[From Isle of Man, Cumming 1848]
Bishop's Court.-The Grounds.-The Chapel.- Orry's Head.-Probable continuation of limestone series in the north of the Island. -Formation of the Curragh.-Ballaugh.-Jurby.-Megaceros marl-pits.-Use of marl.-Overthrown ancient forests.-Ancient lakes.-Legend of Mirescogh.-Sulby Glen.-Snaefell.-The Bride Hills.-Admiral Thurot.-The Ayre.-Point Cranstal.Grand development of Boulder series.-Ramsey.-Ballure Glen. -Sky Hill.-Port-le-Voillen.-Kirk Maughold.-The Holy Well. -Vision of Gil Colum.-The Dhoon granite.-Laxey.-Ony's Cairn.-Cloven Stones.-Return to Douglas.
THE demesne of Bishop's Court consists of (very nearly) one square mile of glebe. There is a peculiar charm about it in the contrast of its richly wooded glen with the openness of the surrounding country, and the magnificent pile of mountain which rises up from it in one continuous verdant slope towards the east. There is a repose upon the spot which specially suits its character as the residence of a Christian Bishop1.
The palace itself is in perfect keeping; Bishop Wilson's description still holding good, in which he speaks of it as " a good house and chapel (if not stately, yet convenient enough), large gardens and pleasant walks, sheltered with groves of fruit and forest trees." When he came to it he beheld it sadly fallen to ruin 2, the bishopric having been vacant five years; but with his characteristic energy, he immediately commenced a substantial restoration; and though very valuable improvements have since been made, the substance of the present building may still be considered his. In the. grounds, the avenue of elm-trees (now thickly hung with ivy), which closes in the northern extremity of the lawn, is always pointed out as the planting of the earlier days of his episcopate, and a favourite promenade in the later2. Here, walking one cold damp day, after evening prayers, in the ninety-third year of his life and the fifty-eighth of his consecration, he caught that cold which terminated his earthly labours, and permitted his longing spirit to enter into the rest of that Paradise where he enjoys the blessed society of just men made perfect.
The chief additions and improvements made to the palace and grounds since his day have been under the direction of Bishops Murray and Short. The former rebuilt the chapel, which the latter again refitted. The chair on the north side of the holy table is a relic of Bishop Hildesley, and on convocation-days the chair of the venerable Wilson is brought out and occupied by the Bishop, whilst in conference with his assembled clergy.
The parishes of Kirk Michael and Ballaugh each of them claim a share in Bishop's Court, as the streamlet which winds down the glen in which it is situated forms the boundary between the two. Following this streamlet upwards towards the mountain; we catch through the trees here and there lovely glimpses of the country far and near, the Scotch and Irish coasts ever on a clear day presenting their faint blue outline on the extreme verge of the horizon.
Downwards the stream leads into Orry's Dale and towards Orry's Head. Where the former begins to open out to the sea, we fall in with a limekiln ; where is the limestone? The boulders of limestone have been found in sufficient quantities along the shore to make it worth while to collect them for this purpose, owing to the difficulty and expense of conveying lime from the southern to the northern portions of the island. Whence have these boulders come ? They tumble out of the boulder-clay which is developed very finely along the entire coast, from Kirk Michael to Jurby Point, in the cliffs rising from 50 to 150 feet above the level of the sea.
The rake of the tide sweeping powerfully down the Irish Channel falling upon this coast, composed as it is of loose materials of sand, loam and boulders, pulls down continually vast masses from the cliffs, and bears away the finer portions as its spoil. The boulders left behind are chiefly granites, syenites and porphyries, quartz-rock, clay-slate, old red conglomerate, limestone, and a few chalk-flints. Whether the last, which must have come from the north of Ireland, belong to the boulder formation, or are truly found only in the drift-gravel, I have not yet seen any determinate evidence.
Let us examine the limestone boulders. Some of them have a deep reddish tinge, and look like a passage-rock from the old red sandstone into the lower limestone; the contained fossils are chiefly corals, madrepores and tubiporites ; others again are comparable to the dark limestone of the south of the Isle of Man in lithological character and organisms, and we fall in also with some containing the characteristic fossils of the upper or Poolvash limestone.Now as we have at Peel very plainly the Old Red series of considerable thickness dipping down into the sea westward and north-westward, it is very reasonable to conclude that the basset edge, both of it and of the different beds of the superior limestone, curves round to the northwards, and passes under the northern area of the Isle of Man; so that it would be by no means a rash speculation at various points in the northern parishes, at the distance of from three to four miles from the mountains, to bore through the pleistocene series with the expectation of falling in with the much-sought-after, and in this neighbourhood specially valuable, limestone. To make such an excavation would evidently not be money altogether thrown away (as in all attempts to find coal in the south and centre of the island), for the excavated materials, all the way down to whatever rock we might happen to come to, being the very marl which is so largely used upon the sandy lands of the north, would evidently pay a large portion of the expense of the trial. The subjacent rock might be expected in some places, such as along the northern edge of the Curragh, at from 60 to 100 feet below the surface; it might even be less than this3.
Whilst it is evident that we must look to the south of Scotland as the chief origin of the granites, porphyries and syenites which we meet with in the boulder-clay of the north of the Isle of Man, it is not altogether improbable that the limestone, old red sandstone and schist boulders may some of them have a more local derivation. Under the impression that the coal beds which dip down into the sea at Whitehaven, and are wrought to some distance under it, come up again between that coast and the north of the Isle of Man, I have often sought for some fragments of the coal-measures amongst these boulders, but hitherto without success.
From the mouth of Orry's Dale a fine range of sandhills sweeps round to Ballaugh, and in passing along them we gradually bring within sight the entire expanse of the northern plain country, constituting an area of fifty square miles. It is a scene which may perhaps remind us of some portions of Norfolk, where we meet with the next greatest development of the pleistocene series in the British Isles south of the Clyde.
