[taken from Chapter 2 Manx Worthies, A.W.Moore, 1901]
We regret that we have been able to find out so little about the
early Manx Wesleyan local preachers, of whom Wesley said:" I never
saw in England so many stout, well-looking preachers together. If
their spirit be answerable to their look, I know not what can stand
before them."* " How strange! ' as the late Thomas Kelly remarks, "
notwithstanding we have had Manx Methodists second to none in
philanthropy and piety that so little has been written of them "[
Of Clypston, from his lecture on Illiam-y-Close]
[* Rosser. 'Wesleyan methodism in the Isle of Man' p99.]
One of the earliest was JOHN ELLISON, leader of the first class formed in Douglas. To conduct this he walked to and from the neighbourhood of Peel, where he lived. :He preached during about sixty years, and, in extreme old age, when unable he to stand, he did so sitting.
Contemporary, or nearly so, with him is WILLIAM FARAGHER, of Cooil-cam (b. 1762, d. 1855), who was on the Douglas and Castletown circuit for upwards of 60 Years. He began preaching at the age of 19, and was on the plan for 74 years. He died at the great age of 93, retaining his faculties to the last. He possessed a vigorous mind, and was a powerful preacher in the Manx language.
Other pioneers were ROBERT COWLEY, of Ballaugh; WILLIAM CORRIN, of Ballameanagh, Braddan, who was one of the committee which published the Manx Wesleyan Hymn-book, JOHN COWLE,(b. 1768, d. 1848), of Ballakaneen, Andrew, and JOHN COWELL clerk of St. George's. It is said that JOHN COWELL had made it a condition of undertaking the office of clerk that. when he was required to preach, he should be allowed to provide a substitute There is a story that, on one occasion, when Bishop George Mason preached a sermon against Methodists from St. George's pulpit COWELL, was in his place, and, when the bishop had finished he gave out the following hymn, which he thought appropriate under the circumstances: _
In vain, O man of lawless might
Thou boast's" thyself in ill
Since God, the God in whom I trust
Vouchsafes his favour still
The wicked tongue doth sland'rous tales
And sharper than a razor whet
It wounds with treacherous lies.
We are told that the next day the bishop took his revenge by rebuking JOHN COWELL, for preaching, when he did not understand Greek or Hebrew, but JOHN retorted that he knew English and Manx well enough to make men understand that he was calling them to repentance. *
[* From The Isle of Man Times, February, 1895.]
[FPC think Moore may have confused the two John Cowle/Cowells - both were Parish Clerks John Cowle of Andreas was schoolmaster and PC of Bride b.1786 d.1848 - other John Cowell (1769-1848) was PC St Georges]
Of rather later date are -
WILLIAM COWLEY, generally known as " Illiam-e-Close," of whom, thanks to the late Thomas Kelly, of Clypston, we are able to give an account; STEPHEN, LACE, SAYLE, and KNEALE (H.K..,of Regaby), who were, according to the Rev W. T. Radcliffe, "men of original gifts and much usefulness."" Then came ANTHONY LEWTHWAITE, JOHN CORLETT, JOHN CAIN, Ballashen, PATRICK CALEY and WILLIAM KELLY of Sulby, THOMAS CAIN, of Ballacain, and, later still. WILLIAM JOUGHIN, of Grenabv, JOHN JOUGHIN, of Ballacrebbin, HARRY CUBBON, of Laxey, WILLIAM CLUCAS, of Glenrushen, PHILIP SKILLICORN and THOMAS CRENNELL, [. See also JOHN COWELL, and HUGH GARRETT, in Ch. VII, and JOHN STEVENSON MOORE. and EVAN CHRISTIAN, in Ch. IX).
WILLIAM COWLEY (d. 1848),usually known as " Illiam-y-Close," or William of the Close, from the name of the estate in the parish of Marown, owned and occupied by him, was one of seven sons. He was small of stature, being only about five feet high. There is not much to be discovered about his boyhood. It is said that upon one occasion he attended a service conducted by William Faragher (Cooil-cam), having gone there for the purpose of ridiculing the preacher. Faragher took as his text, " O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth," and one result of his sermon was the conversion of ILLIAM, who soon afterwards became a local preacher himself. His reputation as a preacher became very great, and, no doubt, his capability of making quaint, witty, and trenchant remarks had much to do with his influence. We may quote a few of these, as they are characteristic of the rough, wholesome humour often indulged in by Manx local preachers. On one occasion he called to see a man who was very sick, and who was well known to be a malingerer and back slider. On ILLIAM'S getting up to go, the man said, " ILLIAM, would's ;thou not better pray with me?" but ILLIAM replied, "Pray with thee! 'thou has't far more need of a stick! "
On another occasion a man met him on one of his journeys, and said to him, " Where art thou going, IILIAM ? " " I am going to Baldwin to preach." " It is a wonder they don't send young men on such journeys," said the man; and WILLIAM replied, "I did not think I would have met such a fool on my journey; dos't thou think I am going to lose the ship at the mouth of the harbour "ILLIAM often rebuked others, but sometimes he got a rebuke himself - thus, a friend who heard him preach from the text, "Sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor," and urge that every one should do this, said to him afterwards, " If all sold, who would there be to buy ? " ILLIAM saw his error, and replied, " If I had not a sermon going, I had one coming home." It is said that he once remarked to the young women of his congregation, in the course of his sermon, " There are as many ribbons in your bonnets as would make a nest for a goose I have at home.' A well-to-do person passing the collection box in chapel without putting anything in, ILLIAM called out, " Hold the box to his nose until he gets red in the face." One of his usual prayers after the sermon was, " Lord help the people to take the grain and leave the chaff."
(Abstract of the account by the late Thomas Kelly, Clypston.)