[From King Orry to Queen Victoria, 1899]
[Note this should not be read as accurate history but as piece of light entertainment]
ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY OF THE ISLAND-ARRIVAL OF ST. PATRICK AND APPOINTMENT OF ST. GERMANICUS FIRST BISHOP OF MAN-THE LEGEND OF ST. MAUGHOLD ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ACADEMIC SCHOOL AT CASTLETOWN BY BISHOP ISAAC BARROW, THE PRECURSOR OF KING WILLIAM'S COLLEGE.'Men will wrangle for Religion
Write for it-fight for it
Anything but live for it.'
HAVING traced the vicissitudes of the Isle of Man from the earliest ages to the present era, it will be well to briefly relate its ecclesiastical and domestic history.
An eminent Manx lawyer wrote some years ago as follows: 'The peculiar unity of Church and State in this Island, and the ancient prerogative of its Kings to be " Metropolitan and Chief of Holy Church," have made the Civil and Ecclesiastical Statutes to flow from one National Authority, and to be Comprehended in one volume.' The historical occasion for the writing of the laws at first was the contest for supremacy between the priesthood of Rome and the insular authorities. This was in A.D.1414, when, the Statute Laws were written for the meetings of, the commons of Man.
Again he writes: ' It is now nearly five hundred years since England, under influences sacerdotal and Lollard burning, had recklessly invaded France; but ere the laurels of: Agincourt were all torn from her child-guided hands (Henry VI.) by the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc, the little Manx nation, led by their King, a follower of Wycliffe, assembled mid the darkness-a Morning Star of the Reformationand put down Papal Sanctuaries, set up the AntiSacerdotal " Laws of the Land of Man "; and in the very centre of the British Isles supplanted the Papacy, and freed itself from Rome.'
From that date till now, on no land has more toleration in religion existed. At this present time all sects and religions are free, and no license is required for any man to preach.
The first mention of Christianity being introduced into the Isle of Man is in Capgravius's 'Life of joseph of Arimathea,' in which he mentions one Mordains, a King of that Isle, being converted about 63A.D.
This is very doubtful ; but if true, Christianity had a very early introduction there, and certainly does not seem to have flourished.
Hector Boetius, the historian, tells of one Amphibatus, who was Bishop of the island in a very early age; but I think it may be taken for certain that to St. Patrick belongs the honour of being the first bearer of the cross to Mona's Isle. No one of any great learning, except Archbishop Spotswood, places the slightest reliance on either of these other statements being true. The Archbishop also speaks of Cratilinth being a King of Man in 277 A.D., who made it his special business to extirpate Druidism, and drive all the Druid priests out of the island; and, moreover, he erected a stately church to the honour of our Saviour.
It is soinewhai extraordinary that the Manx people have preserved no memory of this early conversion of their ancestors. No remains of any such church ate known to exist.
As both St. Alban and Amphibatus suffered martyrdom in 305 A.D., and, according to Matthew Paris, the body of Amphibatus was found at Radburn, near St. Albans, in 1178 A.D., the probability is he was never in the Isle of Man at all, either to be its Bishop or build a church.
It is very evident that at one time Druidism, in all its glory, prevailed in Mona. There are those who say that pure Druidism was identical with the religio,n of Noah and his family, previous to the dispersion of Babel.
Be this as it may, Druidism, as described by ancient Roman writers, was. as far removed from anything practised by Noah and his family as the religion now preached from the Vatican is from that of the Apostles.
On the advent of the different Scandinavian Norsemen in the Isle of Man, Druidism was supplanted by the worship of Odin, Thor, and other deities of that class. Remains are plentiful all over the island of the temples of both religions.
In the year of grace 444 A.D., the great apostle known as St. Patrick, accompanied by thirty other religious men, having set out on his voyage to Ireland, was compelled by stress of weather to seek shelter on the shores of the Isle of Man, and first landed on the small islet in Peel Bay, on which Peel Castle was subsequently built, and which has ever since gone by the name of St. Patrick's Isle.
