[From IoM Times 18 Jan 1936]
The parish of Lonan has two churches and two graveyards. One of the churches stands on what may have been holyground for over a thousand years. Mr P. M. C. Kermode, the great student of ancient crosses in the Isle of Man, says of a huge intricately-plaited wheel cross which stands in the graveyard that it may be in the very position in which it was originally set up. The other has just celebrated its centenary, having been consecrated on May the 4th. 1835. But this building superseded another which stood on approximately the same site for exactly a hundred years. In 1733 the parishioners petitioned Tynwald to allow them to provide a church elsewhere than in a remote corner of the parish. Land was accordingly procured at "Bolliee Veen" "the same being as near as conveniently may be to the middle of the same parish." The church then built was to be eighteen yards long and eighteen feet broad, plus a chancel. The pillars at the entrance to this church can be recognised in the walling of the present graveyard. Bishop Ward, who found most of the Manx churches too small for an enlarging population, caused Kirk Lonan to be pulled down and re-built.
It was to the "new" church, as well as to the old one near Groudle, that John Feltham came in 1793 when he and Edward Wright were compiling lists of all the tombstone inscriptions in the Isle of Man. He found in the old graveyard a stone dated 1689, which cannot now be traced. The second oldest was one which is still in fair condition - that of William Kissag. who died in 1725. Not many stones are left in the old graveyard now; many have fallen flat and been absorbed in the soil: but occasional burials still take place there. The last was that of Mr Charles Finlo Corkill, of Begoade, who made a most memorable candidate m the House of Keys election of 1929. He died in 1932.
Part of the old church is in ruins. Between the unroofed walls is a series of epitaphs upon members of the family of Simpsons of Baldromma-Christian. Their last direct male descendant, killed in the Great War, is commemorated by a tablet in the new church; but collateral descendants remain. A favourite Christian name in the family, by the way, was Philip. The following verse commemorates William Simpson, who died in 1810 at the age of twelve:-
Here lies in hope beneath this speaking stone.
His virtues modest as his worth unknown,
A lovely youth, who, in his primate bloom.
Shorn of his strength, now withers in the tomb.
Short was the scene, and short the important space
That closed at once his journey and his race.
Brought down with pain his vigour to the Grave.
At once to chasten and at once to save.
And when the awful hour of Death was come.
Angels conveyed his soul to worlds unknown.
There to partake with them supreme delight .
Where every Christian's faith is lost in sight.
Adieu! thou mortal yet immortal flower,
Of fading Beauty yet of lasting Bloom,
Till the last trump by God Almighty's power
Shall rouse the peaceful slumberers from the tomb.
Another conspicuous series of tombstones covers past generations of the Clague family of Ballavarane, a member of which was buried in this churchyard as recently as 1930. One of them, a youth christened Thomas, was buried in 1794. and this tribute was carved on his grave "by his affectionate mother":-
Youth in full blossom early called by Death,
Midst flattering prospects must resign his Breath;
Tho' strong and healthy, Death the stronger proved,
And forced him here, however much beloved.
But soon the voice that Earth and Heaven shall rend,
Shall raise the sleeping Dust up to ascend.
The oldest graves in the new churchyard are those of William Kissage, who died January 26th, 1740, and Mary Kissage ("als. Kewish"), who died earlier in the same month. Next comes John Kewley, of Agneash, also buried in 1740, and there is a near approach in the grave of Thomas Skillicorn. of Skisco or Skinscoe. who died in April, 1741. Another spelling of that farm-name, found in association with a member of the same family, is Skenster.
A Manx clergyman of great eloquence and great saintliness was buried in Lonan
churchyard in October, 1835. The Rev. Hugh Stowell, vicar of Lonan for thirteen
years and rector of Ballaugh for twenty-one years, was a preacher of exceptional
power, and was selected by Bishop Ward to assist him in making appeals throughout
England for money wherewith to provide the Manx diocese with new churches; he
wrote a life of Bishop Wilson; and he was the father of Canon Hugh Stowell of
Manchester, a noted English divine and author of many standard hymns. On the
elder Hugh Stowell's tombstone it is written:-
Early called, and effectively kept by Divine grace, his path was like the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day. What he was as a father, let his family-as a pastor, let his flock-as a patriot, let this Island say. As in life, so in death, Christ was all in all to him. "Without Christ," said he in his last hours, "all would be gloom and blackness of darkness, but with Christ all is love and joy and peace." ""Even from the dust," the Prophet cries, "prepare to meet thy God."