At our feet lies the straggling village of Ballaugh, one moiety of which clusters round the old church near the sea-shore; the other seems to have drawn upwards and inland towards the high road which bends round the base of the mountains, and has a new church erected for greater convenience of access.
That lovely valley south of the village, down which the river comes rippling, is Ravensdale, and contains within itself some exquisite wild scenery; at its head there is a fine pass over the mountains into Druidale and the south of the island.
Ballaugh clearly stands on the platform of drift-gravel. If we look out northward and eastward, the eye roams over a low swampy country, the fen-district of the island, of which the local name is the Curragh. It occupies, as we may see, a depression in the drift-gravel several miles in extent, the further bank extending in a curved line from near Jurby Church towards Andreas. We may compare it to a great inland lake fringed round with gravel-banks. Such in fact at one time it was, but the lake has been gradually drained and filled up with montane alluvial deposits5, and layer after layer of turf has accumulated in the damp hollows, sometimes to the depth of thirty feet, and reduced the whole to one level surface, which by burning and topdressing with the marl 6 of the neighbourhood has at length been brought to bear the plough and to yield a good return for the expended capital.
Jurby Church stands out a very conspicuous object on the higher ground near the headland. The name is evidently Norwegian, the more ancient appellation being St. Patrick's Isle: and insular at one time the parish certainly was, the sea sweeping round it westward and northward, and the Curragh with its out-flowing waters to the eastward and southward. There is a tradition that all the waters of the river Sulby, which now taking an easterly course from the mouth of the glen, flow into the sea at Ramsey, formerly found their outlet on the northern side of the island by the Lhen-Mooar. It is easily seen that a very little labour would, if it were necessary, turn the river down that way again.
St. Jude's Church, in the parish of Andreas, is a marked object in the very centre of this great plane area. It stands on an outlier of the drift-gravel, a kind of spur thrown out westward from the Andreas bank into the midst of the lake. The parish church of Andreas is not so readily distinguished through the want of a tower or spire. St. Bride's Church is altogether out of sight, as it lies on the other side of that low rounded chain of hills stretching out from Blue Head to Point Cranstal.
A very great relief to the sameness of scenery throughout the wide-spreading flat area of the north of the island is afforded by several luxuriant patches of trees, which are aggregated at suitable intervals around the better sort of farm-houses, which occupy prominent points around the margin of the Curragh. The woods also stretch up the mountain valleys, and clothe the north-eastern face of the mountains themselves, and thus give a varied richness to the landscape, especially as viewed from the northern side of the Curragh in the neighbourhood of East Nappin and thence along the road to Kirk Andreas. Ballaugh is peculiarly interesting to the geologist as the locality where the first tolerably perfect specimen of the Great Irish Elk was disovered. At a farm known by the name of Balla Terson to the eastward of the new church, and about a mile from the foot of the mountains, are two oval depressions in the drift-gravel platform8; they are on either side of a by-road which leads down from the great northern high road to the sea-shore. It was in the more westerly of the two that the celebrated fossilt was discovered. Mr. Oswald of Douglas 9 has well pointed out both the character of this basin and the circumstances under which the Elk was found. It is a small turf-bog about a hundred yards long by fifty wide, occupied in the central part by a pool varying in size according to the moisture of the season, in which aquatic plants luxuriate. The superficial stratum is a light and fibrous peat of good quality, enveloping some fragments of bog-timber. The thickness of the peat in the centre of this basin is six feet, but it thins out considerably towards the margin. Under the peat is a bed of fine bluish-white earthy sand from two to three feet in thickness. This rests upon a deposit of white marl containing delineations of shells. The marl is of a fibrous laminar structure, and when dry as white as chalk ; the shells are delineated white upon a somewhat darker ground, and are discovered by separating the layers, but are seldom if ever found in their original state. In this marl a great quantity of bones of the Elk were found at the first opening of the pit, occurring at various depths in the marl, but the deeper they were found the more fresh and perfect did they appear, and near the bottom complete heads were found.
The skeleton which was presented by the Duke of Athol to the Museum of the University of Edinburgh, was found quite at the bottom of the marl where the bed was about twelve feet thick. The different bones, though partly connected, were in much disorder. An ingenious blacksmith of the village possessed himself of the skeleton, and in putting it together according to his own ideas of what the animal was, found himself short of a few bones, which he supplied from the relics of other animals, and it was some time before the fraud was discovered.
This shell-marl would appear to rest on the boulder formation, according to the description given by the workmen. When they pierced it, water immediately sprung up and inundated the pit. It is worth while to notice that the peat and timber are confined to the surface of the basin, and that in them no remains of the Elk were found, and this has been universally the case in the Isle of Man. Under the portion of the Ballaugh Curragh which stretches down towards Ballamona, and pours forth its accumulated waters by the Carlaane drain into the sea, similar basins to these have been discovered10 containing the remains of the Elk, but they are all below the great turf-bogs in which we meet with trunks of trees both upright and prostrate 11.
There is no doubt that great changes have taken place throughout this northern area, even within the period which has been called historical. The old map of the Isle of Man performed by Thomas Durham, as given by Speed, Camden, Chaloner, and in Bleau's Atlas, exhibits ancient lakes both in the south and north of the island12. There was the Malar lough in Lezayre, a lough in Andreas parish, and Bala lough, the corruption of which has given the. present name of the village in its vicinity-Ballaugh 13.
The great lake of Myreshaw or Mirescogh seems to have occupied at one time a large portion of the Curragh 14 near the base of the mountains, and so late as 1505 we read of a grant of one half of the fishery of it to Huan Hesketh, Bishop of Man, by Thomas Earl of Derby. The names of several estates in this neighbourhood (such for instance as Ellan Vane, White Island) point to their original condition, as well as the nature of some of the holdings, which show that even since the Act of Settlement, there has been a large territory once occupied by water reclaimed to the purposes of husbandry.
