[Vannin Lior (Yn Lioar Manninagh) Vol 1 No 1 pp3/10]
BY THE REV. E. B. SAVAGE, M.A.
(Read 5th April, 1881.)
EVERY Parish has stored in its Iron Chest materials for a History that would in many cases prove of more than merely local interest. The Registers as they were formerly kept are full of little pieces of information and notes by contemporaries which to any one who would know about the former times are simply invaluable. The Registers of Kirk Michael are not remarkably interesting, nor are they utterly barren : in this paper I propose to throw together a few notes that I have lately been able to gather from them. They begin with the year 1610, but the first century is a transcript from the original, explained by the following note at the beginning "The old Register Book being abused in the Parliament's time was forced to be transcribed and ye same being written on bad paper severall names have been lost and as many as were legible are transcribed in this Book which was bought upon ye parish charge by ye wardens and the vicar, Mr Norris then in being, in ye year of our Lord God 1712. Price £00 07s 00d."
Curiously enough the Baptisms continue yearly "in the Parliament's time," though sadly fallen off in numbers; but 'the Burials Register is an entire blank from 1653 to 1663; the Marriages continue regularly from 1656, but as a sign of disturbed times we find against 1658 "none maryd " and only three couples in 1659, and those all between the 16th and 22nd of November.
Some of the Christian names are curious, but I noticed none of those monstrous inventions that were so common in England in Puritan times ; among the female names are Joney, Mally, Calaghdooney, Marriod, Match, Markett (these two last may have been corruptions of Madge and Margaret), Averick, contracted sometimes into Aurick or Arick, Bahee, and Annell, the last being joined to Cannell. The male names are not as a rule so peculiar, but Dollin, Phinlo, and Ewan or Huan (the same as John) were not uncommon. It was almost unknown for a child to have more than one Christian name until recent times: but in 1645, while the Civil War was raging in England, Mr John Cannell, Deemster, named a daughter "Heneretta Maria," no doubt choosing the names of Charles I's wife to shew his attachment to the Royalist cause ; as a contrast to the simplicity of these times may be noticed the case of a lady who appears in the Registers of 1849 loaded with the following combination, "Nina Marianne Harriet Maria Joanna."
The Surnames were much the same then as now, and some of the families can be traced for many years in the same farm ; but the spelling is most erratic, there are thirteen variations of Kaighin, and sixteen of Corjeage. There are a few instances of the dropping of Mac before a name as in McBooy, which can be clearly traced to the present Boyd, and in other cases the Mac exists now as an initial M, Mcylrea is now Mylrea, Mcylecreest Mylchreest. English names were most puzzling to the Manx sometimes, and had to go through much mutilation in consequence, for instance a gentleman named Montgomery married and settled in Michael in 1668; two years later it is McGummery, and before twenty years the Mac falls out and the family name is handed down to posterity as Gummery!
Variations of spelling also occur in the names of places, in some instances the older form being certainly the most correct. Orrysdale before 1775 always appears as Oristal, in that year it is Norrisdale and afterwards Orrysdale ; Skarristal again is the older form of Skerrisdale. Michael Village is dignified with the name of Church Town or Kirk Michael Town. One name has completely baffled me, some part of the parish of considerable population was " Ye 4 Towns " or latterly "Foretown," but where it was I am unable to find out. The names outside the parish call for no special remark ; except Lezayre which before 1718 is always "Kk Xt Ayre," but after that date "Kk Xt Lezayre." Dalby in 1713 is spelt phonetically Dauby.
The age is seldom given till comparatively, recent times ; but notes, explicit enough when written, but somewhat vague now, are occasionally added, such as "John Christian the old smith," Wm Caine miller," and three years later "Wm Caine young milner' (1714), Bahee Quayle als. Cannel ye old wid. of Cammal." Nicknames too are often found, and some of them lived in the same family for generations, one family of Kaighen was known as "y phurt" for quite 150 years ; Kaighen (braveboy) ; Cannell (man) ; Quayle (evair) ; and such distinctive titles are very common.
In a country place there are not many trades, and it is only now and then that any note of a man's calling is added, but mention is made of the following: -Miller (there was also a Flax Mill in the parish-two children were killed by the wheel of the Flax Mill), smith (the Christians have been smiths for generations), fidler, Cooper, Weaver (and its Manx equivalent fidder), Mason, Bonesetter, Tailor, etc.