It was in Lonan, in the year 1808, that Hugh Stowell is said to have set up the first Manx Sunday-school. But in a Manx newspaper of 1834, that honour was conferred upon the Rev. Lewis Geneste.
Near Mr Stowell's tombstones are those of two earlier vicars-Nathaniel Curphey (died 1759) and Samuel Gell (died 1802). Under the name of Mr Gell's wife appears the following epitaph:-
When death did call, I gladly did obey,
Rejoiced to turn into my native clay,
My soul is gone, my Saviour Christ to meet,
Although my eyes are closed here in sleep.
Ah, friend, repent'. God's sacred word believe,
You see I'm gone, my wages to receive.
Another vicar buried here is the Rev. Joseph Qualtrough, who died in 1853. It is believed that his birthplace was in Rushen, but there was an isolated Qualtrough family which was settled in Lonan and occupying the farm of Raby as early as 1703. Another vicar, the Rev. J. S. Wilkinson, died and was buried at Lonan in 1895. There is also a memorial to the Rev. David Harrison, of Lonan and formerly of Malew.
A notable Manx clergyman was the Rev. William Fitzsimons, who died in retirement at Glenroy, Lonan, in 1819. He was a substantial landowner and a member of the House of Keys, but in comparatively early life he was imprisoned at Edinburgh for having given refuge to escaped French prisoners. The Rev. Jonathan Akroyd, formerly of Halifax, died at the Dhoon Parsonage in 1872 aind was buried in Lonan.
Harry Cubbon - "Harry Ballayelse" - a very notable Methodist evangelist, died at Laxey in 1891. Born at Ballayelse, Arbory, he had conducted missions, preaching with great power alike in Manx and English, all over the Island. Tribute is paid on the gravestone to John Kay (died 1860), a Wesleyan local preacher for forty years; and no one who knew him could ever forget Robert Kewley - often called "Rob Lee" - ardent Methodist and teetotaler, and fine picturesque old Manxman in every way.
Quite a considerable proportion of the names in Lonan churchyard are English.
The main reason is the arrival, early in the nineteenth century, of mineworkers
from Cornwall and to a lesser extent from Cumberland. The well-known Oliver
family may serve as an illustration, and the Pascoes. Since the Great War, retired
folk have come to live in the newly-created village of Garwick, and in course
of time some of them have died. One Garwick family, Mr James and Miss Elizabeth
Robinson, formerly of Stockport, left handsome endowments to the church.
Scattered up and down the churchyard are the graves of nineteen men who perished
in the terrible disaster at Snaefell mines on May 10th, 1897. John Oliver was
among them, and his son John James, the brothers Kewin, and the brothers William
Alfred and Walter Christian. The gravestone over Robert Lewney was erected by
the members of the Old Laxey Workingmen's Institute. There was a minor disaster
in the Great Laxey mine in 1904, in which four lives were lost.
The grave can also be seen of Capt. John Kewley, mine manager at the time of the disaster-"the dear brave Kewley" as T. E. Brown described him in a letter after he had read of the captain's heroism. Capt. Kewley had a son who was a mine manager at Heidelberg. South Africa, and died at Snaefell in 1903. Other mine managers buried here are Richard Rowe, for many years a member of the House of Keys; John Cornish, who died in 1875, and to whom his company erected a memorial ; John Roberts, Francis Reddicliffe and Thomas Garland.
The Loyal North Star Lodge of Odd Fellows provided in 1867 a tombstone for their first member, Robert Hutchinson, initiated at the Lodge's inauguration in 1837, He became Provincial Grand Master, and the stone is adorned with the emblems of the Order.