The mention of the lake Mirescogh reminds us of a strange legend detailed by the venerable Chroniclers of Rushen Abbey, which at any rate adds another link to the chain of evidence which we have of the great change which has here taken place in the appearance of the country.
In an old document at the end of the 'Chronicon Manniae,' tracing out the boundary of the church-lands, we find mention made of three islands in the lake Myreshaw15. One of these islands seems to have been occupied as a state prison, and was once, as the good old monks tell us, the scene of a notable miracle wrought by the intercession of St. Mary of Rushen.
One Donald, a veteran chieftain, a particular friend of Harald Olaveson, flying the persecution raised by Harald Godredson, took sanctuary with his infant child in St. Mary's monastery at Rushen. He was however induced to come forth under faith of a promise from the king of perfect safety. Within a short space however the king, violating his sacred engagement, ordered Donald to be seized and conveyed to the state prison in one of the islands in Mirescogh. In his distress Donald prayed earnestly to the Lord to deliver him through the intercession of the blessed Virgin, from whose monastery he had been so insidiously betrayed. The divine interposition was not withheld. One day as he was sitting in his chamber guarded only by two sentinels, the fetters dropped from his ankles and he found himself free. He made the best of his way to the abbey of Rusben, which he reached on the third day, where he put up thanksgivings to God and the most merciful Mother for the deliverance. This declaration, adds the chronicler, we have recorded from the man's own mouth. The date of the miracle is 1249 16.
In proceeding inland eastward from the sea-coast, we descend to a lower level from hills of the boulder clay formation covered with beds of blown sand, to the terrace of drift-gravel which fringes the great plain of the Curragh. The high road from Ballaugh to Ramsey runs for a considerable distance upon this fringing bank, and forms a drive hardly anywhere to be surpassed in loveliness. A close planting of ash and elm on either side of it presents an avenue for several miles in length, through the breaks in which we catch sight of strongly contrasted scenery on the right-hand and on the left. On the right we have a sudden and abrupt termination of the mountain-chain, which sinks down almost at once from its greatest altitude to the level of the gravel terrace. The descending gorges, which open out with a more gentle slope towards the plain, are well clothed withwood, and have been happily seized upon as sites for a series of beautiful villas along the whole of the way to Ramsey. On the left-hand a fine champaign country opens out to a distance of three or four miles, bounded by the line of low rounded hills which stretch from Blue Head to Point Cranstal. We catch sight of the different homesteads of the farms which are scattered throughout it, whose whitened walls and wreathing columns of smoke are just distinguished amidst the clump of trees surrounding each of them; and around in the more open lands the flocks and herds occupy the reclaimed Curraghs, which afford rich pasturages alternating with arable land.
But if there be one point which more than any other will attract the attention of even the most ordinary admirer of scenery, it will assuredly be Sulby glen. The stream which waters it, and is the largest in the island, is thrown off the north-western side of Snaefell, and pouring down Glion-Mooar, spreads itself out on the alluvial plain, and after a course of eight miles falls into the sea at Ramsey. It is throughout a beautiful trout-stream, and in no small repute with our first-rate anglers.
A fine view of the country may be obtained just at the entrance to the glen from the Curragh, by following a winding road to the right-hand from the cloth mill up the side of the hill for a short distance till we reach a stone quarry17. At the extreme left, looking over the Curragh, is Jurby church standing on an eminence which forms the extreme north-western point of the island; beyond we have a fine view of the sea backed by the Mull of Galloway and the Scotch mountains to the north. Looking directly north we may track the course of the Lhen-Mooar, which was once the outlet of the Sulby river, a gap in the drift-gravel near Blue Head admitting the passage of the waters in that direction. The churches of St. Jude and Andreas lie a little to the right of a line hence to Blue Head, whence we mark the undulating ridge stretching out eastward towards Kirk Bride and Point Cranstal. This chain of hills evidently formed at one time a line of sand-banks in the pleistoeene sea parallel to the then northern coast of the Isle of Man; and at a distance of four miles from it the Sulby stream, which winds at our feet and sets in motion yonder wheel, is richly clothed with wood, from the midst of which, at a point where the waters begin to flow eastward, the Sulby school-house with its pointed windows and pànnacled walls peeps forth18. To the right Cronck-y-Shammock (the Hill of Primroses) bounds the view, shutting out the neighbourhood of Ramsey. It is a singular fantastic pile of rock standing out at the mouth of the glen, a giant sentinel guarding the pass to the south, and keeping watch and ward over the inhabitants of the great northern plain of the island.
The road up Sulby glen affords the best access of any to the summit of Snaefell (the Snow Mountain), and the ascent may be accomplished in this direction with extreme facility, even in a vehicle, to within a short distance of the top. It may be approached also by the road through Glen Aldyn (the vale of Aldyn or Aydun 19), which is nearer to Ramsey, and equally picturesque with Sulby Glen, as well as from Injebreck and Laxey, though the morasses on the southern side render it necessary for strangers to use some caution in ascending by the latter routes.
At Sulby bridge is a good road running direct north to the parishes of Andreas and Bride, and passing the Craig and St. Jude's church, and the old earthen fort of BallaChurry, which is extremely well worthy of a visit20. In this direction the geologist will get an excellent insight into the structure of the northern area. The different patches of Curragh still remaining, and their relation to the driftgravel, which has been excavated in many places and sifted for road materials, come very readily under his observation.
Let us take the road on through Andreas which leads to the Bride Hills. We pass Braust on our way, formerly the residence of Archdeacon Mylrea., and further on Thurôt Cottage, which seems to have been so christened in memory of the gallant French Commodore who fell in a naval engagement off the northern coast of the Isle of Man.
