[From Manx Antiquities,1863]
COMING to Kirk Michael, we find the road from Ramsay, which we pursued on our visit to the "Curragh," and that from the northern parishes, join together, so that we proceed towards Peel, having visited everything worthy of the notice of the antiquary in the northern portion of the Island.
The road from Kirk Michael skirts the sea shore throughout its whole extent, but a glimpse of the ocean is only to be had occasionally, in consequence of the hillocks of sand and gravel which encircle the coast on this side. Objects of much geologic interest make up for this deprivation. In the course of this drive, we pass through some gigantic sections of the great gravel platform. On each side of the road we have sections of hills with layer upon layer piled of sands and gravels-from a tiny layer of sand a few inches in thickness, to yards of gravel and rolled stones. These sections, too, forcibly point out the varied circumstances under which the deposits took place, in the seas of the period. The delicate layer of sand marks out a time of slow and calm deposit ; but the rolling tide swept before it stones and large boulders, only to be deposited where the force of the ocean wave had ceased.
But amidst the contemplation of these evidences of great geological changes in past eras, we are now and again recalled to the picturesque as existing in the present surface of the soil. Through this extensive deposit of the gravel formation, the mountain streamlets have eroded for themselves channels in the direction of the sea. We pass several of these on our way from Kirk Michael to Peel. Some of them are highly picturesque-well wooded; with rustic cottages ; a fine sweep of mountain ranges behind, and rich alluvial terraces below, leading onwards to an opening to the western sea. These green and beautiful valleys strike the eye of the traveller the more forcibly, accustomed as it has been during the principal part of this drive to the dull monotony of gravel hills destitute of verdure
Interior of Peel Cathedral
On descending from the high ground, me are at once apprised of our proximity to Peel, by the bold and somewhat remarkable outline of its Island Fortress. Passing the night at Kirk Michael, where there is a comfortable inn, and starting early enough to reach Peel for breakfast, the tourist is not only charmed by the beauty and freshness of the landscape, but amused by the busy scene which meets his eye on the distant beach, where a motley group await the arrival of the fishing boats. During the season this port is the rendezvous for fishing sloops from every quarter. As many as three hundred will at times bring their nightly " take" to this market. The appearance of this little flotilla in the morning sun is truly lovely, as with swan-like gracefulness it turns the headland, and drops anchor in the bay. The town of Peel is dull and almost destitute of trade, the inhabitants depending entirely on the fishing, and the annual influx of visitors to the Castle. This place was seldom visited by the tourist until Sir Walter Scott stirred the nation's curiosity by the publication of " Peveril of the Peak." Since then, large numbers of visitors annually flock to view the ancient stronghold, and to look with their own eyes on the scenes of incidents made familiar by the Romancist. Formerly the Castle could only be reached by a boat at full tide ; but some years ago a strong causeway or mole was built, joining the Island to the mainland, by which it can be visited at all times. This, however, is rather a circuitous road, and the impatient antiquary prefers crossing the Nab in one of the little wherries which are constantly on hire ; and springing up the worn, iron-clasped steps on the rock, he finds himself at once standing in the grim shadow of the ancient sally-port, whilst a thousand visions of " the olden time," grand, beautiful, or weird, flit across his mind.
To the right of the passage is the guardroom, a large square apartment with a fireplace, and another doorway to the left, now built up, which formerly led to the officers' quarters.
Here, as Waldron informs us, occurred the scene betwixt the " Spectre Hound of Man" and the soldiers. We shall quote it in his own words :-" An apparition, called in the Manx language the Moddey Doo, in the shape of a large black Spaniel, with curled, shaggy hair, used to haunt Peel Castle, and has been frequently seen in every room, but particularly in the Guard Chamber, when as soon as the candles were lighted, it came and lay down before the, fire in the presence of the soldiers, who at length, by being so much accustomed to the sight of it, lost great part of the terror they were seized with at its first appearance.
