The Club Day
People in the Play
John William Sayle: Worthy Chief Most Noble Grand Master, Star of Peveril Society.
Maa:1 His mother, shrewd humorous.
Eliza Ann: His wife, matter of fact.
Nellie: His daughter, about 17 years of age.
Willie: His son, about 10–12 years of age.
John Edward Carran: Duty Chief of the Club.
Living room kitchen of Sayle’s house.
About 9am end of June, 1886.2
Living-room, kitchen. Breakfast on the table, family have just risen. The head of the family, John William Sayle, is upstairs dressing in his Sunday clothes. The occasion is the annual procession of the Members of the Friendly Society of which he is the chief officer; or to give him his full title for his term of office – Worthy Chief, Noble Grand Master. He is a small man, dignified, capable, patient and conscious of his elevated position in his Order, and the responsibility attaching to it. He covers his inward pride with an unassuming and modest manner.
His wife, Eliza Ann, a good housewife, hides her satisfaction at being the wife of such a big official under a brusque and rather sarcastic behaviour.
His mother, Mag, an old woman living with them, has a clever humorous tongue.
The daughter, Nellie, is a pleasant good girl, fifteen to seventeen years of age.
The son, Willie, is a school boy, a mischievous rascal of about twelve years old.
John Edward Carran, thirty-five to forty years of age, a bachelor, is Deputy Worthy Chief etc., and is John William Sayle’s right-hand man.
Thomas Henry Leece is Secretary, he and his wife Charlotte are next door neighbours.
A few other men, Stewards, Guardians, Delegates, Levites, etc., all in gorgeous sashes, aprons, carrying regalia, staffs, etc., stroll in and generally get in the way of the women who are dressing the Worthy Chief Noble Grand Master of the Star of Peveril Lodge.
The old lady is finishing her breakfast. Eliza Ann and her daughter Nellie are busy sewing a button on the Hero’s trousers. Sash, Apron, Flowers, Silk Hat and Gloves well in evidence on a dress or side table.
JOHN WILLIAM (voice from upstairs, plaintive): I can’t find my Sunday trousers.
ELIZA ANN: Quick, Nellie veen, there that will do. I wonder what this is? (Feeling in trousers pocket she takes out and reads) Pass-word for present quarter: “Labor Omnia Vincit” translation “Labour conquers all things”.
Notice: Great caution and secrecy must be observed in the transmission of the pass-word.
This card should be destroyed immediately the pass-word has been given to the officials and members of the Lodge. See General Rule 105.
The Worthy Chief Noble Grand Master is held responsible for the secrecy of the quarterly pass-word, and if it should become known to any non-member of the Lodge, a general meeting must be summoned within three days and immediate notification of the disclosure of the pass-word must be given to the District Council.
See General Rule 105, Section 1. Upon the discovery of the member who gave away the pass-word, or from any cause, permitted it to become known to a non-member, he shall be, upon conviction, fined the sum of forty-five pounds, and shall be branded upon the left shoulder with the Branding Iron “B” signifying Babbler.
The operation to be performed by the Worthy Chief Noble Grand Master at a special meeting of members summoned for that purpose. See General Rule 105, 2.
JOHN WILLIAM (voice from upstairs): Has anybody seen my Sunday trousers anywhere?
ELIZA ANN (thoughtfully): So that’s the pass-word is it? It doesn’t sound like Manx either. Is it Manx, Maa?
MAA: No, chree, it’s not Manx, at all, at all.
NELLIE (anxiously): Oh Mother, we will be took and Father will get into trouble and be punished if it is found out that we have found out the pass-word.
MAA (chuckling): Thou will catch it, Liza Ann. Say it again vough, what is it?
ELIZA ANN: “Labor omnia vincit.” What language is it Nellie? Thou have been to the Higher Grade.
NELLIE (nervously): Oh, mother, Father will be punished if it is found out that we know the sacred pass-word.
ELIZA ANN: Well I can’t say it, so I don’t know it if I cannot say it.
MAA: Say it again Nellie, I want to learn it off, it’s harder to learn than Manx.
NELLIE: “Labor Omnia Vincit,” Labour conquers all things. I think it is Latin, anyway it is a good motto. Labor Omn…
JOHN WILLIAM (voice from upstairs): Has anybody…
ELIZA ANN (sharply calling upstairs): Well, John William, don’t tell all Circular Road.
ELIZA ANN (To Willie): Here, Willie, take these up to they Father, and wipe thy boots before thou go upstairs. Do thou hear?
