Johnny Jem Beg puts up for the Keys


John Kewish (alias Johnny Jem Beg): A well-to-do farmer.
Patience Kewish: His wife. With a tongue arrer.
Khirree Ann: Their daughter, fond of singing.
Etty: A woman help, very deaf.
Katty: An English maidservant.
Will Christian: A manservant.
Rev. O’Brown: The Vicar.
Matilda: His wife.
Tommy: Etty’s son.


Ballakewish Kitchen. The 19th Century, early on election morning.

Ballakewish kitchen. Patience is doing the kiartaghs. The door of the adjoining room is open, in which Kewish is getting ready for the election. Kewish and Patience are talking. He in the room, she in the kitchen. Khirree Ann is heard singing upstairs.

PATIENCE: Jus’ lissen to that now. How our Khirree Ann can purrit ourov her. There’s a vice at her lek a lark singin’ in the dawn of the mornin’. (She stops work, and talks on). She ‘minds me of her Grandmother. (Wipes away a tear with her apron). A powerful gran voice there was arrer. Ya might have thought it was an angel in heaven singin’. The sweet the voice there was arrer that even the thrushes themselves would be stopping their singin’ to lissen to her.

KEWISH (from other room): Pah. What boghnid there’s at thee, woman. What’s the good of singin’? Power of good singin’ will do her her. Ah.

Kewish muttering and sounds suspiciously like swear words now and again.

PATIENCE: Deed an’ our Khirree Ann is a lovely singer, an’ it’s theeself that says the same thing when thou’re in thy solid sober senses. But the jowil himself couldn’ be crosser than thee this morning. Thou mus’ have got out of bed the wrong way.

KEWISH: Houl thee tongue, woman. It’s goin’ like the clapper of a mill.

PATIENCE: I won’t houl me tongue tho.

KEWISH: Kape it waggin’ then.

PATIENCE: Why don’t thou have patience like Job? Thou’re offen’ houlin’ Job up as a pattern.

KEWISH: Uh-h-h Job hadn’ a Patience arrim with a tongue arrer that would chop the bark of a tramman tree.

PATIENCE: A nice scene thou’ll make in the Kays if thou gets into one of thy tantrums. (Mutterings from Kewish, and shuts the door with a bang). Talk, talk, talk, all talk and blather. When he’ll get in the Kays he’ll be jus’ like the res’ of them.

Patience exists. Etty enters.

ETTY: Iss lek ones will be purrin’ Master Kewish on him when he gets in the Kays tho. (Hums to herself). Yiss indeed, that is if he gets in, an’ I’m thinkin’ meself that he will get in. (Hums). He’s more pop’lar than the other candy-date anyway. (Hums). A come over the other fella is. Nawthin’ but a come over.

Katty enters.

KATTY (loudly): Who’s a come-over?


KATTY: Who’s a come-over? Are you talkin’ about me?

ETTY: No, no, chree. I’m not talkin’ about thee at all.

KATTY: What are thou talkin’ to thyself for then?

ETTY: Well, Katty, I was talkin’ to meself because there was no one else to talk to. An’ anyway, when I’m talkin’ to meself I’m talkin’ to a wise woman.

KATTY: And you can’t fall out with anybody?

ETTY: Deed an’ it’s the truth thou’re talkin’.

KATTY: Who were you talkin’ about?

ETTY: That other fella that’s tryin’ to get into the Kays.

KATTY: What’s he done to you?

ETTY: The imprance that’s at the man. Tryin’ to get in the Kays an’ him only livin’ in the sheading a few month.

KATTY: He’s got as much right to be in the Keys as any one else. I suppose there’s been Manxmen in the Commons before now.

ETTY: Well may’ve thou’re right, Katty. I wouldn’ care if he was a decant surt lek, but there’s as much carryin’ on arrim as if he was the High Bailiff or even the Governor or the lek. An him only reerin’ chickens on a small croff.

KATTY: He’s making an honest livin’, I suppose.

ETTY: Now here’s Masther Kewish ownin’ Ballakewish, an’ his father and his grandfather, an’ his great grandfather an’ goodness knows how many before that. That’s what they are sayin’ at the museum anyway.