" They still, however, retained a certain awe, believing it was an evil spirit which only waited permission to do them hurt, and for that reason forbore swearing and profane discourse while in its company. But though they endured the shock of such a guest when altogether in a body, none cared to be left alone with it. It being the custom, therefore, for one of the soldiers to lock the gates of the Castle at a certain hour, and carry the keys to the Captain, to whose apartment the way led through the church, they agreed among themselves that whoever was to succeed the ensuing night his fellow in this errand, should accompany him that went first, and by this means no man would be exposed singly to danger; for I forgot to mention that the Moddey Doo was always seen to come out from that passage at the close of day, and return to it again as soon as morning dawned, which made the soldiers look on this place as its peculiar residence. One night a fellow being drunk, and by the strength of the liquor rendered more daring than ordinarily, laughed at the simplicity of his companions ; and although it was not his turn to go with the keys, would needs take that office upon himself to testify his courage. All the soldiers endeavoured to dissuade him ; but the more they said, the more re-solute he appeared, and swore that he desired nothing more than that the Moddey Doo would follow him as it had done the other soldiers, for he would try whether it were dog or devil. After having talked in a very re-probate manner for some time, he snatched up the keys and went out of the guard-room. In some time after his departure a great noise was heard, but nobody had the boldness to see what occasioned it, till, the adventurer returning, they demanded the knowledge of him; but as loud and noisy as he had been at leaving them, he was now become sober and silent enough, for he was never heard to speak more ; and though all the time he lived-which was three days-he was entreated to speak by all who came near him, or if he could not do that to make some signs by which they might underhand what had happened to him, yet nothing intelligible could be got from him ; only that, by the distortions of his features and limbs, it might be guessed that he died in agonies more than is common in a natural death.
" The Moddey Doo, however, was never after seen in Peel Castle, nor would any one attempt to go through that passage; for which reason it was closed up, and another way made. This accident happened about the year 1650" (See Waldron, p. 103.)
Round Tower and Chapel, Peel
An epitome of the above story is well given by the bombadier, who is charged with shewing visitors the Castle, and who speedily leads the way to the Cathedral of St Germanus, the largest and most perfect of the ruins enclosed within these castellated walls. The remains of this venerable Cathedral are situated at the south-eastern side of the Island, and consist of a central tower, a chancel, two transepts, a nave, and two aisles ; in fact, a complete cruciform church. One of the aisles has been since built up, its windows still existing between the pillars and under the arches.
The Rev. Mr Petit has written an elaborate description of this ruin.' The Cathedral was begun by Simon, (who became Bishop of Sodor in 1226,) and was built on the site of the more ancient Cathedral Church of St Germanus, of which no veffige now remains. I have said begun, for it is certain that this Cathedral, although commenced by Simon, was not finished in his day, nor fora long period afterwards. The change of architectural style which characterises the work clearly points out this important fact. The chancel is Norman, and is therefore the part of the building readily assigned by age and character to Bishop Simon. The central tower is square, and has a long square staircase turret, rising to the height of 66 feet. Both it and the tower bear evidence
of more recent date than the arches which support them below. These arches are four in number,-the chancel arch, which is Norman ; the north arch, which is early decorated ; and the south and western arches, which are of somewhat later date. The transepts are early decorated, with some later in-sections.
A door exists in the western portion of the south transept, near which are the remains of a font, and, opposite, a niche for an image. The nave is of rougher workmanship than the other parts of the Cathedral, and is probably the most re cent. The total length inside is i 14 feet 6 inches, and the total breadth at inter-section, 68 feet 3 inches. Beneath the chancel, and marked by a circular flight of steps in the thickness of the south wall, is a fine crypt, 34 x 16, and lighted by a small aperture under the east chancel window. This crypt has become nearly filled up-the top of the pilasters which surround it, and from which spring the arches of a pointed barrel vault, being hardly discernible. Surely it would repay the labour to clear away this muddy floor, and place the crypt somewhat in the condition it was in when occupied. In such a process, much that is interesting to the historian and antiquary might be brought to light.2 The history of this crypt is somewhat curious. It appears to have been used at first as an ecclesiastical prison, and even during the Episcopate of Wilson, it was so employed. But " in the reign of Henry VI., among the friends of Humphrey, Duke of Gloster, his Duchess, Dame Eleanor, was arrested. Roger Bolingbroke, a man expert in necromancy, and a woman called Marjory Jourdemain, surnamed ' the witch of Eye,' were charged with having, at the request of the Duchess of Gloster, devised an image of wax like unto the King, the which image they dealt so with, that by their devilish sorcery they intended to bring the King out of life, for the which reason they were adjudged to die."3 Dame Eleanor Cobham was sent to the Isle of Man to be imprisoned under the keeping of the Stanley family. This crypt was her prison-house, and the small space of ground used by her daily, for air and exercise, surrounded by high walls on every side, is still shown to the visitor. The Duchess, after several years' confinement, terminated her earthly career in this place, and the marvel-loving Waldron hesitates not to believe and repeat a story, dear to the superstitious belief of the Manx people, that ever since her death, the noise of footsteps ascending and descending the Reps of the stone ffaircase is to be heard every night, as soon as the clock strikes twelve. The conjecture is, that it is the troubled spirit of this lady who died as she lived, dissatisfied and mourning her fate.
But Dame Eleanor Cobham was not the only state prisoner confined within these sea-girt walls. Thomas, Earl of Warwick, was banished hither during the reign of Richard II. He was afterwards set at liberty by the Duke of Lancaster, afterwards Henry IV. Still later, Edward Christian was confined here by the Earl of Derby, then King of Man.