WILLIE (obediently): Yes, Mother.
ELIZA ANN: Yes, but do thou heed?
Eliza Ann and Nellie take up sash to fasten the emblem on the breast.
ELIZA ANN: There, that will look nice. Get a needle and cotton and tack it there.
NELLIE (protesting): Oh, Mother! I think it is too low. Oh, yes, it is far too low.
ELIZA ANN (finally): Well, Nellie, I ought to know where to put it, for I’ve fastened it on every Club Day for seventeen years, and I always stitched it here, exactly in the same place.
MAA (chuckling): Och, och, Liza Ann veen, it might have done there for seventeen years but thou must put it up high to-day, chree. Our John William is the Dhionney Moar Hene to-day and he will be marching at the end of the procession with the High Bailiff and the Preachers and the Members for the House of Keys and the Parson. What are they calling thy father to-day, Nellie? I’m forgetting for my memory is failing me some-times.
NELLIE: The Chief Worthy…
JOHN WILLIAM (voice from upstairs): Has anybody seen my Sunday waist-coat?
NELLIE: Do you think it is quite aired enough, Grandma?
MAA: Aw, yis, yis, Nellie veen, bring the Chief Worthy Dhionney Moar his waistcoat, or else I’m afraid that something dreadful might happen.
JOHN WILLIAM (voice from upstairs, pleadingly): I’ll be late, I’ll be late. Has anybody seen my Sunday waistcoat?
ELIZA ANN (calling from open door): John William, John William, don’t thee shout so loud, they will hear thee over at the Weather Glass. And John William, mind that thou put the new blue stockings on, thou know, the blue ones with the white toes and heels, and hurry up and get thyself readied that thou will not keep the procession waiting.
JOHN WILLIAM (voice from upstairs, coaxingly): Liza Ann, where did you put my clean front and collar?
ELIZA ANN: Hurry down, John William, and I’ll tell thee.
MAA: What did you say that they are calling our John William to-day, Liza Ann?
ELIZA ANN: The Chief Noble…
NELLIE: Excuse me, Mother, but I think it is the Worthy Chief Noble…
ELIZA ANN (sharply): Nellie, don’t you be rude, and interrupt your Mother. I wouldn’t have dared to do such a thing when I was a girl. What was I saying? Oh, yes, I know. I’m sure there was Grand in it, and it’s got Most Worthy in it anyway. I think this is it for I remember seeing it printed on the Balance Sheet. John William Sayle, Chief Worthy Noble Grand Ruler. There! So let’s have no more argument about it.
NELLIE: Well, Mother, I think it finishes with Grand Master and not Grand Ruler.
ELIZA ANN (irritably): Nellie, thou art debigagh like they father. Thou art like him, must have the last word.
MAA: Well, I think we are mixing the Rechabites and Oddfellows together, myself. Never mind. “Thou’ll get leave.” Here’s the Noble Dhionney Moar Hene.
Enter John William.
MAA: Now that would be a far grander and nobler title for thee, John William, bogh. We were just wondering what was they right and proper title to-day. We ought to know, laa.
JOHN WILLIAM (in stockinged feet, with a thick home-made shirt put on loosely): I haven’t time to stand and talk boghned, Maa. I must hurry on.
MAA (teasingly): Will it take that long to say it, John William?
JOHN WILLIAM (briskly): Nellie, have thou got my boots polished ya? Liza Ann, get my front and collar and black tie for me, there’s a good soul.
MAA (persistently): What’s thy title to-day, John William? Tell me, laa.
JOHN WILLIAM (with dignity): Well Maa, we are not allowed to tell the business of our Order to those without the pass-word.
MAA: I’ve got the pass-word, John William.
JOHN WILLIAM (shortly): Don’t talk boghned, Maa.
MAA (triumphantly): Aw, but deed and I have.
JOHN WILLIAM: Well, well, Maa, and what is it then?
MAA: Labor Omnia Vincit. There now.
JOHN WILLIAM (gasping): Shee banny-mee! Maa! My goodness. Where did you get the pass-word? I’ll get into trouble if this is found out. I’ll be disgraced, I’ll be fined heavily, and I’m afraid I’ll…
MAA: Thou’ll be branded with the letter B on the left shoulder with a red hot iron, according to General Rule 105 clause 2. Aw, William, bogh, I know all about it, but we’ll keep it a secret.