Exit Katty. Etty goes on with her work and humming. Kewish opens the door and pops in his head and bawls out loudly at Etty.

KEWISH: Etty. (Silence). Etty. (Silence). Etty.

Etty hears him at last and comes towards him.

ETTY: Were thou callin, Masther?

KEWISH: Callin? H’mph. Stitch a button on these trousers for me.

ETTY (taking trousers): Tommy? Aw they’ll do gran’ for Tommy. Thank ya, Masther Kewish. Thank ya. (Katty examines the trousers critically and turns them inside out. Some money falls out of one of the pockets, which she picks up and puts in her own pocket). Tommy is not goin’ to get that at all. An’ these trousers are good enough forrim to go to chapel on Sunday.

KEWISH (explosively): Thou fool of a woman. Bleb. Ommidan. Good enough for Tommy, eh? Them is me bes’ Sunday trouers, woman. Tommy never had the lek of them on in his life… They’re not for Tommy at all. I’m only wantin’ thee to stitch a button on them. An’ give me that money.

ETTY: Aw, thou needn’ be makin’ excuses, Masther. Our Tommy has worn wuss Britches than these. Deed an’ he have tho. (Shaking them out and examing them again). They’re not bad at all, man.

KEWISH: Augh. Tommy be blowed. I’m wantin’ to put those trousers on me for the election today.

ETTY: It’s quite alright, Masther. Tommy won’t be offended in the laste. He’ll be struttin’ about in them lek a Daymster. The delighted he’ll be with them. His bes’ Sunday britches have a big patch on the sate. But these (holding them up and admiring them) – they’re lookin’ as new as if they’d just come out of the tailors.

A cart is heard going past. She goes to the window and opens it.

ETTY: There’s Tommy now. Yes, it’s himself that’s in.

KEWISH (bawling): Bring them trousers here, you fool.

ETTY (shouting to Tommy): Hi, Tommy. Masther Kewish says these trousers are for thee. Here, catch. (Throwing them). Where are thou goin’?

TOMMY: Ramsa.

ETTY: Then thou’d better take them with thee. Put them in a safe place, an’ mind thou don’t get any dirt on them.

TOMMY: Alright, Ma.

ETTY: Keep them nice and clane now.

TOMMY: Right thou are, Ma. Tell Masther Kewish I’m much obliged to him. He’s a dacent man. A friend in need is a friend indeed. So-long, Ma. I hope Masther Kewish gets in.

Ketty turns to Kewish who is seething with rage.

KEWISH: Well, of all the imprance, an’ cheek, an’ –

Kewish is lost for words. Etty is alarmed and runs out of the room. Kewish shouting after her.
Enter Patience, who is in amazement at seeing his rage.

PATIENCE: What on earth is the matter with thee? (Kewish retires into the room and she goes after him). An’ why haven’ thee got thy trousers on, man? Are thou mad or clicky or what?

Enter Khirree Ann singing. She stops when she hears talking in the room.

KHIRREE: What on earth are they jawing about now?

Khirree Ann listens.

PATIENCE: I never heard tell of such a thing in me life before. Such a bogh of a man. Lettin’ a woman run away with thee trousers. What nex’, I wonder. What would thou think of me if I let Christian run away with me skirt on Sunday morning, an’ me wantin’ to go to chapel.

KEWISH: I couldn’ help it, woman.

PATIENCE: Coudn’ help it. A nice man thou are indeed. As helpless as a babe on his Mother’s breast. Like a motherless foal.

KEWISH: How could I help it, woman? I couldn’ run out an’ take them from her.

PATIENCE: That’s what thou should have done, thou big thoot.

KEWISH: Talk sense, woman.

PATIENCE: Well, I don’t know what thou’re goin’ to do at all, at all. I expect Grandaa’s trousers will be too big for thee. He was a man was Grandaa. A man to be proud of. Not a lil spithag like you.

KEWISH: Shurrup.

PATIENCE: An’ man alive how Grandaa could talk – an’ a local too. Now he would have made a fine member of the Kays if you like; an’ fit enough for the Spayker himself.

KEWISH: Will thou houl thee tongue, woman.