The name of Thurôt about the middle of last century filled with apprehension the inhabitants of the sea ports of Great Britain. A native of Dunkirk, at the age of fifteen he joined the adventures of an Irish smuggler and became a successful contrabaadist between the shores of the two Monas, running spirits from Man to Anglesey, and afterwards did business on a larger and more daring scale from the shore of his native country. By his exploits as a privateer in the war which broke out between England and France in 1755, he gained the command of a frigate and afterwards (in 1759) of a squadron of five ships, with which he made descents upon the coast of Ireland and plundered Carrickfergus. Captain Elliot, hearing of his exploits, set sail in quest of him with three frigates, and on rounding the Mull of Galloway on the 28th of February 1760, he discovered the French Commodore at anchor with three vessels near the entrance of Luce Bay21. He attempted to embay him, which Thurôt perceiving stood out to sea towards the Isle of Man, the scene of his earliest adventures, but was soon overtaken by the English squadron, and a sharp action ensued. The carnage on the side of the French was very great in consequence of the crowded state of their vessels, and Thurôt himself fell by a grapeshot as be was cheering on his men to renew the fight. He was thrown overboard by his own men, but was afterwards cast ashore near the Mull of Galloway, and buried in the grave-yard of Kirkmaiden. The bowsprit of the Belleisle, two yards in circumference, which was struck off in the action, came ashore near Bishop's Court; and in commemoration of the action and as a trophy of victory, Bishop Hildesley caused it to be erected on a mount which he named Mount Æolus, a little above the garden of his episcopal residence.
The rounded form of the hills of Kirk Bride has before been alluded to. They seem to have formed a sand-bank in the pleistocene sea at the distance of about four miles from the coast, and to have been subject to the action of conflicting currents. It is most interesting to compare them with the rounded chain of low hills in the south of the island of the same age, as well as with the conformation of the Bahama Rig22 and King William's Bank, Whitestone's Bank, and Point of Ayre Bank of the present day.
The view from these hills is highly picturesque in every direction. Looking southward, we have the fine expanse of the Curragh contrasted against the towering masses of the great insular chain. The splendid bay of Ramsey, with its richly wood-clad environs, the heights of Ballure, Skyhill and Claughbane, stretches out south-eastward and is shut in by the serrated precipices about Maughold Head. The Cumberland mountains, at a distance of between forty and fifty miles, present their majestic outline in the far east. We look up the Frith of Forth, but the shores are too low to allow the eye to rest upon any particular feature of them. It is not till we have traced round somewhat northward that we begin to catch sight of the Scottish giants, and then the granitic range from Criffell toward Kircudbright is set before us. Burrow Head, at the distance of hardly more than seventeen miles, appears but as the further bank of a wide river. We get a fine peep into Luce Bay, which retreats some fifteen miles inland, and is sheltered on its western margin by the Silurian ridge which forms the Mull of Galloway.
Immediately at our feet northward we have the Ayre spreading out to an extent of 2400 acres, forming an extremely low coast-line raised but a very few feet above the present sea-level. It is very plainly the newest raised beach of the island, at present an almost barren waste of sand and gravel belonging to the Crown, in which a few miserable gorse bushes drag out an impoverished existence, whilst rabbits, snipe and wild duck abound.
The light-house on the Point of Ayre, which was at first close upon high-water mark, has now a good piece of bank extending between it and the salt water. The height of the tower is 106 feet; and it is furnished with two revolving lights, sending forth alternately every two minutes a red and yellow pencil of rays athwart the green waves.
An extension eastward of the Bride Hills terminates in Point Cranstal. We see in the old map of the island that there was once a village in this neighbourhood on the low ground of the Ayre near the little lake Balla Mooar, to which the name of Cranston pertained; it seems to have gone to ruin, but is interesting as indicating the antiquity of the last raised beach, or at any rate the very slow rising of the land. The old town of Douglas, as was before noticed, stands on a similar level on a raised beach of the same age.
Point Cranstal itself is in the same old map denominated " Shellack poynt." It is well-worthy of study as presenting the finest development of the boulder series anywhere to be met with in this island, or perhaps in the British Isles. A grand cliff of clay, sand, gravel and boulders, rises to the height of 200 feet above the sea-level. It is in every stage of disintegration and decay, seamed in a thousand places by the little gills which burst out between the beds of gravel and clay, or pour down after every heavy rain from the corn-fields, which reach to the very edge of the precipice. The formation of sonorous concretionary masses, having the appearance of stalagmites and stalactites at the base of the cliffs of the boulder series, has been noticed before at the locality of Strandhall in the south of the island, and its origin explained23. We might have noticed the same at many places on the Ballaugh and Jurby coasts, but nowhere have we such fine instances as at Point Cranstal. Here they are piled one upon the other in most fantastic shapes at the base of every gully, and even high up in the cliff, wherever there has been a break and resting place where the mud-charged and calcareous waters which have trickled over some upper beds of the boulder-clay series could find a lodgement.
The great mass of clay, presenting not the least appearance of stratification, lies at the base of the cliff. We meet here and there with great cavities in it filled with fine sand; and it is in these cavities, generally speaking, that the more perfect fossils are found; but they are in such a friable state that they will hardly bear removal. The stronger-framed fossils are generally met with in the clay, such as Fusus antiquus and Cyprina islandica ; but a fragmentary condition is the most frequent with all of them, as if the sea-bottom of the time of their deposit had been exposed to the rolling action of great waves or the ploughing action of icebergs24.
The upper portion of the pleistocene beds at Point Cranstal consists of rudely stratified gravels and sands, with occasionally interposed bands of marl. Throughout the entire mass of the cliff, boulders of granite, syenite, porphyry, quartz, red conglomerate and red limestone are dispersed, but they appear to increase in size upwards, and sometimes attain to the weight of several tons. Similar blocks are scattered on the surface all over this northern area, especially on the tops and sides of the low hills; and I have little doubt that all those stones of which the circles which surround the ancient tumuli in this country are formed, are of this character, and were found within a very short distance of the spot on which they now are placed.
