comes in, besides my own growth. No prospect of a fishery. A fine crop upon the ground, except the mountains and the Curragh."*
But Bishop Wilson's charity did not confine itself to the relief of temporal necessities. Besides private exertions in his master's cause, which none who have read his thoughts on that subject can doubt, he contributed towards the general improvement of these unlettered islanders, with a liberality which we can hardly tell how his means supplied. He must often have exceeded the contents of his "poor's box," and must always have administered his little funds with a singular prudence and discretion. He caused parts of the Scriptures-)- and several good books to be translated and printed in the
* The Curragh is a large tract of land running the breadth of the island between Ballaugh and Ramsea. It was formerly a bog, which, being drained, proved one of the richest parts of the island. Bishop Wilson's History of the Isle of Man.
'J- A translation of the Scriptures into the Blanks language was commenced under the superintendence and at the cost of bishop Wilson. The Gospel of St. Matthew was printed before his death, and the other Evangelists and the Acts were at that time ready for the press. It is related that bishop Hildesley, Wilson's successor, entered with great interest and zeal upon the completion of this arduous and valuable undertaking, and that he often said, " He only wished to live to see it finished, and then he should be content to die." Through the liberal assistance of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, this great work was completed. On Saturday November 22,1772, he received the last part of the Bible, and sang, that evening, the song of Simeon (Luke ii. 29), with much feeling, in the presence of his family. On Sunday he addressed his family after evening prayers on the uncertainty of life, next day he was Manks language; he took part in founding and supplying parochial libraries; he distributed bibles and testaments; put the schools in his diocese on such a footing as to render them seminaries of strict morals and sound learning; and built, or assisted in building and endowing, several churches and chapels.
Nor were his clergy omitted from his schemes of benevolence. He used great exertions to recover some losses, which without such assistance they could never have obtained; he increased, as far as he was able, their incomes, and repaired their houses; and established a fund for their widows and orphans, contributing largely to it himself. His own account of the clergy, given in the History of the Isle of Man, shows that they stood in much need of such kindness as he extended to them.
"The clergy are generally natives; and indeed it cannot well be otherwise, none else being qualified to preach and administer the sacraments in the Manks language ; for the English is not understood by two-thirds at least of the island, though there is an English school in every parish; so hard is it to change the language of a whole country.
"The livings are generally small: the two parsonages are, indeed, worth near sixty pounds a-year; but the vicarages, the royal bounty* included, are not worth above twenty-five pounds, with which, notwithstanding, the
deprived of his senses by a paralytic seizure, and in a week he was no more. Agreeably to his own desire, he was buried by the side of bishop Wilson, wishing to be united in death with a man whose example he had endeavoured to imitate through life.
* This was the sum of 1001. per annum granted in the reign of king Charles the Second, payable out of the excise for ever, for the better maintenance of poor,vicars and schoolmasters, " that, through the poverty of the place, the church might never want fit persons to perform divine offices, and to instruct the people in necessary truths and duties."