PATIENCE: Houl me tongue indeed. H’mph. Such a bleih of a man.

Khirree knocks at father’s door.

KHIRREE: Is dad nearly ready?

PATIENCE: Ready? H’mph. Did ya ever see a man ready at the appointed time? I never did. But goin’ about an’ putting the house an’ everything in it all fud-y-cheilley. It’s put in cages they ought to be.

KHIRREE (laughing): What’s the joke, Ma?

PATIENCE (from within): The joke is that thee father has no trousers, so he can’t go out. An’ it sarves him right if that English fella is elected. It’ll larn him right for the future not to let a woman run away with his trousers.

KHIRREE (laughing): What a joke.

KEWISH: Joke be hanged. It’s no joke for me.

KHIRREE: What on earth has happened at all?

PATIENCE: The stupid man has let Etty take away his trousers, an’ now he’ll have to put a pair of Grandaa’s on. Go upstairs, Khirree Ann, an’ thou’ll find a pair of Grandaa’s in the big chiss.

Exit Khirree singing. Patience comes into kitchen, and there’s a knock at the door.

PATIENCE: Come in.

Enter Vicar.

VICAR: Good morning, Mrs Kewish.

PATIENCE: Good morning, Vicar.

VICAR: Isn’t it a beautiful day for the election.

PATIENCE: A beautiful day, Vicar.

VICAR (noticing she is upset): I hope there’s nothing amiss. You seem rather upset.

PATIENCE: Aye, an’ you’d be upset too if ya had to put up with what I have to put up with.

VICAR: I hope it’s nothing serious.

PATIENCE: Well it’s serious an’ it’s not serious, I suppose.

VICAR: I suppose your good man is preparing for the fray.

PATIENCE: Preparing for the fray indeed. I’m afraid there’ll be no fray for him, except frayed trousers may’ve.

VICAR: Good gracious, what has happened?

VICAR: Good gracious, what has happened?

PATIENCE: I never saw a stupider man in me life than that man of mine. Goodness knows what he’s wantin’ to get in the Kays for. Not that he’ll be any wuss than the res’ of them .They’re all the same. Boghs of things. An’ talk, talk, talk, reglar on. An they can’t make a newspaper big enough to print all their talk. Now, if they had woman in the Kays, like meself for instance.

VICAR: I believe you’d make an excellent member, Mrs Kewish – and I admire your sentiments.

PATIENCE: Now let us suppose, Vicar, that there was a meeting of the Kays, an’ all the members let women run off with their trousers – the bes’ trousers they were wantin’ to go in, an’ northin’ lef’ at them but oul pairs. What would happen, I wonder?

VICAR (aghast): What on earth are you talking about, Mrs Kewish?

PATIENCE: Now ya know well enough what I’m talkin’ about. Don’t be actin’ stupid lek the res’ of them.

VICAR: But it’s inconceivable such a thing could happen.

PATIENCE: That’s because you’ve no imagination, Vicar. If it could happen to one member, it could happen to them all.

VICAR: I’m afraid I’m completely in the dark.

PATIENCE: Now suppose you were getting ready for the Sarvice on Sunday morning an’ you allowed some woman to run away with your bes’ trousers –

VICAR: My dear Mrs Kewish, will you kindly explain what it’s all about.

PATIENCE: Well, to make a long story short, as the man said, the Masther has allowed a woman to run off with his bes trousers.

VICAR: Dear me. Dear me. How shocking. What a sordid story. Who was the vile woman?


VICAR: Etty? And I always thought she was such a harmless woman. Dear me. Wonders will never cease.

PATIENCE: And now he’s got no trousers to go.

VICAR: Dear me, what an extraordinary situation.

PATIENCE: Extrornery enough.

VICAR: I wonder if he would accept a pair of mine – the loan of them.

PATIENCE: A pair of yours. H’mph. Your legs are not much to talk about.

She looks at the parson’s thin legs and suppresses a laugh.

VICAR (good humouredly): I’m afraid you’re not very complimentary, Mrs Kewish.

Enter Christian.

CHRISTIAN: I’ve got the trap at the door, Misthress.

PATIENCE: Well thou’d bather put the pony back in the stable again.

