[From King Orry to Queen Victoria, 1899]



THE Hon. Dr. Murray, nephew of the Duke of Athol, whose little attempt to squeeze £6,000 a year out of the Manx people in the shape of a tax on their green crops, and his subsequent hurried departure with his uncle from the island, has already been related, was quite the antithesis of Bishop Wilson, and had no objection to being translated to a larger stipend and its attendant Bishopric, and in 1826 A.D. he became Bishop of Rochester.

He was the last prelate appointed by the Lord of the Island, the presentation having passed to the Crown of England when the last and clear-out sale was effected by the Athols. Neither the clergy nor the Manx people ever forgot his having been thrust upon them by the Duke, and the unmistakable 'job' of his elevation, under the prescribed age of forty years. Not a soul regretted his transmigration to the banks of the Medway.

His successor, Dr. William Ward, was the first Bishop of Sodor and Man appointed by the Crown of England. In 1836 A.D. the English Government suppressed the See of the Island altogether, annexing it to that of Carlisle, and Dr. Ward had to retire to his original Rectorship of Great Hawkesley, whence he had come. An agitation was speedily set on foot by the inhabitants of the island for the restoration of their Bishop, and this was accomplished in 1838 A.D. by a special Act of Parliament, but not before the death of Dr. Ward, who passed from this world in the early part of that year.

The Bishop appointed by the Crown under the new Act of the Imperial Parliament was the Rev. James Bowstead, who was installed on September 5, 1838.

Two years after he, having no objection to translation to a better see, was appointed to the Bishopric of Lichfield, and was succeeded by Dr. Horatio Pepys, brother to Lord Chancellor Cottenham. Dr. Pepys’ stay in Man was still shorter, the powerful influence of his brother providing him with a speedy promotion and translation to the See of Worcester, in 1841 A.D., when Dr. Thomas Vowler Short became Bishop of the island, where he is well remembered for his violent denunciations of all dissenters and schismatics; consequently, though he was otherwise an amiable man, he was not liked in a country where liberty and toleration have been so thoroughly enjoyed for so many centuries.

In due time—at the expiration of six years— Dr. Short was promoted to the See of St. Asaph, and was succeeded by Dr. Shirley in 1847 A.D., who gained the esteem of his clergy and people, and died at Bishop’s Court.

The next was the Hon. and Rev. Robert John Eden, afterwards Lord Auckland, who only remained on the island till 1854 A.D., when he was translated to the more lucrative See of Bath and Wells, and was succeeded by the Hon. Dr. Horace Powys, a brother of Lord Lilford, and formerly Rector of Warrington.

Bishop Powys was an energetic man, and set the example of open-air preaching in the Isle of Man, particularly in the roofless ruins of St. Germain’s Cathedral, in Peel Castle, and the churchyard of the old church of Kirk Braddan, near Douglas.

Dr. Powys during his Bishopric opened the new cathedral of his diocese at Bishop’s Court on its completion, the means for building which came, to a very large extent, from his own private purse.

A very curious and interesting circumstance connected with the tenure of the See of Sodor and Man by Dr. Powys is the fact that he was directly descended from one of the Welsh Kings of Man (Roderick the Great), who reigned in the ninth century, and that after the lapse of ten centuries the spiritual jurisdiction of this little Island of Man should be wielded by a descendant of one of its old Kings. Probably this occurrence is unique.

As will be seen by what has gone before, the See of Sodor and Man, since it has been in gift of the Crown, has been regarded and used as a stepping stone to higher preferment. The emoluments are not large.

Bishop Eden, during his episcopacy, succeeded to the title of Baron Auckland, and took his seat in the House of Lords as such. He was the only Bishop of Sodor and Man who ever voted in the House of Peers. The See of Man does not carry with it a vote in the Upper House of the British Parliament, although its Bishops are allowed a seat there by courtesy.

Throughout the Isle of Man, for ages past, the clergy have been uniformly distinguished for their zeal, and held in the highest respect by their several parishioners—and deservedly so.

The good old word parson is almost invariably used in speaking to or of a Manx clergyman. It expresses exactly the relation that should ever exist between the pastor and his flock.

The late Rev. Hugh Stowell, Canon of Manchester, and the late Rev. Hugh Stowell Brown, an eminent Nonconformist minister in Liverpool, were both Manxmen, and the sons of Manx parsons.

In some of the country churches the services were, till very lately, performed on alternate Sundays in the English and Manx languages. Although many of the older inhabitants can still speak Manx, there are very few people who do not also speak and under stand English.

Unlike the Welsh people, they have had the good sense to see the advantages of bringing up their children to use the English tongue, and only English is taught in the schools.

The island is divided into seventeen parishes, three of which are rectories and fourteen vicarages. The Rectors have only £303 a year, and the Vicars £141 8s. each; but every parish parson has a certain extent of glebe land, and, as a rule, the parsons are the best farmers in the island.

One old gentleman, the late Parson Gill, Vicar of Malew, is said to have got three crops a year, of one sort or another, off his little glebe.

Another Manx parson, who was a great celebrity in his time, was the Rev. John Howard, Vicar of Kirk Onchan, near Douglas, better known as Parson John Howard. He was a stalwart specimen of a Manxman—a muscular Christian—who could fight any man in his parish. Onchan was unique in its way, as no constable or policeman was needed there, for Parson John kept everyone in order. If a man spent too much of his time in the public house, his wife had only to apply to the parson, and off he went to the taproom, collared the bibulous delinquent, dragged him out by the collar of his coat—if he had one—and started him off home to his wife and bairns.

If an Onchan man so transgressed as to beat his wife, her appeal to the parson was better than all summonses before the high bailiff of Douglas. Parson John started off with his stick, which he laid with such a will over the shoulders of ‘the wretch who struck a woman,’ and that woman his wife, whom he had sworn to love and cherish, that the poor beggar was several days before he felt easy, and a long time ere he ventured to lay a hand on the ‘wife of his bosom’ again.

On one occasion he had cause to severely reprimand a miner for ill-using his wife. The man, who was a new-comer to his parish and did not know the parson, told him, ‘If it wasn’t for your cloth, I’d knock your head off.’

‘Oh,’ responded Parson John, ‘we can soon arrange that,’ and taking off his coat, he carefully folded it, laid it down on the top of a low stone wall, and thus addressed it: ‘ Here lay quiet, Vicar of Onchan, while John Howard gives this man a lesson in good manners.’ He then set to, and after a few minutes’ sparring, so completely polished off the burly miner that he was glad to give in, and was not only civil ever after, but desisted from any further ill-treatment of his better-half.

Onchan was the best-ruled parish in Mona, and its parson was reverenced and beloved by all. In his later years Parson Howard was placed for a short time under restraint in the Douglas Asylum under a suspicion of lunacy. There was, however, a good deal of ‘method in his madness,’ and good method too. His preaching, like his blows with his fist, was straight out. ‘He said what he meant, and meant what he said,’ both in and out of the pulpit.

There are some new churches in the towns the incumbents of which have far larger stipends; but these can scarcely be regarded as the real Manx clergy, their congregations mostly consisting of the English visitors, who only go to the island in the summer months.

There are no poor-rates; but on Sunday, after each service, a collection plate is handed round to every person, who gives at least a penny. No more than a penny is expected, but coins of greater value are never refused, and are only too thankfully received. These collections are found to be sufficient for the ordinary wants of the poor.


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001