[From Ireland & The Isle of Man, 1903]
[The historical section is based too much on myth than scholarly research however the final section giving the 19th Century history of Catholicism on the Island adds a little though hints at more]
IN the period which preceded the more complete development o£ monasticism in Ireland, and the subsequent rise of her Celtic schools, island solitudes would seem to have had a remarkable fascination for our saints. Many of the islands which lie off the Irish coasts, or dot the intervening seas that separate us from the sister kingdoms of England and Scotland, are still invested with their traditional memories. Some of these holy men were content with the seclusion of the retreats they found amid the peaceful waters of their Irish lakes, while others sought more complete isolation in those rock-bound islets where the ocean formed a ready and potent barrier between them and the world they laboured to forget. Of these so-called " holy islands," that of Man, in the mid-channel between the two countries, possesses a unique distinction in the history of the ages of faith. To-day its name is mainly suggestive of the attractions which induce thousands of pleasure-seekers to make it their trysting ground for a summer holiday. But its early history presents much to fascinate the student of ecclesiastical lore, and should prove a source of interest incomparably more attractive than any o£ the inducements which now-a-days lead so many to visit its shores. Outside Ireland itself, nowhere do we find a spot so thoroughly stamped with old-time sanctity, or more intimately connected with the apostleship of the Irish saints. The seventeen divisions or parishes into which the little principality is divided still bear the impress of holiest memories. In the nomenclature of one and all we find a sacred dedication which has survived all the fitful changes and vicissitudes of fourteen long centuries. These landmarks, as we may style them, of the Christian invasion the triumphs of the Cross, which so completely possessed this tiny kingdom, have never been effaced.
Christianity was, we are told, first borne to the Isle of Man by our National Apostle, St. Patrick. There is a tradition that in his missionary journey to Ireland the saint spent some time in Man, but authentic records fix the conversion of the island at the hands of our apostle as having taken place six years after his advent to our shores.
This little sketch of the early and remarkable connection that exited between Ireland and the Isle of Man takes our pen back almost to the ages of mythic history.
The Firbolgs are reckoned amongst the first adventurers who colonised Ireland. Nennius, in his " History of the Britons," expressly declares that from Ireland they spread themselves to Man and other islands. Some writers have hesitated to refer his words to the Isle of Man, but the Latin text removes all doubt, for the phrase Eubonia Insula admits of only one interpretation, viz., " The Isle of Man." Ptolemy the Geographer, who wrote in the second century, places the Isle of Man among the Irish islands. A number of years later (A.D. 254) the migration of a colony of Irish Cruithneans from Ulster to Man is registered by Tighernach. Many of this tribe, however, chose to remain in Ireland and pay tribute to the King of Ulster, and we find them still there when St. Patrick came to our island. They continued to enjoy their own peculiar laws and customs, and were looked upon by the settlers in Man and Wales as still forming part of their common family.
St. Patrick's Island, Peel - showing Oratory, Cathedral, and Pillar Tower
This being the actual condition of things, we can readily imagine how St. Patrick might have considered his mission incomplete had he left the Isle of Man unvisited. Accordingly we find that, with Ireland, Man shares the glory of having Patrick for its Apostle. In Wilson's History* we are told that the " Isle of Man was converted to the Christian faith by St. Patrick in the year 440." So devoted were the Manx men in after ages to his memory, that the promontory now called Peel, formerly separated from Man, was in the Chronicon Manniae always called Insula Sancti Patritii, or St. Patrick's island.* Manx Soc., vol. xviii., p 106,
In the Life of St. Patrick, composed by Jocelyn, a monk of Furness, in the twelfth century, some particulars are given regarding the preaching of our Apostle in the Isle of Man. When Jocelyn wrote, the closest relations existed between Furness Abbey and its offshoot the celebrated Cistercian Monastery of Rushin in the Isle of Man, and hence his testimony must be regarded as presenting to us the local records and traditions of the island. He tells us that " very many places in Britain still retain the memory of St. Patrick's miracles. But he, having summoned around him many well-instructed and religious men, brought them to Ireland, and of these, thirty were subsequently raised to the Episcopal dignity. Sailing towards Ireland he visited the islands of the sea, and Eubonia, i.e., the Isle of Man, then subject to Britain, was converted to Christ by his preaching and miracles. St. Patrick chose one of his disciples, by name German, a wise and holy man, whom he promoted to the Episcopate, and constituted ruler of the new Church, and the Episcopal See was fixed in the promontory, which to the present day is called Inis-Patrick, because the saint remained there for some time."
So many evidences exist of the veneration in which St. Patrick was held by the inhabitants, that there is reason to believe his connection with their island must have long blessed this scene of his apostolic solicitude. It would be a very natural assumption, indeed, were we to conclude that in the saint's voyages of intercourse with Scotland and Wales, he made the mid-island of the Irish Sea a halting place, or a place of rest and retreat, during the long sixty years of his wonderful apostolate.
No other country that we know of has the entire surface of its soil stamped with a purely Christian nomenclature. This is the unique distinction of the Isle of Man. Seventeen parishes, as we have previously noted, divide the island into as many counties, and bear witness in their county names to the central fact of the first Christian invasion, which so completely possessed the land. From this enumeration we shall see later on how every corner of the island has the seal of its original Christianity set upon it.