CHRISTIAN: Isn’ the Masther goin’ then?

PATIENCE: He’s not ready yet, an’ goodness knows when he will be.

CHRISTIAN: What’s hinderin’ him?

PATIENCE: He’s got no trousers to go.

Christian is in amazement. When he realises the situation he begins to guffaw.

PATIENCE: Don’t stan’ theer laughing. It’s a mighty awkward situation.

VICAR: A very awkward situation indeed.

CHRISTIAN: Good morning, Vicar. I didn’ see ya.

VICAR: Good morning, William.

PATIENCE: Christian, did thou ever let a woman run away with thee trousers?

CHRISTIAN: No fear. It would be woe to the woman that would do such a thing.

PATIENCE: An’ how would thou prevent it?

CHRISTIAN: I’d keep them on me, of course.

PATIENCE: Thou’d keep them on, eh? The simplicity of the man is shocking.

CHRISTIAN: An’ who tuk the Masther’s trousers, for all?


CHRISTIAN: Etty? Oul Etty?

PATIENCE: The… same… oul… Etty.

CHRISTIAN: What’s come over her, at all? An’ how did it happen?

PATIENCE: I can’t tell thee any more than I know meself.

CHRISTIAN: I’m surprised at oul Etty… doin’ such a thing. Now if it had been Katty?

VICAR (clears his throat apprehensively): Well I’ll bid you good morning, and I do hope that everything will turn out alright.

PATIENCE: Thank you, Vicar, thank you. Good morning tho’.

Exit Vicar.

PATIENCE (to Christian who is still there): What are thou stannin’ there for like a phynoderee?

CHRISTIAN: What am I to do, Misthress?

PATIENCE: Didn’ I tell thee to put the pony back in the stable?

CHRISTIAN: When will the Masther be ready?

PATIENCE: I’ll let thee know when he’s ready.

Exit Christian.

PATIENCE: These men will have the sowl case worn out of me. Bless me, what useless craythers they are. (She wails) Khirree Ann?

KHIRREE: Yes, Maa?

PATIENCE: Are thou gone asleep, or what, girl?

KHIRREE: I’m comin’ now.

Enter Khirree.

KHIRREE: I had to give them a birov a clane. An’ the moths have got into them too.

Khirree holds up to view an ancient pair of trousers with the white lining showing through in places.

KHIRREE: These’ll never do, Maa.

PATIENCE: Do? What are tha talkin’ about, girl? They’ll have to do. Go an’ get me ink an’ a rag, an’ I’ll show thee how to renovate them, as Passon Brown would say. (Khirree fetches the ink and a rag, and Patience proceeds to daub ink on the white patches). There thou are, they are comin’ toe gran’. (Patience keeps on dabbing and holding up to inspect them). Deed an’ they won’t look bad at all. A lil bit on the big side may’ve. But as Hommy Juan Ned used to say; “they’ll houl the big an’ the little.” An’ besides if he gets in the Kays, he’ll be swellin’ with importance an’ he’ll have plenty of room in these. They look rale gran. Fit enough for a Captain of the Parish, let alone a member of the Kays.

Patience takes the trousers to Kewish.

PATIENCE: Here, get these trousers on thee, an’ for goodness sake, hurry up. They’ll be thinkin’ thou’ve given in to the other fella.

KEWISH: Is lek I’ll be lookin’ lek a buggane in these.

PATIENCE: Get into them an’ not so much blather. (Patience goes back to the table and in removing the rag upsets the ink all over the white table cloth). Hiarn, bannee mee. Look at the jeel that’s done at me now. I do declare these men are the cause of every trouble. There’s me good table cloth quite ruint. An’ it’s the one me Aunt Martha gave me for a weddin’ present. I wouldn’ have had it done for a hundred pair of trousers. Here, Khirree Ann, go an’ put this tablecloth in soak.

Exit Khirree with cloth.

PATIENCE: I’m afraid I’ll never get the stains out of it again.

Enter Kewish, looking very comical in the big trousers.

KEWISH: How am I lookin’ in them, Patience?

