[From Isle of Man, Cumming 1848]
Lucian's dialogues.-The physical constitution of Man.-The old Abbey-bridge.-Monlis and mills.-The Abbey of Rusben.Ancient tripartite division of insular tithes.-Present misapplication of the Abbey-third.-The Abbot stone of Rushen.-The Creggins Hill. - Drift-gravel platform. - Skybright. - Nlalew Church.-Recent changes in the level of the land.
IN one of those admirable dialogues by which the heathen Lucian so forcibly ridicules the vanity of human wishes, and exhibits the instability and utter nothingness of those things which the greater mass of mankind are toiling after and grasping at, he introduces the fabled ferryman of Styx in colloquy with Mercury 1. They have piled Ossa on Olympus, and Pelion on Ossa, and have mounted atop. The aged Charon however soon discovers that by this elevation he has only gained a loss. He wished to become acquainted with man, to get a closer insight into his constitution, but he has raised himself so far above him as utterly to defeat the purpose for which he came from the depth of Erebus. He proposes therefore to the active conductor of the shades, that they should descend at once and visit one by one the different localities likely to afford him the choicest information. It is natural enough that we should express a similar wish with his, though the elevation from which we have been contemplating the physical constitution of Man has nothing to compare with the triple mountain height to which Charon toiled.
Geologists are accused of very grovelling habits; they are said to be always burrowing under the earth; they profess to pry deeper into millstones than other people. Be it so; they have a mission to fulfil, and humble though it may appear to many, they are quite contented with their vocation, and heartily labour at it. Let us descend. The geologist has been studying hitherto from his elevation only the great outline of this portion of Man ; he wishes now to trace out in detail the individual features, each limb and member, yea, to mark each vein and artery through which flowed that igneous fluid 2 which once agitated and fashioned the entire frame. He does not, 't is true, in this immediate neighbourhood of Ballasalla fall in with those trap dykes and masses of greenstone which have disturbed and broken up this part of the island ; for the whole of the palæozoic series is covered up with the tertiary formations, except where the action of the mountain streams upon the boulder clay has laid bare the subjacent rocks, or the limestone has been sought after by the quarriers for economic purposes. There are, however, close by this ancient village (and in fact running through it) some traces of a disturbance of the older rocks which appears to be connected with the great elevation of the mountain chain.
Just above the Abbey of Rushen is a very old bridge, how old it would be hard to tell ; it appears in the earliest maps of the island 3, and it is sketched by Camden 4 as a remarkable object in his day. It is impassable by any vehicle except a wheelbarrow, and indicates a time when packhorses were alone used for the transport of men and their chattels. The neighbours know it by the name of the Crossag. Just above it is a mill-dam, whose original fabrication we may well believe to have been by the monks of this abbey. How frequent a concomitant the mill is to the religious houses of the Cistercian order is well known, and as they, in the Isle of Man, were the special almoners of the poor, there is surely good reason for persuading ourselves that it has not been by more accident that in this locality the abbey and the mill are so closely connected. There is the same evidence of design in the contiguity of a mill with the Friary Bowmaken in Arbory, an offset from this abbey of Rushen. We have it again in the mill hard by the nunnery of St. Bridget, near Douglas.
Now betwixt the mill-dam and the bridge, if we look down into the river, we shall see that the beds of limestone are twisted up and set edgeways along a line of fault which just in this place crosses the stream in a direction N. 10° All. magnetic; but as the stream (the Silverburn) makes a turn westward a little higher up and coincides then with the line of fault, we may thus trace it upwards towards the mountain chain, and observe that in this direction the disturbance increases in value, and is at right angles, or nearly so, to the great line of elevation of the mountain chain. The uplift is on the southern side, and at Athol Bridge, a mile hence up the Silverburn, is about 100 feet. Here, however, at the Crossag Bridge it is very small, and probably dies away entirely a little south of Ballasalla. The cross fracture again which runs at the back of the abbey garden to the westward, has brought up to view the old red sandstone from under the carboniferous limestone in a very interesting condition. It does not present to us its ordinary red colour, but pebbles of white quartz in a gray matrix of limestone, and includes the characteristic fossils 5 of the lowest limestone series as seen elsewhere in this basin. Perhaps we may trace the passage more distinctly from the Devonian into the Carboniferous series a little higher up the hill, on the road-side near Ballahot Farm House. If we now follow the Peel road from this latter spot, we shall observe just on the brow of the hill before descending to Athol Bridge, the lower beds of the conglomerate with their ordinary red colour resting unconformably on the upturned edges of the subjacent claret-coloured schists, whilst on the other hand, we can easily trace by the Ballahot quarries hard by, the regular passage of the gray-coloured conglomerate into the dark limestone and shales of the lower carboniferous beds.