There is a fine beach extending all the way from Point Cranstal to Ramsey, a distance of four miles; the cliffs of pleistocene marl, sand and gravel, gradually sink in height; and from the Dog-mills southward, as far as the Sulby river, at the embouchure of which the town stands, they are hardly more than fifty feet high. South of the town we again find the same beach and cliff for about half a mile, and then a hundred yards beyond the mouth of Ballure glen, the streamlet from which has cut its way tbrough these drift-beds, we see the whole pleistocene series driven up against the old schist rocks of the island, which have here a direct northerly dip.
Let us ramble up the Ballure glen, which for quiet beauty has not its equal on the island. Dark deep green woods throw their mantle over a rugged ravine, which extends for two or three miles up into the wilds of North Barrule. A bright clear stream comes tumbling down from crag to crag, and sprinkles a dewy freshness upon the mosses and creeping thyme and hanging ivy which grace its border. A bridge of a single span cah~ries the high road from Ramsey to Laxey across it at a point where the jagged schists have just opened to let the streamlet tremble and struggle through. Let us mount higher still, and follow a green grassy path which strikes upwards on our right-hand, and zigzags amongst the plantations which crown the height immediately overlooking the town of Ramsey. We emerge at length on a fine terrace stretching towards Clabane and Skyhill25, and a splendid panorama is opened before us. The metropolis of the north lies at our feet. It is a busy, active town; the mountainous district which separates it from Douglas, and makes the communication tedious, has forced it into a sort of self-dependence ; so that whilst Castletown has barely trebled itself in the last hundred years, Ramsey has much more than quadrupled in the same time. Its chief foreign dependence is on Glasgow rather than Liverpool, the steamers from the former place southwards touching at Ramsey, wind and weather permitting, and keeping up a friendly communication with the manufacturing metropolis of Scotland. The ruined church which we see above the town on the terrace of the northern drift, beautifully embayed in the woods, was erected not a hundred years ago, and consecrated by Bishop Wilson himself when in the ninety-third year of his life. The church now in use (St. Paul's) stands in the centre of the town, and was built by subscription in 1819. Hard by it is the Court-house, where the northern Deemster holds his courts. A substantial bridge of three arches, and 180 feet long, spans the Sulby river a little westward of the town, and makes a communication with the northern parishes of Andreas and Bride.
The spot on which we are standing is pointed out with a feeling of pride by the people of Ramsey as that from which the royal consort of our beloved Queen took a survey of the outspread landscape on the morning of the 20th September of the last year, when her Majesty gladdened the hearts of her loyal Manx subjects by a second visit to the shore of Old Mona on her way from Scotland. His Royal Highness greatly commended the fair scene, and the spot whence he surveyed it has ever since borne his name, and is marked with a memorial pile.
Let us journey again southwards, taking the eastern coast as our route. When we have passed Ballure glen about a quarter of a mile, the southern road divides into two, one of which continues to mount upwards along the eastern face of North Barrule, the other on the left-hand sinks down again to Port Lewaigue26, and so on to Maughold Head.,
Port Lewaigue is a sweet retired nook, and might easily be made into a sinall dry harbour, conveniently auxiliary to Ramsey. A small spur has run out from the schists in a north-easterly direction for about 500 yards, and forms a natural breakwater on the eastern side of the little creek; if it were continued in a northerly direction for about 200 yards further, the harbour would be sheltered from every gale. This spur is very low, sufficiently so to be capped by the northern drift, which has also found à restingplace in the recess of the bay, and stretches a little distance inland27.
On a bank by the road-side on the left-hand, as we pass onwards towards Maughold, we fall in with a Runic monument of freestone, its height 5 feet and its width 2 feet 8 inches. Its location is singular, and would raise a suspicion that there has once been one of the quarterland oratories in this neighbourhood. The entire parish of Maughold seems at one time to have been invested with a somewhat higher sanctity than the other parishes of the isle; the church has more tokens of architectural care and embellishment; the churchyard 28 is much larger than any other, and the Runic and other ancient monuments are more abundant 29.
The shrine of St. Machutus, Machaldus, Macfield, Maehilla, Magharde, or Maughold, as he is variously styled, who was buried here, was held in great repute down to the period of the Reformation ; and here we find a sanctuary was established in very early times. The legend of him is, that originally having been captain of a band of Kerns, or Irish freebooters, he was converted to the Christian faith by the great apostle of Ireland, St. Patrick. Desirous of withdrawing from the scenes of his former lawlessness, he is said to have embarked in a frail boat made of wickerwork and covered with hides, and committing himself to the guidance of the Almighty, he was driven by the winds and tides, and at length cast ashore on the Isle of Man at the headland which still bears his name. The severity of " religious discipline to which he subsequently subjected himself spread his fame for sanctity far and wide; and Manx tradition records that St. Bridget 30, the famous nun, came hither to receive the veil of perpetual virginity from his hands, and that on the death of Romulus he was by universal consent elected to the bishopric of the Isle. To him, as before has been mentioned, we owe the present division of the isle into seventeen parishes.
On the north-eastern side of that magnificent headland which forms the southern limit of Ramsey bay, is a little spring bursting out from the chinks of the uptilted and twisted gray schists. Immediately above rises the pile of rock, which fetching up with a fine sweep from the valley extending between Port-le-Voillen and Port Mooar, sinks down again precipitously nearly 500 31 feet into the salt water. Veins of ironstone 32 and masses of quartz rock interposed in the schists, give a variegated appearance to the north-eastern angle of the precipice, with red and white streaks upon a gray ground. Round about the spring a soft green sward clothés a few roods of ground, and for a few yards, where it trickles in its overflowings adown the face of the steep, a crop of rushes luxuriates. Where the spring gushes forth the rock has been hollowed into a small basin, and over it has been erected a simple, shed of rough unhewn blocks of the rock immediately at hand. Hither the Saint is said to have resorted; nor is it altogether improbable that nearly fourteen hundred years ago at this very font he administered the baptismal rite. Certainly it was for many ages in great repute for its medicinal properties, and was resorted to on account of its sanctity by crowds of pilgrims from all parts. Nor is it yet forgotten. The first Sunday in the month of August calls forth the neighbourhood to their annual visit to the well, and bottles of the water are there and then procured, carried away to the homes of each, and preserved for any emergency with scrupulous care.
