[From Annals of Kirk Christ Lezayre]
THE parish is now usually known as Lezayre but the correct name is Kirk Christ Lezayre ; in olden times it was also known as Trinity Ayre The meaning of the word " Lezayre " is quite clear ; not so the derivation. Lezayre means " at " or " towards the Ayre "-Ayre (eyrr, Norse) being the strip of sand and gravel along the north coast. It is so called to distinguish it from the other Kirk Christ -Rushen-which is sometimes described in old documents as inter prata, "among the meadows."
A. W. Moore 1 states that " Manx-speaking people called this church Skeeyley Chreest-ny -Heyrey-Christ's Parish Church of the Ayre."
Here N has been changed into L as usual, so, that Ny-Heyrey or Ny-Ayre, became Ly-Ayre or Le-Ayre and, more recently, by a curious corruption, Lezayre. Chaloner, writing in the middle of the seventeenth century, tells us it was called " Kirk Criste le Ayre," because it is placed in a " sharp Ayr."2
J. J. Kneen 3 adopts a suggestion of the Rev, A. A. Bridgman, Vicar of Lezayre, 1879-1909, and states that the first syllable is the old Norman article le or lez. It is difficult to see how a Norman article got prefixed to a Manx place name.
Cumming 4 has Trinity Church belonging to (Manx lesh towards) the Sheading of Ayre, contrasted with Trinity Church in the Sheading of Rushen. Though dedicated in honour of the Holy Trinity, both the churches and parishes are called Christ's, as Kirk Christ Rushen and Kirk Christ Lezayre.
Canon Quine 5 suggested a corruption of Les Seyre-les being a contraction of Ecclesia cf. Baly-ne-Sare-" Severus " farm in Andreas. Therefore Lezayre would mean the " Church of St. Severus."
The first derivation seems to be the safest.
There are many forms of the name : 1231 Le ayre, 1505 Sancta Trinitas in Le ayre. Bp. Wilson, Layre, etc., etc.
The boundary between Lezayre and Maughold starts at low- water mark at the mouth of Sulby river. It follows the bed of the river till it reaches the mouth of the Lickney Rushey stream or Strooan ny Crawe Garlic stream which it follows to the Crossags farm. It passes through the farm street, leaving the house in Lezayre, and the farm buildings in Maughold, and then to its source in the high land above Milntown. Thence after a bend to the east it proceeds southerly in a straight line to the summit of North Barrule (1842 feet) and turns south-south-west along the ridge to the summit of Clagh Ouyr Dun stone (1808 feet). Near here we leave Maughold and the parish of Lonan is on our left.
The boundary proceeds along the eastern flank of Snaefell (2032 feet) and crossing the watershed beyond, it then turns sharply west and reaches the summit of Beinn-y-phott (1772 feet) leaving Lonan and reaching Braddan. From the summit the boundary follows the course of Glen Crammag (almost duenorth) till the main stream of the Sulby river is met again. Here we take leave of Braddan and have Michael for a short distance on our left, to the east of Druidale house. At the next tributary we leave Michael and join Ballaugh. Where the river turns sharp to the east the boundary turns north-west to the summit of the watershed, then north, crossing the high road a little west of Gob-y-volley, then north-north-east, through the Curragh, to the boundary of Jurby. From here it goes in a north-easterly direction till it reaches Andreas, it then follows an irregular line eastward past Close Lake house. It then turns sharply to the north and then to the east passing below Ardonan, to Regaby Gate, where Bride is reached ; then it follows an irregular line to the sea at the Dog Mills. It then turns south along the low water mark to the mouth of the Sulby river.
