[From Short Account of Kirk Maughold, 1935]

A Short Account of Kirk Maughold
In the Diocese of


F M. Lascelles. 1935.

A MORE beautiful or interesting spot than Kirk Maughold is difficult to imagine Situated among the hills on three sides, it looks down en Port Moar on the fourth, sparkling in the sunshine, as blue as any Cornish bay, where Viking sailed and later smugglers landed their goods.

Kirk Maughold Church
Kirk Maughold Church

Before entering the Church gates, on the left is the old cross of St. Bee's sandstone belonging to the 13th century On the front of the Cross is the Crucifixion and the Legs of Man; at the back is the Virgin and Child ; the third Side shows a man praying, and the fourth the Tudor Rose. The Cross was not always in its present position. Most likely it stood opposite the Vicarage, as these crosses were generally placed at four cross-roads. In former days there would be a road leading to the well which is no longer used. Castletown. Kirk Michael and Ramsey and other places each had one, but Maughold is the only one that remains. Funeral processions, in olden days, on the way to Church, set down the corpse at the foot of the cross, and prayed for the soul of the Departed.

The churchyard.

The, Churchyard was once fortified and there remain vestiges of the wall and the moat. Here the people drove their cattle when the parish was invaded. It is thought that the Churchyard contained a pagan temple before Christianity came to the Island, as just outside there is a Bronze Age settlement, and it is probable, as is often the case, that the famous Wishing Well was of pagan origin. There are several burial places in the parish dating from prehistoric times.

In the early days of Christianity, it would seem that the Churchyard was a monastic settlement, and there are traces in it of seven keeils or chapels. The present church stands on the sites of two of them. Three of the keeils have their walls still standing about two feet above the ground. In the northern one there are the remains of an old aumbry or cupboard, where probably the holy vessels were kept. This aumbry is in the north wall, instead of the east by the Altar, which is unusual. The site of the sixth keeil is on the left of the church door, marked by a large square stone, and there was another keeil found on the south side of the church. Keeils date from early Christian days and there are mony of them in the Island. There are twenty-two in the parish of Maughold. These have remained because the Manx people have always had a, great reverence for everything holy, and so these little foundations can still be traced, and some have the walls still standing. The northern keeil was surrounded by its own little cemetery, the wall of which has only lately disappeared.

It has been learned from the gravedigger that when digging a grave he drove his pick into the ground and unearthed a skull, and then found a very early type of grave. As far as could be gathered the coffin was made of stone slabs. Only the skull remained, having been protected by the top slab, the rest having fallen in. The following year he had occasion to re-open the grave but nothing remained. It would appear to have been a. lintel grave, and from his description it was just outside the old keeil burial ground.

The Island was famous during the sixth and eighth centuries for its hermit monks called "Culdees." They were anchorites living a life of solitary devotion, believing that by mortifying the body and by benevolence, they were pleasing to God. The hermit was allowed a, jar, a towel and a cup and waited until food was given to him. His garments were a cap, which he always wore, and a gown. He was allowed no fire. These men built the keeils for their private use, but wayfarers could join in the devotions and assist at the Celebration of the Sacrament. They were not however established for congregational purposes. The hermit seems to have lived in a, small adjoining hut, but no traces of these huts occur in the island, although remains are to be found in Ireland.

St. Maughold.

Kirk Maughold takes its name from St. Maughold, who was supposed to have been one of St. Patrick's earliest disciples, and this is the story of his conversion.

There was a wicked and cruel Irish pirate called MacCuil who with his followers desired to tempt St. Patrick. They therefore lay in wait for him on a lonely mountain path and tempted him in this way. They placed one of themselves, who feigned to be in the agony of death, under a cloak, to try the saint by this kind of deception. On the arrival of St. Patrick with his disciples they were busy muttering prayers and practising witchcraft and incantations. One of the heathen said to him, "Behold one of us is now sick, approach therefore and chant some of the incantations of your sect over him if perchance he may be healed." Knowing all their stratagems and deceits, St. Patrick with firmness and intrepidity said "It would be no wonder if he had been sick," and his companions, uncovering the face of him, that had feigned sickness, saw that he was now dead. The heathen, amazed and astonished at such a miracle, said among themselves "Truly this is a man of God; we have done evil in tempting him,"

St. Patrick turned to MacCuil and said "Why did you seek to tempt ine ?"