Apart from the mines, few businesses have done more to build up Laxey village than the mill established by Mr Thomas Corlett, and the Laxey Glen Gardens pleasure resort, opened by Mr Robert Williamson. These gentlemen interested themselves in public affairs also; Mr Williamson was one of the first members of the Laxey Village Commissioners, and both of them sat in the House of Keys. They sleep in Lonan, as do Mr Corlett's sons, Mr Thomas Stephen Corlett, M.H.K., and Mr Robert Teare Corlett, captain of the parish. Mr T. S. Corlett passed away suddenly in the night; his epitaph says, "God's finger touched him, and he slept."
Mr Egbert Rydings came to Laxey about sixty years ago, to manage the woollen mill founded as a means of expressing the ideals of John Ruskin. Some correspondence between Mr Rydings and the "dear master" has been published in the magazine "Mannin." But his great claim to fame is that, having mastered the dialect and become "Manxer than the Manx," he wrote those delightful tales of "Thobm and Kirree," and that very pathetic story, a tragic counterpart of T. E. Brown's "Peggy's Wedding," "Herrin" an' Pase."
Another Laxey man who deserved well of his country, or rather his adopted country, was Mr J. W. Walton, J.P., sometime member of the House of Keys. His son James died very tragically two or three years ago, and under his space in the family tombstone is engraved this tribute from his comrades in the Laxey Football Club: "He played the game."
A famous scion of Laxey was Robert Casement, designer of the Great Wheel. Erected in 1854 for the purpose of more speedily getting water out of Laxey mines, it has been described as fhe largest wheel in the world. Mr Casement was the mine engineer, but later he accepted service with the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and died in 1891. Members of the Casement family were being buried in Lonan as early as 1773.
Among other notables buried in Lonan are Mr Godfrey Tate of Ballameanagh, captain of the parish till his death in 1861, one of the first batch of justices of the peace appointed in the Isle of Man, and an officer in the Manx Fencibles and the "Northern Manx Volunteers"; Mr John Killip of Ballacollister, a member of the House of Keys; Mr William Kneale of the Rhaa, captain of the parish and an earnest temperance advocate; Mr William Quayle of Ballamillaghyn, captain of the parish and one of the founders of the Manx Language Society; Mr John Philip Callow, associated with Derby Castle and Garwick Glen; Mr John Callow, who spent most of his life in Liverpool and was the inventor of bread-making machines; and Capt. Joseph Faragher, of the Isle of Manx Steam Packet Company's service.
The characteristic surnames in Lonan, abundant in the parish churchyard, are
Kewley, Killip, Cowin, Skillicorn, and Fargher. Cojeen - probably a form of
the Maughold name Corteen - is exclusive to the parish, but not common. Mylroi
is long established in Lonan; it is found side bv side with Mylrea. and rather
unexpectedly, Mylechraine. Quill may not be altogether obsolete; there was an
interment in that name in 1928. The curious name Senogles is certainly imported.
So doubtless is Hogg, but it has existed in the Isle of Man, and in Lonan particularly,
at least two hundred years.
A prominent Lonan family were the Hamptons of Pool Villa. That placename sounds English, but it has merely been Anglicised. Three times, in these gravestones, it appears as "Poolyilley" or "Poolyelley." Mr J. J. Kneen believes the original form to have been "Pooyl-y-chilley," meaning the pool or well of the church. Mr A. W. Moore rendered it as "Poolvilley," the pool of the tree. Mr W. Walter Gill has pointed out that trees singled for mention in this way were usually trees close to a sacred well, and were regarded as objects of veneration. There are no signs of a church having existed on this spot, but the old maps show a cross, and Mr Gill has a story of a stone on which people rested the coffin on the bier on the way to the old parish church.
If a certain little girl named Sopphira had lived, she probably would not have thanked her parents. But perhaps her real name was Sophia, and the inscription to the contrary is a mistake of the stonecutter. Easter, again - which is also found in Rushen - may have been intended for Esther. There was in Lonan a fairly frequent use of the female name Eunice.
The following epitaphs may be considered out of the common:- Catherine Caley, widow of Ewan Caley - ([formerly of Ballacaley, Lezayre) - who died, in 1821:
A soul prepared needs no delay.