The Cathedral of St Germanus is encompassed by numerous ruined structures, comprising the residences of the Bishop, the Lord of the Ifle, the quarters of the garrison, and an armoury. Although sadly dilapidated, traces of considerable architectural taste are still visible, the style being coeval with the more recent part of the Cathedral. Close by is a large grassy knoll about 12 feet in height, forming a ready and acceptable banquet-board for the numerous pie-nic parties which frequent the place. The view from this point is very fine, and can be intensely enjoyed and appreciated in a sultry summer day during a repast of strawberries and iced cream. Stretching before us is the blue expanse of St George's Channel, glittering in the sun with ten thousand gems-
" The distant vessels tacking to the breeze
Like dames, whose snowy kirtles are spread out,
To the slow measure of some courtly dance."
Beyond that rise the dreamy hills of the sister countries, whilst the ruins of the castle and cathedral form a grand and rugged foreground to the picture. The hillock or knoll just mentioned is of a square pyramidal form, flanked on every side by fossæ and corresponding earthen redoubts. The remains of two covered ways of great magnitude and solidity leading eastward and southward towards the two modern gateways, can still be traced. A large well of pure water, now partially covered in, springs up from the rock near the eastern base of this hill.
In constructing a battery in 1815, north from the ruins of the Cathedral, this central mound was opened, and numberless remains of the dead disclosed. There has been no end of theories to account for the presence and the uses of a Cronk (as the Manx call it) in the midst of a fortified place. " Perhaps," says one author, " from this mount the commanding officer harangued his garrison and distributed his orders ;" " or," says another, " it may have been the burial place of some great personage in early times-an early Tynwald mount, or a Danish fort, thrown up about the beginning of the eleventh century ;" and Mr Fraser believes this to have been the hill called Santwart or Sandhill, where Reginald and Olave fought a great battle in 1098, according to the Chronicon Manniae. Theories on antiquarian subjects, without facts to support them, are as unstable as a house built on the sand-the first adverse breath blows them over-so the accidental opening of the mount in 1815 dissipated like cobwebs the theoretical mists which had gathered over it. It was found to contain human remains, laid out, after the ordinary fashion of burial ; no hurried interments, no rolling of numerous bodies into pits, but all denoting a peaceful burial in peaceful times. Were these then the dead of the garrison, or were they the remains of the ancient parishioners of Patrick, who, like those of St German of the present day, long retained a right to bury their dead on this Island ? All this may yet be solved by further dis coveries and investigations. To me it appears most probable that this mound was used both for the burial of the dead of the early garrison, and for those of the parish who wished interment there. We shall have more to say on this subject when we come to trace the early history of this Island fortress.
St Patrick's Chapel next commands our attention. This Tower, perched on the highest rocky point of the Ifland, is entirely built of large blocks of old red sandstone, fastened together with shell mortar, which is still hard and perfect. The western side of this Tower is much weather-worn, a circumstance which is due not only to the prevalence of winds bearing moisture from the sea in this direction, but from the actual washing of the sea spray itself, which in stormy weather dashes with violence over this part of the fortalice. It is about 50 feet high and 44 and a-half feet in circumference at its base; and tapers gradually to within 6 or 8 feet of its summit, where a battlemented crown terminates the tower. This differs materially from any of the Round Towers either in Ireland or Scotland. A small square-headed door, without architectural ornamentation of any kind, forms an entrance to this structure about 7 feet from the level of the ground, and several square-headed narrow apertures admit air and light at different elevations.
In an old drawing of this Tower, of the sixteenth century, it is represented as covered in with a conical roof, with a flag-ftaff upon it, on which floated the " trie Cassyn " flag. The venerable building which closely adjoins this Tower, called St Patrick's Chapel, seems to me to be built of nearly the same materials, fastened by the same kind of mortar, and without any peculiar architecture to mark it as being of a different age from the Tower, which, in many respects, it closely resembles. A peculiar kind of masonry, known as the Herring-bone Style, is seen in this chapel. It is also met with in the capped Round Towers and ecclesiastical buildings of Ireland. This chapel continued to be used as the parish church till about the end of the seventeenth century, when, according to Bishop Wilson, a new church was built on the mainland.
There is a considerable area of ground (nearly five acres), enclosed with embattled walls. These are of considerable strength, built of a mixture of clay shist and old red sandstone, similar in every respect to the material used in constructing the Cathedral and other adjacent buildings. They are from four to six feet in thickness, and irregularly flanked with square watch-towers.
(1) Archaeological Journal, No. 9, p. 49.
(2) In the north-west corner of this vault, is a spring which must have produced before, as it does now, much uncongenial dampness.
(3) Falgan's Chronicle, p. :194.