[from Manx Place-names, 1925]
GARFF is bounded on the north by the Sheading of Ayre, on the south by the Sheading of Middle, on the west by the Sheading of Glenfaba and on the east by the sea.
The Sheading, as at present constituted, contains the parishes of Kirk Lonan and Kirk Maughold, but previous to 1796 the Sheading of Garff also included Kirk Conchan. For the purpose of this work, as already explained in the introduction to the Sheading of Middle, the old geographical boundary is retained. The following are extracts from the Act of Tynwald appertaining to the alterations.
"At a Tynwald Court, holden at Castle Rushen, the eighth Day of July ... and in the year of our Lord 1796 ... An Act for the better Regulation of the Court of Common Law We your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Governor, Council, Deemsters and Keys of the said Island, in Tynwald assembled, do beseech your Majesty, that it may be enacted, and be it enacted by the King's most excellent Majesty, by and with the Consent of the Governor, Council, Deemsters, and Keys of the said Isle, in Tynwald assembled that from and after the promulgation of this Act, the Parishes of Patrick, German, and Marown, shall be, and they are hereby constituted, the Sheading of Glenfaba . . . the Parishes of Maughold and Lonan shall be, and the same are hereby constituted, the Garff Sheading . the Parishes of Concon, Braddan, and Santan, shall be, and the same are hereby constituted, the Middle Sheading."
The name of the Sheading is not found very early, and there is little variation in the spelling : Man. Roll 1511 Shedyng of Garff; Manx Statutes 1532 The Garffe. The usually accepted derivation is from the Irish garbh, Manx garroo ; but this is doubtful, as one would expect to find the final labial (bh) vocalized as in the modern Manx form garroo, and again, the latter form being strictly an adjective, one would have to assume that the generic part of the name had been lost, and we have no authority for this assumption.
Like the other Manx Sheadings, it is probable that Garff took its name from a smaller area, and in support of this view we find a treen in the parish of Kirk Lonan called in 1511 Grauff and now Grawe. This is obviously from the Scand. Grðf, plural Grafir, 'a pit or ravine' ; which would be applicable to Glen Roy and Laxey Glen, the northern boundaries of this treen. We may therefore assume that the sheading name Garff is merely a metathetic form of the old treen name. Grðf is common in place-names, thus we find Grðf and Grafir-gill in Iceland; Graven, Graveland, Kolgrave in Shetland; and Grawine in the Orkneys. In the Hebrides there is Graffnose in South Uist ; Grafirdale in Harris ; and Gravir in Lochs of Lewis. (v. Manx Names, 2nd edition, p. 180, where Canon Quine suggests similar derivation; v. also Grawe treen and Glen Roy).
The Abbot of Rushen held extensive lands in this sheading, and lands were also held by the Priory of St. Bees' and the Manx Bishopric.
The personal and place-names of the Sheading of Garff show that it contained a population which was more Norse than Gaelic. Of the old treen names five-sixths are Norse and one-sixth Gaelic.
We find the Scandinavian by prefixed--showing Gaelic influence-in Bemahague, Begoade and Bibaloe; and suffixed in Raby, Streneby and Stilby. Staðr in Gretch, Hoanes and Clypse ; and Garðr in Amogarry. Scandinavian â (river) in Laxey, Ramsey ; land in Martland, Stockaland ; riþr (rock) in Skeirrip ; dalr (dale, glen) in Cardle, Eskedale, Groudle ; vík (creek, bay) in Ballaskeg, Lewaigue, Uainaigue, Garwick ; hryggr (ridge) in Rig; skor (rift, chasm) in Skinscoe; and haugr (mound, cairn) in Swarthow.
The following surnames of Scandinavian origin are found in the Sheading, most of which enter into place nomenclature : Thorfinn in McCoryn now Corrin ; Thorkell (for Thorketill in McCorkell now Corkill ; Thorljótr in McCorleot now Corlett ; Thostein (for Thorsteinn) in McCosten now Corteen ; Olafr (for Anlaf) in McAuley now Cowley, and McCalo now Callow; Skarfr in McSkerffnow Scarff; Kristin in McCristen now Christian; Hrósnundr in McUrmen now Kermeen; Eysteinn in Huchon now Hutchin, Hudgeon and Hodson ; and Ivarr (for Ingvar) in McCure now obsolete. Also Grettir in place-name Gretch, Kolli in Colby, and Asmundr in Amogarry.
The following Gaelic surnames have been lost : MacMaoilin in Ballamiljyn ; O'Dubliáin in Baldhoon ; O'Beartiin in Ballavarane ; and O'Gealagáin in Balla-yolgane.
The Sheading of Garff contains the remains of many primitive Celtic churches, the dedications of most of which have been lost. The following Gaelic names have been preserved: Conchenn (Irish name of St. Christopher); Lonán, Machud, Caolán, and Comhghall. Other saints than Celtic are Mary, Matthias, Nicholas, Martin, Michael, and Olaf.
It is interesting to find in this Sheading a place-name which still survives, recorded in Runes on a piece of a Scandinavian cross-slab. "Iuan Priests' slab, a rough and broken piece from Keeill Woirrey, Corna, has an inscription in the form of an invocation to Christ and three great Celtic saints." v. Kermode's Manx Crosses; also Cardle and Cornaa in Kirk Maughold.