[From A Manx Scrapbook]



Michael of the Bishops has that dignity, and a history of former Tynwald Courts to boot. Her name hints of the Danes, and the black-haired among her people speak silently of the Dubh-Gall. From her hills to her coast is but a strip, green and narrow and furrowed with many rivers.

Little London (O.S. map) on the border of German, was Lunnon (Feltham and others), a common name in Scotland in various forms, with the normal sense of " marshy place " ; see Watson and MacBain. The latter says it is Pictish.

Glen Cannell (O.S. map), half a mile South of Ballaskyr, is not likely to have taken its name from the local surname (though that may have influenced the form of it) any more than has the Highland Glen Cannell. It may be Callan metathesised, or may have some less simple derivation.

Cronk Creeney, " Brushwood Hill " is the high, gorsy knoll of gravel against which Chester farmhouse is built. Superficially it looks like a made tumulus, but is probably of natural origin, like its much bigger namesake near Tynwald Hill, the Cronk Greinagh of the Ordnance map.

Samson's Rock, in the glen below Chester, is a remarkable pulpit-like piece of outcrop standing high above the stream, and picturesquely overgrown. It is supposed locally to have been used for preaching to the assembled multitude below, but the name of the preacher does not appear. A legend of an older type says that it was thrown here by Samson to show his strength after he was blinded, and that the marks of his fingers and thumb are imprinted on it. Samson interested the legend-makers ; there is a Samson's Stone in Bride, and a boulder bearing the same hero's name near Downpatrick. At Waltonhill in Fifeshire Samson and the Devil threw stones at each other, and two still bear their respective names.

Bannister. As a conjecture has been set afloat which associates this name of a treen and a farm with the English surname Banestor, casually occurring in Manx history in 1422, it is worth while mentioning that its devolution is retraceable thus : Bannister, Ballister, Balystere, Baly-tseyir (Gaelic saer, a wright, carpenter, with the usual eclipsis).

Cron y Berry, " Pointed Hill " or " Hill of the Pointed Stone," was the name of what is now known as " the Cronk," Ballagawne. Another Crora(k) y Berry (now Hillberry) is in Conchan parish, as is Lag y Berry (Lagebury, O.S. map) on the coast North of Douglas.

The Giant's Foot is a depression in the rock at the top of Glion Mooar, caused by a giant who stepped across from the Irish coast in one stride, or three. A similar legend is attached to a similar feature in Rushen, but of late years the giant there has been converted into St. Patrick. No doubt other place-names in which that saint and King Orry figure have been transferred from a pagan predecessor.

Eairy ny Gione, " Shealing at the Top or End," was near Ballanea, according to the Highway Accounts. The Garden is a sea-name for the level patch of ground containing the Carnane, a small, whitewashed pillar-stone at the entrance to Glion Mooar. The stone is used as one of the data of a fishing-mark, hence the whitewash. With its name may be compared the Garey Mooar, " Big Garden," a fishing-mark on the Southern coast of Patrick.

Glen Wyllin, " Mill Glen," like Glen Rushen and others, bears different names in its several sections. That the lowest stretch nearest the sea was in the 16th and 17th centuries known as Bordall or Borodal (Norse borgardalr, fort or mound valley, as in Glen Borrodale, Caithness, and Borrowdale, Cumberland) may be presumed from the mention of a " Borgdal Mill " at the foot of Glenwyllin, among the Particles of St. Michael's Parish in the Lord's Rent Books. The next reach, above what. is now called Glen Wyllin, is Cooilldarragh Glen (Ordnance map), "Glen of the Oakwood Corner." From thence to the top, or thereabouts, of the main valley, is Glen Kiark (Ordnance map), " Grouse Glen." In Stanford's map, 1861, the Northernmost fork of the upper glen is Glen na Malish, " Glen of the Theft or Robbery "-maarlys. Cronk Urleigh (O.S. map) or Cronk Urley, is on the opposite side of Glen Wyllin to Cooilldarragh. Whether there is any proof that Cronk Urley is the " Hill of Reneurling " at which two Courts were held in 1422 I do not know. The statement has been repeated since at least the end of the 18th century, and though it may possibly be true, no grounds for it have been shown so far as I am aware. The " tradition " which seems to be implied may, like other so-called traditions, have filtered down to the country people from the opinions of the learned, based upon the resemblance between the two names. " Reneurling," however, is recorded but once, and may easily have been distorted at some stage. If a nominal resemblance is necessary, a mile and a half on the other side of the church of Kirk Michael, and close to Bishopscourt, are the treen and farm of Rencullin ; the same name on the opposite side of the Island is spelt Rynkurlyn in the Lonan Abbey-lands Boundaries. The Courts of 1422 were held at Kirk Michael obviously with the intention of overawing the Bishop and leaving him no excuse for neglecting the summons to attend and do fealty to the Earl. Rencullin lies immediately without the Bishop's demesne, but Cronk Urley is over two miles from Bishopscourt.

