[From Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 3 pp405/7]
AUGUST 26th, 1898.
Leader-REV. J. QUINE, M.A.
On Friday, August 26, the Rev. J. Quine conducted an excursion of the Society to Rushen Abbey and Rushen Castle. During the day there were 14 members and seven visitors present.
Ballasalla was reached about 11 a.m. On the way from the station to the old Abbey the leader pointed out the gable of the house at the corner of the two roads leading to the entrance to the hotel, which, he said, was very ancient, having been the gable of the Abbey Court-house. An arch could be traced in the masonry, the date of which he put as the 14th century.
Permission having been courteously given by the manager of the hotel to go over the grounds, the party proceeded to inspect the Tower behind the hotel. Here, Mr. Quine pointed out an arch-way which, inside the Tower, was formed of 26 blocks of a yellow sandstone, having a simple chamfer. It measured Sft. 6in. across and 4ft. high. This was one of an arcade running north from the tower--a portion of the old Cistercian Church. From the S.E. corner of the Tower a wall runs due E., in which was a rectangular window, the lintel formed of two square ashlars, rudely joined with small stones (spalls) between. It measured 3ft. 10in. by 1ft. 7in. at the sill, tapering to 1ft. 5in. at the top ; the splay being on the south side.
The Tower at the old road was pointed out as the entrance to the Abbey grounds, which, on the east, would be well defended by the river, doubtless in those days much deeper and at a lower level. An indication of the former level appeared in the Refectory, which was next visited. Here were seen the tops of the windows almost on a level with the present floor. Mr. Cubbon confirmed this opinion, pointing to a hole which bad been dug 5ft. deep, close by this wall, of which the foundations were not reached
Proceeding to Castletown, Mr. Quine conducted the party to the Grammar School, the old church of S. Mary. Here he pointed out three arches, which appeared to be in all respects similar to those at the Abbey. He argued that after the dissolution these arches had been removed and utilised in the building of the present structure. [Present opinion is that the arches are contemporary with the refounding of abbey but probably not moved from there]
After luncheon the grounds at Lorne House were visited. On the edge of an abrupt bank overlooking the river, close to the old road which separated the Abbey lands from the Lord's lands, slight traces of earthworks could be seen. This is marked on the ordnance sheet " Site of Chapel and Burial Ground." The care-taker said he had heard of skulls and other bones found in the enclosure when the surface was levelled in 1825, and, had always heard the place spoken of as a chapel and graveyard ; the stones had been used in building the present barn. The leader pointed out how admirably it was situated for a defensive position ; there was nothing, however, to show that it had been used as such.
At the Castle, the party was joined by Sir James Gell and other members. Some time was spent in examining the underground vaults, which, it was suggested, were probably on the site of the oldest castle or fortified part erected here. As to the Keep, Mr. Quine thought it might date from the time of the Wars of the Roses--15th c.
The main object in visiting the Castle was to see the room assigned by the Governor for the purpose of a temporary museum.
This was the old Banquet Hall (50 feet by 18), which had for the purpose been lighted from above. The most interesting exhibit it was likely to contain was the fine skeleton of the Cervus giganteus from Close-y-Garey, which had that day been set up on its pedestal. Mr. Barlow, of the British Museum (Natural History), had been for some time engaged in preparing the bones, which, a week previously, he had brought back to the Island. The skeleton measured five feet nine inches high at the shoulder, and about the same in length from the chest to the tail ; the outer points of the antlers were nine feet apart. The beam of the antlers, the back of the skull, and some of the tail bones which were missing, had been replaced by plaster casts. It was remarkable that the atlas and the axis had not been recovered ; they had probably got turned over and trodden in to the wet marl when the skeleton was exhumed, and were not missed till long afterwards. Their places had been supplied from some Irish bones in the British Museum.
After a short visit to the collection in the Old Chapel, Sir James Gell led the way to the Court-house, where a formal meeting was held.