The holy man made a long stay of three years in Mona before resuming his voyage to Ireland, during which time he and his assistants sowed the seeds of Christianity and preached the Gospel. Most marvellous are some of the tales related of his miracles and his astonishing success in the conversionof the Manx people.
He founded a church on the isle, the ruins of which are still extant. It bears his name, and previous to his departure from Mona for the shores of Erin he appointed St. Germanicus as the first Bishop of Man, to whom the cathedral of the diocese, also in ruins and within the walls of Peel Castle, on St. Patrick's Isle, was dedicated.
St. Patrick seems to have had a deep-rooted antipathy to all kinds of reptiles. He was, in fact, 'death on snakes.' He treated the Isle of Man in the same kind manner that he did Ireland, and served every snake, toad, and other repulsive reptile with short notice to quit; and quit they did, never having returned again. Whether St. Patrick confined his experiments to reptiles or extended them to some of the other animals is not -known, but it may be possible that to the holy man's operations may be due the fact that the indigenous cats, fowls, and sheep of the Isle of Man are without tails. '
The next Bishop of any note after St. Germanicus was St. Maughold.
THE LEGEND OF ST. MAUGHOLD.
Around our memories of the hardy Norsemen there cling the ideas . of brave and valiant warriors, whose gallant deeds form the theme of many a song and spirit-stirring tale of daring acts, of war and conquest, accompanied by a rough chivalry that, in spite of a somewhat savageness that ever accompanied their acts, compels an admiration for these heroes.
No doubt but many cruel deeds were the results of their expeditions, but none of them which devastated the coasts of the western shores of Scotland and the northern parts of Ireland were more disastrous and accompanied by so great barbarities as those of the pirate Machutus, who devastated the northern coasts in the fifth-century. of all the sea-rovers he and his crew were the most dreaded, for wherever his solitary ship visited, he spared neither man, woman nor child. Not only plunder, but murder and rapine, in their most brutal forms, were ever the result of his descent upon any unprotected village near the shores of the seas that were ploughed by his keel.
Unlike others of the Vikings, he sailed with one ship only, and the sombre black flag that flew from her mast-head was veritably the precursor of the 'Jolly Roger '-skull and crossbones-that the buccaneers of the Spanish main a thousand years after adopted as their dreaded ensign. The reputation of him and his crew spread far and wide; and wherever his barque and its black flag came in sight it was the signal for all the people dwelling near the coast to pack up their goods and chattels-all the movables they possessed-and with their women and children make the best of their way inland, to hide. in the forests and among the hills, far out of the reach of the Norse robber Machutus and his savage pirate crew.
After a more than usually prosperous cruise along the Irish coast, as far south as the entrance of Lough Strangford, spreading death and desolation wherever he landed, he thought the Lough would be a highly suitable place to carry out some necessary repairs to his vessel, and ventured up the inland sea to a little cove he deemed a safe spot for his purpose. He placed her on the shore and proceeded to carry out the much-needed refit and repair.
Little did he suspect what a veritable trap he had entered. As he had run southerly along the coast, a few survivors from the last scene of murder and rapine he and his crew had indulged in, followed along the hilltops, and ever keeping watch upon the course of his pirate craft, tracked her progress night and day. So soon as they saw where he had careened his ship, and that he was virtually in the power of an attacking enemy, they despatched some of their number inland in all directions, with the news, calling on the several chieftains to hasten to Strangford Lough and take the dreaded Machutus at so great a disadvantage as must surely render his escape impossible.
The chieftains all around at once 'buried the hatchet' over their own quarrels and disagreements to unite against so notable a common enemy to them all, and marched down to where the rover was refitting.