A very ancient tract in the Book of Lecan, detailing the tributes due to Baedan MacCairill, King of Ulster, speaks of the inhabitants of Skye and Man hastening to his seat at Dun-Baedain to offer their gifts. At the close of the poem it is said: It was by Baedan that Man was cleared of the Galls, so that its sovereignty belonged to the Ultonians thence-forward ; and the second year after his death the Galls abandoned Man." Who the Galls were that are here referred to cannot be easily determined. The word Gall is often used by the Irish writers as a sort of generic name for all foreign invaders, and may perhaps in the present instance be intended for the Saxons, who about this time had begun to make considerable progress in England. It more probably, however, refers to Malgo, King of Venodotia, who, according to Lhuyd, began to reign in the year 560, and who, from his predatory excursions, was styled " the Dragon of the Isles." When it is said that the Galls abandoned Man in the second year after Baedan's death, this probably means nothing more than that his troops returned to Ulster.
But as to how long St. German ruled the infant Church of Man we have no means of determining. No one of that name appears in the Irish Calendars in connection with the Isle of Man, and Jocelyn alone, among the historians of St. Patrick's life, mentions such a saint as his disciple. However, among the contemporaries and disciples of St. Patrick, we meet with a Saint Coemanus, the son of a Welsh prince named Brecan. This prince was by birth connected with the Cruithnean Ulster chieftains, and all his numerous family are famed for their sanctity and reckoned among the saints in the Irish and British records. His territory lay along the coast of Wales, and his son, Coemanus, is precisely the person whom we should suppose St. Patrick would select to preach the doctrines of the Faith in Man. The British form of his name is Coemaun, and the transition in the course of centuries to the more classic Latin name Germanus, will not seem strange or novel to those acquainted with Irish names as found transformed in mediaeval Latin records. There is, however, something more to be said about him. His name is commonly presented to us in Irish records, with the usual Celtic prefixes, under the form of Mochamog. Thus Colgan, when speaking of this saint, styles him " Coemanus cognomenta Peregrinus qui et Mochomocus," and adds that his feast was kept on the 3rd of November. On that day, in the Martyrology of Donegal, we find precisely registered the name of " Mochamhog the Pilgrim." Thus, the Latin traditions which link together the names of Patrick and Germanus are found to harmonise with the bardic compositions which quote Patrick and Mochamhog.
We now come to St. Conindrius. Colgan tells us that a saint of the name Conninrius is mentioned in the " Martyrology of Tallaght" on the 17th of September, and on that date we find the same saint under the Irish name Coindre in the " Martyrology of Donegal." Archdall, in his " Monasticon Hibernicum," p. 5, mentions an ancient church, Domnachcoindre, which bore his name, and he adds, "the two saints, Conann, are patrons of it." Now, this leads us to the old Celtic form of the name, which, with the usual prefixes, becomes Mochonna. The Bollandists assure us that in early records a St. Mochonna is registered among the first bishops of Man, and Colgan also asserts that in our most ancient Martyrologies, on the 13th of January is found the name of St. Mochonna, Bishop of Inis-Patrick, i.e., of the Isle of Man, as he explains it. This, therefore, can be no other than the St. Conindrius of whom we speak. The life of St. Mochonna is given by Colgan, and from it we learn that he was precisely a brother of the St. Coeman of whom we have just spoken, and, like him, was a disciple of St. Patrick. The " British Martyrology" has the following entry on his festival: " In Brechin, a district of Wales, the commemoration of St. Canoc, confessor; he was the son of Brecan and the uncle of St. David of Menevia ; he was a man illustrious for his sanctity in these parts about the year 492, and his memory is still cherished by the old Britons of this island, especially in South Wales." Giraldus Cambrensis mentions a golden collar called " torques Sancti Canauci," which was held in great veneration in Wales. Colgan also refers to some churches which this saint founded in Ireland, notably Kilmacanogue, near Bray. Dachonna was another form of this saint's name, and in the " Ulster Annals," ad. an. 797, we read The burning of Inis-Patrick by the Gentiles (Danes) and cattle plunder of the country was borne off, and the shrine of Dachonna was broken by them." Some historians, however, locate this event in Inis-Patrick, off Skerries.
With Conindrius we find bracketed St. Romulus. It is difficult to find any traces of him. In the 'tripartite life he is called Romailus. Ferarius, in his " Catalogus Sanctorum," marks his feast on the 18th of November, under the name of Romulus, alias Romanus. This would seem to justify the suspicion that this was not his original name, but only a surname or distinctive epithet subsequently given to him. From this we might conjecture that the saint thus designated was no other than the St. Germanus, or Caeman, of whom we have already spoken. We have seen that in the Calendars he is cited as the Pilgrim, and in continental traditions was reckoned among the clergy of Rome before he accompanied St. Patrick. Should this conjecture prove true, we find under the Latinized names of Conindrius and Romulus the holy brothers Camc and Caewan, and the words of Probus would be justified, that "they were the first" chosen by Patrick to lay the foundations of the faith in the Isle of Man.
The " British Martyrology," on the 3rd of July, commemorates as follows all the early bishops of the Isle of Man: St. Germanus, disciple of St. Patrick, and first Bishop of the Isle of Man; SS. Romulus and Conindrius, also disciples of St. Patrick, and consecrated by him. These two holy prelates had for their successor in the Isle of Man St. Machaldus, a bishop eminent for sanctity and miracles, who was honoured with many churches after his death.
* These saints were the fathers and founders of the Church of Man
St. Maughold's Cross and site of Church
Of Maughold, the third Bishop of Man, there is a curious legend preserved in the Manx traditions which also finds a place in the records of Ireland. This penitent saint in his youth was an outlaw a notorious robber, but was converted about the commencement of St. Patrick's mission to Ireland.
The repentance of Maughold seemingly knew no bounds. The simple penance imposed by his confessor for his transgressions did not satisfy him. Again he sought St. Patrick, asking him to enjoin on him some penance more severe.
The saint then bade him to leave nothing undone to restore his illgotten plunder, and make abundant restitution and reparation for his deeds of theft and bloodshed. With this injunction Maughold complied, and yet he was not fully satisfied.