Accidental deaths are mentioned sometimes with curious detail: "Briam Wood perished by water," 1619 ; James Falle of Ballaugh perished in a field in Kk german parish and lay there for 7 or 8 dayes and was bur here Ye 3rd Aprill 1649 " ; "Nich Galiver perished by sea" 1665 ; "Wm. Cannell perished in a river of water" 1674 ; "Wm Teare of Kk Andreas did eat hemlock and died suddenly and buriead August ye 14th 1681" ; "Wm Kelly of the Airy who perished in ye River of Sulby " 1732 ; Huge Cannell son of Adam" (a somewhat vague expression !) "perished in a ditch " 1736. In 1672 is the note "This year the men was cast a way at ye herring fishing," then follow the names of nine men who "did perish by sea Sept. 2nd" ; one was buried in Jurby Churchyard 25th Sept., having evidently been washed ashore there, and one was buried at Michael on the 28th, nearly a month after he was drowned. Again in 1740 four names are given with this note prefixed "These four men following being at the herring fishing perished upon the coast of Scotland Aug. 5, 1740."
Disasters of another kind far more fatal than the fishing devastated the Parish at intervals; severe epidemics of smallpox are recorded in 1684, 1704, 1725, 1732, 1764, 1772 ; and in 1623, 1629, 1639 the deaths were very numerous, though no special note was made of the cause.
A considerable number of Burials are here recorded which really took place in other parishes, if the person died in Michael, but sometimes a memorandum is made without any special reference to Michael, for instance in 1729 occurs the following: "Mem. The Revd. Dr. Wm. Walker one of the Vicars Genl. and Rector of Ballaugh departed this life on the 18th and was buried the 20th June, in his own chancel, opposite to the gate, without the Rail."
Other events are also recorded here : among the Burials in 1781 occurs a note that Convocation was held at Bishop's Court on 7th June, and the next year a similar note is found among the Baptisms. A considerable part of the interest of the Registers in fact centres round Bishop's Court ; the first Bishop mentioned is "John Phillips Bishop of the Isle of Man bur jan 30, 1633. "(The date is given by Train 1635.) Bishop Wilson was consecrated in 1697 and three of his children were baptised at Michael: Thomas, Oct. 24, 1700 (who died 8 June,1701 at Warrington);.Alice, baptised 4 March, 1701, who died 3 June 1703, and was buried in "ye Cathedral Church of Peel"; and Thomas, baptised 26th August 1703, afterwards Dr. Wilson, who gave a chalice to "Kirk Michael the place of his nativity," and rebuilt the Chancel of the Church.
We must remember that until 1752 the year began on 25th March, and that previous to that date the first three months were counted in the preceding year. Before the Baptism in 1752 occurs the following :-" The beginning of the year for the future being fixed by Act of Parliament to the 1st of January, and the Government of this Isle having complyd therewth since the 1st Janry, 1752, they have since viz. 't 24 June 1753 confirmed the same by a law." The Isle of Man and England were thus nearly the last of the European powers to make this change in the calendar; in Scotland it was effected by James VI., in 1600.
Among the Burials are several names familiar to the readers of Bishop Wilson's Life. " Mr William Brown, born at Burton in Werrel, late of Dublin, half uncle to the Right Reverd the Lord Bishop, with whom he lived for some years, was buried at the East End of this Church, March the 21st, 1718, aged 80 years": he was probably "half. uncle" by being the son of the Bishop's grand mother by a second marriage. In the same year is another entry that is somewhat out of the common: "Mr Gustavus Bradford, of Arksey, in County of York, who liv'd some years in this Island and was call'd Jon. Wilson, was buried in this churchyard at ye East End of the Church, June 10th. The Rt. Revd. the Lord Bp. was pleas'd to preach at his Funeral." On his tombstone he is said to have lived at the White House. Why he lived here under a feigned name I am unable to say. Ten years later we find: "Mr Philip Hooper some time of London, but Residt at Bishop's Court for sevl yrs was buried Decrye 31st 1728." He was an old servant in the family, and lies side by side with his master now ; but the feet of Pilgrims to the Bishop's Tomb have so broken and worn away the flat stone on his grave that scarcely any but a few detached words can now be deciphered out of a long inscription. Ten years later another old servant died, who is thus honoured in the Register-"John Ridyard my Lord Bishop's faithful servant April 23rd." On his gravestone, close to his master's resting-place, is the following inscription, evidently written by Bishop Wilson:
Died at Bishop's Court
April xx, 1738, aged 47.