If, however, the site of " Reneurling " may be sought without reference to any existing place-name -as it fairly may, for not many Manx names have survived five centuries-it would be reasonable to seek it close to the church itself, and this on the strength of the words used in the Statutes. " The Court holden at Kirk Michael], upon the Hill of Reneurling . . the Court of Kirk Michael] . . . the rising at Kirk Michael] . . . ; and in the terms of the charge against the insurgents, " traiterously rose upon the Lieutenant sitting in the Court at Kirk Michael], his men there with him being beaten and misused in the Church and Churchyard in the presence and view of the Lord's Lieutenant sitting in the Court." These words clearly imply that the Court was held in or immediately outside the churchyard, at some mound since demolished. The rival faction probably represented the ecclesiastical party. In another case of brawling in court, eight years later, " the presence of the Lieutenant " is defined as " within the space of 24 paces." Such a site would also satisfy the constitutional requirement of a church or chapel adjoining the place of the Tynwald.

Carn Vael, " Michael's Cairn," at the head of Glion ny Maarlys, should perhaps have had the place of honour in this short list, if-as might be argued from the legend-Michael was the first Captain of the Parish and gave it his name, for the person buried under the cairn is said to have been a giant called Michael. His tomb was not unworthy of him, for when seen by the Ordnance Surveyor it was twelve feet high and thirty-five in diameter. The well near it is Saint Michael's Well, so it is clear there has been some juggling with the archangelic cognomen, and it may be imagined to have taken the following course. After the giant's actual name was forgotten the saint's was conferred upon the cairn and well (which suggests that pagan reverence was paid to them) ; the giant then retaliated by taking the name of the saint, so that now the saint controls the well under his own name and the giant continues in possession of the cairn under the saint's name ; and honour is satisfied.

The Tower embedded in the present buildings of Bishopscourt dates to the 13th century, and has the fanciful title of " King Orry's Tower," a type of name common in this part of the Island ; it has also been known as " the Tower of Refuge," probably from some idea that it was a place of sanctuary. References in print to this Tower are numerous ; though none antedates the 19th century, a good view of it is to be found in Chaloner's 17th-century treatise on the Island.

The Round Table, Glen Trunk, is described by Townley in 1789 as a ringed mound resembling King Arthur's Round Table near Penrith, but higher and of a larger circumference. He does not give it a name, but it was locally remembered as existing and being called thus in the second half of the 19th century.

Lhen y Oie (ghuiy), " Trench of the Goose," was a croft on Orrisdale farm.

" Heward." Old maps and charts show a bank near the North-West coast of the Island, which probably adorned the maps long after it vanished from the sea, like Hy Brasil on its larger scale ; but by the fact of its being marked and named, it must have been of some importance, even if not in its earlier stages a remnant of land which is now wholly submerged.

Collins's map, circa 1700, has it as Howard, " 9 foot sand," off a river which enters the sea approximately at the junction of Michael and Ballaugh. It is Howard Sand in the map attached to Samuel Simpson's The Agreeable History, or the Compleat English Traveller, 1746. Here it is placed opposite the boundary between the same two parishes. In Ellis's chart of 1768, Howard is marked by a ring of dots in a similar position. Thwaites's History, page 365, says "an island named Newan, given in ancient maps as being on this part [Michael sheading] of the coast, has entirely disappeared."

It was such shoals as this which helped to localize the tales of enchanted islands common to most countries with a seaboard ; but the nearest which survives in these parts belongs to half a dozen miles farther up the coast. Of a more substantial character, but still not an island, is " the Wart," a fishing-bank about two miles North of Peel, once productive of herring whose excellence is celebrated in a rhymed couplet, half of which is in Manx and the other half in English.

Mount Anna is mentioned in the early Jefferies' Almanacs. Where is or was this place ?

The following unmapped place-names, mostly belonging to interment sites, occur at the Northern extremity of the parish :-Cyeg Bane y Bill Villy, " White Rock of Bill-Billy," the remains of a stone circle ; Cronk Coir, probably " Hill of the Chest or Cist "-these two were described by Townley in 1789 ;

Cronk Ailey, " Fire Hill " ; Cronk y Clagh Vane,

" Hill of the White Stone " ; Cronk ny Guiy, " Hill of the Goose " (a natural hill, East of Ballacoyne) ; Cronk y Killey, " Hill of the Church," Ballacarnane Beg; Cronk y Sthowyr, " Hill of the Treasure."


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2004