Whiilst sauntering near the venerable ruins of the Abbey of Rushen, let us muse awhile on its history.
The statement of Sacheverell, that it was founded by Macmarus 6 in 1098, appears to rest on uncertain authority. That period was one of great confusion and desolation in the Isle of Man.
Goddard Crovân, or Chroubân (white-handed), the Icelandic Chief, in 1077 had defeated the Manks under Fingall their king at Ramsey and gained possession of the isle. He reserved the southern portion to himself and followers, and granted the northern to the inhabitants on the terms that none, of them or their heirs should ever presume to claim any part of it by way of inheritance 7. He in turn was overthrown by Magnus, the piratical king of Norway, who having overrun the western isles and part of Scotland, seized upon the Isle of Man in 1093. Magnus shortly after returned to Norway, and seems to have left behind him as Jarl 8 or Viceroy, one Outher or Octtar, a Norwegian. Becoming obnoxious to the Norwegian inhabitants of the southern district he was deposed by them, and Macmarus or Macrnams elected in his stead. The Northerns still adbering to Octtar, a civil war was originated. A battle fought at Stantway in Jurby 9 between the contending parties gave the victory to the Northerns after a severe struggle, in which the leaders on both sides were slain 10. In this juncture Magnus arrived a second time from Norway in 1098, found the island almost a desert, and the few inhabitants who remained living in caves and underground buts.
It is not improbable that Macmarus on his election to be Jarl may have made over some lands at Ballasalla and Rushen to religious purposes, and that these lands thus devoted to religion were granted afterwards by Magnus to the Abbot of Rievalle, according to Camden, who further states that "they did not build there." Magnus, who was slain in an invasion of Ireland in 1103 at Moichaba, left four sons, the youngest of whom, Harold Gyllie, set up a claim to the throne of Man on the death of his father, which was rejected by the inhabitants, who gave in their allegiance to Lagman eldest son of Goddard Crovan. His tyrannical acts, and especially his cruel treatment of his brother Harold, whom he barbarously mutilated, created such disaffection that he was obliged to fly the country, and it is stated that he went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and never returned. The AIanks, finding themselves again without a leader and threatened with foreign enemies, determined to send for Olave Kleining (or the dwarf), the youngest son of Goddard CrovAn, who had been brought up at the court of William Rufus and his successor Henry I., whose granddaughter Affrica he subsequently married.
Olave was quietly established on the throne of this isle, and appears to have ruled with mildness and equity. It was he who must be regarded in reality as the founder of the Abbey of Russin or Rushen. In the year 1134, according to the 'Chronicon Mannim et Insularum 11,' preserved in the British Museum, written by the monks of this abbey, he gave to "Ivo or Evan, Abbot of Furness, a portion of his lands in Mann, towards building an abbey in a place called Russin; he enriched the estate of the church with revenues and endowed it with great liberties."
The revenue he apportioned thus; one third of all the tithes to the bishop for his maintenance, the second to the abbey for education of youth and relief of the poor, and the third to the parochial priests for their subsistence. The Abbey of Rushen being a Cistercian cell dependent on the Abbey of Furness, received its abbots by appointment thence. The Abbey of Furness seems also for some time to have appointed to the bishopric of Man. Certain it is that Wimond, who was Bishop of Man from 1113 to 1151, was a monk of Furness Abbey, as was also Nicholas de Meaux, who was made bishop in 1203. The former there is reason to believe was of Manks descent.