Once more he came to the feet of his confessor, and asked that some penance still more rigorous should be imposed on him, to banish the remembrance of the guilt that ever haunted him. St. Patrick, divining that some extraordinary grace was at work in the poor repentant sinner's heart, and that God had some hidden destiny in store for him,` prayed for light and counsel to guide him.
The third penance seems to have been trying enough to appease Maughold's apparently insatiable thirst for penitential expiation. The sacrifice and trial which St. Patrick now suggested may be regarded as rather an inspiration coming from God than an impulse of severity.
The Apostle commanded Maughold to distribute all his substance among the poor, and then leave his native country under peculiarly trying circumstances. He was bade to proceed to the seashore, where he should find a hide covered boat. Entering it, he should chain his feet, and throw the key that locked the fetters into the ocean. Then, when he had rowed out to sea, he was bidden to cast away his oars, and trusting to the mercies of the winds and waves wherever he should arrive safely, there he should preach the word of God. It was a hard fate, but such was Maughold's obedience, and such his trust in the mercy of Divine Providence that great sinner as he had been he did not hesitate to accept the rigorous penalty imposed upon him. His confidence in God, and the simple faith of his converted heart, were not unrewarded. When his unguided boat was borne by the receding tide far out into the bosom of the treacherous ocean, a gentle wind sprang up from the north-west and carried him to the refuge of a little creek in the Isle of Man. On the cliffs above, two holy men (Romulus and Conindrius) had built their little huts, and, seeing the helmless craft approaching, hastened to receive the poor waif.
The legend runs on prettily enough, to tell, that on that very morning when Conindrius had set his net to provide for the after-sunset meal for himself and his companion, a fish was caught, which, when opened, was found to contain a key. At the time, the hermits did not guess the mystery this discovery involved. On hearing the circumstances of Maughold's voyage, Conindrius ran for the key, which, almost of itself, unlocked the rusty clasp. Placing their humble hospitality at his command, Maughold, in his gratitude, returned their charity by offering himself as a sharer in their hermit-life.
This legend, strange as it may seem, must have a large element of reality in its origin since the most ancient of the Manx Arms or devices bore in one of the quarterings of the shield, on azure ground, a cock boat bearing a pilgrim, and overhead a key and a glittering star in gold. Those symbols were all significant of the penance of Maughold and the luminary of faith like to which he was destined to shine.
Maughold's holiness and spirit of sacrifice so impressed his deliverers, that they undertook to educate him, and eventually had conferred on him the dignity of priesthood. On the death of Germanus, Conindrius was elected Bishop of Man. Maughold remained his humble assistant, sharing all the labours of his missionary life, and at his death was chosen to succeed him. This penitent saint is still, as we have said, venerated in the Isle of Man, the chair from which he preached being one of the chief relics of antiquarian interest to which the tourist's attention is often directed.
In the lifetime of St. Patrick, St. Brigid is said to have visited the Holy Island, and with seven virgins founded a convent in the place now known as the Vale of Douglas. To-day it looks a sacred spot the vast demesne that marks its site stretching from the old graveyard of Kirk-Braddan far down the deep ravine, still called " The Nunnery."
These limited pages do not admit of our touching on the lives and miracles of our many Irish saints, whose sanctity, we may say, hallowed every acre of the Isle of Man. The parishes of the island, which still retain the dedications they derived from our apostles, best tell the deathless story of their labours.
Very beautiful is this universal dedication of the parishes of Man. Two are grouped around the name of our Blessed Lord; two are coupled with that of His Blessed Mother; one commemorates the glory of St. Michael the Archangel ; one that of St. Andrew the Apostle. The remaining eleven are dedicated to eleven saints all Irish. They run as follows :-
Kirk-Christ, Les Ayre.
Kirk-St. Mary of Ballough.
Kirk-St. Anne. [not original]
Kirk-Onchan (mother of St. Patrick). [sic ?]
Kirk-St. Lonan (nephew of St. Patrick). [sic ?]
Kirk-Malew, or Lupus.
Kirk-Maughold (third Bishop of Man).
Kirk-Bride (St. Brigid).
* Caibre was one of the seventeen children of the Welsh Prince, Brecan, and is venerated near Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, Ireland-Kil-Carbery.
From St. Lonan our national patroness [Brigid] is said to have received the monastic veil. Her nephew, Cogistosus, closed his life in the island so blessed by Ireland's saints, and rests beneath its sacred soil.
These stray items of history serve to show how strong are the associations which link the story of Ireland with that of the Isle of Man, and strikingly interesting is the fact that when for a second time after the night of persecution the standard of Faith was again unfurled, it was borne thither by the hands of Irish missionaries.
In the changes of time, when the glories of the Norman church gave place to the primitive constitution of the Celtic Fathers, the sons of St. Bernard, from the mother-house of Furnes-Abbey, became the guardians of the Faith in Man.
The few traces that still remain of the ancient churches of the Isle of Man present a remarkable similarity with the early churches of this country. One, and indeed we might almost say the only, fragment of its old ecclesiastical plate, is a paten found at Kirk- Malew, the very ancient inscription on which preserves the invocation of the patron saint, " S. Maloua, ora pro nobis."
The old inscribed crosses are, however, the most remarkable monuments that have come down to us from the Celto-Scandinavian period of the Manx Church. " In every churchyard," says the writer of an old description of Man in 1774, " there is a cross around which the people go (at funerals) before they enter the Church." 'thirty-eight of these crosses, either entire or mutilated, at present remain. Their dates range between the fifth and twelfth centuries.
