A forgotten Celtic outpost

The high-hipped cat without a tale, the Manx takes its name from a tiny island, the Isle of Man, 33 miles long and 13 miles wide, lying between England and Ireland in the Irish Sea. The Manx is short-haired and has no tail, with a hollow where the tail should start. John Montgomery in “The World of Cats” says the high back legs give it a walk like a rabbit’s hop.
Legends claim the Manx cat reached the Isle of Man from wrecked ships of the Spanish Armada off Spanish Point, near Port Erin; a newspaper from 1808 says an East County ship wrecked on Jurby Point; and another tradition says a Baltic ship wrecked between Castle Rushen and the Calf. A Welsh legend says that Manx cats were known in Cornwall at an early date and the cat went from the west of England to Man. A superstition said that Manx cats had their own king who lived the life of an ordinary house cat by day and at night assumed his royal powers, and if his householder is cruel to him, he takes terrible revenge. The Manx supposedly lost his tail because he was late getting on the Ark. You can see information about the Manx at the Cat Fanciers’ Association website at http://www.cfa.org/client/breedManx.aspx.
The Isle of Man on the map looks like a chunk of Scotland that sailed south from Dumfries and ran out of steam halfway between England and Ireland, and pictures of the diminutive isle remind me of Ireland. The main towns and villages are located along the coast, where small bays offer shelter, and hills and mountains make up much of the island’s interior, which is populated with tall trees and deep valleys. A flat plain lies in the north of the island with steep Irish-style cliffs that drop precipitously to the sea.
The Isle of Man is one of the seven Celtic regions of Europe, perhaps the least known. The Celts for centuries dominated most of Europe, not as a unified people but as a collection of tribes tied by a common culture and language. They did not apply the term Celt to themselves — that word was a Greek usage, from Keltoi, to describe barbarians living north of the Mediterranean. That’s why “Celt,” a noun, and “Celtic,” an adjective, are pronounced with a “k” sound. While they were pushed to the edges of the continent and subjugated by Romans, Vikings and Saxons, their descendants found sweet revenge through a survival of their culture and a fierce pride about being a Celt.
The online Isle of Man Guide (http://www.iomguide.com/) says the island is 33 miles long and 13 miles wide. It is 221 square miles in area and 100 miles in perimeter. The highest point on the island is Snaefell (snow mountain), at 2036 feet above sea level. The longest river is the Sulby at 10 1/2 miles. The Isle of Man lies in the Irish Sea between Scotland and Ireland. It is about 77 miles northwest of Liverpool, England. Geography
Most residents are of Irish, Welsh, Scottish and British descent, and many immigrants have arrived in recent years. The Manx are descended from  Celts and Vikings, and the native language is Manx Gaelic, which resembles Scottish and Irish and is part of the Celtic language family. “The last native speaker of the Manx Language was Edward (Ned) Maddrell, who died in December 1974,” says the site. “Since then there has been a revival of the language as many people take up learning it at school or college. Manx has been formally taught in schools since 1992, but is not compulsory. There are a few Manx only schools (Scoill) for younger children. The main language spoken on the Isle of Man is British English.” The Isle of Man is a crown dependency with its own laws, courts and government. The official website is http://www.isleofman.com/.
Encyclopaedia Britannica says the island experiences heavy gales from the southwest, but winters are mild and summers cool. Like Ireland, it has no snakes — St. Patrick must have been there too. Or maybe those Manx cats or great snake hunters.

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