[from Manx Place-names, 1925]

The Sheading of Rushen

RUSHEN is bounded on the north by Glenfaba Sheading, on the east by Middle Sheading, and on the west and south by the sea. From Lag-ny-killey, on the west coast, the boundary crosses the ridges of Cronk yn irree laa, Cronk fedjag and South Barrule until the Santanburn is reached, and the course of the latter is followed to Cass ny hawin.

The sheading is divided into three parishes ; Kirk Christ, Kirk Arbory and Kirk Malew.

There has been much speculation in regard to the meaning of the name ‘Rushen,’ which undoubtedly is one of the few surviving pre-Norse names we find in this part of the Island. To confuse matters still more, ‘Rushen’ is the name of a glen and treen in the parish of Kirk Patrick, Sheading of Glenfaba, and adjoining the northern end of Rushen Sheading.

Ros, of which ‘Rushen’ (roisen) is a diminutive, may mean ‘a wood’ or ‘peninsula,’ and if one accepts the latter derivation, one’s mind naturally reverts to Langness, which is not only an outstanding feature of the Sheading, but is the only peninsula in the Island.

The earliest mention of Rushen we find is in Chronicon Manniæ et Insularum (the Chronicle of Mann and the Isles), written by the monks of Rushen Abbey, where under date AD. 1134, the following entry appears : ‘Eodem anno Olavus rex dedit Yvoni abbati de Fumes partem terre sue in Mannia ad abbatiam constituendum in loco qui vocatur Russin (‘This same year Olave the king gave to Yvon abbot of Furness part of his land in Mann to found an abbey in the place which is called Rushen.’) We may assume that the place called ‘Russin’ was the sheading, for it could not well have implied anything else.

From the same source, under date AD. 1217, we read that Olave II of Mann and the Isles landed at Ronaldsway(Derbyhaven) ostensibly with the purpose of proceeding to his royal residence, Castle Rushen ; but the latter is not actually mentioned as a specific name until A.D.1265, when we learn that Magnus II. of Mann and the Isles died in the Castle of Russin.

This name is found in various other documents and charters, but with so little variation in spelling as to throw a negligible light on its derivation. Derbyhaven, where the Kings of Man landed, adjoins Langness, and it is probable that the ancient Gaelic name of the peninsula gradually spread to the surrounding territory, giving name in turn to the Sheading, Castle and Abbey, whilst the peninsula which bore the ancient designation, was overlapped by the later name of Langness.

In regard to Glen Rushen, it is difficult to say how it came by its name. One finds it as a treen in 1511, so that it cannot be regarded as a modern application. It is also hard for one to imagine two names bearing the diminutive of ros being found within a few miles of each other, and having the respective meanings ‘peninsula’ ( Langness) and ‘wood’ (Glen Rushen). The latter glen winds towards the sea in a northerly direction, its seaward end being known as Glen Meay (older Glan Moij), and the middle part as Glen Mooar. We can dispense with the latter as a modern application covering the glen from the slopes of South Barrule to the sea. its whole length being known as the ‘great glen.’

In Glen Meay we find a pre-Norse name, the second element representing the name of the stream which flows through the glen, having its source on the eastern slopes of Cronk Fedjag, and emptying its waters into the sea at Glen Meay. Unquestionably this was the ancient name of the glen along its entire length and including the parts now known as Glen Rushen and Glen Mooar.

Meay’ or ‘moij’ is a mutated form of buigh (Ir.buidhe), pronounced ‘bwee’ or ‘boy,’ meaning ‘yellow’; which was often applied to rivers, streams or fords, from the colour of the water, caused by yellow mud or by being impregnated with iron, and it is probable that the stream flowing through this glen took its name from this circumstance.

In Old Irish, glenn was a neuter noun which caused an adjective, or noun in the genitive case to mutate. Thus, when bisidhe was preceded by glenn, the former became mbhuidhe (‘mwee’ or ‘moy’). This consonantal change is called ellipsis. Thus the ancient name of the whole len, including Glen Rushen, Glen Mooar and Glen Meay, would be Glenn rnbhuidhe, ‘Glen Moy,’ or ‘the glen of the yellow stream.’

The abbots of Rushen held a piece of land on rent from the Lord of Mann called the Four Nobles (q.v.), quite close to Glen Rushen, and it is quite possible that from this circumstance this part of the glen received its name.

With the exception of ‘Rushen’ and a few other names of more or less doubtful derivation which may belong to the pre-Norse period, the greater part of the early place-names of the Sheading of Rushen date from the 11th and 12th centuries, and are mostly Norse. Early documents and charters show Norse names which have since been replaced by Gaelic and, later, by English ones. With the exception of a few Gaelic and English names, the more important coast-names are Norse, Kirk Christ with its length of coast-line being especially rich in these.

Fleshwick, Spaidrick, Aidrick, Rarick, Perwick, and Sandwick were the creeks which the Norsemnen used as landing-places, being conveniently accessible to their flat-bottomed galleys.

Personal names always play an important part inoponomy. In Rushen, we find the following Norse personal names. Skolli in Scholaby, Kohl in Colby, and Hæring in Orrisdale (Malew). The following Gaelic personal names had disappeared before written records: O’Hain in Ballahain, MacQueeney in Ballaqueeney and O’Doole in Balladoole.

‘Many personal names found in the early part of the 16th century are still found attached to the names of the estates, and indeed in many cases the descendants of the original holders are still found living on these estates or in their neighbourhood. McPerson was the holder of Ballafesson in 1511, McGawne held Ballagawne and Hogell was in Ballahuggal at the same period.


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