PATIENCE (looking at him critically): Well I’ve seen wuss lookin’ an’ I’ve seen bather, But seein’ there’s nawthin’ else at thee, they’ll have to do. Thou’re lookin’ like a phynoderee to be sure. But perhaps thou won’t look too bad when thou get’s thy collar an’ things on. Christian has been at the door with the trap already, but I toul him to put the pony in the stable again.

Enter Etty.

ETTY: Are you doin’ the washin’ today, Misthress? I saw Khirree Ann strullin’ a tablecloth.

KEWISH (angrily): Here’s the imprant slut that stole me trousers.

PATIENCE (loudly): What have thou done with them trousers?

ETTY: Eh? What did thou say?

PATIENCE: What have thou done with them trousers of Masther Kewish’s?

ETTY: Eh? Misthress?

PATIENCE (very loudly): What… have… thou… done… with… the… trousers?

ETTY: Get me washin’ out? No, I haven’ tho. This isn the day for washin’, an’ Thom didn’ tell me anyway. I did see Khirree Ann washin’ something.

PATIENCE (bawling in Etty’s ear): What… have… thou… done… with… the… trousers?

ETTY: Oh the trousers? Ya mane the trousers that Masther Kewish gave me. I gave them to Tommy… an’ ya never did see the proud he was to get them. It was morthal kind of Masther Kewish.

PATIENCE: But those trousers were not for Tommy.


PATIENCE: Those… trousers… were not… for Tommy… at all.

ETTY: Oh Tommy is not very tall. He’s only about the same height as the Masther. An’ a shockin’ good pair of trousers they war too. An’ Masther Kewish was thinkin’ they’d be too shabby for Tommy may’ve. An’ they warnt at all. I’m only hopin’ Tommy won’t get them dirty in the cart.

PATIENCE: Well she’s got me clane bet. Me throat is nearly skint.

KEWISH: Yer only wastin’ your breath talkin’ to her.

Enter Katty.

KATTY: A messenger is here to see if Masther Kewish is ready.

KEWISH: Tell him I won’t be long, but he needn’t wait. I’ll come in me own trap. An’ for goodness sake, take Etty out with thee an’ give her something to do.

Katty signs Etty and they go out. Patience helps Kewish to dress, puts his collar and tie on and combs his hair etc. Enter Christian.

CHRISTIAN: Are ya ready, Masther?

KEWISH: I won’t be long, William. What do tha think of me trousers?

Christian tries not to laugh. Patience glares at him.

CHRISTIAN: Deed an’ thou’re lookin’ quite gran’ in them Masther. A lil bit on the big side tho. But if they were too narra thou might bust them.

KEWISH: Well I’m not think much of them meself. But I suppose we’ll have to make best of them tho.

CHRISTIAN: How did thou come to lose thy trousers, Masther?

KEWISH: That stupid woman Etty gave them to her son, Tommy, an’ I suppose I’ll never see them again.

PATIENCE (combing his head and beard): Keep thee head quite, man. Can’t thou stan in the one place. Thou’re lookin’ like a buggane or evil spirit or some thing. I don’t know what on earth I saw in thee to marry thee. Thou’se or’nery, or’nery, I never saw thee so or’nery before. An’ the other candy-date’ll be so spick an’ span – stan’ still, man – thou’re lookin’ like a buggane – an’ there’s a head at thee like tarroo ushtey – all the teeth will be broken out of me best comb.

KEWISH (very restless and muttering all the time): Houl on woman. Houl on. Thou’re pullin’ the hair out by the roots. Aisy, ya, aisy.

PATIENCE: Aisy. H’mph. Stand still, man. I don’t know what the other candy-date will say when he sees thee at all. An’ him with his white gloves on. Thou won’t hold a candle alongside of him.

KEWISH: Houl thee tongue, woman, an’ not so much talk about the other candy-date.

PATIENCE: Deed I think I’d be votin’ for the other man meself. Who’d vote for an’ oul thultax like thee?

KEWISH: Shut thee gob, woman.

PATIENCE: I won’t shut me gob.

KEWISH: Keep it open then.

PATIENCE: Houl thee head up, man, let’s see if I can get this stud in.

KEWISH (choking and gasping): Aisy, woman, aisy. Thou’ll have me choked.