JOHN WILLIAM: Maa, Maa, don’t tell anyone our pass-word. Thou will get me into trouble and Nellie veen, don’t talk about what Maa is saying. Do thou hear me?
NELLIE (seriously): Yes, father, you may depend on me. I can keep a secret, all the Deemster and High Bailiffs in the Island will not get the pass-word from me. I promise.
Nellie crosses her hands. Puts down the boots and brushes, then resumes the boot polishing again.
MAA: There now, William, I gave thee the pass-word, and now thou must tell us thy proper title, people will be asking us and we ought to know. However, I expect that we will see a report in the “Guardian” for Saturday. Now that’s a fine paper, is the “Guardian,” yes, a noble paper, aye, aye, a most noble, worthy grand paper! Now there’s one thing I will say for it, the price was never put up, and everything else going up – potatoes and oatenmeal and bread and clothes and milk and everything –
JOHN WILLIAM (pompously): Well, I suppose it will be in the “Accidental Notes” for Saturday, so I may as well tell you. I am the presiding officer in our Lodge and my title is this: Most Worthy Chief, Noble Grand Master, and there are five red bands on the sash above the emblem, each band indicates a title, and as I am also the presiding officer of the District Council, I hold the highest offices which are possible in the Isle of Man District, and I am entitled to walk alone, if I so desire, at the very end of the procession.
MAA (gasping with admiration and with raised hands): Deed on, John William. Deed on, our John William!
JOHN WILLIAM: Have thou got my boots ready, Nellie?4
John William puts on boots.
ELIZA ANN: Mrs. Crellin, next door, said that you weren’t. She said that her sister’s husband is in the Foresters, and she said it was a far better club than yours, she said. And I said it was not because the Peel Club will have four brass bands and I said that the Ramsey Foresters had only three bands and all of them only Manx bands, for they had the Castletown Brass Band, and the Foxdale Brass Band, and the Poortown String Band. I said…
MAA (correcting her, gravely): No, no, Eliza Ann, I think thou art wrong. I heard that it was a band from Ronague that was third.
JOHN WILLIAM: Oh, woman! Komm dy hinney! Komm dy hinney!
William is struggling with a collar and front.
ELIZA ANN: Bless me, John William, take that thing off thee, and go up to the drawer in the press and get the new white shirt I have bought for thee and put in on. It’s lapped in the “Guardian.”
JOHN WILLIAM: I don’t want to put that thing on, I’ll be far more comfortable in a front.
ELIZA ANN: Comfortable! What has comfort to do with it? It’s style thou want to-day, and thou can’t expect to have comfort and style together, can thou?
JOHN WILLIAM: Listen to me, Eliza Ann…
ELIZA ANN: I won’t listen to thee. Go upstairs and put the white shirt on thee and bring the collar and cuffs too.
MAA: Thou better do as thou art told, John William.
John William leaves the room, grumbling and muttering to himself.
JOHN WILLIAM: I’m not master in my own house. Finery, Style, women’s weakness, boghned, I’ll do as I like (etc.)
John William goes out. Willie bursts in excitedly.
WILLIE: Mother! Nellie! Grand Maa. The Stalybridge Brass Band has come and the Blackburn Brass Band. They have just come off the train from Douglas. There they are playing. Listen! I counted the men in the Stalybridge Band, twenty-six men and two boys with kettledrums. No, one boy plays the kettledrum and the other one plays the cymbals.
ELIZA ANN: Child millish! run out and watch the band, Willie, we are all busy here, and don’t stay too long. I may want you to go on a message for me.
WILLIE (excitedly): I would play the cymbals, Mother, and the boy with the kettle-drum does think himself clever. I wish I was in a band and had a uniform like the boys in the Staybridge Band. They have got little uniforms just like the men, gold braid and gold tassels and leather belts and little caps stuck on the side of their heads.
ELIZA ANN: Wait until I put your sash on and you can run out and see the bands. (Putting on sash, pins it and puts a sprig of geranium on the breast of sash). Don’t stay too long, and behave yourself, mind now, and don’t rag your clothes, and don’t dirty your sash.
WILLIE (runs out): No, Mother, I won’t be long.
Enter John William again with his trouser braces hanging by his sides and over-whelmed by his white shirt. The neck is open and the cuffs hang loose.
JOHN WILLIAM: I’d far rather wear a front, Liza Ann.
