[From Ecclesiological Notes, 1848]
July 3. Ramsay.-Of the churches in Douglas I have already spoken. Leaving that town, and keeping the north road, two miles brought me to Kirk Onchan. It is dedicated to S. Concha, mother of S. Patrick. The corruption is precisely the same by which we write an adder instead of a nadder. This is a most offensive modern building, with a spire, and nothing interesting either in church or churchyard. The country, too, is dreary: no view either of the mountains or of the sea. Two miles further, and I reached Kirk Lonnan. This church is under the invocation of S. Lomanus, who was son to Tygrida, sister of S. Patrick, and succeeded S. Maughold in the bishopric. This also is a modern building, with an ugly tower, and standing in a very dreary situation on a low range of hills above the village. The wind swept bleakly over the hills from Scafell, and Garrahan; and indeed the day, though with occasional sunshine, was more like an English October. Beyond Kirk Lonnan, the scenery improves; the road drops with a tremendous descent into the little glen in which lies the fishing hamlet of Laxay: and rising again, skirts the eastern cliffs of the island, giving you to the left a fine view of the mountains, to the right, across the blue sea (and except in the tropics, I have never seen it so intensely blue,) of Helvellyn, and Skiddaw, and Langdale Pikes; and to the north, occasionally mingling with the vistas of the Manx valleys, occasionally thrown out beyond them, of the mountains about Kirkcudbright. It is impossible that any thing can be more beautiful than the road, as it goes winding in and out among the outlying glens of the mountains; sometimes dipping into a valley, made twilight with its ashes, sometimes running boldly round a bleak, bare crag, sometimes passing the sunshiny field, with its grazing cows: and anon, with a sudden turn, seeming to throw itself into the very heart of a mountain ravine. The cottages are very picturesque, low and long, and built of sandstones piled together without cement, and almost universally thatched. The way the thatch is secured is worth mentioning. A series of projecting stones are left in the wall about a foot below the eaves, and as much below the gable ends; a net-work of rope or twisted hay is then thrown over the thatch, and loops at the end of each mesh secured to the projecting stones. This perhaps may explain the use of such stones in some churches, which look as if they had been designed for the rafters of an intended chapel.
The next mountain passed, on the left, is North Barrule. If Snaefell be the king, this is the prince, of Manx mountains; and is the northern termination of the great island chain. Here I left the main road, and struck to the right for S. Maughold's Head.
S. Maughold was originally captain of a gang of Irish banditti; but being converted, he led a life of penitence in the wild crags now bearing his name, till he became so celebrated for his sanctity that he was compelled to accept the bishopric of this island, and became fourth possessor of its see. His shrine was a celebrated sanctuary.
About a mile before you come to the church, on a high bank at the left side of the road, facing the comer, is a cross of this shape, and about four feet high. The circles are not pierced. but (so to speak) raised pellets. This cross undoubtedly marked the extreme limits of sanctuary. Entering the village, in the little square before the church, are two more crosses; one reduced to the mere steps and base -the other a Third Pointed erection, very perfect and beautiful. It is raised on four square steps -the stem is octagonal; the capital is adorned with four shields-one, the arms of Man-one, a mere wheel tracery, the other two much effaced. From this springs the real rood, bearin;, on its four sides our crucified LORD, our Lady and the Divine Infant,-S. Bridget kneeling, perhaps about to take the veil, and S. Maughold. From this cross I took down a posting bill of some linen drapery house in Douglas.
The churchyard contains five acres, and so is, perhaps, the
largest in England. This was the second degree of sanctuary. In it
are two more crosses, one a plain wheel cross, vertical, and three
feet and a half in height, at the south of the church: the other near
its west end, flat, and with a wheel at each end.
The church itself is very curious, and of the perfect Manx type. It consists of chancel, nave, without architectural division, western porch, and western campanile for one bell; the rope hangs down on the outside.
The chancel is First-Pointed. There has been an eastern triplet,
but the central light has been taken out, and a three-light
Third-Pointed window inserted in its place. These lights are
cinqfoiled, the window being almost square-headed, and form the only
foliations now remaining in the island. On the north side of the
chancel have been two lancets. The second is now Debased. On the
south side, towards the east end, is a lychnoscope, of which the
upper part is blocked, thereby differing in two particulars from its
sister windows in England. In the nave, on the north, the windows
have been altered-on the south there were five lancets. The font,
which is scandalously placed outside, at the west end, a circular
bason without stem, seems of the same date. The western porch is
Romanesque, shallow and waggon-vaulted from two square rude piers:
the edge of the waggon vaulting worked into a kind of nail-head. A
little to the east of the churchyard rises the curious promontory of
S. Maughold's Head; its dark lava-like rocks jutting out into the
sea-the patches of turf with which they are here and there
covered-the intense blueness of the creeks that kiss their base,
remind one strongly of some of the fishing villages of Madeira; Porto
Monis or Cama de Lobos for example. White sea gulls were flitting
about below me, and uttering their discordant screams,-the whole
rock-bound coast opened beautifully out as far as Laxey,-the wind
rustled in the dry grass, or whistled round the rocks,-as I stood on
the scene of S. Maughold's penitence, sanctity, and elevation-" once
a grievous sinner upon earth, now a glorious saint in heaven."* Here
is his well, a beautifully
clear fountain under one of the rocks, and his chair, a curious
hollow, scooped out in the rock itself. The water was believed to
have supernatural virtue, more especially if taken while sitting in
the chair. It is still the object of pilgrimage on the first Sunday
in August; when the peasants fill bottles with the water, and carry
it home with them.