The watchers left behind saw with great anxiety the progress made by their cruel enemy for departure, fearful, at every tide that came in, the Norsemen would refloat their ship and set sail. On the fourth evening one of their messengers arrived with the news that a strong force of fighting-men were near at hand, only waiting for the darkness of night to make their attack. The command of the little army was unanimously given to a chieftain named Carrick O'Clure, who was a warrior of great experience. As soon as he had reconnoitred the position, he gave orders for a number of his men to collect wood, hay and straw-anything that would burn-and that at a signal he would give, when his other warriors were attacking the pirates, they were to hasten down to the shore, each loaded with inflammables, and pile up their burdens beneath and alongside the ship on the side nearest the water, and set fire to them.
Carrick O'Clure had a special crow of his own to pick with Machutus, and a deep-seated desii~e for revenge against the Norseman, for in one of that pirate's raids, conducted in his usual style, a fair s,ister of O'Clure's, the six months' bride of a Scottish laird, fell a victim to the lust of Machutus, after seeing her husband butchered before her eyes. He gave orders that if possible the dreaded pirate was to be captured alive, and every effort was to be made to do so, but under any circumstances he was not to be allowed to escape. No quarter was to be given to the crew; every man was to be slain without mercy. . Machutus that evening little dreamed of such danger being neat him. He surveyed his ship at low water. All her repairs were completed, and he determined to set sail, on fresh ventures bent, at the top of the morrow's tide. But such was not to be. Carrick O'Cliire, after seeing that all his orders had been carried out, himself gave the preconcerted signal and led the attack.
The Norsemen were completely taken by surprise, but made a stout resistance to the horde of Irish who attacked them., and not only stood their ground, but, encouraged by their redoubtable leader, actually beat back their assailants for a time.
To their astonishment there suddenly appeared a bright light in the sky, and on turning to look towards their ship, behold, she was in flames, and all possible retreat cut off.
The man who commanded the party to set fire to the ship carried out his work effectually. As soon as the attack of the Irish host began, the few of the crew who were still on board their vessel seized their weapons, and, springing on shore, hastened to assist their fellows.
. No sooner was this seen by the fuel-bearers than the order was given for some of them to board the vessel and cast down into her hold a quantity of their hay and straw and fire it. In less time than it takes to tell, the pirate's barque was well alight, both inside and out. The sight of their ship in flames struck panic into the hearts of her crew, as it encouraged and gave fresh. vigour to their Irish assailants, who renewed their attack and eventually overcame themi Ere the flames of the burning ship died down, but one of the Norsemen was alive. No quarter had been given to them, and their enemies were soon busily engaged in stripping off their arms and armour -a welcome and goodly prize to the victors:.
The archpirate Machutus had been overpowertcl by numbers, captured, and bound hand and foot with stout thongs of hide-a prisoner to be dealt with on the morrow.
The flames of the burning ship lighted up the. heavens far and wide. The whole country for miles round-north, west, and south-when they saw the reflection in the sky, knew their enemy was conquered and his dreaded ship destroyed.
With the morning light came numbers of the people from the inland country. Women came as well as men, and brought their children too, to view their slaughtered foes, and when it became known that the dreaded Machutus was yet alive, a prisoner and was to be executed during the day, their joy knew no bounds ; shouts of delight went up as the news spread to fresh comers as they arrived. At mid-day Carrick O'Clure and the other leaders assembled to determine the manner in which their prisoner should be put to death.
The country people would have torn him to pieces had not a strong guard been appointed to protect him from their vengeance.
Hanging; drowning; burning; tortures of all kinds were suggested by the crowd when the bound prisoner was brought forward and placed before the chiefs. A sardonic and contemptuous smile was on his features as he looked around and surveyed the assembly of his captors. He was far from being cowed by the threats and howling of the mob.
Carrick O'Clure called upon the prisoner to say what excuse he had to plead against being put to immediate death.
' Carrick O'Clure,' replied the rover, 'know you not that Machutus bears a charmed and wizard life ? Put your direst threats into execution: slay me how you choose. But I tell you and all assembled here that not one creature, man, woman, or child-aye, or beast of the field-that is within sound of a cowhorn's blast when death strikes me, but will die before the next full moon.' He laughed: 'Ha! ha! Slay me at once ! Ha! ha ! ha !'
