THE old fishermen of the island have it to say that years and years ago the fish met to choose themselves a king, for they had no deemster to tell them what was right. Likely enough their meeting-place was off the Shoulder, south of the Calf. They all came looking their best--there was Captain Jiarg, the Red Gurnet, in his fine crimson coat; Grey Horse, the Shark, big and cruel; the Bollan in his brightest colours; Dirty Peggy, the Cuttle-fish, putting her nicest face on herself; Athag, the Haddock, trying to rub out the black spots the devil burnt on him when he took hold of him with his finger and thumb, and all the rest. Each one thought he might be chosen.
The Fish had a strong notion to make Brac Gorm, the Mackerel, king. He knew that, and he went and put beautiful lines and stripes on himself--pink and green and gold, and all the colours of the sea and sky. Then he was thinking diamonds of himself. But when he came he looked that grand that they didn't know him. So they said that he was artificial and would have nothing to do with him.
In the end it was Skeddan, the Herring, the Lil Silver Fella, who was made King of the Sea.
When it was all over, up came the Fluke, too late to give his vote, and they all called out:
'You've missed the tide, my beauty!'
It seems that he had been so busy tallivating himself up, touching himself up red in places, that he forgot how time went. When he found that the herring had been chosen, he twisted up his mouth on one side, and says he:
'An' what am I goin' to be then?'
'Take that,' says Scarrag the Skate, and he ups with his tail and gives the Fluke a slap on his mouth that knocked his mouth crooked on him. And so it has been ever since.
And, maybe, it's because the Herring is King of the Sea that he has so much honour among men. Even the deemsters, when they take their oath, say: 'I will execute justice as indifferently as the herring's backbone doth lie in the midst of the fish.'
And the Manx people will not burn the herring's bones in the fire, in case the herring should feel it. It is to be remembered, too, that the best herring in the world are caught in this place off the Shoulder, where the fish held their big meeting, and that is because it is not very far from Manannan's enchanted island.