Of St. Patrick's own immediate time, the Isle of Man possesses many memorials, which almost surpass in interest anything which still survives him in our own country. In the Island of Peel (now connected with the mainland), within the grass-grown area encircled by the fortifications of the historic castle, stands the oratory, dignified with the title of St. Patrick's Cathedral. It shows in the details of its structure unmistakeable evidence of the very earliest period of Christian architecture. A little beyond it, and coeval with the little church, rises an Irish pillar tower.
Cathedral of St. Germanus (first Bishop of Man), on Peel Island
Very many Irish memories, indeed, are centred in this courtyard of Peel Castle. The finely-preserved Cathedral, dedicated to St. Germanus, Man's first bishop, stands there also, with its beautiful Gothic arches, deriving a mellowed loveliness from the warm-tinted sandstone of which it is composed. Within its shadow are the remains of the mediaeval episcopal palace of the prelates of the titular see of St. Germanus
Interior of Cathedral of St. Germanus, Peel - The Choir
Standing amid this group of ruins, as the eye ranges across the heaving ocean, and traces afar, like faintly-pencilled outlines, the hills of Down in Ireland, how many threads of history may not fancy weave ? Here assuredly, if anywhere, a fuller and holier radiance lights up the memories of the old, old story of "Holy Ireland " in the ages of long ago the holiest chapter in all her annals.
As regards the monastery of St. Leoc, it is conjectured that its patron saint was St. Lupus, who accompanied St. German of Auxerre in his mission into Britain. The Abbey Rushin seems at a later period to have occupied the site of the more ancient monastery. This abbey was enriched, indeed, with many lands by Olave, in the year 1134, but it was founded at an earlier date ; for Sacharavell informs us that " One MacMarus, a person of great prudence, moderation, and justice, in the year 1098, laid its first foundations in the town of Ballysalley." We may add that this Celtic name, °' Ballysalley," seems to preserve the memory of the last-mentioned saint, for when analyzed it simply means " the town of St. Leoc." The connection of the name of Leoc with St. Lupus is confirmed by a letter of Pope Urban the Fifth, in 1367, which mentions St. Lupus as patron of a parochial church in Man. Another letter of the same Pontiff preserves the name of St. Columbkille, as patron of one of the parishes, " in parochia sancti Columbae in Insula Manniae."
A passage of Venerable Bede has given rise to much discussion regarding the civil history of the Isle of Man. Speaking of the conquests of King Edwin in the year 630, he says : " Edwin subdued the Menavian islands to the English crown." (Lib. 2, cap. ix.). However, it probably was not the intention of the historian to include the Isle of Man under that designation. Certain it is that `'William of Malmesbury, when citing Bede's words, adds The Menavian islands are those which we now call Anglesey, that is, the isles of the Angles : " and King Alfred, who surely must have known the extent of Edwin's conquest, in his translation of Bede, expressly substitutes in this text the name of Anglesey instead of the generic phrase " Menavian islands."
From the Book of Rights it would appear that as late as the tenth century Man was held to be tributary to Ireland. Thus, among the prerogatives of the chief monarch is mentioned, to enjoy in Tara " the fruit of Manaan ;" and, subsequently, is inserted the poem of Cuan O'Lochain, in which, among the tributes which were offered, it is expressly mentioned that °° on the Calends of August were brought to the King the fruits of Manann, a fine present."
The "Chronicle of Man " records a curious fact in the year 1095. On the death of Lachman, King of Man and the Isles, all the Manx nobility sent an embassy to Muircheartach O'Brien, King of Ireland, asking him to send one of his royal race to rule the kingdom during the minority of Prince Olaf. The Irish monarch complied with their request, and sent to them his kinsman, Donald MacTeigue, a man of moderation and prudence, to discharge the onerous duties of that high office. Three years later, viz., in 1098, King Magnus of Norway made a triumphal visitation of the Orcades and other islands subject to the Norwegian sway; and from Man sent an insulting message to the Irish monarch, Muircheartach, commanding him to wear a pair of slippers on his shoulders on the following Christmas feast, in token of his being tributary to Magnus. The Irish nobles were indignant at the insult thus offered to their soverein ; but Muircheartach humbly complied with the command of Magnus, adding that sooner than imperil the peace of his people, he was ready to carry on his shoulders the slippers of Magnus till the Day of Judgment. Soon after Magnus perished at the hands of the Irish chieftains, together with all the troops which he had brought with him to the island.
In 1176, Godfrey, King of Man, was married to Findgola, grand-daughter of Muircheartach, and the marriage ceremony was performed by Cardinal Vivian. This, however, did not prevent the Manxmen from lending their aid to John de Courcy, when the Norman nobles invaded this country towards the close of the twelfth century. Indeed, in 1205 we find that there were no fewer than one hundred Manx ships in the train of De Courcy. King John was displeased with the devotedness they thus showed to one of his subjects, and accordingly, in 1210, he detached a portion of his army, under the command of Fulcho, which ravaged the Isle of Man for sixteen days, and exacted hostages from Ronald, the reigning King.
In 1238, two chieftains, one of whom was Gillechrist, son of Muircheartach, received a mission from the King of Norway to compel Harold, then King of Man, to pay the usual tribute of his fealty. They soon expelled Harold from the island, and it was only on his submission to the Norwegian monarch in 1242 that they re-adinitted him to the throne of Man. In the year 1249 an Irish chieftain named
Donald was pursued to death by the King. He took refuge in the monastery of Rushin, dedicated to the Holy Mother of God, but soon after was fraudulently induced to surrender himself to Harold. He was immediately bound, hand and foot, and led away to the wood of Mirescho, where he was closely guarded. Seeing that no human hope of escape remained to him, he turned his thoughts to God, and prayed the Holy Virgin, in whose sanctuary he had taken refuge, not to abandon him in his distress. Whilst he thus fervently prayed, the chains, of their own accord, fell from his limbs, and the captive was soon in safety, The chronicler adds ;" Haec sicut ab ore ejus didicimus. scripsimus."