O'Clure turned to the other chieftains:
'What think ye of this wild and threatening tale ? I, for one, laugh it to scorn, and swear by Thor and Odin he shall never live to be a scourge on Ireland's coasts again. Guards, bring him hither. I myself will slay him here, and trust to what the gods and fate will send me before the next full moon.'
The guards dragged their prisoner forward. The crowd around thinned, as many of those who had heard the fearful, threatening words of the great pirate Viking slunk away, and betook themselves towards their homes.
When the guards had placed him in front of the assembled chiefs, and Carrick O'Clure stepped forward with his battle-axe in hand with which to brain the prisoner, an ancient dame advanced, and, holding up her hand, addressed the Irish warrior :
'O'Clure, soil not your weapon with the ruffian's brains or blood. Listen! What he says may be true, or may be but a crafty lie to frighten all who heard him.' Turning and pointing to the departing crowds, she continued: ' See I many now are already slinking off to get out of sound of the cow-ho'rn trumpet. There is a way that he shall die, and yet not by the hand of any now assembled here, and not within any cow-horn trumpet sound of Ireland's shore, so that no harm shall come to any of us here.'
'How? how?' eagerly demanded Carrick O'Clure. Unriddle this mystery of thine, and let us hear.'
' Bound as he' is, place him in a coracle. Well fastened in the little ship, launch him on the open sea. The wind blows now from north of west, and will soon waft him far away from Erin's shore.'
A number of coracles were procured, and a suitable one selected. Into this the captured pirate, after being most securely bound and every limb tied with strong thongs of dried raw hide, was 'lifted and lashed into the frail craft, so that it was utterly impossible for him to extricate himself and get outindeed, he could not move either hand or foot, nor turn his head to right or left. He lay there staring straight up to the sky and clouds above; exposed alike to wind and rain by night, and, the scorching rays of the sun by day. Before the frail craft was carried down to the shore and launched upon the water, a wooden gag was forced into his mouth and firmly fixed between his teeth. No more pitiable object could be well imagined than Machutus the pirate, as he lay utterly helpless upon his back, glaring straight towards the heavens above him.
To make quite sure he should not drift again on to the Irish coast with the change of tide, it was determined that a number of boats should accompany him, and tow the little coracle and its villainous passenger well towards the shores of England or Scotland.
During the progress of the little fleet the men in the boats gave vent to every curse and vituperation they could think of; all of which were heard by the unfortunate wretch in the coracle.
At last, when the sun showed signs of approaching the mountain-tops on the Irish coast, and setting in the great western sea far beyond, O'Clure gave the signal for them to abandon the little craft and to return to their homes, casting their victim adrift to go wherever the winds and waves would take him.
A parting shout of derision arose from every boat as they were all put about, and their course directed for home.
Silence now reigned upon the waters. No more yells and shouts of his enemies were heard, and only' the sighing of the rising wind and the pl'ash of the waves on the sides of the coracle reached the prisoner's cars.
When the sun went down and night approached the wind arose, accompanied with rain. It bid fair to be a stormy night, and it was so. Not a star was to be seen, and the. waning moon was shrouded as the heavy clouds were driven past.
The whilom pirate and murderer then realized how utterly hopeless was his position; both hunger and thirst assailed him, for though the rain fell in plentiful showers, not one drop reached the poor wretch's mouth, blocked up as it was with the wooden gag. He could form no idea in what direction the coracle was drifting; and knew not whither he was going. He fain would have slept, but terror-stricken. thoughts haunted him. The memory of every black deed he had committed passed through his brain and almost drove him mad. Utter a prayer he could not. He knew nought of prayer; but in his thoughts he invoked Thor and Woden to let him die.
When the sun rose the nekt morning the weather was bright and clear. The rain had ceased, but a heavy sea tossed the frail craft about sadly. Every wave, he thought, would break over and swamp the coracle, but so light and buoyant was she that not one drop of water had surmounted her sides the whole night.