The peculiar sanctity of the church of St. Maughold and its immediate precincts has just been alluded to. There is a legend detailed in the' Chronicles of Man,' which, whilst it serves to bear out this remark, is such an amusing instance of the honest credulity of the Rushen Cistercians, that it seems worth while to give it almost in extenso.
Somerled Jarl of Argyle had taken up arms against Godred Olaveson. A sea-battle was fought between them on the eve of the Epiphany (1156), with such doubtful success to either, that the next morning they came to a compromise to divide between them the sovereignty of the Isles. Under this compromise Somerled acquired all the Isles, excepting Man, south of the point of Ardnamurchan. From that period the sovereignty of the Isles ceased to be vested in one single person.
In the year 1158 Somerled again with a fleet of fifty-three ships came to Man, where encountering Godred, he defeated that prince, who then fled to the court of Norway to crave assistance.
On the approach of Somerled to the Isle the second time, the Manx people conveyed their money and valuables to the sanctuary of St. Maughold's Church, in hopes, says the Chronicler, that the veneration duc to St. Machutus, added to the sanctity of the place, would secure every thing within its precincts. After the battle, in which he was victorious, the fleet of Somerled lay at Ramsey, and one of his captains, Gil Colum, made a proposal to surprise the church of St. Maughold, and at least drive off the cattle which were feeding around the churchyard. With much reluctance Somerled consented, pronouncing at the same time these words; " Let the affair rest between thee and St. Machutus ; let mc and my troops be innocent; we claim no share in thy sacrilegious booty." Gil Colum laid his plans accordingly, arranging with his three sons to effect the surprise at daybreak of the following morning; but as he lay asleep in his tent at dead of night, St. Machutus appeared to him arrayed in white linen and holding a pastoral staff in his hand, with which he thrice struck him in the heart. Awaking in great terror of mind, he sent for the priests of the church to receive his confession, but they had no words of comfort for the dying wretch. One of them even proceeded to pray that St. Machutus would never withdraw his hand till he had made an end of the impious man, and immediately he was attacked by a swarm of filthy, monstrous flies, and about six in the morning expired in great misery and torture. Somerled and his whole host were struck with such dismay upon the death of this man, that as soon as the tide floated their ships they weighed anchor, and with precipitancy returned home.
The road leading from Maughold to Laxey is wild in the extreme. There are however two lovely valleys running down to the sea, the one terminating in Corna Creek, or, as it is sometimes called, Kennay ; the other is that through which the Dhoon river delivers its waters. This river, or rather burn, takes its rise in a granitic boss, which stretches out from the headland between Corna Creek and the mouth of the Dhoon, on an estate known by the name of the Barony, up inland for a mile and a half towards Snaefell. The granite is of a much more compact character than that on South Barrule, approaching more to the condition of a gray syenite, small particles of hornblende being substituted for the flakes of mica which appear in the granite of the southern district of the island. It has not hitherto been worked, but is evidently far more available than the more inland mass on South Barrule, and its character much more durable. It ought at least to be used on the roads of the north-east side of the island, instead of the soft clay schist which is too frequently laid upon them.
In passing down the hill into the Laxey Valley, on the right-hand side, at the turn of the road, is a cairn which it has been asserted is the resting-place of the ancient warrior King Orry, to whom the island is indebted for the institution of the House of Keys. A few years back the owner of the property on which it stands not having the fear of fairy or phynydorree before his eyes, but seeing the stones lying convenient for a fence he was busy on, set to work to remove some of the lesser from the central heap of apparent rubbish in which they were fixed; in doing this he discovered a rude dome-shaped vault, in the centre of which was a kistvaen composed of two large slabs of schist, placed parallel to each other in a direction nearly east and west, but inclining towards each other above, at the extremities of which seem originally to have been placed vertically thin slabs of the same rock which bad been broken. Inside were a few brittle bones and teeth of a horse, and here the search was discontinued. The discovery of the remains of the horse is so rare in barrows which can be determined of the date of the ancient Britons, that in the absence of other evidence it may be safe to attribute this at Laxey to an early period of the possession of the island by the Northmen. This kistvaen is evidently but one of a number collected at the spot, and further careful research would probably be attended with most interesting results.
As we descend the hill a few hundred yards further and before entering the village, the position of a patch of the drift-gravel platform through which the road has been cut should attract notice, as it is one of the few links along the eastern coast which connects the great expanse of that series in the north of the Isle with the gravel, sands and clay of the same age in the south.
Laxey valley and village, Laxi baye and towne, as the old chronicler Speed has it, is sufficiently beautiful to merit a special visit to itself. There is also a bustle about the place caused by the hands employed in the neighbouring mines and the paper-mill, which comes very unexpectedly upon us whether we journey through it northward or southward. So deep in fact is the glen, so precipitous the mountain sides which hedge it in, that were it not for the many wreaths of smoke which come curling up out of this great natural cavity, even within a very short distance, we should hardly suspect that we were near the clustered habitations of men. The ascent of Snaefell may be very well accomplished in this direction, as has before been noticed; and on the road a mile and a half up the valley we pass the entrance to the mines, from which very large and valuable shipments of copper, lead and zinc have been and continue to be effected. The village of Laxey is situated in the parish of Lonan, and by taking the left-hand road which turns up by the school-house near the wooden bridge a mile up the stream, we shall soon reach the old parish church, where there are to be seen two Runic crosses in excellent preservation and well worth study. One of them stands in the church-yard on the south side of the church, the other on a mound between forty and fifty yards from the church on the north side.