The cruel tyrant answered "I am sorry for what I have done. Whatever you command me I will perform and I now deliver myself into the power of your supreme God whom you preach."

The Saint replied "Believe therefore in my God the Lord Jesus Christ and confess your sins and be baptised in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

He was converted in that hour, believed, and teas baptised. Then MacCuil added this saying "I confess to thee my holy Lord Patrick that I proposed to kill you. Judge therefore how much I owe for so great a. crime."

Patrick said "I am not able to judge but God will judge. Do therefore depart unarmed to the sea and pass over quickly from this country Ireland, taking nothing with you of your substance except a, small common garment with which you may be able to cover your body, eating nothing and drinking nothing of the fruit of this island, having a mark of your sins on your head, and when you reach the sea bind your feet together with an iron fetter, and cast the key of it into the sea, and set out in a, boat of one hide without rudder or oar, and wherever the wind and sea shall lead you be prepared to remain, and to whatever land Divine Providence shall carry you be prepared to live there and obey the Divine Commandments."

MacCuil answered "I will do as you have said, but respecting, the dead man, what shall we do ?"

Patrick said "He shall live and shall rise again without pain," and Patrick restored him to life in that hour and he revived. MacCuil departed thence that same day to the sea. The right side of the plain of Innis was reached, and having his confidence unshaken in the Faith and binding himself on the shore and casting the key into the sea according to that was commanded him he embarked in a. little boat. The north wind arose, bearing him southwards, and cast hire on the island of Evonia, where he found two men, Conindrus and Romilus, very wonderful in faith and in doctrine, who first taught the word of God and baptised in Evonia. The men of the island had been converted by their doctrine to the Catholic Faith.

These man, seeing a man of the same habit as Conindrus and Romilus wondered, and pitying him, lifted him out of the sea. The spiritual fathers received him with joy. He, finding himself in a region believing in God, conformed himself body and soul to the guidance of these two holy bishops and spent the remainder of his life with them until he was appointed as their successor. It is said that St. Maughold quenched his thirst at the little spring after his voyage and blessed it. Afterwards it became known as St. Maughold's Well, acid is reputed to heal all who have Faith. Time seems to have changed "MacCuil" into "Maughold," for in the Manorial Roll, 1511, it is called Maughold. MacCuil is pronounced by the Manx as "MacCoole." St. Maughold is said to have been buried in the churchyard,

The Church.

The little grey church, with its arched stone canopy, has been restored but not spoilt, except perhaps the east window, which replaced an old lancet window now hidden behind the Altar. At the end of the 18th century it was described as a beautiful lancet window. The church is Norman and was built in the 12th century, 1130-1140, under the auspices of Olaf, 1st, king of Man and the Isles, and is dedicated to St. Maughold. The original church was not so long and ended where the traces of the old north door are to be seen. There was also a south door.

All the woodwork of the present church is modern but pleasing; it is of oak, the carving having been done by Mr Kelly, of Kirk Michael. This was given by various parishioners.

Visitors often get a shock when on Sundays, what seems like a small washing pan is with a rattle handed down from the gallery. This is an old alms dish given by the Rev. Henry Allen and his wife, 1751. There are two of these vessels.

On the left side of the door is the old stone grey font; dating very far back. On the right, half-way up the church, are two square windows, which were discovered when the church was restored. Stained glass has been inserted and one of them is dedicated to Bishop Roolwer, who is buried there.

The Somerled Invasion.

There is a story told of an invasion of the church. In .January, 1131, when Somerled Jarl, of Argyll, with a navy of eighty ships sailed into Ramsey Ray, a fierce and bloody battle was fought against Godred II., King of -Man, Somerled being the victor.