The daylight, when it came, brought an annoyance he had not hitherto experienced. Numbers of gulls and gannets flew screaming around, peering inquisitively at the strange and lonely vessel tossing on the waves. After a while, some of the more venturesome of them alighted on the bulwarks and stared inquisitively at the curious freight the little craft contained. Their visits were repeated, and one, more venturesome than his mates, alighted on the man's breast, and after examining him attentively, first with one eye and then the other, gave a sharp peck at Machutus's face. Was he to be eaten alive, and form a feast for the wild birds of the sea ?
Again the sun descended and set. Not this time behind the Irish mountains, but in the open sea; for during the last twenty-four hours the coracle had drifted far away to the eastward, and was now approaching the Point of Ayre in the Isle of Man, and the southern coast of Scotland. of no part, however, of either place could Machutus obtain a -glimpse. The sky above was all his position permitted him to behold. Up to this time the sea had been comparatively calm, and the coracle had drifted on an almost even keel, but when the shades of night again fell on Machutus and his fragile barque, the wind rose, and with it the sea. By midnight a strong westerly gale was blowing, and every moment the wretched man expected the waves to break over and swamp the coracle; but no, the little craft was so buoyant that she rose on the crest of each wave and rolled again into the trough of the sea. All through the night did the gale continue, and when the sun arose on the morning of the third day, the sea was running so high and the little craft rolled to such an extent that for the first time Machutus could see the bright green waves as they rose high above the bul.warks.
The wind to some extent had subsided, but not so the sea; and as each wave rose threateningly above the gunwale, and the now bright sun mounted higher in the heavens, the waves assumed the transparent and translucent aspect so familiar to those who know the clearness of the water around the Manx coast.
Machutus gazed at each wave as it rose and fell beneath the rocking craft, and was horror-struck to see that every transparent wave as it mounted up seemed to contain what he imagined were the figures of men and women, shadowy, indistinct, but yet recognisable by his rudely-awakened conscience as the shapes and features of numbers of the victims of his cruelty and lust. Some scowled ferociously, others appeared to jeer. All passed silently, and no other sound but the splashing of the sea, as the little barque fell into its furrows, was heard, as the grim procession passed on through every wave that reared its threatening crest aloft. A passing cloud at last eclipsed the sun, and the waves at once lost their brilliance and transparency. No more phantoms passed before him; but a bright and shining diaphanous light suddenly broke from out the densest part of the cloud, and in its centre there was distinctly seen the shape of a Cross, gradually descending towards the coracle, and as it drew nearer the sea subsided. To his great surprise, a Dove with outspread wings appeared in the centre of the Cross. When at last this glorious and effulgent vision of the Cross settled beside the coracle, the Dove rested upon the gunwale, and a strange indescribable feeling came over Machutus. The gag fell from his mouth, all sensation of fear and dread instantly left him.
This Cross was unlike any sight he had ever seen before. It was perfectly transparent and shadowy; the Dove had a more substantial appearance.
Presently the coracle touched the shore ; the celestial Cross appeared to Machutus to move in some mysterious way. The Dove fluttered overhead, and immediately all the thongs that bound him were loosened and fell off. He rose to his feet, and it seemed to him that he was assisted in so doing by the same mysterious, unseen power he could not understand.
He looked around and saw that he stood on a rock at the foot of a stupendous cliff. How was he to climb it ? He turned and looked the other way, and immediately recognised he was at the foot of the great headland, at the south-eastern extremity of the bay in the Isle of Man, now known as that of Ramsey.
Again he turned, and there was still the luminous, transparent Cross, and the mystic bird flew slowly before him up the cliff, and he was enabled by a strong mysterious irresistible power to follow it in its flight. Some invisible force drew him onwards and upwards. When he had followed the Dove some distance it rested on the ground close to him, and Machutus perceived a little stream trickling from the rock.