*The legend of S. Machaldus, or Maughold, given in the tripartite life of S. Patrick, is as follows:-
" Now there was in the days of S. Patrick, in the province of Ulster, a man of most abandoned life, a robber, by name Maccaldus. This man, by murder end rapine, made both himself and his company a grief and a terror to the whole land. It fell out one day that he saw Patrick afar off on a journey, and said to his fellows, ' LO ! here is that seducer, that preacher of false doctrine, who setteth at nought the belief of our forefathers, and despiseth their gods, telling of a new God, Whom neither they nor we have known. Come, therefore, and let us set upon him with one accord, and see whether his GOD can deliver him out of our hands.' Yet the LORD so ordered it that they changed their device, willing first to mock the man of GOD before they destroyed him. So they made one of their fellows, Garban by name, to feign himself to be dead; whom they laid out on a bier, and besought Patrick to restore him to life; with intent, if he should consent, to mock hint, and if he should refuse, to slay him. But the holy man, by inspiration of the SPIRIT knew what was done: wherefore he made answer that GOD was the LORD of life and death, and could change one into the other, as should seem best to Him. And he went apart and prayed: but they, uncovering the face of their companion, that they might mock the saint, found him to be indeed dead." (Bolland. Apr. III. 467.) The legend continues that S. Maughold, being converted by this occurrence, was baptised by S. Patrick, and committed himself, by the advice of that Saint, in a small boat, to the direction of the winds; and that he was cast ashore in Man near this headland,-The legend of the pretended corpse seems adopted frond an older story.
Three miles to Ramsay, a rather large but very poor town. It is situated in the parish of Kirk Maughold, but has two chapels,-S. Paul's, a Grecian thing with a tower, S. Peter's, a building of no style, now disused. Indeed, the chapels here seem to be unfortunate, for there is an older one outside the town, which is now a ruin.
I was at the Great Western hotel, which I cannot much recommend. After dinner, started north, into the sand district. The mountains come no further than Ramsay, and therefore, as you turn your back on them, and the country grows sterile, you lose well nigh all beauty. Five miles brought me to a fertile valley, like those I have already described, only that oaks mingle with the ashes, and give variety to its foliage. Here is the church of Kirk Bride, which embraces the most northerly parish in the island.
It is of the usual Manx shape and arrangement; but appears to be of Third-Pointed date throughout. The east window is of two unfoliated lights, (one cannot but imagine that the Manx architects or the Manx stone were incapable of foliation,) and square-headed. The internal arch, which is deeply splayed, is circular, leaving an awkward space between itself and the top of the window. The first window on the north side is a clear lychnoscope, with an internal arch, a square trefoil: the second, a single light of no particular form. On the south side, the first window is as the east; the second modern. All the windows in the nave are also modern. At the west end is a pretty little octagonal font, on a reversed base, now not used, " because it takes up one seat." The seats, however, though bad enough, are open,-so they are at Kirk Maughold. The campanile has one bell only, which is rung from the outside, the usual Manx arrangement The roof, which I take also to be Manx, is perfectly simple; the rafters having collars, the principal double ties and collars,-the effect is heavy but not entirely bad.
Over the chancel door is a sculpture in red sandstone, some two
feet square, which I took to be Adam and Eve with the Forbidden Tree,
and which the village schoolmaster assured me was so.
Opposite the churchyard gate, and to the south of the church is a
small cross, which does not seem in a very safe position. There was a
pinnacle cross, but a late vicar had it removed. Here, and in most of
the villages, I saw a large and (apparently) efficient school. There
is a fine view hence of the Mull of Galloway, and of the Cumberland
Not caring to go to the extremity of the Point of Ayre, which is a mere low tongue of sand, with a lighthouse, two miles further north,-I struck west, passing through an uninteresting country, three miles, to Kirk Andreas. This is one of the two rectories in the island, and by far the richest, the parish being the best cultivated. The church is rebuilt, and miserably ugly, and stands in a dreary field, with a new made approach, fenced by a new railing, up to it.
Back to Ramsay, four miles; the view of the mountains very fine in the lights and shadows of the declining sun.