[from W Ralph Hall Caine Isle of Man]
BEDE is our venerable authority for the statement that about the end of the fourth century Ninian, a man of British birth, educated at Rome, established a church, called Candida Casa, on the western slope of W igton Bay. The missionary ' White House' was dedicated to St. Martin of Tours.
The Picts inhabiting this lower corner of Scotland came within the sphere of the teacher, but older influences were stronger and were not soon uprooted. Ninianism lapsed either about the supposed time of the apostle's death, in 432, or soon afterwards.
Wigton Bay is within sight of the island of Man, and it is thought likely, or at all events possible, that Ninian, who sought to spread the Gospel in Scotia, did not neglect the land lying within his vision, and separated from him by fewer than twenty miles of water.
The inference that Man was a part of the kingdom of Strathclyde would explain the connection. But at present this must be regarded as vague conjecture. All that is left to give the story the faintest colour of probability is contained in the fact that we have to this day an old roofless church, in the midst of a large field adjoining the Highlander Inn, at the foot of Greeba Mountain, and on the main road leading from Douglas and Peel, connected by long tradition with a saint whom we call St. Trinian, and of whom we find it impossible to provide any more authentic history.
The Church of St. Trinian belongs to the thirteenth or fourteenth century, but the site may be of much greater antiquity. The weatherbeaten old walls still stand, and until a year or so ago great trees grew within its short and narrow nave, and even within its tiny chancel, a single stride from the spot at which presumably the first altar to the Cross of Christ was ever raised in Man. Some of the lower stonework still survives.
St. Trinian's used to present a strange sight. The trees within, like those without, were the growth of generations. They raised their proud heads over the enclosing walls, and spread their branches over the roofless sanctuary like so many protecting wings.
The church is a little over twenty yards in length, and eight yards in breadth. The east window contained two lights, sharply pointed. Above the west window is a turret for two bells. On the north side of the chancel there was a door for the priest. On the north and south sides of the building, about a man's height from the ground, the visitor will observe a number of holes. These are presumed to have held the stone pegs by which ropes of straw were to be bound to keep the thatched roof in its place.
Tradition says the church was erected in fulfilment of a vow made by one who had narrowly escaped the terrors of shipwreck, that it was dedicated to St. Trinian (Ninian ? Ringan ?), the missionary worker among the Picts, and that it belonged to the Priory of St. Ninian in Galloway, the head of which was a Baron in Man
The legend of the Buggane, which I recount on a later page, tells how it comes that the church remains roofless.
A less romantic explanation is that the church was unfinished at the time of the conquest of the island by Sir William Montacute in 1343, and that after the expulsion of the Scots none would complete the task.
As a matter of fact, the church was in use in the first quarter of the thirteenth century, and probably in the latter half of the twelfth.
So much for that story.