Water! Oh, what a blessing! He threw himself down on his knees, and drank greedily, almost savagely, of the delicious stream. On lifting his head and seeing the Dove still there, his heart for the first time in his life was filled with gratitude, and he blessed the little rivuleth
Then he felt the same irresistible power compel him to direct his gaze across the land, over the broad valley that intervened between the ground where he stood and a lofty mountain on the other side, and he beheld two men approaching. They were dressed as he had never seen men before, and he was seized with an impulse to go towards them. As he did so,, the Dove advanced before him in the same direction, and then, as he drew nearer to the strange men, both the Cross and the Dove slowly ascended towards the. heaven above, and disappeared gradually into a bright white cloud.
He stood and watched them till they vanished. By that time the men had approached quite near. To his great surprise they offered him food from a wallet that one of them carried, and all three sat down together. Famished as he was, the food, though of the plainest description, was to him the daintiest and most welcome feast he had ever partaken of. When he commenced to eat, he was too eager to notice that his benefactors uttered a prayer, and asked for a blessing on their meal; but when the feast-it was indeed a feast to him-was ended, he paid great attention to the words of thanksgiving the elder of the two men gave utterance to.
'Who are you?' inquired Machutus.
'We are disciples and priests of Jesus, who in the shape of the cross upon which He died to save sinners like you and me, has led us here to meet you and take you to our poor dwellings, there to instruct you in the knowledge of the True God, and unfold to you the unsearchable riches of the Gospel. Come, my friend and brother, come.'
These men were priests from St. Germain's at Peel. Germanicus had been consecrated a bishop by St. Patrick during his stay in the island. By them Machutus was taught the 'good tidings of salvation' and the love of Christ towards men.
He afterwards lived for some years in a rough hut in one of the glens on a mountain side, and spent what time he was not occupied in prayer, in helping and doing good to the poor.
The Manx people transformed his name from Machutus to Maughold, and he was beloved by the whole population of the island; so much so that when Bishop Romulus, the second successor to Germanicus, or St. Germain, died, he was unanimously nominated the most worthy man to succeed to the mitre, and was appointed Bishop of the Isle of Man.
The extensive parish of St. Maughold, on the headland of which he first landed, was named after him, and what remains of an ancient cross erected to his memory now stands in the parish churchyard.
St. Maughold's Well, the spring from which the holy man took his first drink on landing in the island, and on which occasion his heart felt the first touch of gratitude, is visited by those who know somewhat of its history; but it is not very accessible, except by those who are fairly good climbers. It bears the reputation that no one who drinks of its water will ever die in debt.
1 St. Maughold was the third Bishop of Man, and so great was his reputation for sanctity, far and wide, that the most Holy St. Bridget-that saint so often invoked by the sons and daughters of the Emerald Isle-crossed the sea from Ireland to Man to receive the veil at his hands.
St. Bridget afterwards established a nunnery near to Douglas, and until a few years ago-when some Philistines removed them, to make way for what are euphoniously called modern improvements some portions of the original building remained.
St. Bridget was born at Fochart, a village one mile from Dundalk, County Louth, in Ireland. Her father was a nobleman of Leinster, named Dublacas, of the family of Etech. He fell in love with a handmaid of his wife, named Broeseca, and Bridget was their child.
Visitors to Douglas must not confound the handsome-looking edifice in the valley-the residence of the Taubman family, and called the Nunnery-with the one founded by St. Bridget.
The old Nunnery was much nearer to Port-e-Chee, and situated on the Peel Road. Port-e-Chee- meaning Haven of Love-is the name of a very pretty spot, and was formerly the residence of the Dukes of Athol, previous to the building of Castle Mona, on the shore of Douglas Bay, by the last Duke, who sold the remnant of his interest to the Crown, as before related. Designed for a ducal palace, Castle Mona is now a hotel. It cost the Duke of Athol £40,000.
To return to St. Maughold, who was quite a man of business, as well as a saint : one of his first acts, after assuming the Mitre, and certainly the most lasting of his deeds, was to divide the island into sixteen parishes, one of which bears his name.