ELIZA ANN: Yes, I suppose thou would, and shame thy wife, for it’s not thee that would be shamed but me. “That one,” they would be saying, “she had to send her man in the procession in front because she couldn’t make up a white shirt.” But they won’t have that to say for me. Thou’ll wear the white shirt, John William. There’s not many men in this town looked after like thee, and do I get any thanks for it? No, not me. He would rather wear a front and shame his wife, and who knows, you might have to take your coat off, and what about your front then, John William? Your front wouldn’t cover your arms, would it?
JOHN WILLIAM (mumbling): I wish you would leave me alone.
ELIZA ANN (sharply): What do you say?
JOHN WILLIAM (humbly): I’m saying nothing.
MAA: Sensible Man, John William. What did the wise man say before now? – “Silence is Golden.”
JOHN WILLIAM (struggling with collar): There is no button on the back, Eliza Ann. Will you put a pin in it for me, it will do very well, and I must be hurrying. Put a safety pin in it, Eliza Ann, and then it won’t stick in my neck.
ELIZA ANN (scornfully): Hear the man! must be hurrying! and three women waiting on him hand and foot! There’s not another man in the Club with so many servants to wait on him, and do for him; a fine sight thou would be if thou wert left to thyself.
MAA: There now, there now, “Thou’ll get leave” as Juan-Paddy-as-tholt used to say before now. Have patience, Laa, we’ll get thee dressed in time yet. And it’s only once in the year that we have all this “pundaig.”
JOHN WILLIAM: Guy Heng! How can I fasten my collar without a button?
NELLIE: The button is off, Mother, and I am sure that I sewed it on. It was a little pearl button I remember.
JOHN WILLIAM: Yes, Nellie veen, but it must have cracked in the mangle, because it came off in two parts in my fingers. Liza Ann, I wish you would let me wear my front, I’ll put it on over my shirt. It would be so much handier.
NELLIE: Sit down, Father, I won’t be a minute sewing another button on.
Nellie sews button.
JOHN WILLIAM (feeling in his pockets and examining each one carefully): Did you see a half-sovereign in my waist-coat pocket, Eliza Ann? I had one kept away carefully for to-day, and it took me a long time to save it up too.
ELIZA ANN: Thee and they half-sovereign! Thou should take better care of they money.
JOHN WILLIAM: Liza Ann, thou have took it. Thou art too bad. I give thee all my wages regular. What did thou do with it? Spend on some boghned it’s like (Muttering) Thou would spend all the money in the Limited Bank, thou would.
ELIZA ANN: Well, John William, I didn’t spend the money on myself or on the house. I spent it to make thee decent. I bought the white shirt and the collar and tie with the half-sovereign, and here’s the change, thou can rattle the pennies in thy pocket.
JOHN WILLIAM (jumping up): Thou spend my half-sovereign on these things, wasting money. Look here, Eliza Ann, I’m not going to stand any more of…
ELIZA ANN (putting up her hand for silence): Hush! Hush! here’s somebody coming.
Enter John Edward Carran.
J. E. C. (cheerily): Good morning everybody. We have got a lovely day for the procession. Art thou nearly ready, John William? Bless me, come on yessir, don’t keep the procession waiting. Thee and me will be walking together I suppose. Of course, if thou choose to insist on the rule, thou can claim the right to walk alone by thyself, but it is not often done. I came in to see which shoulder thou art going to put thy sash on, so that we would be a proper pair.
JOHN WILLIAM: Have thou got a white shirt on thee, John Edward? Look at this thing!
J. E. C.: A white shirt! Not me! No, no, a front is good for John Edward. A Deputy Grand doesn’t need a white shirt. There’s nothing about a white shirt in General Law, and white shirts are not mentioned in the Club Rules, or in the Standing Orders either. There’s no compulsion in the matter. Still and for all, thou art different, John William, it depends on thee to keep up the dignity of the Club. No, it wouldn’t be a nice thing if it was known that the Worthy Chief Noble Grand Master walked in the annual procession of the largest and richest club in the British Isles without a white shirt.
JOHN WILLIAM: We have nearly seven hundred members, John Edward. We are, according to the last report, the largest club of our principles in the whole world.
J. E. C.: Hear! Hear! That’s us! Mrs. Sayle, if our Club is the biggest in the world and the chief man is Mr. John William Sayle, then as our procession is to-day, I claim that Mr. Sayle is in a way the most important man in the world to-day.
MAA: Dee on our John William!