During the period subsequent to the Danish invasions the ecclesiastical organization of the Isle; of Man seems to have been subject to many abnormal changes. Nevertheless, its connection with Ireland was not wholly interrupted. in 1217, Nicholas, Bishop of Man and the Isles, chose the monastery of Bangor, in Ireland, as his place of interment. Two years later we have a letter from Pope Honorius the Third, in which he laments the opposition which the King of Man had offered to the newly-elected bishop of that island. But the religious of the monastery of Furness, to whom the election canonically belonged, sent him to the Archbishop of Dublin, the Metropolitan of said See, to have his election confirmed and the rite of consecration administered, which was accordingly done.
Another letter of Pope Urban the Fifth, in 1366, addressed to the Bishop of Sodor, authorises the erection in the parish of St. Columba of a convent and church for the use of the Franciscans from Ireland. A few years later, in 1374, John Dongan, Archdeacon of Down, was appointed Bishop of Man.
Thus we see that for full nine centuries, from the days of St. Patrick down to the close of the fourteenth century, the Isle of Man, in its ecclesiastical relations, was closely identified with Ireland, and in even its civil administration had t0 look t0 Ireland for a considerable portion of that period.
In Edward the Third's time the sovereignty passed to the English King, who bestowed it on the Earl of Salisbury. This nobleman in time sold the island and his kingship to the Earl of Wiltshire. This sovereign, being found guilty of high treason, the crown was bestowed on Percy, Earl of Northumberland. But he, too, having walked in treasonable ways, his royalty was transferred to the Stanleys.
Early in the 15th century, 1406, we find Sir John Stanley, who had been Lord Deputy of Ireland, and is ancestor t0 the Earls of Derby, had a commission from Henry IV., in conjunction with Roger Leke, to seize on the city of York and its liberties, and also upon the Isle of Man, on the forfeiture of Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland; and having taken possession of the Isle of Man, he obtained a grant in fee of the said isle, castle and pile, anciently called Holm town, and all the isles adjacent, as also all the regalities, franchises, etc., to be holden of the said king, his heirs and successors, by homage, and the service of two falcons, payable on the day of their coronation. Under the lordship of the Stanleys the island continued to enjoy a kind of feudal existence, which in our own day, whilst preserving many of the ancient names and customs, has blossomed into a very practical and complete form of Home Rule. But it is with its Christian history we are more concerned.
From the fifteenth century onward the Isle of Man continued to be a portion of the feudal possessions of the family of Stanley.* They were the immediate rulers of it, whilst ecclesiastically it was confined to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Sodor, who soon after came to be described as Bishop of Sodor and Man, a title still retained in the Anglican Establishment. The Letter of Pope Pius the Second to Thomas Stanley, Lord of Man, which bears the date of 1458, witnessed the orthodoxy of the inhabitants, and takes them under his apostolic protection, excommunicating all who should dare to molest or assail them.
* In 1825 the inheritor of the royalty of Man sold his inheritance to the English Crown for half a million or so, and the line of Manx Sovereigns came to an end.
But before another century had rolled by, the Papal excommunication, as well as Papal supremacy, was set at defiance by Henry VIII., and the Faith so long cherished by the islanders, was violently wrested from them.
The revolt against Catholic unity, begun by Henry VI II. and consummated by Elizabeth in 1559, soon swept away every living vestige of the old Faith in the Isle of Man. Before the sixteenth century closed, Rushen Abbey at Ballasalla, the Franciscan Friary at Arbory, the Convent of St. Bridget at the Nunnery, were all mossgrown, dismantled ruins. The Freere Chapels were unused, save as shelters for the beasts of the field, the noble churches, like the cathedral on St. Patrick's Island, Peel, were stripped bare of their religious ornaments, their altars were thrown down, and the statues of Mary Immaculate and the Saints of God, were torn away from their niches and pedestals and scattered in broken fragments over the unblessed land.
* The dissolution of Rushen Abbey did not take place till late in the reign of Elizabeth. It was the last monastery dissolved in these kingdoms,
Although the island was practically independent of England, its sovereigns, the Stanleys and the Athols, were not slow to follow the ill example shown them by their more royal neighbours.
The story of the annihilation of Catholicity here is saddening beyond record. So utterly was it stamped out by the blind despotism of the rulers of Man, that in the year 1781, almost a century and a half after the infamous Cromwell had gone to his grave, unsparing intolerants had left but two dozen Catholics on the soil of Man.
How thankful we in Ireland should ever be, that, subjected though we had been to the same tempest of persecution, we were not overwhelmed by it, like those other children of St. Patrick. The ways of Providence are inscrutable ; "one shall be taken and one shall be left." However, it was only for a time. As the eighteenth century is nearing its limit, a faint glimmer of the old Faith once again shines amid the universal gloom, and, as in the beginning, is once again borne to it from the shores of Erin.
In a pastoral letter of Dr. Goss, the Bishop of Liverpool, we read that in the year 1781 there were only twenty-five Catholics in the Isle of Man.
But gloomy as the spiritual outlook was, in a land blessed by the prayers and penances of so many Irish saints, the Faith could not wholly perish. Towards the end of the year 1794 an Irish Catholic family came to Man. They had left their home owing to the threatening troubles, which, a year or two later, culminated in the Rebellion. They must have been people of influence, for then no stranger could land upon the island without a passport from the local magistrate, a favour, at that time, obtained only with difficulty. The arrival of the Roneys, for such was the name of the immigrant family, was welcomed by the "remnant of the heroes " the surviving Catholics of Man and their advent was hailed as the herald of better times. In their day, the figure of a Catholic priest was once again seen upon the island, and their hospitality ensured a welcome to the pious missionaries of the north of Ireland, who now were glad to include in their flock the few scattered Catholics that were left in Man. However, there was no resident priest. Occasionally a priest (generally from the diocese of Dublin) visited the few Catholics from the north of Ireland that were scattered over the island and lived far aport from each other, and sometimes a Father Johnson made short pastoral visits from Whitehaven. Later on, a French emigrant priest taught for some years in the Grammar School at Peel. He used to say Mass at Scarlett in a barn, for as yet there was no Catholic chapel in the island. At length the Isle of Man was destined for a short time to have a resident clergyman.