We turn again into the Douglas road about a mile from Laxey; and a mile still further brings us to a small circle of twelve stones on the southern side of a little ravine, one of which, six feet high, is remarkable as being cloven from top to bottom, and hence it is presumed that the name cloven-stones which has been given to the spot originated. It has however been conjectured that the word cloven is a corruption of cloven, and this again from Kirk Lovan33 or Loman34, the ancient name of the parish. The tradition of the spot is that a Welsh prince was here slain.in an invasion of the island, and that these stones mark the place of his interment. Mr. Feltham mentions the discovery in the centre of the circle of a stone sepulchral chest or kistvaen ; and in the view which he has given of it as existing at the time of his visit, there is the clear indication of a roved roof of stones forming an arched vault in the centre of the mound.
We pass onward, and the mountains and valleys of the south side of the isle open gradually upon our view. We leave Clay Head on our left-hand, forming the southern limit of Laxey Bay. Here is Growdale, with its quiet sheep walks and gently purling burn. Crossing White Bridge and ascending the opposite slope, Onchan comes into view, with the richly-wooded grounds of Bamahague. We have the choice of two roads into Douglas, both of them affording most happy views of its bay; and though we have looked upon many a fair scene of valley and fell, water and wood, in journeying round the Isle, still does this arrogate to itself in each respect those feelings of entire satisfaction which it awoke when first it was spread before our eyes.
1 For a catalogue of the Bishops of Soeder and Man, see Appendix, P.
2 The date of the original palace is not known, though there is no doubt of its being extremely ancient. It is said to have been a castellated building, and that one part of it had the name Orry'sTower, and was surrounded hy a ditch. We have historical evidence of its having been occupied hy Bishop Simon in 1230.
3 His coffin was made of the wood of one of the elms which he had planted on his arrival upon the island, and which he caused to be cut down and prepared for the purpose a few years before his death.
4 In the year 1839 borings were made for coal at the Craig near St. Jude's church; the following is stated to have been the result five feet sand, twenty-seven feet blue marl, two feet gravel, twentyseven feet blue marl, and then sand. The boring was not proceeded with any deeper.
5 Bishop Wilson mentions the occurrence of a layer of peat three or four feet thick under a bed of gravel, sand and clay of some miles in extent. At one time I thought that he referred to some locality which had been inundated from the sea. I am now inclined to the belief that the gravel, &c. is the result of montane detritus, which has been spread out over the peat hy the change of a river-course or some similar cause.
6 The advantage derived from the marl does not seem to consist in the quantity of lime which it contains, as this is hardly more than six per cent., hut in the consistency which it imparts to the sandy soil. It is singular that it has been so little used in the south of the island, where it is even of hetter quality than in'the north, and where the deficiency of lime can be so easily remedied. When Sacheverell wrote in 1%03, the Manx farmers are stated not to have had the skill or purses to lay it out on their grounds. The marl of the north is of three kinds: the Andreas marl, generally red, and evidently of the boulder-clay formation; the Jurby, which is of a lighter colour with streaks of blue, and containing sometimes vegetable impressions to a great depth; this is probably the deposit of some of the ancient lakes; and the white shell-marl of Ballaugh belonging to the very ancient alluvial basins of the period of the Megaceros or Irish Elk. The preference is given to the two former, especially the first. About 3300 bushels per acre are laid upon light lands, and 2500 on those of stronger quality. The heaps collected in summer lie till winter commences, when the marl is spread and ploughed in. A bushel of marl, unheaped, weighs about l 121bs.-See Quayle's Agriculture of the Isle of Man, p. 93.
7 See Plate VIII., Section from the mountain-range to Jurby Point.
8 Megaceros Hibernicus. See Professor Owen's Report to the British Association, 1843, p. 237; also his British Fossil Mammalia, p. 447. The figure in the ` Ossemens Fossiles,' tom. iv. pl. 8, is taken from an engraving of the Ballaugh skeleton transmitted to Baron Cuvier by Professor Jamieson.
9 See " Observations relative to the Fossil Elk of the Isle of Man, by H. R. Oswald, Esq., F.S.A., Surgeon," in the 3rd vol. of the Edinburgh Journal of Science, 1826, p. 28.
10 See Plate VIII., Section from the mountains to Jurby Point.
11 See the statement of Bishop Wilson, History of the Isle of Man, p. 341 : "Large trees of oak and fir have been found, some two feet and a half in diameter; they do not lie promiscuously, but where there is plenty of one sort there are generally few or none of the other."
12 See Plate IV. In some portions of the drained Curragh have been found stone celts and other relics of more ancient times, such as coracles which were probably sunk in these ancient lakes. I have in my possession a celt of the simplest kind, found under the peat on the edge of the Curragh near East Nappin. In a meadow adjoining Close Mooar, the property of Professor E. Forbes, were found a short time ago a stone axe and sharpening or edge stone a few feet asunder. They lay upon a bed of fine sand, covered over with a stratum about four feet thick of peat trunks of oak-trees, &c., and over the peat was a bed of blue alluvial clay to the depth of three or four feet.
13 Some derive the name from Balla laagh, the place of the mire. There are several Balla loughs in different parts of the island.
14 Sacheverell mentions (p. 3) the draining of the Curragh towards the close of the seventeenth century. It is probable that the discovery of the firs situated eighteen and twenty feet deep in the Curragh, with their roots still firm in the ground, but their heads broken off and lying to the N.E., noted by him (p. 12), was made at the period of this drainage. In my Memoir read before the Geological Society of London, February 4th, 1846, I made mention of the Megaceros marl-pits at Ballaugh as drained at that period, and stated that the white marl of these pits is more recent than the blue marl of Jurby. On a closer examination, I find good reason for concluding that the white marl is more ancient than the deposit of the lakes then drained, and perhaps more ancient than the Jurby marl, though this is apparently an alluvium older than the forests of which the remains are found in the Curragh.