Before the battle the people rushed their cattle into the fortified churchyard of Kirk Maughold and the Ramsey folk brought all their valuables to be placed in the church, thinking that as St. Maughold was held in such reverence the enemy would not dare to plunder it. Sumerled sent a captain to the south of Ramsey who, hearing that all the cattle were in Maughold Churchyard, went there and seized the beasts to feed the army but did not dare to touch the church without permission from Somerled. Now the captain desired to plunder the church but without permission from Somerled he dared not do so. He therefore returned to Ramsey to ask him what he was to do, when Somerled said "No." The captain argued that it was no worse than taking the cattle from the churchyard to feed the army, whereupon Somerled replied "Let the affair rest between you and St. Maughold; I claim no share of the sacreligious booty." The captain went back to Maughold deciding to take the plunder for himself. tip hen it was found the church was not to be respected the priest fled to the caves in the hills and the poor people. ran about crying and calling øn St. Maughold to save them. The first part of the night was nearly over before the church was plundered, The captain ordered the soldiers to guard the treasure and he retired to his tent. No sooner had he fallen asleep than St. Maughold appeared to him. The saint was furious with the captain for having dared to sack his church. The captain awoke in a terrible fright, sent for the priests and begged them to ask the saint to forgive him. One story says that a priest was so angry that he prayed that some terrible death might overtake the captain, whereupon a swarm of horrible black flies settled on him and he died in great pain.

St. Maugholds Staff.

St. Maughold's Staff was held in great reverence and was said to work wonderful miracles. The man who had charge of it was one of the Principal landowners and as remuneration had the use of certain lands known as "Stafflands" for life, or until he resigned the office of Staffkeeper. The Christians, of Baldromrna Moar and of Ballatersyn, own Staffland, but how they acquired it history does not relate. _ They may have bought it when the monasteries were broken up. In the eighteenth century they were paying rent for some Staffland to the church. Unfortunately the Staff itself has been lost most likely in troublous times when it was hidden and the place forgotten.

The church has many famous people buried in it, although the sites of many of the older graves have been lost. Interred there, are:- St. Maughold, 498; King Olaf I., 1154; Godred II., 1187; Bishop Roolwer; Edward Christian, Governor of the- Island; Sir Mark Cubbon. of Indian fame; and Sir Hall Caine; also P.M. C. Kermode, the famous Antiquary.

Edward Christian was Governor of the Island from 1628 to 1635, when he got into trouble through inciting rebellion against the Earl of Derby and he was imprisoned in Peel Castle, where he died. His father was Vicar of Maughold, and his tombstone on the south side of the church is said to be the oldest in the churchyard He was an uncle of the famous William Christian, "Illiam Dhone," of Ronaldsway, who was shot at Hango Hill, 1663.

Sir Hall Caine taught in Maughold School, and it is said that some of his novels were written in the parish.

Parish registers.

The old registers have many sad records and also some, amusing ones. From the first page, yellow with age, it would appear that the Vicar of that day had a, strong, sense of humour, for there are two funny- little sketches, the first being a Puritan wearing a large round hat with a. high pointed crown. The face has a long sharp nose and on the end of the chin there is a goat's beard sticking straight out. He is strutting along as if he owned the world and one wonders if he was some Nosey Parker of a parishioner troublesome to the Vicar. The second was at first rather difficult to understand, but it would appear to be a. mastiff scratching himself. They are so human ; one can picture the old-time Vicar making those little sketches without thinking where he was making them, perhaps while waiting for a wardens' meeting. The registers that remain begin in 1643. The older ones were kept at St. Bee's for Godred II., presented Maughold to the Abbey of that name and all the ancient registers were destroyed when part of the Abbey was burnt. The registers preserved in the parish show the sternness of the times. People were obliged to attend church at least once on Sundays or they were punished by fines or imprisonment.

One entry in the register says :-"Daniel Keruish servant in Baldromma. attempting on Sunday morning Oct 11 with others to go down the Hough near Maughold Head to gather dullice slipped from the precipice and his corpse being "Miserably bruised was buried Oct 17. From a profanation of the Sabbaths and from sudden unprepared and eternal death Good Lord deliver us. Amen."

To us in our day he does nor, appear to have done anything very wrong, but other days other ways.

"Buried, outbreak April 23 1741 till 1742 50 children. "This was the smallpox which broke out every few years attacking the children, many dying, and those who recovered were often blind and terribly disfigured. In 1779 50 children died from this scourge in Douglas.

There are many entries of wrecks. The whole crew was often lost and washed up on the Cumberland or Scottish coasts. Those, of course, were the days before lifeboats.

There was a terrible outbreak of plague in the Island, a kind of dysentry caused by mildew en the oats. This wiped out many of the Maughold folks.