In the troublesome year of 1798, among the curates attached to old Liffey Street Chapel, Dublin, which only a year previous had been adopted by Archbishop Troy as his Pro-Cathedral and Mensal Parish, was the Rev. Miles MacPharlan. A Major Traubman [sic Taubman] commanded the Manx Fencibles, who were ordered to Dublin that same year, and to whom, whether spontaneously or by a billeting order we cannot say, Father MacPharlan surrendered his apartments, and otherwise showed him kindness and hospitality. This courtesy was destined not to go unrequited, as we shall see later on. When Mass was first celebrated in Douglas, then an obscure fishing village, the parlour of a public house in New Bond Street did duty as a temporary Chapel. If any family of position required the priest's presence on account of sickness, a priest was summoned specially from Dublin. This happened in the case of the Duffs, a leading Catholic family of Castletown.
During the first decade of the last century the spiritual needs of the few Catholics on the island were met in the fitful, uncertain manner we have just described ; and with the names of Father Johnson and the French emigre, we meet also those of Fathers Molloy and M'Mullen, both eloquent preachers. We need have little difficulty in identifying Father Molloy as Father Nicholas Molloy, O.S.A., who was a member of the community in John's Lane, Dublin, from 1799 to 1810, when he died ; he was one of the most gifted preachers of his time, and reputed by Protestants as equal to their great Dean Kirwan.
The stay of these devoted priests in the island was necessarily brief, but of a very practical nature, for the days of their passing visits were fully occupied with the baptisrn of children and the administration of the sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist. Through them, however, the state of spiritual destitution of the Isle of Man became known, and their accounts of it were fruitful of happy results.
In 1803 Father MacPharlan was promoted parish priest of Blanchardstown, or Castleknock, as the parish was then denominated. In his zeal to provide employment for his people in years of great stress, and to promote industrious habits. he conceived the project of establishing a brick factory; and renting a quantity of ground suitable for his project, he started spacious brickfields, by which means he gave a great deal of much-needed employment. But he was out of his sphere, and proved but all indifferent man of business, so that in a very short time he got involved in hopeless debt, and to escape imprisonment fled to the Isle of Man. Here he renewed acquaintance with his '98 friend, Major Taubman, and resolved to exercise his ministry there for the benefit of the Catholic islanders. To him is due the credit of erecting the first Catholic chapel, in the year 1813. It was built on the Castletown road. about a mile from Douglas, on land granted by his friend Major Taubman, who was proprietor of the neighbouring manor of the Nunnery, formerly the site of St. Brigid's Convent. To secure legal rights, the gift was exchanged for a Deed of Sale, five shillings being the purchase-money. The chapel was opened in 1814, and a Latin inscription, still preserved on an old stone tablet in St. Mary's, Douglas, records the fact .
" To God, Greatest and Best,
Rev. Miles MacPharlan,
A Parish Priest near Dublin,
Restored to its ancient worship
The Chapel of St. Bridget,
In the year 1814."
It is noteworthy that the parish of Blanchardstown, of which Father MacPharlan still retained possession, was also under the patronage of St. Bridget.*
* He continued in practical possession until 1825, when, on the 3rd of April in that year, Archbishop Murray summoned him back to reside in his parish, and he, failing to appear, the parish was declared vacant, and conferred on Rev. Joseph Joy Deane.
How long after this event Father MacPharlan was allowed to remain in peace on the island is uncertain, but eventually his creditors seem to have discovered some way of molesting him, and for greater security he left for France, and the Catholics of Manxland were once more left without a pastor.
The little flock of the faithful being again left without a pastor, petitioned the Vicar Apostolic of England to send them a priest, but no one could be supplied. It was the Gospel story " The harvest was great, but the labourers were few." However, the prayers of the children of the fold were at last heard. The Irish Jesuit College of Clongowes Wood had just then been established for some few years,
One of the members of its first staff of Professors, Father Mathew Gahan, nephew of the learned Augustinian, with whose name most of us are familiar as compiler of the " Catholic Piety," volunteered to take up the mission. Exchanging the society of his accomplished community and the peaceful and beautiful surroundings of his College home, he entered on his new and unpromising enterprise about the year 1823. He was accompanied by one, of whose services he but too gladly availed, an Irish schoolmaster named John Kelly. Despite all the difficulties that beset them, jointly and zealously they fought the battle of the old Faith, and re-planted the seed in the soil once blessed by the foot-steps of Patrick, Brigid, and Germanus, and bedewed with the tears of the last Cistercian the last pastor of a flock left shepherdless.
The best biography we have of Father Gahan is given in a letter to Dr. George Oliver, by Father Peter Kenny, S.J., and dated
" Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin,
October 13th, 1837.