During the seventeenth century the church authorities encour- aged the ancient practice of perambulating the parish boundaries, which was done in Ascension Week. A dispute between Michael and Ballaugh as to their boundaries was settled by Bishop Bridgman, 1677, who took the oath of the oldest man in each parish who had been wont to perambulate the bounds.6
A dispute occurred between Ballaugh and Lezayre in 1715. Here is Bishop Wilson's account of it
"The Revd. Mr, Wm. Walker, Vicar Gen]. and Rector of Ballaugh, and the Revd. Mr. Henry Allen, Vicar of Kirk Christ, Lezayre, together with several of the ancients of both parishes, having met this day at a place) called Cottier's Platt, in order to determine Boundaries of the two Parishes from the place aforesaid unto the High-road leading from Bishop's Court to Ramsey : and both parties having agreed to leave it to me to hear what can be sayd on both sides, and to put a final end to all controversies for the future concerning the said Boundary, 1, therefore, having heard all that can be sayd by both Parties, and having carefully viewed and walked the ground, do adjudge and declare that a straight line drawn from the East side of the Platt aforesaid, betwixt two remark- able trees growing in the High-way aforesaid, and betwixt two large white stones on the other side of the said High-way to the end of an Hedge leading from thence to the mountains, shall ever here- after be looked upon and be the true Boundary of the two Parishes, with which both sides being entirely satisfied, I do hereby require that nobody do presume presumptuously to cut down the trees or remove the stones aforesaid ; and that a true copy of this determin- ation be preserved in the registers of both Parishes, as an end of all strife on this account.
Given under my hand and seal at Bishop's Court the day and year above written.
(Signed) Tho: Sodor and Man."7
On April 24th, 1741, Bishop Wilson urged the need of perambulating and enjoined a form of service as below
The Collect for Quinquagesima Sunday.
The Collect for the third Sunday in Lent.
The Collect for Septuagesima Sunday.
Prayer for Rain if then needful.
Prayers in time of Dearth and Famine if needful.
Prayers in time of War if needful.
In the Litany the last two Petitions,-viz:
That it may please thee to give and preserve, etc., and
That it may please thee to give us true, etc.
A prayer from Mr. Newton's book on " Fasts and Festivals " for Rogation Week.
Psalm 103 to be said by the Minister alone.8
At the Visitations questions were frequently asked about Perambulations.
1757. Question : When was the last time of the perambulation of the bounds of the parish?
Answer : There has been no perambulation these six years last. (A perambulation was ordered in 1766.)
1782. The Vicar states : " Perambulation has of late years been rather neglected so that I have not perambulated during my incumbency, partly owing to some disputes respecting the boundary between this and other parishes.'
1833. The Vicar stated that "the bounds between Jurby, Andreas and Lezayre were perambulated by me about two years ago. There are now no disputes about the boundary."
Lezayre is much larger than any of the other parishes, as the following figures shew :
It measures seven miles in length from north to south, and five in breadth from east to west, and contains over 25 square miles. The term " Parish of Lezayre " can be used in three senses
(I) The ancient, civil and ecclesiastical parish as above, all of whose inhabitants retain their rights (marriage, burial,
etc.) in the parish church.
(2) The present civil parish which contains all outside the town of Ramsey.
(3) The parish over which the vicar of Lezayre has charge This excludes all the parochial district of St. Olave's, but includes the part of the town of Ramsey west of Lickney and south of the Sulby River.
Mr. A. W. Moore states 9" It is curious that Lezayre, though never one of the most populous parishes, had two companies (of militia) for the west and east divisions respectively, while the other parishes had one each." This is not correct. Lezayre, in the eighteenth century, was always one of the most populous as his figures, given later, show.10 In 1726 the number of inhabitants was 1,309-the largest in the Island. No other parish or town with the exception of Malew reached 1,000.
In 1757 the number was 1,481, made up as follows:
|Married couples (223)||
|Adult single men, upwards of age 16||
|Adult single women, upwards of 16||
|Males under 16||
|Females under 16||
The census was taken by the vicar, Matthias Curghey. The wardens-John Gill, Wm. Goldsmith, Robert Cottier and Robert Corlet signed the list on October 5th, 1757. No parish had so large a number. On January 31st, 1784, Archdeacon W. Mylrea sent a circular letter to the Clergy stating that the ascertaining of the total amount of inhabitants within this Isle is now an object of Government. They are to number them in their parishes and return the result promptly to Government. Thomas Corlett ackowledged the receipt on February 1st and forwarded the letter to Maughold the next day. The figures given-1680 -were only exceeded by Douglas and Malew.
1792. Population 1,721, exceeded by Malew and Patrick.
1821. Population 2,209, exceeded by Malew, Andreas, and Rushen.
1831. Population 2,657, exceeded by Malew and Rushen.
The following figures are taken from The Manx Sun of June 21st, 1831.
