[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]



IN contemplating the venerable and majestic ruins of Peel-Castle, we passed the greater part of the day, and next morning proceeded on our ambulatory excursion through the Island. Returning to St.John's, and taking the road to Kirk-Michael, we entered a romantic and solitary dell, watered by a brawling stream, and environed with a range of steep and wild mountains. This narrow valley continued for some miles; where the eye was sometimes relieved by the view of a lonely cottage, or of a few straggling sheep feeding on the mountains. But on gaining an ascent at the extremity of this dell, we had a delightful prospect of the country, enriched with villages and farms, extending many miles before us.

About noon we reached Kirk-Michael, an extensive village pleasantly situated near the sea, about half-way from Peel to Ramsay. Sauntering through the village before dinner, we had soon an opportunity of admiring a noble relic of antiquity, which is elevated before the entrance of the church yard. It is a lofty square pillar of blue stone, figured over with devices, curiously involved with each other, from the base to the summit; and is supposed to have been erected in honour of Thureelf. a Norwegian hero(1). In this neighbourhood are several subterraneous caves, probably used by the Danes and Norwegians for the sepulture of their dead: but what chiefly merited our observation, were some very noble pillars of white shining spar, placed in a circular form, which undoubtedly are the vestiges of a Druidical temple. Besides this, there are several other remains of those ancient priests and legislators in this island.

The Druids were the most venerable of human characters. As priests, they were deemed sacred: as legislators, politic; and as philosophers, enlightened and humane: while the nation cheerfully paid them the veneration due to the ministers of God, and the magistrates of the people.

Their government was truly patriarchal. They were the sacred fathers of their country. Amid their umbrageous oaks they sacrificed at the altar; and from the throne of justice gave laws to the nation. To render their civil character more venerable, they concealed from the vulgar several of their rites and ceremonies; and from this mysterious policy, some writers have presumed to condemn their worship as barbarous and inhuman. But their doctrines were pure and sublime; combining the unity of God, the immortality of the soul, and a just distribution of future rewards and punishments. They were also scientific observers of nature, and teachers of moral philosophy. Their precepts were never committed to writing, but delivered in verse to their pupils, who, by the intense study of many years, imprinted them on the memory. Residing in woods and caves, they were distinguished by the austerity and simplicity of their manners: and thus, by their knowledge, wisdom, and virtue, obtained a sovereign influence over the minds of the people. They decided all public and private controversies. The impious were awed at their frown; and the virtuous rejoiced in their smiles; while from their judgement there was no appeal.

" No laws " were instituted by the princes, or assemblies, without their advice and approbation; no person was punished with bonds or death, without their passing sentence; no plunder taken in war was used by the captor, until the Druids determined what part they should seclude for themselves."

Their power, as it sprung from virtue and genius, was not hereditary; but conferred on those, whose merit might sanction the choice.

Such were the priests and rulers of the ancient Britons; who, in the first century, fled, from the ferocious sword of Roman conquest, to Anglesea, where they were soon followed by the Satellites of despotism. In this Isle, after nobly opposing these foes of liberty, they were defeated; their venerable King Caractacus carried in chains to Rome; and the whole race almost exterminated by the insatiate sword of the polished Romans.

The few who survived the general slaughter escaped to the Isle of Man, where they were generously received by their brethren; and, amid the wild solitudes of this country, at a distance from the

" Cry of Havock and the Dogs of War"

found a happy asylum. Here, they planted new groves(2); increased their temples; and for some ages governed the people by their mild laws and venerable institutions; till about the close of the fourth century, when the light of Christianity broke on this Island: and then, the Druids, who had ever contemned the idolatry of the neighbouring nations, gradually embraced a system of religion, which, in purity and sublimity, resembled, yet infinitely surpassed their own.


1: The following observations on this subject are copied from Bishop Wilson's concise Account of the Isle of Man.

There is perhaps no country in which more Runic inscriptions are to be met with, particularly on funeral monuments. They I' are generally cut upon long flat rag stones, and are to be read from the bottom upwards. The inscriptions are generally upon one edge of the stones; and on both sides are crosses, and little embellishments of men on horseback, or in arms, stags, dogs, birds, and other devices; probably, the achievement of some notable person. In several of the barrows have been found urns full of burnt bones, white and as fresh as when interred. And in the last century were dug up several brass daggers and other military instruments; with some nails of pure gold, having on the small end rivets of the same metal; which, from their make appear to have been the nails of a " royal target." A silver crucifix and some ancient coins of gold, silver, and brass, were also dug up, in the beginning of the present century.

2: In those fine meadows called the Curragh, which were for. merry an extensive bog, roots of oak-trees have been discovered at eighteen or twenty feet from the surface, which were probably buried here by some violent concussion, subsequent to the era of the Druids. Near Castletown some traces of an earthquake, and of a volcanic eruption have been observed. Tradition is how ever silent on these subjects.



Back index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000