In 1902, and under order of the Local Government Board, a public inquiry was held regarding the provision for the disposal of sewage and the supply of water for domestic purposes within the village district of Laxey. Below is an extract of a newspaper article of the proceedings which includes discussion on some of the district’s wells.
Dr Richardson: The water supply of Laxey is in much the same condition as described in my former report. I noticed that the well – “the Captain’s” – had been closed. A new well has been opened on the shore. Water has been taken in pipes into Dumbell’s Row from the same source as that which supplies the Tramway Station. At the South Cape school a pump has been connected with a well in the upper angle of the playground, but was out of order at the time I saw it. There is still an absence of flushing arrangements for the urinals at the South Cape and National Schools. The surface wells of Laxey are described in my previous report; very many of them in dry weather give a deficient supply, some being dry from June to September of last year. Some houses have no proper supply. These surface wells are extremely liable to pollution, and I can only repeat what I have previously said – that the use of them is highly dangerous. Doubtless, after prolonged rains, the water in many of them may be comparatively pure, but after a long summer drought, the early autumn rains are certain to wash into them impurities which will cause severe diarrhoea and other ailments; if any specified infection has been deposited in the area from which they drain, an epidemic outbreak will be the result. I had eight samples taken from different wells and pumps; they are being submitted to analysis, but I have not yet had time to receive the report. I have no hesitation in again recommending the provision of an ample gravitation water supply and the closing of the surface wells.
A LICENSED VICTUALLER’S OPINION
Mr Jelly (Queen’s Hotel) said there were two little streams near his hotel. There were about two dozen houses which principally depended on these two streams and a few wells for the water, and in the summer these wells were generally very low, and one of the streams was generally dry, whilst the other just dribbled. He had seen people going to them for water as early as five o’clock in the morning to be in turn.
Mr Quayle: Could they not sink larger wells?
Mr. Jelly: I had to sink a well myself and in the summer when I wanted the water, it was not fit to drink. There was a yellow sediment in it. We had to pump it, and the suction being so great, it brought up this sediment. I really think we require a water supply about the Cape. In the summer they depend there on a few wells.
Mr Cowin said he had been agent for the property referred to for over 20 years. The people had invariably used the water, and it had never been condemned. Mr Jelly had made certain improvements and had thought it desirable to close his well up.
Mr W. H. Corlett (Village Commissioner) said he lived within 100 yards of Mr Jelly and happened to have six houses there. There was plenty of water for them. Mr Jelly happened to be a little unfortunate in being a little below them, but plenty of water could be got by just sinking a few holes in the rock.
Mr Kay: What about your own district?
Mr Corlett thought there was a great deal of fault with the people, who were too lazy to clean their wells – he did not say that Mr Jelly was (laughter). Let the people sink for water as he (Mr Corlett) had done. They could not have water without sinking for it. Mr Jelly kept a hotel and required more water than most people (laughter).
Mr Jelly: Yes; there’s a lot of dry fellows living round about here. Do you remember two ladies and a gentleman who were living in one of your houses Mr Corlett? Well, they told me they wouldn’t come again unless we improved the water supply and other things. They were seeing that fancy spout with two sorts running into it (laughter).
THE WATER, QUESTION – BARRING LAXEY AS A VISITORS’ RESORT
Mr Quayle said that a great deal might be done to remedy any defective supply by providing proper wells. It was manifest that water was abundant in the district, and if these wells which were stated to be impure were sunk to a proper depth, a good supply ought to be obtained which should, for some time, be sufficient for the district (laughter).
There seemed to be an opinion abroad that Laxey was a visitors’ resort, but he thought that those people who were familiar with Laxey would say that the place was very little dependent upon visitors. There were 350 houses in Laxey and he did not think that more than 25 derived their support from visitors. No steps need be taken for a gravitation supply yet. They could get from the wells sufficient water.
Mr Kay: Who should do that?
Mr Quayle: The proprietors should do it.
Mr Kay: Then you think that instead of the Commissioners providing a supply it should be a case of every man for himself.
Mr Quayle: Exactly; the Commissioners should only step in where it is an impossibility for the proprietors to provide a supply.
At this stage the situations of the wells from which water had been taken for the purpose of analysis were divulged. The reporters, at the request of Mr Kay, agreed to suppress this portion of the proceedings. Dr Cassel, a medical practitioner in Laxey referred to a certain well full of embryonic round worms. Four houses used the well and the residents in these houses all suffered from round worms and the visitors staying in the houses also suffered from roundworms (sensation).
Mr Quayle: What has become of the inhabitants of these houses? Have they developed these worms?
Dr Cassel: Yes: I have been treating them for them. I have not been here long enough myself, but I have a letter from Dr Miller bearing on the subject.
Mr Williamson objected to Dr Miller’s letter being taken as evidence, seeing that Dr Miller was not here to be questioned. Dr Cassel said the water in his own well was not what he would like it to be and for himself he would rather pay rates and have a proper supply (applause).
Mr Quayle said the gravitation stream water, wherever it was tapped, would be polluted, as the result of cattle grazing.