" Ayre (for Lezayre) Inhabited houses 386. Families 412. Building 3. Not inhabited 12. Families-Agriculture 182, Trade 136. All others 94. Males 928, Females I,051. Males upwards of20 years 396. Agriculture 1st class (those who employ hired men) 57, 2nd class (small farmers using labour of their own families only) 63. Agricultural labourers 72, Manufacturers 1, Retail, etc. 67. Wholesale and Educated men 22, Labourers not Agricultural 53- All other males upwards of 20 years 33. Male servants upwards of 20 years 30. Male servants under 20, 30. Female servants 96. Total 1,979." Moore gives 2,657, which is much more likely to be correct. The figure never dropped below 2,300 till after the extension of Ramsey boundaries (see below, Census of 1871).
The parish is sharply divided into two parts. All the southern and south-western portion consists of mountain ; all the remainder, with one exception, is exceedingly flat and was originally marsh and lake-in fact some portions are practically undrained still. The exception is the triangular portion between the lower course of the Sulby river, the Bride boundary and the sea. This portion is raised above the former marsh and is good arable land. On the south side of the central plain there is a narrow strip of arable land whence the hills rise abruptly to a tableland, from which rise the main mountains along the southern and south-western border.
Here are found the highest mountains in the Island. Snaefell 2,032 feet, North Barrule 1,842 feet, Clagh Ouyr 1,808 feet, and Ben-y-Pot 1,772 feet. Lesser hills are Mount Karran 1,084 _feet, on the west side of the mouth of Sulby Glen; Sheau Menagh 1,256 feet, on the east ; and Skyhill, or Scacafell, at the west side of the mouth of Glen Auldyn. Knock Shemerick, or Cronk Sumark, as it is now called, is an isolated hill near the junction of the Narradale and Ballamanagh streams. The mountain range is cut by the great fissure of Glion Mooar (the Big Glen) or Sulby Glen as it is called to-day, and Glen Auldyn (a corruption of Altadale [Swan Glen]).
The earlier writers about the Island give interesting accounts oi these mountains. Peck, in " Desiderata Curiosa," states that Earl James said " When I go on the mount you call Barrule and, but turning round, can see England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, I think shame, so fruitlessly to see so many kingdoms at once, which no place, I think, in any nation we know under Heaven can afford such a prospect of and to have so little profit by them."
Sacheverell, 1702, speaks of Skyehill being one the highest mountains.11 He calls it " Skeyal," evidently mistaking it for Snaefell, which he spells " Sneafield " ; but five pages later he mentions both.
" . . Sneafield, where it is not unpleasant, when the weather is clear and serene, to see three noble nations surrounding one of the most obscure in the universe, which is as it were the centre of the British Empire. Here it was that the famous Cowley in his " Poetic Vision," places himself, to deplore the miseries and calamities of our unhappy civil wars.... "12
Waldron, 1726, writes of the mountains
" They have many of a very great height, but there are three much superior to the others ; the first is called Snafles, from the top of which you may see England, Scotland and Ireland ; the next, Barool ; and the third, Carrahan. Under these, they tell you, lie the bodies of three kings, from whose names the mountains take their denominations, as they had their rise from their burials ; for having in those days, no notion of architecture, or erecting monu- ments, the only way of perpetuating the memory of the dead, was to throw a huge pile of earth over them ; every body in passing, for a great number of ages, thinking themselves obliged to contribute towards the pious work, and throwing on a little, according to the strength or time they were masters of, have raised them to the stupendous height they are now arrived, especially that of Snafles, under which we may suppose, either the greatest, most ancient, or most beloved monarch lies. These rude mausoleums, seem, methinks, to shame the pride of modern architecture, being likely to continue when those built of marble with all their vain infinity of expense and art will be crumbled into dust, and driven into the air the sport of every wanton wind."13
The only river is the Sulby with its tributaries. It is the longest in the island. Rising in the mountains of Michael, it flows down Sulby glen in a northerly direction. When clear of hills it makes a sharp turn to the east and flows into Ramsey harbour. Its former mouth was to the north of the Mooragh which seems to have formed an island. In ancient times the river seems to have flowed north of the Lhen. This became blocked by the matter washed down from the hills, and the course of the river was diverted to the east. Its tributaries, in Lezayre, are all on the right bank-Block Earey, where the new reservoir of the Northern Water Board has recently been made, and Ballamanagh and Narradale streams which unite near Knock Shemerick, the Glentrammon stream, the Glen Auldyn or Altadale, and the Lichney or Strooan-ny-Craue, and many smaller rivulets. The only tributary on the left bank is an artificial one-the trench which drains Lough Mallow. The river is well supplied with trout and salmon, and salmon trout are also taken.