15" This is the line that divides the lands of Kirkercus from the Abbey lands. It begins at the lake of Myreshaw, which is called Hescanappayse, and goes up to the dry moor directly from the place called Monenyrsana, along the wood to the place called SeabbaAnkonatlnvay. It then ascends to Roselan as far as the brook Gryseth, and so goes up to Glendrummy, and proceeds up the King's way and the rock called Carigeth as far as Deep-pool, and descends along the rivulet and Meth-aryegorman; and so descends along the river Sulaby to the wood of Myreshaw. It encloses three islands in the lake Myreshaw, and descends along the old moor to Dufloch and so winds along and ends at the place called Hescanakeppage."
16 Chronicon Manniæ, p. 39.
17 The following note of this point occurs in my field-.book. The great beds of schist have the appearance of being turned over on an axis whose strike is east and west magnetic. The stretching has produced divisional planes concentric with this axis with cross joints, which cause the rock to split up into rhomboidal fragments.
18 The internal arrangement of the building is such as to provide a school for week-day, and a small chapel for the Sunday services.
19 Aydun was the grandfather of Ferquard, Fiacre and Donald, who were sent to the Isle of Man to be educated under Bishop Conanus, who is said to have had his episcopal residence in this vale.
20 It appears to have been thrown up during the period of the great rebellion by the troops of Cromwell. It consists of an internal rectangular area of 144 feet long by 120 feet wide, at the corners of which are four bastions, whose tops are about forty-eight feet square, all constructed of the earth which has been thrown up out of the ditch which surrounded the encampment. There are a great many barrows in the parish of Andreas, and in the churchyard some very interesting Runic crosses.
21 The respective squadrons consisted of the fEolus 32 guns, Pallas 36, Brilliant 36, on the side of the English; and on the side of the French the Belleisle 48 guns, Blonde 36, and Terpsichore 36. The contest lasted an hour and a half, and was attended on the side of the English with the loss of only five men killed and thirty-one wounded. Besides their commander, the French had above three hundred killed and wounded in the engagement, of whom nearly two hundred were on board the Belleisle. Thurôt had previously lost two of his vessels at sea.
See Appendix to Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley, and Smollett's History of England, chap. 19. page 388.
22 The Bahama Bank or Rig hears N.E. two leagues from Ramsey, is about four miles long from S.S.E. to N.N.W., with only six feet water at the south end low water spring-tides and is about half a mile wide. King William's Bank (so called from the Prince of Orange, who was nearly wrecked on it on his way to the battle of the Boyne) is seven miles in length from S.E. to N.E. and half a mile broad. The N.W. end is east six and a half miles from Point of Ayre. The least depth of water on it is eighteen feet.
The Point of Ayre Bank extends half a mile from the Point for one mile eastward and curves round to the south-east towards the Bahama Rig. There is always a ripple on it, and the current runs seven miles an hour.
Whitestone Bank lies S.S.E. a mile and a half from Point of Ayre, with a good passage between them. It has six feet at low water spring tides, is half a mile long N. and S., and a quarter of a mile broad.
23 See Chap. X. supra, page 137.
24 See Professor E. Forbes's Memoir on the Distribution of the existing Fauna and Flora of the British Isles, and the Geological Changes which have affected their area, especially during the epoch of the Northern Drift, in the first volume of Memoirs of Geological Survey of Great Britain, page 383.
25 Skyhill is noted for the military manoeuvre which placed the crown of Man on the head of Godred Crovan, son of Harald the Black of Iceland. In his attempt upon the Isle he had met with two repulses. Once more he got together a large armament, and coming by night to the harbour of Ramsey, he managed to land and conceal a body of 300 men on Scacafell or Skyhill. At sunrise the Manx attacked Godred with considerable fury; but in the heat of the engagement, the 300 men, rushing from their ambuscade, terribly galled the Manx in the rear, and put them to rout with great slaughter. Godred gave his troops the option of dividing the Isle amongst them for an inheritance, or of pillaging it and returning home again. The majority chose to plunder the country; a portion however preferred remaining with Godred, and with them he shared the southern part of the island, leaving the northern to the natives, on condition that no one whatever should attempt the establishment of an hereditary claim to any part. The property of the whole isle and its revenues thus became vested in the Sovereign, nor till the Act of Settlement did the people acquire a valid title to their different estates.
26Called also Port-le-Volllen.
27 See Plate I., Map of the Isle of Man.
28 It contains five statute acres. The length of the church, including the chancel, is 72 feet and its width 17. A similar proportion holds in most of the old Manx churches.
29 There is one Runic stone raised on steps as a market-cross in an open space before the church-gates, carved on both sides, though much injured. Its length is 6 feet 6 inches, and breadth at the widest part 2 feet 6 inches. Another on the south side of the church (an excellent model for the headstone of a grave) is 3 feet 6 inches in height and 2 feet 6 inches wide. A third near the eastern gable is 7 feet 4 inches long and 2 feet 4 inches wide.
A singular cross of the fifteenth century stands at the left-hand on entering the church-gates. It is raised on three steps, and consists of a slender shaft 4 feet 10 inches high, surmounted with a peculiar quadrangular entablature 3 feet high. The carving on two of the faces of this entablature is greatly obliterated. On the other two we have bas-reliefs, one of which represents the Virgin Mother and Child, and the other the Crucifixion. Under the latter is a shield bearing the arms of Man after the Scottish conquest; under the former a shield charged with a rose contained in a garter or circle.
30 The Irish dispute the truth of this legend, affirming that it was from St. Patrick that Bridget received the veil. See supra, p. 21. Sacheverell however says, " In this retirement it was that St. Bridget, one of the tutelar saints of Ireland, came to receive the veil of virginity from his hand, as her nephew Cogitosus, who wrote her life, informs us.
31 The height of Maughold Head, as determined barometrically by Dr. Berger, is 475 feet.
32. For an account of the iron mines of Maughold, see Appendix, K.
33 In the patent given to William Earl of Derby in the seventh year of the reign of James I., we read the name of this parish Kirk Lovan.
34 St. Lomanus, soif of'Pygrida, one of the three holy sisters of St. Patrick, is said by tradition to have succeeded St. Maughold in the bishopric. See Sacheverell's Account of the Isle of Man, page 120.
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