[From Annals of Kirk Christ Lezayre]



Ridder 1. St. Olav's Order, Norway


ROBERT DANIEL KERMODE, M.A. Vicar of Kirk Christ Lezayre Canon of St. Patrick (1868-1948)

" THE most perfect pattern for a Manx parson," Canon Kermode once said to me, " was Revd. Hugh Stowell, Rector of Ballaugh. He was an example in fervour and the missionary spirit, cheerful and intelligent in both his clerical and temporal duties, the most eloquent and patriotic parson in the Manx Church."

Hugh Stowell was born in 1766 and Robert Daniel Kermode a hundred years later in 1869. Both died after a strenuous life not free from a struggle against physical infirmity, full of years and honour. Both were cultured native clergy, typical scholars of their period and landmarks of their age.

Stowell was the foremost scholar of his time ; he corrected the 1810 edition of the Manx New Testament, compiled a "Manx Lesson Book " and, in his old age, completed his great work- the " Life of Bishop Wilson." Like his hero, Stowell, Canon Kermode was not without the literary gift, as will be evident from a perusal of this book.

I had met Kermode in our young days, when we had both given and taken knocks on the football field, he playing for his old school, Victoria College, and I for the now extinct Mona Rugby Football Club. But I resumed a more personal contact when he became Vicar of St. George's in 1908.

I found that though he was an original member of the Manx Language Society and took a deep and sympathetic interest in the survival of the Manx language, he was not a serious student of Manx Gaelic.

I had the pleasure of helping him in a humble capacity while he was compiling, in 1912, an illustrated Manx Scenery Calendar, in book form (quarto size). It had the title " Lioar Imbee ny Shillaghyn Manninagh " (" A Calendar bf Manx Scenery "). There was a brief history of St. George's Church. The days of the month and the Saints' Days were set down in Manx Gaelic. A couple of thousand were sold which materially helped the fund he had initiated for the purpose of improving and beautifying the church.

Young Kermode was a serious student, in particular of European languages and literature, and of Church history. No scholar's library in Man was more comprehensive or richer than his.

When in London he was very fond of searching about among the second-hand bookstalls in the neighbourhood of Charing Cross Road, and on one occasion his characteristic figure, oblivious of all around him save the books, was noted as a good subject for a " snap " by a press photographer and the Canon's portrait duly appeared thus happily engaged, next morning, in one of the London daily papers. The Manx National Library at the Museum is the richer as the result of the Canon's treasure-hunting expeditions.

He wrote a series of articles for the Manx Church Magazine (of which he was the editor for a great number of years) on Some Saints connected with the Isle of Man " (Saints Ninian, German, Patrick, Bridget and Brendan).

During the years when I was editor of the " Journal of the Manx Museum" I was accustomed to send him copies of the articles written in Norwegian, by Scandinavian scholars, about the Isle of Man ; articles, for example by Professor Carl Marstrander and Dr. Haakon Shetelig, with a request for their translation. I knew of no other scholar on the Island who had a better knowledge of Norwegian than he and, by this linguistic ability, he was able to give readers of the Journal a correct summary in English of contributions by Scandinavian scholars on Manx Viking history.

His views coincided with those of Marstrander and Shetelig, that several of our Runic crosses should be given an earlier date than those ascribed to them.

Kermode was a painstaking student of Manx history and archaeology with a special fondness for folk-lore. He made several contributions to the Proceedings of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, of which Society, at his death, he was the oldest member, having joined at the age of 28 in 1897

Canon Robert Daniel Kermode was the eldest son of William Karran Kermode, J.P., and Frances Creer. He was born in Douglas, November 22nd, 1869, and died at " Woodlands," Kirk Christ Lezayre, May 29th, 1948.

He came of the Kermode family of Ballamona, Kirk Marown, and they were descendants of the Kermode family of Knock- y-vriew, Kirk Malew, known as " The Break-o'-day-boys," because litigants coming from the North of the Island to the Castletown Courts, by foot or by horse, knew that if they passed Knock-y-vriew by day-break they would be in good time at Castle Rushen ! His mother, Frances Creer, was a member of a family long established at Ardwhallian in Kirk Braddan. Like the Kermodes, they go back to early sixteenth century records.

After a very happy time at his school, Victoria College, Douglas, Kermode went up to Cambridge, to Caius College. He took his degree in 1891 and spent a post-graduate year at Jesus, reading Theology and Church History. In 1892 he took Holy Orders, with a title to the famous church of St. George's-in-the-East, where he spent a happy and profitable time. But in 1896 he returned to Douglas and worked with Revd. R. B. Baron, as assistant priest of St. George's. In 1898 he succeeded Revd. J. S. Wilkinson as Vicar of Kirk Maughold. He stayed at Kirk Maughold for ten years. It was while he was there and under his direction and control that the restoration of the church took place.