Almost all the lower land was at one time lake or swamp. The lakes have vanished, but the names still remain. They are Myrescog or Myrosco-" the miry wood." now commonly called the Curragh-" the mires or swamp "; the Dufloch probably the Dollagh in Ballaugh, Loch Malar or Mallo, north of the Garey, and Hescana (k)appayze " the Water of the Abbot " which may be Loughan-ny-guly--" the Pond of the Wild Geese."
There were a number of islands, the names of some of which still survive, viz:-Rozelean, the " Red Island," now Cronk Ruagh, " the Red Hillock " ; Ellan Bane, " The White Island " ; Close yn Ellan, the island enclosure formerly " The Green Island ". ; Tallan Moar, " the Big Island " ; Ellan-ny-Foillan, " the Island of Gulls," on Loughan-ny-guiy ; the Ellan on the Glebe, and many other smaller ones.
" It is almost certain that, in periods of floods, the larger portion of the Curragh, which in the fourteenth century appears to have occupied most of Lezayre and Ballaugh, and a smaller part of Jurby and Andreas, was then mainly under water. On the other hand the Manorial Rolls show, that by 1515, there were numerous farmers in Lezayre and Ballaugh paying Lord's Rent. It was not, however, till the middle of the following century that the Curragh was partially drained by the Lhane (Lhen) trench, and even after that time it appears to have contained much more water than now. Thus, in 1690, the Records mention " meres " in it and the ellans point to the same conclusion."14
Naturally the low lands suffered much from floods.
1664. John Casement's petition to " Goverr & officers that his land is washed away and much wasted by the violence of Ramsey great river and the violence of the tide, praying a mitigacon of his rent proportionally, and such assistance as should be thought proper to secure his house and what remainder of ye land is left."
The Governor stated that it is not a matter for him but for the Lord. But the Coroner is to impanell 4 to view the waste and decay of ground and certify what proportion of rent should be abated. They state 1/4 is washed away and rent should be reduced accordingly.15
1674. The Captain of Lezayre was ordered to take his company and repair certain places where the Sulby river had broken out-16
In 1692 a considerable part of Ballamanagh was washed away. The tenants petitioned the Lord:-
" To the Rt. Honble William Earl of Derby, Lord of Man and the Isles.
The humble petition of John Kewney, Ewan Kinred, John Qualtrough and Daniell Kneen.
How that yr Honr peticoners Ancestors and themselves having for Some Generations held and possessed (as Tenants under the Rt. Hounerable the Lords of this Isle yr Honble Ancestors) two quarters of Abbey Land in the Parish of Kk Christ Lez Ayre, justly and honestly yielding and paying all fines, rents, and customs due out of the same, but now within these twenty years the best part of the said quarters of land is taken away by the violence of a great water, called Sulby River. Who (not content with its ancient bounds) hath within the time aforesaid, so forcibly and irrestibly bent its course agt your peticoners land, that, (notwithstanding all the endeavours & resistance yr peticoners could make) the waters have sue furiously prevailed, and by its continuall corrosion and beating agt the same (it being a sandy and mouldering sort of land) hath taken away not only the greatest but also the best of yr peticoner's Barley and Wheat Grounds by which they only subsisted, the rest of their land being mountainous and less usefull, by which means peticoners are reduced to that miserable poverty that they are not able to find necessary food for themselves and their families, much less any longer to pay the Honble Rents and Customs without some reasonable reliefe, as can be justified by many and in particular by the two Deemsters of this Island."
They asked that six " honest, conscientious and judicious men " should report. This was agreed to. Thos. Christian, Edw. Christian, J. Garrett, John Curghey, John Corlett and Edw. Christian reported on the damage at Ballamanaugh " that one half of their Barle and Wheat land whereon the sd Tenants principally subsiste is quite lost and irrecoverably gone and the part thereof remaining not comparable to what is lost in value."