" . . . . I shall now give some little account of our good Father Mathew Gahan. He was born on the 7th February, 1782. He entered the Society for the Irish Mission at Hodder House, 7th September, 1805, and having there made his noviceship, he commenced his Theology at Stoneyhurst and finished at Palermo, where he was ordained priest on the 16th July, 1810. He returned to Ireland in November, 1811, and began his missionary work in the parish of St. Michan, where the ancient residence of the Society existed before the suppression. He filled here, and afterwards in the Parish of St. Nicholas Without, the office of Vicar to the P.P., which in Ireland is denominated the office or state of Curate. In 1816, he was made Minister of the College of Clongowes Wood, and continued in that office until 1822, when he was sent to assist Father Aylmer in the Residence which the Society had acquired in Hardwicke-street, Dublin, 1816. The poor Catholics of the Isle of Man had long been left in a deplorable state of destitution of all spiritual assistance. Though it has long been a part of the Northern District of England, it never had the benefit of a Resident Pastor. Occasionally some Irish priest visited them ; and some remained a considerable time among them. Whilst Mr. Gahan was Curate in the Parish Chapel of St. Nicholas, he visited the island for the first time. Two or three Dublin priests were accustomed to go over to it in turn, and spend some days or weeks in the summer season. Father Gahan took his turn with these worthy missionaries, and when stationed at our Residence in Dublin he renewed his visits. He was entreated by the more respectable portion of these Catholics to fix himself amongst them. His devotion to the poor, which was conspicuous in the whole course of his ministry, induced him to give a willing ear to these entreaties, and in the year 1826, he obtained the leave of his superiors to go and reside amongst them, and from that period until his death, which occurred on the 22nd February last, his life was a series of fatigues, difficulties, and disappointments, which he suffered with great patience. Though often solicited to return to the friends whom he had left for the sake of the Manx Catholics, or rather the Irish settled in Man, he never would consent to leave them. The Mission had no settled income of any sort; the promises which were made him were not fulfilled, though many of his new flock were very kind to him, and all admired the zeal that induced him to make such sacrifices, the patience with which he bore his many privations, and the efforts which he was continually making for the progress of religion amongst them. He came several times to Ireland to make collections amongst his brethren, and their friendship and help enabled him to do for the little flock what their poverty would not allow them to do for themselves. The chapel was a miserable one, built by Mr. M'Farland, an Irish P.P. in the neighbourhood of Dublin, who as a great favour in those times got leave to build in a quarry situate one mile from Douglas. The road in winter was very bad, and this was a cause of preventing many from going to Mass in winter. Father Gahan in time gathered as much as enabled him to purchase an old play-house, which he converted into a neat chapel, with dwelling-house for the priest.
" For the purchase and erecting of this chapel he had the leave of the late Vicar-Apostolic, Dr. Penswick, who even signed a deed empowering Mr. Gahan to sell the premises in which the old chapel stood, though that sale was never effected. Yet when this chapel was on the eve of being opened, the present Vicar-Apostolic refused to allow it to be opened unless conditions were signed by Mr. Gahan and the Provincial Superior, which they could not admit. The delay and all its concomitant disappointments, and the anxieties which it produced, materially affected his health, which had been long declining. In the course of the winter the old chapel could not be used as the rain got through the roof, and as the missioner lived in the house at Douglas, he was not able even in dry weather to go so far. These circumstances occasioned the chapel to be opened in a private way, and the good man knew the comfort of saying Mass in it some months before his death.
" Father Aylmer went over to see him on the 17th Feb., to induce him to come to Dublin, to relieve his mental and bodily sufferings, but he only arrived in time to attend him in his last illness. That very evening he had returned from one of his missionary calls, sick in fever, which terminated his edifying and useful life in five days. Besides the chapel in Douglas, he built another in Castletown, and provided for the mission a quantity of vestments, chalices, and other requisites for the altar and Church, which they were destitute of when he took charge of them.
" P. KENNY, S. J."
So far Father Peter Kenny. The Manx Catholic Magazine (Oct. 1895) enables us to supply some further details.
In 1824 Father Gahan built his first school beside the old Chapel of St. Brigid, near Douglas, on the Castletown road. Here his indefatigable assistant, John Kelly, the teacher, presided over the promiscuous gathering of juvenile islanders. The school was in every sense a mixed one. The children of Catholics and Protestants, high and low, rich and poor, all mingled together in the one apartment. Adults, too, were welcomed when they chose to come and gather the crumbs of knowledge so bountifully dispensed by the teacher. The school-fees, like the school, were mixed also. They were mostly paid in kind in potatoes, apples, cabbages, and useful groceries.
The memories and discipline of the Irish schoolmaster are still graven on the legend-roll of many a Manx homestead, and by all accounts
" A man severe he was, and stern to view."
The chief remaining monument of Father Gahan's labours is the chapel of Castletown, opened in 1826. Douglas in its time was but an insignificant fishing harbour. To build a Catholic chapel in Castletown, the ancient metropolis of the island, within the shadow of the frowning fortress of its bygone kings, was the dearest wish of the zealous Jesuit's heart. His warm appeals for this object to his countrymen in Ireland found a hearty response. Sometimes crossing over in a fishing craft, to Killough, County Down, he would spend two or three weeks together collecting funds, and the old people still love to tell that no Catholic ever died without the sacraments while their devoted pastor was absent on these errands of charity.
On one of these occasions he was the guest of an Irish Bishop, Dr. Murphy, who invited a large party to meet him at dinner. In conversation Father Gahan's words turned to the theme nearest his heart the spiritual wants of his poor Manx congregation. With so much feeling and pity did he tell the story of his distressed mission, that before the assembled company rose from the dinner-table they handed him a subscription of £80 !
Castletown, Isle of Man
The growing commerce of Douglas was now causing it to outstrip Castletown in its civic importance, and suggested to Father Gahan the desirability of providing a church in the centre of the town. He at length succeeded, and from Ireland again came the funds which enabled him to purchase a large hall called St. George's at the corner of Athol-street, leading down Victoria-street. To-day the position marks the very heart of Douglas, but the church is no longer there.
