The Little People

The Island is rich with folklore.

An account of its myths, legends, superstitions and customs is The Folklore of the Isle of Man by A.W. Moore, published in 1891, now available online at:

There is a chapter on Fairies and Familiar Spirits, another on Hobgoblins, Monsters, Giants, Mermaids, Apparitions etc.

According to Moore, the Manx word for fairy, ferrish, was a recent corruption of the English word. There was no such word in the Manx language until around 1740.

Before that the Manx referred only to the little people or, more commonly, the good people.

They were considered mischievous rather than malevolent. It was best to treat them with respect and leave them alone.

When the Manx retired at dusk they left a fire burning in the grate, with some bread and crocks of clean water, for the little people to enjoy. This water was never used for any other purpose, and was thrown out in the morning.

It is not entirely clear whether the Manx still believe in the little people. If you ask them you get a smile and a Delphic reply: “we are not superstitious, but we do not take unnecessary risks.”

We observe Manx customs wherever possible. So when the day ends at Ballakilley Beg, we leave a fire burning in the grate, with food and drink for the little people to enjoy.

They seem to have become more sophisticated over the last two hundred years.

Now they like a variety of foods, and sometimes alcohol too, rather than just bread and water. And they are keen collectors of modern gadgets, such as lighters, spectacles and propelling pencils.

Chris Thorpe

Chris Thorpe is a respected independent lawyer in the upstream oil and gas industry, and an established lecturer and author. Chris has a LLB in law from Magdalene College, Cambridge and trained as a barrister in London. He worked for eight years' as an in-house lawyer for BP and Marathon. Since 1991, Chris has run his own upstream legal practice, CPTL, which has acted for many upstream clients. He has extensive experience of international upstream transactions, principally in the North Sea, the FSU, Africa and the Middle East. Chris has spoken at many UK and International Conferences and Seminars, both public and in-house. His most popular current lecture is Fundamental of Upstream Petroleum Agreements, a two-day course with accompanying book.