Each month, James Franklin, Online & Educational Resources Officer at Culture Vannin and co-author of ‘A Guide to the Folklore of the Isle of Man,’ looks at a particular place in the island and gives a guide to some of its folklore.

The surface of the Isle of Man is beautiful, but it is in the stories that we get the depth.

This is true especially of outstandingly beautiful places like Niarbyl.

For instance, this stretch of the west coast is one of the island’s mermen hotspots.

Once a common sight here, their relationship with the fishermen very relaxed. One once admired a fisherman’s catch and so asked for some crabs, offering to tell the man’s future in return. When the crabs were in his hand, however, the merman offered only the empty wisdom; ‘As long as you’re on land, you’ll never drown at sea!’

Rather more helpful was the merman who warned of an oncoming storm.

The men fishing from Niarbyl were always good for throwing some of their catch back for the people of the sea. So a merman returned the favour and warned them of dangerous weather, meaning that they alone survived the storm that gave rise to a part of the sea becoming known as ‘the Sea of Blood.’

The word, Niarbyl, comes from the Manx for The Tail; Yn Arbyl. This name originally applied to the tail of rock going out into the sea, leaving the shore itself to be known by various names, including, simply, Dalby shore.

This is why the beautiful tune collected here is known as ‘Arrane Ghelbee’; Dalby Song.

A mysterious boatman would row in to near the rocks each evening and sing a song, just too distant for anyone to make out the words.

No one ever knew who the man was, where he came from or where he went, but the beautiful wordless song remains today, well-known to Manx musicians yet.

Many have been out in their own boats from Niarbyl in the hope of finding the giant pearl that lies out in the bay.

It was pulled up in a net one night shining so brightly that it lit up all the hills along the coast. But the fishermen took fright at the marvel and dropped the net. Many have been out to look for the giant pearl since, but none successfully.

Of course, Niarbyl is also a great place for the fairies.

In the nighttime you might hear the ‘tap-tapping’ of the Lil’ Fellas playing a game, throwing rocks. In the morning you will find a ring of white pebbles around one particular rock there on the shore.

A darker story tells of the Lil’ Fellas stealing a child from the family of a house now long gone.

The Lil’ Fellas replaced the child with one of their own as a ‘changeling.’

Realising the switch, the parents set to preparing a bonfire on which to burn the changeling, hoping to force Themselves to swap the children again. However, rightly or wrongly, the neighbours swept in and stopped them in the final moment.

Just around the first headland beyond the fisherman’s hut is a beautiful cave with three entrances. Ooig ny Meill (Cave of the Mouths) is its name, and it was from within here that the sound of fairy music was once heard. But, upon going inside, nothing was found but for the footprints of Themselves, no bigger than your thumb.

We check for footprints whenever we visit, as Niarbyl is exactly the sort of place you expect to find them yet.