Whose Master hath here
given this testimony
of his integrity that in
xx yeares service he
never found cause to
charge him with
Eye service Fraud or
And a few years before her master's death, the old housekeeper "Mrs Eliz. Heywood of Bishop's Court," was buried. In 1755 is the burial of Bishop Wilson himself: ,The Right Reverd Father in God Doctor Thomas Wilson Lord Bishop of Sodor and Mann buryed in the churchyard near the East gable of the church, March 11th "',then follows an outline of the life of "this great judge and Eminent Pattern of primitive Christianity." His will expressly stated his desire to be buried "over against the East window," hoping that the example might prevent others from following the "undecent custom of burying the bodies of their friends in the house of God."
During Bishop Wilson's lifetime there are a few instances of adult Baptism, but all of people from "the Kingdom of Great Britain," , the Kingdom of Ireland " ( as the adjacent Islands are often called), or elsewhere ; the Anabaptists appear not to have made much way in the Island. In 1712 "Mary Brown of ye citty of Dublin being able to answer for herself was bapt May ye 25th." Three years later "Thomas Griffith a young man an Anabaptist out of London ffeb 26 "; and in. 1717 is a very interesting entry in Bishop Wilson's own writing, " Jan. 19th, 1717, Katharine the daughter of Hendrick Toren of Rotterdam having been brought up among the Baptists (as they are called) and not baptiz'd till now, was this day, after due Instruction Prayer and Fasting Baptiz'd by Me Tho Sodor and Man." This is further interesting as shewing how the word Anabaptist at that date was being shortened into Baptist.
At Convocation in 1714 the Bishop had occasion to urge the clergy "to promote the Baptism of Infants on Sundays and Holi.days " : this may explain a note appended to a Baptism three years afterwards: "Robert Corlett, son of Wm and Mrgt Caine baptized (a congregation being present) December 10th. Note yt this child had not been christened on ye week day but yt there was a wedding in ye Ch. ye same day wch made up a full congregation." The following is the only record in the Parish Registers of a Consistory Court held in Kirk Michael Church:- At a Consistory Court held in Kk Michl Church ye 18th of Jan. 1699 before the Rt Reverend Father in God Tho Lord Bpp of Man, Mr Samll Wattleworth and Mr Robt Parr Viccars Genll. The difference betwixt Mr Henn Norriss Viccar of Kk Michl and Jon Kelly of ye sd prsh of ye Ary being this day heard in Court concerning the sd Kelly's Tyth, It is therefore ordered yt the. sd Jon Kelly shall for ye future pay his tyth in kinde, to which if he refuse to give obedience he is by ye sumnr or soldier to be committed into St German's prison there to remain till he submit to law.
THO SODOR & MAN.
This being a coppy of Record is ordered by the Bpp to be registered in this book by me HEN NORRIS."
Bishop Hildesley's wife was buried in 1763, and in the Poor Book it is mentioned that "his Lordship in lieu of drink and liquor usually distributed without doors on ye day of Buryal among the populace, gave the sum of £5 to be distributed among ye poor of ye parish by ye Vicar, which sum after considering ye wants of sd Poor the sd Vicar distributed as foll.": and when Bishop Hildesley died in 1772, £5 worth of barley was distributed in the same way. Bishop Mason's burial occurs in 1783 as R. R. George Mason, Bishop " ; evidently inserted by another hand after the burials for the year had been written out. "Claudius Crigan Lord Bishop " was buried in 1813.
A good number of Marriages took place in Bishop's Court Chapel, mostly well-to-do people from various parts of the Island ; the clergy, especially, appeared to think it necessary to be married there: on these occasions it is always called "the Chapel of St Nicholas in the Parish of Kirk Michael," except once in the last year of Bishop Crigan's life when he describes it as "the Chapel of our Lady and St. Nicholas." Is there any authority for the Virgin's name being thus added ? It is worth noticing that a figure of the Virgin is on the arms of the See.
Curious notes are sometimes added among the marriages. A widow was married in 1731 and after the announcement occurs this "Mem. her late husbd died in London near a year ago as is certified by Mr John Waterson."