J. E. C.: Therefore, Mrs. Sayle, Nellie and Maa, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have pleasure in moving the following resolution: “That from a due sense of propriety, and having regard to the elevated, influential, responsible and dignified position occupied by John William Sayle, Worthy Chief, Noble Grand Master of the Star of Peveril Friendly Society, it is imperative that he shall wear a white shirt on the occasion of the Annual Procession of the before-mentioned Star of Peveril Friendly Society. All in favour please signify by holding up the right hand.
The women hold up their hands.
J. E. C.: I declare the resolution carried unanimously. Thou must wear thy white shirt, yessir.
JOHN WILLIAM: I agree, or rather, I submit.
ELIZA ANN: Thou’re a “glitherbag,” John Edward. Thou can do what thou like. Thou art free, and thou art flying middling high now, but wait, my laddiebeg, wait till thou get a wife to look after thee, thou’ll have to behave very different then.
J. E. C. (laughing): I’ll get my wings clipped, eh, Mrs. Sayle. What do thou think, Maa?
MAA: Aw, my Ghilley beg, the world will tame thee.
J. E. C.: Aye, aye, Maa, maybe the world will tame me, but I never say the woman yet that could.
MAA: Aye! aye! I’ve heard wise men say that before now; aw, deed aye, but they grew middling tame after they were married. What’s the old Manx saying? – “Ta doinney ayns graih ny vlebbin.”
J. E. C.: Och Maa, I’ll give in now, thou art getting beyond me. Say it in English.
MAA: “A man in love is a fool.” Aw, boy veen, there was lots of truth in the old Manx proverbs, and they were saying too: “Chavel monney maynrys ec dooinney ta ayns seihllny lomarcan.”
J. E. C.: Well I know dooinney and lomarcan means a lonely man. What’s the meaning, Maa?
MAA: “There is not much hapiness for a man who is in the world alone.” Now, John Edward, give heed to what I have been telling thee.
J. E. C.: Well, Maa vouch, I’ll be thinking it over when there’ll be more time. We must try and get John William ready now. Oh, John William, I forgot to tell thee – thee women’s talk put it clean out of my head – as soon as the boxes of Regalia came to the Club Room, I opened them and made sure of the two golden battle-axes, and I brought them home with me. I know that thou have been longing to march with a golden battle-axe for years, and deed, I have myself, too, for that matter.
JOHN WILLIAM (solemnly): They are supposed to be bronze axes, John Edward.
J. E. C.: We will have to march at the end of the procession, each of us with his battle-axe on his shoulder, and thee and me must look stern, yessir, fierce and determined like warriors going to battle. What do thou think, Maa?
MAA: You and your battle-axes! You are putting me in mind of the old song:–
“Like Warriors boul’ in the days of oul’
When the Carrans held their sway.”
J. E. C. (half seriously): I’m told that the Carran’s were big people one time.
MAA: So I’m toul. It’s said that thy uncle Juan-Phil-Jinney weighed nineteen stones.
J. E. C. (laughing): I’ll give in, Maa, I’m bet.
ELIZA ANN: Leave them, Maa, they are no better than children; big full-grown men like them playing Indians with battle axes.
MAA: Aye, leave them alone, and they would play for hours, the boghs.
JOHN WILLIAM: That’s all right, John Edward, I was afraid that the battle-axes would be took before I got down to the Club Room, because I know several of the members who wanted to get them, and there are only two axes, and I think it is only right and proper that the Chief and the Deputy should have the privilege of carrying them.
J. E. C.: Yes, yes, William Clucas was asking for one and Fred Kinrade was determind to get one he said and…
ELIZA ANN (trying to fasten collar and tie): Houl thy head still, John William, never thee mind the battle-axes. Yes, and mind and be careful with them things. Are they very sharp? They are dangerous things to meddle with. Somebody will be getting hurt with them if you are not careful.
J. E. C.: Don’t be alarmed, Mrs. Sayle, the battle-axes cannot do any harm. “Don’t be alarmed,” as old Juan Illiam. Ballaguinney used to say before now, “Don’t be alarmed.”
ELIZA ANN: I wouldn’t trust either of you. And our John William has got such a hasty temper, if anything crosses him he might strike a man with it and then maybe be took up for murder, shaming his family. No, I wouldn’t trust either of you with battle-axes or guns either. It’s not safe to be carrying them. It should be stopped by law.
JOHN WILLIAM: Don’t get uneasy, Liza Ann. The battle-axes are not real, they are only made out of wood and coloured over to look like gold or bronze, they are…
ELIZA ANN (exclaims): Wooden battle-axes!