PATIENCE: An’ it’s choked thou should be for being such a gawby.

KEWISH: Shurrup.

PATIENCE: Take the drone of thee back an’ stan’ up straight.

KEWISH: Did thou ever have a woman run off with thee trousers, Willam?

CHRISTIAN: Naver in me life. I naver heard of such a thing before.

PATIENCE: Here. (Giving his tie an extra tug) I’m sick to death hearing about thee trousers. Let’s have a look at thee. (She sees his skin showing here and there). Well I declare if thou’re not showi’n thro in places. That won’t look very well tho. I’ll have to put some more ink on it.

Enter Khirree. She and Christian are very interested in all that is going on.

PATIENCE: Khirree Ann, get the ink and a rag for me.

KHIRREE (getting them): The bottle is almost empty, Ma.

PATIENCE: Let’s see it. I daresay there’ll be enough. If not we’ll have to finish him with black lead.

Patience dabs his legs.

KEWISH: That ink is coul, ya. Coudn’ thou give it a lil warm.

PATIENCE: Warm thee heels. Keep quite.

KEWISH: Houl on, chree. Thou’ll have me in such a shockin’ state I won’t be fit to look at.

Patience stands and admires her work.

PATIENCE: Well thou’re beginning to come toe a bit. But it won’t do for thee to go walkin’ about. If thou’ll take my advice thou’ll sit in a chair an’ look important. Not that thou would ever look important, even in a crown an’ jewels. If it’s anybody at all thou’d be lookin’ like, it would be Henry VIII. An’ I believe in me heart thou’re lookin’ jus as wicked as him. Certainly thou haven’ had so many wives, but that only because I’m keepin’ a sharp eye on thee.

Khirree has placed his silk hat on chair, and Christian sits down on it. Patience turns on them.

PATIENCE: Now ya silly fool. Look what thou’ve done now. Ruint the Masther’s best silk hat. Upon me sowl, you men will have driven me clane mad.

CHRISTIAN: I’m very sorry, Misthress.

PATIENCE: Sorry. That won’t mend the hat. Thou big clumsy lout of a man. I’ve half a mind to make thee buy a new one. (To Khirree) An’ it was a stupid thing for thee to do, Khirree Ann. Why didn’ thou put the hat on the table? (Patience takes the hat and tries to straighten it out). I don’t know on earth what kind of a sight thou’ll be when we get thee ready. I’m beginnin’ to hope thou won’t get in the Kays… for if thou are goin’ to put everybody an’ everything fud-y-cheilley like this every meeting thou go to, thou’ll be the death of me. (She gets him ready and makes to go). Is the pony stannin’ at thee still, Christian?

CHRISTIAN: Yes, Misthress.

PATIENCE: The poor animal’ll have his death of coul. (Patience puts the hat on Kewish and brushes him down). Now let’s have a look at thee. Goy hi. What a phynoderee thou’re lookin’. Now be off with thee an’ not another word. An’ if thou come home an’ tell me the other fella has been elected, I’ll give thee the biggest lambasting thou aver got in thee life.

KHIRREE: Good luck, Dad.

KEWISH (importantly): Thanks, Khirree Ann. Now, William Boy, lead on. We’ll let them see that Johnny Jem Beg will be a more important man the Kays than he is at home. Thank heaven there’ll be no women there to be boss.

As Kewish is going out, Etty comes in. Kewish sees her and shakes his fist at her. Exit Kewish and Christian. Enter Katty. They all look after the men.

PATIENCE: Thank goodness that’s over Katty, let’s have a good strong gup of tay.


I never heard tell of such a thing in me life before. Such a bogh of a man. Lettin’ a woman run away with thee trousers.

John Kewley’s preparations for election day are going well, until a maid takes away his trousers…
This comic one act play by J. J. Kneen was first performed in April 1934 by the Purt Iern Cushags at St. Ninian’s Church Hall. The play soon established itself as a part of the Manx dialect canon and it was frequently performed for decades after both on and off the Island.

The greatest Manx linguist of his generation and one of the most important scholars of Manx subjects, J. J. Kneen was also the most prolific playwright that the Isle of Man has ever known.