There is great plainness and simplicity in the few relics of the architecture of this abbey which now remain to us; square-headed windows and doors as plain as those of the plainest cottage on the mountain side,-clear proof both of the ancient character of this religious house and of the limited extent of its revenues at any time. There is certainly no evidence here to bear out the statement which has been made by some, that in consequence of an accession of temporal dignity, the abbot and monks degenerated from their primitive simplicity and humble industry into pride and luxury. The property made over to their hands was in trust for others, and they seem to have exercised that trust honestly and rigidly. It was a noble testimony to their pious character and their poverty that the rapacious eighth Henry laid not his hand upon them till he had plundered all their English brethren. It was the latest monastery dissolved in these kingdoms; and like all other property perverted from ancient religious uses, it seems to have settled uneasily on its owner ever since, and has perpetually been changing hands. A regret has been expressed by many that it was not secured as the site for King William's College; it would thus have become again what Sacheverell states to have been the original intention in its foundation, "a nursery to the church." What has become of the endowments? "When (as the son of Bishop Ward says) 12 the abbey was destroyed in that devouring reformation, its charitable possessions driven out into the world, its lands sold, its church the resting-place of kings and bishops desecrated, and itself buried in its own ruins, the Lord of the Isle seized upon that third which had been held in trust by the monks pro bono publico." When Bishop Barrow came to the see in 1663, he found those vicars, the tithes of whose parishes were in the hands of the lord, in the greatest destitution; and devoting all his energies to raise them from this state, " he found means to purchase a long lease of those Impropriations from the then Lord Charles Earl of Derby." An estate of the Earl in England, viz. the Manor of Bispham, together with the farm or tenement called Methop, was collaterally bound for the payment of the clergy. On the alienation of the island from the Derby family, the Duke of Athol claimed the impropriations as an inseparable appendage of his estate and royalty, of which it could not be divested by any right that had or could be shown 13. The clergy were thus thrown upon the collateral security, viz. the estate of the Earl of Derby. The deeds for some time could not be found, and the clergy were under most painful apprehension, and would gladly have taken any reasonable consideration rather than lose all. At last, through the exertions of Bishop Wilson and his son, they were discovered in the Rolls Office, and the claim of the clergy was established. The compensation then agreed on to be paid out of the Derby estate was £219 per annum ; but in 1809 Bishop Crigan demanded a revisal, on the ground that the Earl of Derby had granted to Bishop Barrow all tenths yearly renewing, growing and increasing, and that the said tenths had greatly increased since 1735, when the former compensation was agreed on, and it was found that their real net annual value was £663. Lord Derby hereupon agreed to pay down the sum of £16,000 to be rid of the annual charge on his estate altogether, and very unwisely the suns was accepted, and spent in bad purchases of land returning only about £400 per annum. Before the sale of his rights to the English Crown in 1765, under the Act called the Act of Revestment, the Duke of Athol had sold half of the impropriations to different parties; the other half is now in the hands of the British Government, and amounts to above £525 15 per annum. It thus appears that of more than £1000 per annum, the present value of the third of the tithe belonging anciently to the Abbey of Rushen for the purposes of ecclesiastical education and relief of the poor, none is applied to its ancient use ; it is alienated from the church; the £400 per annum applied to the augmentation of the salaries of the poorer clergy being, in reality, the proceeds of a certain claim upon an English nobleman's estate, obtained of his ancestors, with the moneys collected by the pious Bishop Barrow in 1666.