The following list of Vicars of Michael can be made from the Register :-
Sir Hugh Cannell was Vicar of Michael in 1611 when the Baptisms begin, and was buried 1670. Sir Edward Nelson was buried 1685 (of course all the clergy at the time would have the title of "Sir "). Henry Norris 1686-1717: he was buried by Bishop Wilson, and the following account is in the Bishop's own writing, "The Reverend Mr Hen Norris having been Vicr of This Parish upwards of one and Thirty yeares died Jan 23 & was buried the 25th. He left one son by his first wife Mrs Xn Fletcher, and one daughter by His second Mrs Mary Berkenhide." This is interesting for Mr Norris was the first of the clergy against whom the Bishop had to proceed on coming to the Diocese, when he was suspended for four months; but he seems afterwards to have gained the Bishop's esteem. John Woods was curate in 1718 and continued so for some years. He seems to have been very fond of acting as Godfather to the children he baptized, for I suppose that is the meaning of "me susceptore" added to the Baptism in a good number of cases. Such notices are found elsewhere too, a son of Mr Wilks, Vicar in Bishop Hildesley's time, was a Godson of the Bishop's-"Dno Episcopo susceptore," and was named Mark after his godfather. Mr Woods appears to have been not altogether accurate in his Calendar, in explaining why a certain child who was baptized on Feb. 25 was named Matthias, he says "ffeb. 25 being this year St Matthias's day. There is no record of a Vicar during Mr Wood's Curacy 1715-1735. John Allen became Vicar in May 1735, but died in July, and was buried at Kirk Maughold. Moore succeeded in 1736, and was followed by James Wilks in 1752: On 13th June 1755 his wife was buried (just three months after Bishop Wilson), and it is added that Mr Wilks "was then in London on account and at the request of the Clergy of this Isle." John Crellin succeeded 1771, and was followed by Nicholas Christian in 1802, Thomas Harrison 1818, Joseph Brown 1818, James B. Kelly 1860, W. C. Ingram 1864, Robert Airey 1874. And of those who took duty in the church are the signatures of John Keble Vicar of Hursley, and Bishop Selwyn of Lichfield.
The office of Parish Clerk often became more or less hereditary and Michael is no exception. Since 1701 it has been in one family, and it seems that three clerks filled the office for 115 years between them. Other officials such as Deemster, Water-Bailiff, Captain, Moar, Sumner, Lockman, Serjeant are frequently mentioned, and an "officer of the Corps of Royal Manx Fencibles" was married in 1793.
In 1662 Mr Deemster Cannell's daughter" was baptized a few months before the trial of William Christian when Mr Hugh Cannell was one of the judges, and for which he was committed to the prison of the King's Bench: about. the same time two other people of position were named Hugh Cannell : in 1670 "Water Baylife Hu. Cannell," and Sir Hugh Cannell Vicar " were buried. In going over the accounts in the Poor Books one is struck at once with the great number of counterfeit pence there were in the country at the end of the last century, and the beginning of this: nearly every collection containing some. In the year 1817 the wardens lost £1 3s 6d as bad money out of £4 3s 6d, of which 16s was by forged cards, which were promissory notes for small sums, given by tradesmen and put into circulation, but they were found to be so abused that in that very year (1817) they were abolished.
No "Briefs " are recorded, that in many English Parishes were very common ; but in 1815 the "Subscriptions in aid of the Waterloo fund in the Parish of Michael amounted to £3. As an illustration of the state of agriculture in the Parish nearly a century ago the following is worthy of record: "In Decr. 1795 a jury was impannelled to report what Quantity of Grain and Potatoes was in all the Parishes, when it was found there were in Kirk Michael of-
As to the Price of grain : In 1773 the £5 to be spent in Barley at Bishop Hildesley's burial bought 122 Kishens, that is about £1 a Boll; and in 1822, " Price of a Boll of Barley left to ye poor by Patrick Nelson B'renny, £1 1s 0d" ; so that Barley has increased very little in price in the last century.
I hope it is not against the Rules of the Society to close a paper such as this with one or two suggestions, especially to the clerical members : First, to hunt the Parish Registers and bring to light anything of interest ; and secondly, as there is no, provision now in the carefully constructed forms for Baptisms, Marriages, and Burials to insert any extraneous matter, to supply that want that future historians will no doubt feel so keenly, by obtaining a book for "Records" of the Parish, and in this to make a note of all events that may, in any way prove of interest to posterity. I have already provided the Parish Chest with such a book, whose growing Records I hope may some day delight the perhaps unborn Historian of the Parish of Kirk Michael.
see also Parish Records