[taken from Chapter 1 Manx Worthies, A.W.Moore, 1901]

HUGH STOWELL, Senior (b. 1768, d. 1835),

the third son of Thomas Stowell and Ann Brown (aunt of the Rev. Robert Brown), was born in Douglas. When quite a child, he fell into the harbour, being rescued from drowning by a sailor. Shortly after this, he went to the Grammar School at Ramsey, then conducted by the Rev John Crellin. Under his tuition, he " made a considerable progress in classical learning."* He tells us that he was " by nature timid and bashful in the highest degree," that he " had a passion for retirement," that he looked back with great pleasure upon the time spent in reading with his mother, from whose example and precept he " early received deep impressions of religion," and that, almost from his infancy, his parents had decided to bring him up for the Church. In 1801[sic 1781 ?], he was removed to the Academic School at Castletown, the Master of which was then the Rev. Thomas Castley, M.A., an able teacher and an excellent scholar. In 1783, his mother died, an event which he terms the " first real Deletion " of his life. In 1786, he gained a scholarship worth £22, and this, added to £3 received by him annually for the tuition of three or four boys-he himself was only 18-made him the possessor of an income which, with bit modest ideas, he considered a competency. He then extended his hitherto almost exclusively classical reading to other subjects, and he tells us that " a new world of knowledge " opened to his view. He read metaphysics, mathematics, geography, philosophy and divinity, which afforded him " daily fresh delight and improvement," while, for relaxation, he revelled in Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Young, Gray, and Thomson. But his main object was to satisfy himself " of the truth and certainty of our Holy Religion," and to diligently prepare for Holy Orders. In April, 1791, he became a deacon. Seeing that he was to develop into a singularly eloquent and forcible preacher it will be of interest to give his account of the way in which he prepared his sermons:-" In composing my discourses, I have endeavoured to set the congregation before me and imagine myself personally addressing them on the subject of my text "; and, he continues " this mode seems to connect the advantages of extemporaneous speaking with the benefit of careful premeditation and correct composition." However this may have been, the testimony to the power of his preaching is unanimous. The Rev. T. E. Brown says " he was a great preacher; wherever he filled the pulpit he filled the church," and the writer's father always declared that he was a more striking preacher than his more widely known son, the canon. His first appointment was as curate to Vicar General Moore, at Arbory, and, in the following year, in accordance with the request of the inhabitants of Douglas, he was appointed Master of the Grammar School and Chaplain of St. Matthew's in that town. On being admitted to Priest's Orders, in 1793, he writes:-" This was an awful day to me. Never shall I forget the strong emotions which I felt on the occasion, and I pray God to imprint on my heart and memory the solemn vows which I then took upon me." In 1795, eighteen resolutions for his future guidance, of which the following are the most striking, are recorded in his diary:-" To rise every morning during the summer season at five o'clock; to spend half an hour in deep and solemn devotion; to labour after further advancement in charity, humility, and every other Christian virtue," and, he concludes, " These resolutions I determine, by Divine Grace, to observe with care and exactness." Does not the whole tenour of his life show that he did so ? Both as schoolmaster and chaplain he was remarkably successful. The school had a yearly increasing number of pupils, and his introduction of a Manx service and sermon every Sunday attracted a large congregation. But his strenuous labours, which, between 1799 and 1801, were added to by " an uncommon scarcity, which had reduced, not only the mendicants, but many of the labouring part of the town, to extreme distress," proved too much for his never very robust health, and so, in 1802, he asked to be moved to a country parish. He was, thereupon, appointed Vicar of Lonan. Here, in 1808, he established the first Sunday School in the island. At this period of his life, he began writing the numerous religious pamphlets, both in Manx and English, and the pious memoirs, which he put forth from time to time. It was then, too, that he corrected the edition of the Manx New Testament which was issued in 1810. In 1818, he compiled a " Manx Spelling and Lesson Book," and in 1819, his magnus opus, the Life of Bishop Wilson, a pleasantly written and interesting work, appeared. In 1824, he was transferred to Ballaugh, where he remained till his death. He was asked by Bishop Ward, in 1827, to make a tour in England for the purpose of soliciting subscriptions for building churches in the island, and he gladly consented to do so. When on this mission, he was everywhere received with admiration and respect, and his efforts were rewarded by the receipt of a very considerable some. We should remember, too, that he was the first, in the Isle of Man, to organise temperance societies on the moderation system, the members pledging themselves to abstain from Spirits, but not from ale and wine. Let us now, as the best means of estimating his character, quote the evidence of the Rev. Thomas Howard, who knew him intimately, and of the Rev. T. E. Brown, whose father was closely connected with him. The former says: " Will not you, who fully knew his 'manner of life,' bear testimony that he was an example in word, in conversation in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity; that he 'adorned the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things,' and showed himself a pattern of good works ?. . His brethren in the ministry looked up to him as a model of ministerial faithfulness, of ardent, yet chastened zeal, of heavenly mindedness, and of entire devotion to the duties of his high life ; 2 and the latter, after describing him as being " of short stature and homely," declares that he was "a man of God, a veritable saint," and he continues, "the fact is, there can be no doubt that in Mr Stowell we had an all but angelic presence, a heavenly minded man and something more, a splendour and a power."" He also points out that he was an " Evangelical of the Evangelicals " 3 in the days before the Oxford movement, when they, headed by such men as Wilberforce, Venn, and Simeon, strove against a dead clergy and an irreligious laity.""

HUGH STOWELL is particularly interesting as having been the leader of this school of thought in the island, a school which was composed of such men as the Rev. Thomas Howard, E. Craine, R. Brown, J. Nelson, Joseph Qualtrough, W. Corrin, and J. L. Stowell, men, as the Rev. T. E. Brown says, " endowed with a singular elevation of tone and sentiment, combined with a depth of seriousness and sincerity."

* These and similar quotations are taken from a diary kept by him between 1795 and 1810, which has been kindly lent by Sir James Gell.
2 Funeral Sermon
3 Ramsey Church Magazine.


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