Humble in its architectural pretensions as this abbey is, it is the resting-place of the dust of mighty and pious dead. It is known that Reginald, Bishop of Man, who died in 1225, lies buried there- 15Olave Godredson, king of the Isle in 1226, whose bastard brother the usurper Reginald 16, without any legal title himself, surrendered the Isle to the Pope Honorius in 1219, was interred there in 1237 17; and so also was the Norwegian general Gospatrick in 1240 18. Magnus 19, the last king of the Norwegian line, died in 1237, and was also interred in the Abbey of Rushen. In the abbey garden may now be seen an ancient tombstone, or stone coffin-lid. On its surface is a raised cross of beautiful device, by the side of whose shaft is a knight'ssword. This is the famous so-called " Abbot stone of ftu,hen," upon which certain erudite dissertations have been written, and conjectures hazarded, such as that it was the tomb of some "sword-bishop," that is, a bishop exercising temporal and spiritual supreme authority. The floriated head of the cross, having been somewhat damaged, has been converted into a crosier by the imagination of the first writer on the subject; and subsequent authors have taken his statement upon credit, instead of examining for themselves. It appears to have belonged certainly to the tomb of a military person, but has nothing of the ecclesiastic indicated upon it. Its date is probably of the thirteenth century 20
In passing from the abbey-grounds and following southward the course of the Silverburn, we soon find ourselves upon a line of disturbance running S. 40° W. magnetic, and the limestone upon the saddle being broken, permits the stream to pass onward in that direction, though there; is a cross fault at right angles near Ballasalla House with the upcast on the south-western side, which seems to have acted in some measure as a barrier against the river, and perhaps at one period turned it down in the direction of Derbyhaven. It is at any rate very interesting to observe the action of the stream on the loose materials of the boulder formation at an ancient period, and the formation of a species of basin to the northward of this fault, in which have been deposited montane alluvia. The river flows over the limestone for a considerable distance ; properly speaking, this rock forms its bed all the way hence to Castletown and the sea, though in the lower grounds there may be intervening a foot or two of loam and alluvial gravel and boulders.
As we pass down the Silverburn, a few hundred yards below the flax-mill, we observe a good development of the boulder clay formation where it has been worn away by the river. The lower portion has a dirty bluish tinge, is very loamy, and abounds in scratched fragments of rock, chiefly limestone. A slight excavation would doubtless discover the surface of the subjacent limestone, which, as seen in the stream a hundred yards above, begins to rise here towards an anticlinal eastward of this point ; and there is little doubt but that, as in other places in this area, whereever the boulder clay is removed, this surface would be found grooved and scratched with lines directed nearly towards the magnetic west. The upper portion consists chiefly of yellow sand, rather loamy, and with smaller fragments of rock included, which seem generally foreign to this immediate locality. The top of the bank consists altogether of fine sand, which I presume belongs to the platform of drift gravel and sand, whose elevation reaches in this neighbourhood just to this height, as seen in the fields on a level with the top of this bank. I am more inclined to the belief that this sand is a portion of the raised sea-beach of the drift than that it forms a bed in the boulder formation and passes under the rounded hill of the Creggins to the eastward. Yet the question has its difficulties. Formerly I included the rounded hills of this neighbourhood in the drift-gravel series, presuming them to indicate its highest level, and to have been subsequently denuded and rounded during a period of elevation, or a rush of water from the north-east. Further study has led me to class them in the later period of the boulder formation, and to restrict the term " drift-gravel" series to the great platform of gravel rising gradually inland from the coast, indicative of a certain period of quiescence and more regular stratification in the marine deposits. The existence of such a platform is clearly made out if we descend the stream for about 300 yards till we come to a rustic wooden bridge, and then on the other side (the eastern side) take a seat upon the steps which carry the footpath alongside of the first gate which stops up the bridle-road hence to the Creggins. It is an enchanting station for the lover of scenery, and deeply interesting will it prove to the geologist 21. The steps on which we are sitting are fashioned out of the granite blocks which have been rolled down the Silverburn by means in part of that. tributary branch of it which runs up to the granitic boss at St. Mark's, and carries off the drainage from that watershed. Some of them have, no doubt, tumbled out of the boulder formation in the uplands, at such a spot for instance as Greenaby, where the stream may be seen undermining banks from which are sticking out granite blocks which had been originally carried onwards from the great. granitic boss by the drifting currents and diluvial waves of the boulder period along the south-eastern side of Barrule, and lodged in the various depressions on the mountain', side.