Dr Cassel replied that they could, by going far enough up, practically avoid contamination.
Mr Killip said he thought that in all fairness it ought to be known that the samples taken for analysis had been taken from wells known to be suspicious.
Dr Cassel said that one of the samples taken, and condemned, had been taken at the request of the owner, who had been under the impression that the water was very good.
Mr Jackson said that the samples had not been taken from suspicious wells. Dr Richardson took the samples which were representative of the whole district.
Mr W. Tupper said that he had been keeping a lodging-house for nearly forty years and had plenty of people of the middle class staying with him and even members of the House of Commons, and members of the House of Keys, High-Bailiffs, D.D.’s – (laughter) – and various doctors and vicars, and he might even include members of the aristocracy – (laughter) – and they had found the sanitary arrangements good and the water supply abundant. In his opinion the drainage should go into the natural main sewer and they had a splendid one.
Mr Kay: The river you refer to?
Mr Tupper; Yes. It is just as foul as it possibly can be now with the washings from the mines, and we cannot make it worse. Mr Tupper went on to give as his opinion that few Laxey people depended on visitors, but mentioned that at the rate water was said to be increasing in Laxey Mines, no men would be able to work there shortly.
Mr Rydings said that Mr Tupper suggested a very gloomy prospect for Laxey, and this being so, his (Mr Rydings’s) opinion was that the question of water supply and drainage should be put off for a year or two, until things had worked themselves round, and they were able to bring Laxey forward. It was certain that as soon as ever the South African War was closed the people would be going out of Laxey, and they would have a quarter of the houses empty. The previous day he walked along the river from the Pin-Pound to the Big Wheel, and counted 222 tenanted houses and 36 empty ones in the district. They had water round about Laxey which was the best in the Island, and plenty of it. They talked about bringing water from the Clypse to Laxey and giving it to the people – certainly the people would not have it on any other conditions, and not even perhaps if it was given, for the water from the Clypse reservoir was never fit for drinking purposes. There were farm houses and cattle all round it and talk about pollution – Douglas people had really been drinking destruction!
Mr Kay: You will have to look out the next time you go to Douglas.
Mr Rydings said that they had Chibber-y-Pherick (“Patrick’s Well”) near Laxey, and the water from it bad been analysed at the instance of Mr Bruce, when it was found to be the best in the Island – as pure as crystal (a voice: “One good word for poor Bruce!”). Chibber-y-Pherick was only three-quarters of a mile from Laxey, and there was plenty of water there at all times to serve all the houses from the Pin-Pound to the Big Wheel. Dr Cassel said he had gone to a lot of trouble to measure the flow. They had dragged barrels and spouting up and a 42-gallon parrafin cask. To make sure they were correct they had also taken one of Mr Williamson’s spirit measures (laughter). It took three-quarters of a minute to fill the 42-gallon cask, and a calculation showed that there were 80,640 gallons coming out there in twenty-four hours. There was another source on the other side that would supply all Minorca and Old Laxey. He did not, however, go in for this at present. He suggested that the Commissioners should send an inspector round to see that no person put slop-water on the street, and to prosecute them if they did. There was plenty of accommodation for it, for behind nearly every bouse there was a garden. If they had cess pools in the gardens it would be as near to carry the water into the gardens as into the street.
Mr Kay: You say that when you get on your feet you will go in for a scheme, but how are you going to get on your feet?
Mr Rydings; When the mine is floated again by a new company and new capital. Then we will be on our feet.
Mr Kay: You don’t think Laxey would be helped then by encouraging visitors?
Mr Rydings; Not especially. The visitors who come here wish to live on the cheap and be quiet – they don’t come for pleasure.
Capt. Reddicliffe said that in Laxey Mines there were 120 employed at present and in Snaefell Mines 50 or 60 – Laxey people principally.
Mr Kay: Roughly speaking then, about a twelfth of the population are dependent upon the mines. Mr Tupper said that where the water was coming into the mine like a river, riches had been struck the like of which were never known before.
Mr Jackson (Local Government Inspector) said that as a rule, the wells in Laxey were not kept in order. It would not be desirable to risk the health and interests of Laxey upon every person carrying out what he thought necessary to keep his place in order. He did not agree with cess-pools.
The results of the analysis of some wells in the district were not good.
- Well 1 – contained suspended matter; suggestive of sewage; not suitable for domestic purposes
- Well 2 – sufficient purity
- Well 3 – good deal of decayed matter in suspension; evidence of recent sewage contamination; unable to certify water fit for domestic use
- Well 4 – no offensive odour apart from the fact the oxygen absorbtion process still unfinished
- Well 5 – analysis not quite finished; the water is wholly unfit for domestic consumption
- Well 6 – not completed, analysis proceeded sufficiently far to show very sound water
- Well 7 – not completed, analysis proceeded sufficiently far to show very impure water
- Well 8 – not completed, analysis proceeded sufficiently far to show passable
- Well 9 – not completed, analysis proceeded sufficiently far to show impure
Photograph of Laxey shore taken c.1890, imuseum