The old account books have some interesting items. Every boxing Day a house-to-house visitation was mode to collect for the poor of the parish and everybody gave what they felt inclined. In the past there must have been gifts of beasts and sheep instead of money, as they are entered as "poor sheep." Wool. fetched a better price than it did in 1932, when it went down to threepence per pound.

1785. Poor sheep 10 in No. Wool 14 lbs at 7d 8/2. Allowed herd for 2 years 2/4 51/10"

"1789. Poor sheep and three yearlings wool said 9/7, tup sold 5/3".

The sheep would be the little four horned Manx mountain sheep known as the "loaghtyn", which have nearly died out now. Tile mutton is good and the wool, though short, is soft and silky. When H.R.H. Prince George visited the Island he was presented with a length of Manx tweed made of this wool.

"1803. To making timber and nails for Pat Gill's coffin paid John Kelly 5/3".
Coffins were cheap then!

Ancient Crosses.

On the south side of the church is the Crosshouse, where all the, ancient crosses and stones have been collected. "Ancient Crosses," however, is too large a subject to treat here, but anybody can read the descriptions attached to the various stones, or, if they wish to fro into the subject more deeply, there is the famous book "Manx Crosses" by P. M. C. Kermode, which is to be found in the Public Libraries of the Island. Great praise is due to the late Mr Kermode for his work in collecting and preserving the ancient monuments of the Isle of Man.

On the right hand side of the church porch, about four feet from the ground, there is an example of the earliest form of sundial. It is a circle cut in sandstone, and by placing the finger in the centre of the circle the time may be roughly told.

The Wishing Well and St. Maughold's Chair.

The. famous old Wishing Well on the side of the cliff brought many people to live in the neighbourhood, as its water was said to cure many diseases of the eyes in particular. In pre-reformation days Maughold had a larger population than Ramsey. On the first Sunday in August in those days a service was held and a procession went to the Well, which was decorated with flowers. It is said that thousands attended and many miracles were worked. If a childless couple wished for a child they went to the Well and placed their offering of money therein. Wishing ardently all the time they drank some of the water, took a cupful and went to St. Maughold's Chair, which is just beyond the Well. Placing a- further offering in the Chair the woman then sat there and drank the water.

Some years ago a couple desired a child and went to the Verger and asked what they ought to do in order that St. Maughold might grant them their wish. He told them to place a sovereign in the Well and 'Wish hard" and this they did. They got the child and the Verger the money.

The Fairs.

Maughold was famous for its Fairs, for in 1647 Ramsey folks complained to the Legislature that Maughold Fairs spoilt their trade. It was settled that the Fair on St. Bartholomew's Day, August 24th, should be held in Ramsey and the Fair of St. Simon and St. Jude should be held in Maughold. These Fairs in all probability were held in the churchyard.

The churchyard was the only sanctuary for criminals is the Island and in Train the historian's time there were the remains of a water conduit for their use.

Another interesting item was that the pair of falcons which the Earls of Derby presented to the Kings of England at their Coronations carne from Maughold Head, where a. pair still nest.

When Godred II. gave the church to St. Bees Priory he also gave certain lands, the rent of which went to pay for the education of poor students wishing to take Holy Orders; these lands were called "Particles" and are now included in Baldrornma Moar and Baldromra Beg.

The Vicar.

The Vicar of Maughold in .1685 was passing rich on £16 a year. When it was raised to £17 the extra pound was not always forthcoming. In 1696 Governor Sacheverell wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury about the pressing needs of the clergy. In olden times Maughold was a Rectory, but it seems to have been a Vicarage since pre-Reformation days.

Here is a list of the Vicars since the latter part of the 16th century. The names of the incumbents before that time have been lost:

John Stephenson, 1576.
Sir John Christian, 1580.
Thomas Preston, 1585.
Thomas Allen, 1625.
Robert Allen, 1660.
Thomas Allen, 1666.
Henry Allen, 1727.
Thomas Allen, 1746.
Thomas Woods, 1754.
Thomas Cubbon, 1769.
John Edward Harrison, 1814.
Bowyer Harrison, 1818.
William Kermode,, 1871.
Gilmour Harvey, 1877.
Henry Grattan White, 1878.
James Siely Wilkinson, 1895.
Robert Daniel Kermode. 1898.
John Grasset Pope, 1908.
E. A. Stafford Young, 1920.
Henry Maddrell, 1928,

and the present Vicar

John Robert Cannell. 1931.


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2007