Let us look up the country. There, just over the stream and the gravel terrace beyond, peeps up the modest parish kirk, with its white-washed walls and ancient bell turret. A painted eastern window has recently been inserted, which casts a hallowed light within the church; and the antique granite font which for some time had outside of it been catching the rain-water gathered from its roof, has been restored to the inside of the building and occupies its proper place near the south door.
The name of the kirk and parish (Malew) is evidently a corruption of the name of the patron, St. Lupus, in honour of whom the kirk was dedicated. The interior walls of the church are largely occupied by monumental tablets, the oldest of which bears the date 1578.
To the westward of the kirk rises Skybright, a rounded hill of the boulder formation. On its top is perched a solitary erratic block. of white quartz. Report says that once there was a circle there, and we may therefore regard it as the one last memorial of the earliest burying-ground existing at this place. There seems a melancholy pleasure in mingling our dust with that of our ancestors. It is another and a hallowed form of the spirit of patriotism which lingers in solemn reverence about the spot where our fathers worshiped when alive and are resting in death. Thus we find the kirk-yard of Malew, with its chiselled and dated gravestones, in close contact with the more ancient circle on Skybright; and thus too we find the present church of St. Mary at Castletown near the site of the ancient temple of Jupiter Augustus 22.
Beyond Skybright we have Ballown resting in a wooded hollow, and thence a fine slope rises upwards towards Irey-na-Lhaa and South Barrule. Directly in front the clear stream comes purling down the valley through which we have just passed. Looking up it in the far distance is Greebah, like in shape to a decapitated pyramid. Its nakedness is relieved by the denser foliage of the trees which cluster around the old abbey and the grounds of Ballasalla House; and there is a mistiness about it, partly arising from the distance and partly from the smoke of the village of Ballasalla, which lies hid down in the hollow. The flax-mill forms a picturesque object in the nearer landscape, and we just hear its monotonous sound floating down to us upon the streamlet and the breeze. The discharged water from the wheel, as it rushes from the conduit into the Silverburn below, raises many a bright bursting bubble to the surface, and attracts around its embouchere a shoal of sportive trout. A hawthorn hedge at one point borders the stream; and the opposite bank is fresh with mosses and blooms with furze, not altogether, as Goldsmith says, unprofitably gay, for the cattle browse upon the tender shoots, and in some seasons of the year the branches are bruised by the mountain farmers and mixed with the other provender. And here close at hand is the study for the geologist 23.
The Creggins Hill in front is of an oblate hemispheroidal shape, and rises to the height of 130 feet above the high-water sea-level. To the north of it is a lower hill of similar shape and character, and the major axis (so to speak) of each of them runs nearly magnetic east and west, in a direction towards which all the currents in this neighbourhood tend. A flat terrace of gravel fringes round the base of these hills at a bright of twenty-six feet above high-water mark. Yonder group of trees to the eastward, hard by the high road and the Creggins farm-house, have fixed their roots deep into and luxuriated upon this pebbly platform. But the steps on which we are seated are on the level of a still lower platform of fine alluvial sandy loam, upon which the river in its meanderings has made great inroads, and deposited in its stead a considerable quantity of montane detritus, boulders, gravel and sand. In the corner of the field on our right, on the opposite side of the road from the cottage, is a patch of turfy ground, from underneath which, in a whitish marl, have been turned up some remains of Cervus megaceros. The drift-gravel directly before us is worn into cavities, presenting all the appearance of a low sea cliff exposed to the action of breakers. Its height above the stream, which at one point is wearing it away, is sixteen feet. If we were to follow the stream downwards towards Castletown Harbour, we might find, in the harbour itself below the level of high-water, trunks of trees, chiefly hazel, which seem to have grown on the spot, with leaves and nuts; and this, as we shall see hereafter, is not the only locality in this southern area where we meet with partially submerged forests.
