[From Laughton's Reminiscences, 1916]


Persecution of Roman Catholics.

There is not in the Isle of Man any trace of the Reformation. We apparently have leisurely moved along placidly and quietly, probably because not being inclined to extremes in any direction, we required no sudden reformation.

There was, however, very considerable religious excitement amongst us at the period when the Pope issued his papal brief, constituting a Hierarchy in England and Wales, in place of the Vicars Apostolic. England was thereby divided into Roman Catholic Dioceses, and the late Dr. Wiseman appointed Archbishop of Westminster.

A violent British Protestant agitation was the consequence, and some of us Manxmen vigorously joined therein. A Monster public meeting was held in Douglas, Messrs Bluett, Dumbell, and other leading members of the Church and Bar heading the movement. Grand speeches were delivered amid tremendous cheers; violent resolutions were unanimously passed, no person daring to offer any opposition thereto.

The windows of the Roman Catholic Chapel were smashed, in the name and upon behalf of the Protestant religion, and of peace on earth and goodwill towards men !

There was at the time, living in Duke Street, a highly respected tradesman, named Roger Roney. He was a grocer, and, if I remember rightly, had been in the service of the then Duke of Athole, when Lord of Man. He was honoured and respected by all–but he was a Roman Catholic ! His shop windows were, therefore, demolished, and he himself put in peril of his life by the excited mob, who marched through the streets enthusiastically shouting the following doggerel lines, without the slightest apparent intervention of the police–

' Orange boys are bonny boys,
Orange boys are bonny;
We'll get a rope to hang the Pope;
And to H with Roger Roney."

The same Christian excitement existed in the " Adjacent Isles," as we Manxmen designated Great Britain and Ireland. Parliament passed the " Ecclesiastical Titles Assumption Bill" (14 and 15 Vic. c. 60), prohibiting the appointment of Roman Catholic Bishops of Provinces, under a penalty of £100 for each offence.

I have heard it stated that when the Act was duly signed by the Queen, and thus became Law, His Grace the then Most Reverend Lord Archbishop of Westminster, in a calm spirit of prophecy, burnt the Act of Parliament and therewith lighted his first and last pipe, by way of intimating that the Act referred to had been conceived in smoke and would end in it –which it certainly did, for so soon as the nation had time quietly to think over the matter, Parliament repealed the Act by " 34 and 35 Vic. c. 53." Verily,

" The King of France marched up the hill, with 20,000 men;
The King of France marched down the hill, with 20,000 men"

The Pope was not hanged, but died peaceably in his bed; neither was good old Roger Roney dispatched by an express train to H . He also breathed his last in the bosom of his family. His worthy son for many years flourished in the same shop, carrying on the same business, and I feel assured that he, though a Roman Catholic and I not, have a sincere friendship for one another, which will continue, I hope, until our turn comes to follow his excellent father and the Pope in their journey upwards !

The result of all this religious animosity was neither creditable to the Christian religion nor beneficial to the peace and concord of the Island. A very unpleasant feeling was engendered between rival creeds. Few, if any Protestants, for several succeeding years, would hold communion with a Roman Catholic, even in common efforts for the general public good, whilst as for domestic or social intercourse, " the thing was an abomination unto them." The Jews had no dealings with the' Samaritans'.

We " Protestants " unreservedly condemned our brethren the Roman Catholics; and when we wished to be more than usually disagreeable, we prayed for them together with all Jews, Turks, Infidels, and Heretics! They returned our good wishes by informing us that without doubt we should perish everlastingly !


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001