June 6, 1692. They received a reduction of a quarter of Rents and Customs. In 1694, after further consideration, they were allowed a reduction of Rents, not Customs.
1694. " To the Honble Nich. Sankey, Governor of this Isle.
The humble Peticon of John Kewney, Ewan Kinread, Thos. Cottier and Dan Kneen, inhabitants of Balnamonach in the parish of Kirk Christ, Lezayre, shewing:-
That whereas on the 6th of June, in Ano 1692 the late Governor Sacheverall with the rest of the commissioners of the Honble Lord's Revenue, upon the verdict of six sufficient men impanelled by the Honble Lord's order, was pleased to allow or remit peticoners a fourth part of the Rents and Customs of their respective tenants in regard to the great loss they have sustained in their lands by the violence of Sulby River, as by the said order may appear. By virtue whereof yr peticoners had the benefit of the sd order and so the fourth part of their Rents and Customs abated and allowed them for the two years next after . . . in the time of Steward Steven- son. But the Comptroller Rowe becoming Steward upon review of the sd order of Court he did obliterate all that particular containing their customs both in the original and in the copy of which yr peticoners had, as doth appear in the copy in yr peticoners custody, etc."
They ask for the benefit of the original order.
The inhabitants had not only to suffer the ravages of the river, but they had also to come to the aid of the town of Ramsey.
Blundell, writing in 1648, states
" The town of Ramsey hath always heretofore been accounted the third town of ye Island, but it is at this day the least and poorest of them all, and scarce bearing the resemblance of a good village, for it is held no greater than Bala Sally, where the ruined abbey of Rushin standeth . . . but it hath been much greater about 24 or 25 years ago, ye sea overflowing its banks, carried away most of its houses, with a great part of ye land whereon ye town was built. "17
In 1630 it had been wholly destroyed ; in 1644 its inhabitants petitioned the Earl to order the people of the adjacent Sheading to come and help them against the sea, and in 1704, being " in jeopardy of their habitacons as also of theire worldly substance ... being taken away by the rageing billows," they asked that " the inhabitants of Ayre Sheading and Maughold parish should be ordered to assist them to mend the breaches," and that an assessment for the same purpose should be made on the towns-people.18
In September, 1930, occurred the greatest flood of modern times. There seems to have been a cloud-burst on Snaefell and all the streams rising in that neighbourhood, but none of those in other parts, immediately were converted into raging torrents. The flat land became a huge lake, in which it was possible to travel for miles in small boats. The properties in Sulby Glen and Glen Auldyn suffered greatly. All the foot bridges were swept away and also the stone bridge at the junction of the two streams in the latter glen. The roadway at Milntown and that in the upper glen were carried away completely and the railway bridge moved, so that trains could not run into Ramsey for somedays. The large wooden gate of a house high up in Glen Auldyn was found at Port Moar in Maughold. Even tiny brooks, like that which runs from Glen-ny-Killey through the vicarage garden, did much damage. It broke down the churchyard wall and carried a large quantity of debris into the church road, completey obstructing it and raised a great heap of gravel, etc., in the gardens of the adjoining cottages. Their inhabitants were so terrified that they came to the vicarage for shelter.
1 Moore Surnames, 1st ed., p. 213.
2 Isle of Man ed. by Rev. J. G. Cumming, Manx Soc., vol. X, p. 17.
3 [Kneen] Place Names, p. 534.
4 Isle of Man. ed. Rev. J. G. Cumming, Manx Soc., vol. x, p. 80.
5 Manx Church Magazine, June 1920.
6 Moore, Dioc Hist p. 167
7 Moore, Folklore, etc., p. 116
8 Moore, Folklore, p. 117.
9 Moore, Hist., vol. I, p. 329, footnote.
10 Moore, Hist., p. 646.
11 Manx Society, vol I, p. 12.
12 Ibid., p. 19.
13 Manx Soc., vol. XI, p. 53.
14 Moore, Hist., p. 24.
15 Book of Precedents 2.
16 Liber Scacc.
17 Manx Soc., Vol. XXV, p. 76.
18 Lib Scacc.