While Vicar of Kirk Maughold, too, he married Miss Bertha Harrison Clucas, the youngest daughter of J. T. Clucas, M.H.K., of Thornhill, Ramsey, Captain of the Parish of Rushen. Through all his long useful life subsequently Mrs. Kermode was his capable assistant and counsellor. In 1908 he succeeded to the vicariate of St. George's, Douglas, and here he did some of his very best work. He was a keen Freemason and for many years was Provincial Grand Chaplain. He was, also, during the first World War, Chaplain of the Loyal Manx Volunteers. During this period, too, he was invited by Bishop Drury to accept the Canonry of St. Patrick in the Chapter of St. German's Cathedral. From 1913 to 1931 he was Proctor for the Clergy in the York Convocation. He was also Rural Dean of Douglas. His wide knowledge of Church affairs and of the affairs of the Manx Church in particular, together with his spirit of toleration and breadth of mind, gave him a unique position in the affairs of the diocese and.Island.

From Douglas, in 192o, he moved to the vicarage of Kirk Christ Lezayre, the parish of which he has compiled the History written in this volume. He has left many marks on the parish. During his vicariate the War Memorial was set up and dedicated. Under his direction aided by a bequest and parochial subscriptions, the chancel of the church was renovated, the organ modernised, the pulpit and choirstalls were restored or renewed and a window was designed and dedicated in memory of Bishop Crowe (at one time Vicar of Lezayre).

Although Canon Kermode resigned the living of Lezayre in 1939 he continued as Vicar till 1945, through these years doing his duty for his successor, who was on active service.

Following the discovery by the Manx Museum that one of the outstanding stained glass artists working in Scotland in the nine- teenth century had been John Cottier, a native of Lezayre parish, I wrote an article in the journal of the Manx Museum and printed his fine portrait. The Canon was delighted when he afterwards discovered that Cottier had, about 1850, designed and erected in the north wall of Lezayre Church, a window in memory of his father and grandfather, the Cottiers of Narradale, the lettering of which had been temporarily covered.

The parish hall of Kirk Christ Lezayre was built while the Canon was Vicar, and he inaugurated a fund to augment and perpetuate the stipend of the Chaplain of Sulby, which is a Chaplaincy within the parish of Lezayre.

Canon Kermode has in this volume done something unique. The annals of a Manx parish have never before been compiled. During the twenty-eight years he was resident he made a habit of investigating and recording its long and varied story, folk-lore, family names and place names, its own worthies of the distant past. All of them are worth depicting.

Kirk Christ Lezayre is as rich and varied as any of our parishes. It is not generally known that it had in 1726 a larger population than the town of Douglas and that it was the only parish to organise two companies of Militia. It has a larger area than any of the other sixteen parishes and of a certainty it has more varied scenery amongst its sixteen thousand acres of mountain, dale and curragh.

The parish has witnessed some of the most stirring scenes in Manx history. It was near the green banks of the Sulby in 1056 that Godred Crovan, aided by his relatives and friends of adjacent farms, commenced his brilliant career as King of Man and the Isles. In the remote days of the Vikings it was from the port of Rammesway that Godred and subsequent Kings and Princes with their retinues, started their journeys over the summit of Scacafel, on to the Via Regia along the anciently constructed track to Tynwald and on to their Royal residence of Rushen.

It may be that other Manx scholars will emulate the pioneer work of Canon Kermode and set down the annals of their own parishes. The recording and preservation of these local inter- esting features as part of our heritage is a national duty. Those of us who love our country and are proud of its history will take great joy in the fact that Canon Kermode conceived and carried out the project of this parish history and made generous pro- vision to cover the cost of its publication.

It ought, too, to be mentioned in this Foreword that the parishioners have recorded their appreciation of Canon Kermode's devotion and fidelity, by setting up a permanent memorial to him. It takes the form of a stained glass window in the south wall of the church. It was unveiled by the Lord Bishop on 14th of June, 1949. He having been Canon of St. Patrick, the window depicts the figure of the Saint and underneath, appropriately, the picture of St. German's Cathedral.

It is not right that a life like his, so rich in blessing, so many- sided, so self-sacrificing, should pass out of people's minds. His life has been so closely woven into the lives of so many others and into the life and work of the diocese, that it can never be forgotten. It may not be inappropriate if in conclusion I add to what has been set down, some of the eloquent words written by his intimate friend and admirer Canon E. H. Stenning, Vice- Principal of King William's College, and published by him in one of the Island newspapers

" Friend and adviser of six bishops, fifty-five years in Holy Orders, always truly and typically Manx, always a true servant of his Master, he has left a splendid impression on the life of the Island in a quiet modest way. Indeed quiet modesty was a feature of his life.... He had neither fear nor favour. He loved his Island and its people and his people appreciated and trusted him. He was a forceful speaker, though he did not often speak. He had a delightful sense of humour.... His knowledge of Manx affairs was encyclopaedic. He could recall affairs from the past that were always interesting and helpful. He had not a single enemy. His judgment was always sound and unbiased. His generosity in thought and deed was proverbial . . . Nor was his least praiseworthy trait the courage and bravery with which he faced the difficulties and sufferings that increased years brought to him. He retained his interests, his clearness of mind and soundness of judgment right up to the end. He has left us the richer by his example ; the poorer by his passing. A very great number of simple Manx folk are genuinely sorry at the loss of a very real and very happy friend. Could any man hope for more? "

Tynwald Day, 1949


index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2012