MAA (laughing): Wooden battle-axes and wooden heads!
J. E. C. (laughing heartily): Ha! Ha! Ha! What do thou say to that, yessir? (Tapping table and John William’s head) Same sound.
JOHN WILLIAM: I’m saying nothing. I’m saying nothing. I’m nearly strangled with this collar.
ELIZA ANN: Oh, John William, John William Sayle, to think of thee walking with a solemn face, and a tall silk hat and a sash, and an apron with a painted wooden hatched on thy shoulder.
John William winces and wriggles.
JOHN WILLIAM (quietly and half-ashamed to refer again to the battle-axe): Slip off home and get the battle-axes for me, John Edward. Go on, yessir, to save time.
John Edward Carran exits.5
ELIZA ANN: Stand up, John William. Get up on the chair, Nellie, and help me to get the collar fastened on the stud. Come, let’s get it on before John Edward comes back.
Wife stands in front. Nellie gets on the chair behind and between Mother and daughter, John William is nearly strangled. The old woman gets a clothes brush, and brushes his clothes here and there, anywhere and whenever she has the opportunity.
JOHN WILLIAM (harrassed with attention): Liza! Liza Ann! Maa! Liza! Don’t! Don’t! This collar is far too tight, I’m choking. I can’t stoop. Oh! I can’t turn my head. Oh! It’s nipping my neck. I can’t bend. Look here, Liza Ann, I’m going to put my foot down – I won’t wear these things.
ELIZA ANN (firmly and with set unyielding face): Thou can put both thy feet down, John William, or thou can put them up if thou like, but thou must wear the white shirt and the collar that I have got ready for thee.
JOHN WILLIAM (pleadingly): Liza Ann, let me wear my turn-down collar and my front.
ELIZA ANN (firmly): Well then, I won’t. Thou will wear what thou have got. You want to disgrace the family with a turn-down collar and a front. Suppose thou kept a shop in Kirk Michael Street – thou would have to wear a high collar every day of the week.
JOHN WILLIAM (sarcastically): I wonder if the same kind of play-acting is going on in half the houses in Peel this morning, the same as in this house.
MAA: Ha Nell, Ha Nell. Because don’t thou see, Liza Ann, there is only one Most Noble Worthy Chief Grand Ruler in Peel to-day.
ELIZA ANN: Then he should be showing a good example to the others and not be getting in a temper and saying such dreadful words.
NELLIE: If I was Father, I would take a stick to the pair of you, and I would go without a collar if I liked. I think it is a shame the way you treat him.
Nellie begins to cry.
ELIZA ANN (to Nellie): Thou better behave thyself, when they opinion is wanted, we will ask for it.
JOHN WILLIAM (baffled and beaten, with resignation): Oh, women! women! women! will you hush. I’ll wear anything if you’ll only stop talking. I can rule six hundred men easy, but I can’t manage two women. (John William puts his head between his hands) Komn dy hinney! Komn dy hinney!
MAA: That’s right, laa, say it in Manx, it doesn’t sound so bad. Cheer up, laa.
ELIZA ANN (briskly): Come, John William. John Edward will be here in a minute. Nellie, don’t sit there crying, thou needn’t take thy father’s part. I’ll take care of him. (Grimly) Let me see any woman imposing on him, or trying to take him off, and I’ll give her glister. And here’s John Edward back again.
Enter Carran, without knocking, carrying a large package.
J. E. C.: Look at that, John William.
Nellie, with handkerchief to her eyes, slips into the back kitchen as Carran comes in.
J. E. C.: I lapped it up in the “Christian Herald” that the neighbours would not see what I had.
JOHN WILLIAM (soberly taking hold of an axe): They are not very heavy, John Edward, and how will we carry them? I must walk on the right and carry the battle-axe on my right shoulder. You must walk on my left and carry yours on your left shoulder.
ELIZA ANN: Here, put your coat on, John William, it’s half past nine o’clock.
Nellie comes back. Wife holds his coat, daughter his sash and apron. His mother stands holding his tall hat and button-hole nosegay. They parade. John William stepping with dignity, and Carran laughing and mincing his steps.
J. E. C. (protesting): No, yessir, that won’t do. I won’t hold the axe in my left hand because then the people will be saying that I am kitbag. Try it the other way.
Carran holds it in his right hand and they begin to parade again. Eliza Ann catches John William, pulls him aside and says:
ELIZA ANN: Look at the two Kinawns! (Briskly) John William, put that thing down, and get they coat and sash and apron on thee. Be smart now, the time is going.