The summons comes, the saints obey;
Swift was her flight, and short the road.
She closed her eyes, and saw her God.
Jane Cowin, died 1846:
The terrors of Death had no power to alarm her.
She felt not his darkness, and feared not his sting;
But clad in the Saviour's invincible raiment.
Her spirit ascended on faith's ardent wing.
Dust to its narrow house beneath,
Soul to its place on high;
They that have seen thy look in death
No more may fear to die.
Two children of William Clucas:
One gentle sigh their fetters broke.
We scarce could deem them gone,
When straight their willing spirits took
Their station near the Throne.
There is something appropriate in the choice of text for the eight infant children of James and Catherine Brew - "Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." On the tombstone of little Benjamin Cowin, who died in 1809, it is written, "He was the 12th son, and the 18th child, of Patrick Cowin and Alice his wife, of whom there are 9 buried in these 3 graves."
The Manx inscriptions in this churchyard are as follow:-
Ann Corkill. who died 1871: " Farkiaght son y treishteil banniet shen" ("Waiting for that blessed hope").
William Maddrell, of Ballamoar. died 1851: "As jean leeideil mee sauchey Irooid, As gow my annym maynrey hood."' ("And lead me safely through, and take my happy soul to Thyself.')
On the grave of the Kneale family, of Coanrhenny: "" Yn vea shoh. cha glare .' As beaynid. cha liauyr!" ("This life, how short! And eternity, how long'.")
Thomas Cowin. of Ballacowin, died 1848:
All you that come my grave to see,
Fow aarloo dy gholl quail dty Yee.
("'Prepare to meet thy God.")
The churches themselves, old and new, are worth describing. As part of a movement which culminated in the centenary celebrations last year, several windows in rare Flemish glass have been put in, with inscriptions, on a green background, in memory of the Rev. Thomas Caine. a former vicar of the parish and the Manx apostle of total abstinence; Mr William Crosbie, formerly parish clerk; two children of Canon and Mrs Quine: and " fellow parishioners of Lonan now at rest from life's labours." Other work has been done in and around the church, very useful and very craftsmanlike, but not so spectacular.
But the pride of the church is its two beautiful war memorials. One commemorates the brave dead; the other commemorates the brave men who were not killed, but equally put their lives in jeopardy. The latter is, of course, the larger, and its material is a very choice piece of white marble. The design is the work of the late Mr Archibald Knox and of the vicar of the parish, Canon Quine. The colouring chosen for the lettering is a rather distinctive red much favoured by the great Manx painter J. M. Nicholson. Most interesting of all is the emblem, which is not the Cross, but the ancient Manx sword of state, the handle and blade of which do. of course, make one arm of cross. There was much discussion with the diocesan authorities before the Sword was accepted as a fitting svmbol in an act of Christian remembrance. Upon the shaft is engraved the Three Legs", the Island's other device, the Viking ship, appears in a hatchment over the smaller memorial.
Around the church are grouped Canon Quine's collection of "scribed stones."
No one who looks at them carefully can doubt that these markings are deliberate
and not accidental; some of them are clearly patterned, others resemble the
Celtic and Norse runes, and they are meant to express something. It has been
suggested that they are Phoenician, and are proof of Phcenician visits to or
settlements in the Isle of Man. If the ancient Phoenician script, which is lost,
could be recovered, and texts in it read and translated, as has happened to
the Assyrian tablets in our own lifetime; if it could be identified with the
markings on these Manx stones, which of course does not follow; then the preserver
of the stones will have made an important contribution to the world's knowledge
of the past. Eminent British archaeologists have taken an interest in them.
The old church was not abandoned for ever when it was superseded two hundred years ago: but it had fallen into a sad state when Canon Quine came to the parish. Poultry were roosting in it. Now, however, the part which is preserved has been decently repaired and furnished-the seating is in a very handsome pitchpine-and there are two stained-glass windows. One was given by the Clague family of Ballavarane, already referred to. In the other, Canon Quine has incorporated the emblems of the Kingdom of Man and the Isles, the See of Sodor and Man, and Rushen Abbey. In its present form the church will hold between forty and fifty people, and it is used for occasional services.