The explanation of these phaenomena, the physical history of the country to be read from these hieroglyphics, seems to be this. The rounded hills of the newer boulder formation, presenting all the characteristics of those which the Swedish naturalists have described under the term osar and trainées, having been partially raised above the sealevel suffered considerable denudation, and contributed largely towards the materials of the drift-gravel platform, which was then the sea-bottom. This sea-bottom was afterwards raised, whether by slow degrees or suddenly we have hardly at present sufficient evidence to determine, though it is not altogether improbable that it took place at intervals during which the drift-gravel platform was greatly eroded and several depressions in it scooped out, in which freshwater lakes afterwards existed. This elevated drift platform connected the island with the surrounding countries, and was the means of the immigration into it of various tribes of animals and the introduction of several new species of plants.
Afterwards forest-trees sprang up, and a rich vegetation clothed the surface. Another depression took place, and the sea regained in part its former area and overthrew and buried the forests.
There has subsequently been a partial re-emergence.
I am more inclined to this view of the position of the half-submerged forests than to that which would attribute it to a submergence going forward at the present period.
1 Lucian's Dialogues, [greek]
2 This lower area, as will be shown, is cut up with dykes of trap rock, the irruption of which seems to have contributed to the minor features of the country. See page 39, supra.
3 See Map of the Isle of Man in 1595, Plate IV.
4 It is also given in Chaloner's History, 1656.
5 Particularly " Ortlhis Sharpei."
6 "Macmarus, a person of great prudence, moderation and justice, in the year 1098 laid the first foundation of the Abby of Rushen in the town Ballasalley ; these monks lived by their labour with great mortification; wore neither shoes, furs, nor linnen, eat no flesh except on journeys. It consisted of twelve monks and an abbot, of whom the first was called Conanus. I find the Cistercian order to have its first beginning this very year, though probably they were not planted here till six-and-thirty years after by Evan, Abbot of Furness.-Wm. Sacheverell's Account of the Isle of Man, published in 1702, page 33,
7 Note D, Appendix. The Act of Settlement.
8 Hence our English title "Earl."
9 Or St. Patrick's Isle.
10 Sacheverell says, "The women of the south side came with so much resolution to the assistance of their husbands, that they not only restored the battle, but as a reward of their virtue and bravery, to this clay they enjoy half their husbands' estates during their widowhood, whereas the northern women have but a third."-Account, page 34.
11 MCXXXIV. " Fundata est Abbatid Stae. Mariae de Caldra. Eodem anno Olavus Rex dedit Yvoni Abbati de I' urnes partem terse suae in Mannia ad Abbatiam constituendam in loco qvi vocatur Russin, dcditque Eeclesiis ixrsularum terras et liberties."-Antiquitates Celto-le ormanniew, page 13, printed at Copenhagen, 1786, from the original manuscript in the British Museum.
12 Isle of Mann and Diocese of Sodor and Mann, p. 328.
13 Life of Bishop Wilson by Crutwell, 8vo. vol. i, p. 177.
14 The £525 per aumun received out of the tithe by the British Government goes into the surplus revenue, The inhabitants claim that the surplus should be spent in the island upon improvements, and with seeming justice. Surely the church has an annual claim upon that surplus fund to the extent of £525 for the augmentation of the number of her clergy, their training, and the general purposes of church education.-See Appendix, Note 1:.
15 Chronicon Manniae, p. 44.
16 Ibid. p. 32.
17 See Appendix, Note F.
18 Ibid. p. 34.
19 Magnus III., son of Olave Godredson, was chosen king by universal consent of the people in 1252, confirmed in Norway in 125.4, and by Henry 111. of England in 1256. He assisted Richard, Bishop of the Isles, the next year, 1257, at the consecration of the Abbey Church of St, 'Mary of Rushen, which had been begun 130 years before, He was the ninth and last of the race of Goddard Crovan, and left no child.
20 We have given a view of this beautiful relic of the mediaeval times.
21 See " View of the Creggins Hill from the Silverburn."
22 In the grounds of Lorn House is a Roman altar, said to have been originally removed to Castle Rusben by Bishop Wilson, when he laid the foundation-stone of St. Mary's Chapel in 1698. [JGC is mistaken here as the altar was moved to Island from Cumbria - see letters of Phillip Moore]
23 See "View of Creggins Hill from the Silverburn," and Plate VI. section 1.
| Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley, 2009