J. E. C.: Aye, hurry up, yessir. Remember the last quarter’s pass-word: “Tempus Fugit”.
MAA: Tempus Fugit. Did you ever hav, “Traa dy lhioor” for a pass-word, John Edward? What’s the present pass-word, Mr. Carran?
The Mother, wife and daughter dress William, putting on coat, sash, apron, button-hole and finally his crowning piece – his tall hat. The women stand aside to admire him. The old woman continues brushing him.
J. E. C. (taken off his guard): “Labor Omnia Vincit.” – My Goodness!
JOHN WILLIAM: Now thou have done it, Carran, thou have given away the pass-word.
J. E. C.: It’s all right. Look here, ladies, don’t give me away or I am liable to be severely punished. Keep the pass-word secret for another week and then the quarter will be ended and it won’t matter.
MAA: I wonder if your rules are like the Foresters. General Rule 105: Forty-five pounds fine and branding with a hot iron on the left shoulder with the letter B for Babbler.
JOHN WILLIAM: Maa, what’s that you say?
J. E. C.: Who gave you that information?
MAA (wagging her head wisely): I’ve lived in this world for nearly eighty years and I’ve seen a lot and I’ve heard a lot, and I’ve forgot a lot, and thou can depend on us women to forget that we have heard the pass-word “Labor Omnie Vincit” Labour over-cometh all things.
J. E. C.: Thank you, Maa.
Carran shakes Maa’s hand.
ELIZA ANN: Now William, thou can show us how thou art going to march in the procession. Thou art looking respectable now. What thou would be like without a wife to look after thee, I don’t know. (Mischievously) Thou would be no better than that Carran there!
J. E. C. (brandishing his battle-axe): Now, Mrs. Sayle, thou had better be careful, or I will cut thy head off with one blow. Come on, John William, Left, Right, Left, Right.
They parade, the women laughing. Eliza Ann moves the table to the rear to give the men more room.
MAA: Well, well, the like of that now. It’s better than the White Boys at Christmas.
JOHN WILLIAM: Oh, I mustn’t forget my speech. I have got it all written out ready. I’ll go upstairs and get it.
He goes upstairs. Band sounds in the distance, the big drum booming. Enter Willie.
WILLIE: There’s the band – listen!
Sees battle-axe on table, and takes it up.
NELLIE (sharply): Willie, put that down. Leave it alone, don’t get into mischief.
WILLIE: You leave me alone, Nellie. I won’t do it any harm. Is it sharp? Is it heavy? Let me hold it.
While the others are straightening up the room, Willie takes up the axe, parades with it, then slips with it into the back-kitchen. Then are heard sounds, as of chopping wood. William cries out in fright. Carran, who is smoking, and the women turn to see what is wrong. Willie, crying, rushes into the room, throws the broken axe on the table and runs out.
John William enters as Willie runs out. The woman all exclaim, Oh! Oh! Oh!
NELLIE: Oh, Father! Oh Grandma! Willie has broken the battle-axe.
ELIZA ANN: Wait till I catch him, I’ll warm him! It’s all thy fault, John William, leaving thy things lying about. I’ve told thee about it before. I don’t think there’s a woman in Peel plagued with such a bogh of a man as me. After all my work to go and let the child do a thing like that. The things shouldn’t have been brought up from the Club Room.
MAA (sympathetically): Well, well, thou’ll get leave, and that’s the way it is. Poor William bogh!
John William sinks into a chair and heaves a heavy sigh, his chin in the hollow of his chest.6
JOHN WILLIAM: I can manage hundreds of men in the Club Room, but I’m bet in my own house. (He gets up and walks about in despair, waving his arms and crying out) What must I do now? The whole procession is ruined! Aw, my battle-axe. The whole Club Day is ruined.
Carran and Nellie are bending over the table closely examining the damaged battle-axe.
J. E. C.: Well, John William, don’t take it to heart like that. Thou can carry mine and I’ll carry a staff with a globe on the top.
JOHN WILLIAM (gratefully): It’s very kind of thee, John Edward, but we will both have to be content with staffs, and I’ll have to pay for the battle-axe, and it will cost pounds and pounds I suppose.
ELIZA ANN: Come on, John William, battle-axe or not, it’s time to be off. And if thou would have finished dressing instead of play-acting, the child wouldn’t have got it. So thou have only got thyself to blame.