This building was easily and quickly adapted to the purposes of a Catholic place of worship, and dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. Underneath was a spacious basement, admirably suited for a school-room. Thither, we learn, our old friend, Mr. Kelly, now transferred the theatre of his fame, and, as the story goes, still continuing to see that neither the rod was spared nor the child spoiled.
At St. Francis Xavier's the Divine Mysteries continued to be celebrated, and all the ministrations of the Mission carried on till 1859, when the present splendid Church of St. Mary's was opened.
Father Gahan died in 1837 from illness; as his epitaph tells, contracted in the discharge of his duties at the death-bed of a fever-stricken patient. His death would have been a lonely one too lonely for one whose life had been `a long scene of sacrifice for others had not Providence, mysterious in its ways, sent one of his old brethren from Clongowes Wood, as already stated, to comfort his last hours and administer the saving rites of the Church. All that was mortal of him was laid beside the once-Catholic walls of St. Brendan's Church in the cemetery outside Douglas. An Irish cross, rich with Celtic ornament, day by day casts its gliding shadows on his grave fitting sentinel for the last sleep of an Irish pilgrim-priest.
A marble slab in the shaded grounds of St. Mary's commemorates his missionary labours :
To the peaceful remembrance of
The Rev. Mathew Joseph Gahan, S.J.
He left his own people in Ireland
to devote himself to the
Salvation of the inhabitants
of the Isle of Man.
He was conspicuous for his piety towards God.
Zeal for his neighbour
For kindness towards the poor, for charity
Amidst the hardships of weak health
He was ever unwearied.
At length after building two
Churches he was struck down by fever
Whilst attending a dying bed
And sweetly expired, February 22,
In the year of Salvation, 1837,
At the age of 56.
For a little while Father Aylmer, S.J., who attended him in his closing hours of life, remained in charge of his work until the spiritual administration of the Isle of Man was formally provided for by the Vicar Apostolic of the Northern Province of England. Since then, holy priests, not a few bearing Irish names, have kept alight the lamp of Faith in the Isle of Man. Its Catholic population is to-day numbered by thousands. The beautiful Church of St. Mary's, Douglas, the adjacent convent and schools, and the lesser chapels of the Island, all bespeak the zeal and labour of those whose task it is to build again the Church of Patrick and Bridget, and keep green the memory of the saintly Jesuit, who is still fondly styled " the second Irish Apostle of the Isle of Man."
The last missionary assistance rendered by Dublin priests, must have been in Father Gahan's time, and Monsignor O'Connell and Father Matthew Collier were among the last to visit it as missionary.
Early in 1838, the Rev. Peter Magrath, a young priest just ordained, a native of Cullyhanna, County Armagh, was sent by Dr. Brown to the Manx Mission. In this young Irish priest, the Catholic Islanders found a worthy successor to Father Gahan. Full of boundless charity for Catholic and Protestant alike, he gave all he had in means and energy for the help and welfare of his people.
About 1846, many sons and daughters of Ireland began to cross over and make the island their home. Catholics increased and multiplied, and one priest could no longer feed so large a flock. So an assistant came, first Fr. Gallagher, then Fr. Dee, who died soon after, and eventually, Fr. O'Loughlin.
The great effort of Father Magrath's missionary life in the Isle of Man was directed to securing a good site for a Church in Douglas. The Chapel of St. Francis Xavier was after all only a room turned into Church. Many difficulties confronted him, but he overcame them all, and had the happiness when transferred to Liverpool of knowing that he had left the Catholics of Douglas in possession of a choice plot of ground for a Church and Presbytery. His transfer to St. Joseph's, Liverpool, occurred in 1854, after seventeen years of apostolic labours in the Isle of Man. During those seventeen years, no family rendered him more devoted assistance than Mr. and Mrs. Conlan. Whenever the sick required a nurse, or the ignorant needed instruction, or the priest himself food and clothing, Mrs. Conlan's delicate charity, straightway ministered to their necessities. The son of these excellent parents is now Parish Priest of St. Miclian's Parish, Dublin the Very Rev. Canon Conlan. After Father Magrath's departure there were various changes in the clergy of the island, until 1856, found anchored there, the Rev. James Carr, the present Monsignor Carr, Vicar-General of Liverpool. No time was lost by this energetic priest in utilising the site secured by Father Magrath. The foundation stone of St. Mary's of the Isle was laid the following year by Dr. Goss, bishop of Liverpool. The Church was solemnly opened in August, 1859. The whole presbytery was ready for use on the same date. In 1861, the new schools were built and in full working order. In 1862, land was bought for a chapel in Peel. In 1863, Ramsay became a separate mission, with Rev. Robert Gillow the priest in charge. In 1865, the new chapel in Peel was completed.
To have accomplished so much in so short a time is an undying glory for both priest and people. The 25 Catholics of the year 1800 had grown to over 2000 when Father Carr, after seven years of most energetic and fruitful labour, was transferred to Formby, near Liverpool. Later on, Father Donnelly succeeded as Rector, and then Monsignor Errington, Archbishop of Trebizonde, during whose administration the Sisters of Mercy from Mount Vernon, Liverpool, were established in Douglas.
The last souvenir of Ireland transported to the Isle of Man was the organ that for so many years served its exalted purpose in the Pro-Cathedral, Marlborough Street, Dublin. When a movement for a new organ was set on foot, towards the close of the sixties, the old organ was advertised for sale, and the then Rector of Douglas, Canon Kennedy, crossed over to Dublin, and speedily effecting a purchase, had it taken down and removed to Douglas, where it was set up in the beautiful church built by Monsignor Carr.
We may conclude with the words of the Essay in the Manx Catholic Magazine : " The future history of Catholicity will flow on in ; " with the past, a slow yet sure progress. One thing is certain, the Catholic population are a peaceful and united family, and full of loyal devotion to their Faith."