J. E. C. (joyfully): Order! Order! Order! (Waving the mended battle-axe) Nellie has got it mended. Cheer up, John William.
Maa comes in from the scullery with a little hatchet on her shoulder.
MAA: Nellie and John Edward have got it mended, I believe, and I was getting this one for thee, John William. It’s far sharper and far more usefuller. Well done, Nellie! Deed on, our Nellie, she is the right sort of woman after all. She doesn’t talk a lot, like us ones, but she does things. Actions, not words is our Nellie’s motto. Now there’s a pass-word for you for next quarter: “Actions not words.” Well done, Nellie veen. Good for out7 side.
J. E. C. (waving the battle-axe): Tempus fugit. Order! Order! I have great pleasure in moving the following resolution: “That the very best thanks of this meeting shall be given to Miss Eleanor Sayle for the ingenious and capable manner in which she…”
NELLIE (pushing J. E. C. and protesting laughingly): No, it was you, Mr Carran, it wasn’t me.
J. E. C.: No, Ladies and Gentlemen, I assure you it was Nellie, I mean Miss Sayle, who…
NELLIE: Now, Mr. Carran, you know that you are only rehearsing your speech for the vote of thanks to the ladies who are to preside at the dinner tables to-day. Suppose we give all the credit to our motto, “Labour conquers all things.”
ELIZA ANN: Who’s this? What now?
Enter the Secretary and two Stewarts, all in regalia and staffs.
SECRETARY: Come, Worthy Chief, we are all ready. Come, Deputy Grand, it’s time we were mustering for the procession. Good morning, Mrs. Sayle. Good morning, Maa. ‘Morning, Nellie.
They answer “Good morning, Mr. Boyde”.
STEWARD: We will have the biggest procession to-day that has ever been seen in the Isle of Man. Six hundred and three men.
J. E. C. (gives three deliberate knocks): Now men, fall in. The Chief and I will bring up the rear. Left! Left!
MAA: Now, men, be off with you, there’s the band.
The march two and two around the kitchen. The old woman seizes the hatchet, places it on her shoulder and hobbles after the rear to the door. As they pass out she calls out:
MAA: Gien mie, men. Gien mie, John William! The soul, he can rule five or six hundred men, but he cannot manage one woman.
1. The original manuscript has “Mag,” but this name is barely used at all in the play.
2. The original manuscript has a later note which conflicts with this: “A bright morning in the first week of July, about 9am.”
3. The original manuscript has “Elizabeth Ann” here. Later, “Liza Ann” is also used. As the predominant name used in the manuscript, “Eliza Ann” has been adopted throughout.
4. These lines and the subsequent direction came later in the original manuscript; after John William’s lines, “Komm by hinney!” However, here they were accompanied by the type-written note: “Should come earlier.”
5. This stage direction is missing in the original manuscript.
6. The original manuscript has “chin in the hollow of his head.” This is assumed to have been a mistake.
7. The final letter is illegible in the original manuscript. It has been assumed that it should be a “t”.
I can manage hundreds of men in the Club Room, but I’m bet in my own house.
Christopher Shimmin’s 1920 farcical play about one man’s preparations for a grand procession in Peel is both a brilliant comedy and a fascinating insight into a part of Manx society now entirely lost.
First performed in Primitive Methodist Church, Bucks Road, Douglas, in January 1920, The Club Day revels in the ridiculous pomp of late 19th century Friendly Societies. Complete with secret passwords, decorative battle-axes and draconian punishments for infringements of the convoluted rule book, this is the perfect world for Shimmin to place his protagonist, John William Sayle. He may be able to rule hundreds of Club members, but he certainly does not rule over the women of his household…
As a brother of The Independent Order of Rechabites in Peel around the turn of the century, Shimmin is perfectly placed to create this wonderfully humorous play which offers an insight into contemporary attitudes towards Friendly Societies in the Isle of Man.
JOHN WILLIAM (mumbling): I wish you would leave me alone.
ELIZA ANN (sharply): What do you say?
JOHN WILLIAM (humbly): I’m saying nothing.
MAA: Sensible Man, John William. What did the wise man say before now – “Silence is Golden.”
Christopher Shimmin lived from 1870 until 1933 and was at various times a sailmaker, a sanitary inspector, a monumental mason, a Manx Labour Party founder, a Union leader, a tea-totaller, and a politician. But one thing he remained throughout all of his life was a strong believer in all things Manx. These factors coloured his writing of plays and short stories which would cause others to regard him as the Isle of Man’s greatest playwright.