[From Proc IoMNHAS vol 1 #3]




The regular monthly meeting of the Society was held in the Masonic Rooms, Ramsey, on Thursday, February 28th, 1907, at 4 p.m.

There were present :—Mr. P. M. C. Kermode, President, in the chair ; Mr. A. Rigby, vice-president ; Rev. J. Quine, Dr. Tellet Rev. W. I. Moran, and Messrs. J. Steavenson, T. E. Acheson, and W. P. Groves.

The minutes of the last meeting having been confirmed and signed, Mr. Quine was called upon for his paper, " Evidence on a Clan system having existed in the Isle of Man, with the names and localities of the principal Clans in the 16th century."

The paper was founded on the Rent-Roll of 1511 for the Southern, and of 1515 for the Northern, parishes, and the Abbey computation of 1540, " the conclusion arrived at from these documents being that, at the beginning of the 16th century, the distribution of the population, taking cognizance only of ownership, was in effect the survival of a clan system." The word clan (in Manx, chlann), meaning family, implied people of the same surname, and indeed of the same stock, however remote the relationship.

At the beginning of the 16th century there were still some lineaments traceable of chieftainship, of which, in the Chronicon Manniæ, we had clear evidence as a feature of the Manx social system, the older and newer documents confirming and elucidating each other.

It was necessary to distinguish between a single family owning land and a clan, including a large number of families with the same surname. There were at the period of the Rent-Roll some instances of English families possessing land. For instance, the Crosse family, of Knockaloe, who owned nearly one-eighth of Patrick ; the Norris family, who owned part of Scarlet, Ballanorris (Arbory), and property in Castletown. On the other hand, the Stephensons, with large estates, but not distinctly showing a clan connection, and the Cristens, powerful families, probably represented the chieftains of a clan. Similar cases were those of Clarke, of Howstrake, and Moore, of Castle Nemade. It was difficult to explain the position of the Goldesmyths, a family of so purely English a name, who had many scattered holdings in the North. The mountain range between North and South appeared as a formidable barrier, the clan names on either side being more and more distinct the further we went back. At the above mentioned period, the paper went on to show in detail, families of the same name were normally collected in the same locality, forming, in fact, a clan system.

In Patrick, the principal names were McKe or McKye, McKerron, and McQuyrke, with which last family was connected the legend of the treen chapel, whose final disappearance was to mark that of the McQuyrkes from Ardole.

In German, McQuane, McCayn, McGell, Symyn, and McAulay; these five groups holding between them a third of the whole parish.

In Lonan, formerly a peculiarly isolated district, the chief group was McStole, with eleven holdings (one-seventh of the parish). McSkerff held one-ninth.

In Braddan the most numerous groups were McQuyn, McHelly, and McCannon, but the largest single holding was that of John More, of Castle Nemade (Castleward). The McQuyn holdings extended continuously from the head of the Baldwin valleys to the border of Santon, and continued, with twelve holdings in Santon, to the foot of Santon Burn, the aggregate amounting to one-tenth of the two parishes.

In Santon, Dik, a name occurring only there, had the largest aggregate ; and in Marown, McKewley. McLucas was almost confined to Marown.

In Malew, Fergher, with eight holdings, and Bridson, with seven, were distinctly local names. In Rushen, the dominant clan was McWhaltragh, holding nearly one-seventh of the parish to which the name was confined.

It was, however, specially in the Northern district that the clan system was seen in survival at the date of the Rent Roll.

In Michael, McFayle had ten holdings (one-sixth), and Mylrea eight (one-seventh) ; McCorleot (ten holdings), and McCrayne ( nine), were dominant in Ballaugh. The Curragh, then abroad belt of swamp reaching from Ballaugh well toward the sea at Ramsey, formed a clan boundary almost as important as the mountain range. The McNivens, chief clan of Lezayre, had ten holdings along the hillsÏrom Corody to Milntown ; the McCrays and the McCorleots also extended into Lezayre. The Standish family, of Lancashire origin, in no sense a clan, held a single large estate.

Beyond the Curragh the clans were most distinctly in survival.

McBrew held one-fifth of Jurby, to which it was almost limited. McTere, primarily an Andreas clan, was found along the coast from Michael to Bride, with twenty-six holdings in all ; but the principal family of Andreas was McNele, with twenty-four holdings (one-sixth of the large parish), and entirely confined to the district beyond the Curragh, where its forty holdings represented an extent equal to the whole parish of Jurby. In Kirk Bride, McCowle, with seventeen holdings (one-sixth) was easily first, and hardly found outside that parish.

Taking McCristen and McCorsten as the same name, it possessed one-sixth of Maughold, with srhaller holdings in Andreas and Bride. There was also the single powerful family of McCristen, of Altadale and Breryk (Lezayre), altogether twenty-eight holdings, a strength second only to that of McNele ; McFayle being third in order.

The Chronicle of Man (about 1250) had a number of references to chieftianship. Thus in 1226 we had " the chiefs (magnates) of the Isles" ; in 1228 " all the chiefs (optimates) of Mann," and shortly after, Dugald, Thorquel, and Molmore, three sons of Nel, with one Joseph (Harald’s friend), were clearly chiefs belonging to the Island. They were entrusted with a mission by King Harald to bring back to his rule his dominion which had been usurped by his kinsman Loglen. This latter had strengthened himself in the South of the Island, and in an encounter with his party at Tynwald, Dugald and Molmore were slain. After this, on Harald’s return, Loghlen fled, and his party submitted. On the death of Harald, in 1249, and the assassination of his successor Reginald, Harald II. became king, and was described as driving into exile almost all the chiefs (principes) of Harald I., and bringing back the chiefs and nobles (principes et optimates) whom Harald I. had exiled and the Chronicle dealt especially with a case of Dofnald, an elderly man of good family, who had been in favour with the latter king, who may have been a Manx McDonald or Cannell, whose clan country was in Kirk Michael. In 1250 he was restored again.

It was suggested that in Jurby, Andreas, and Bride, the predominant clan was McNele, with subordinate McCowles, McBrews, &c. ; that Harald I. on his expedition to the Isles, had a force from the North, including McCowles, McCorkills, and Molvurras, under their respective chiefs, whom he sent back on a mission to Loglen, on hearing of his revolt. Further, that Loglen’s success at the battle of Tynwald was owing to the absence of the Northern clans ; that Harald landed at Ronaldsway to deal with Loglen on his own ground. Attention was drawn to an entry in the Rent Roll, in which a holding in the treen of Knok-a-loghlen, Santon, is in the hands of William McLaghlen. Knokaloghan (Oatlands)

was probably the best holding in the parish, most suited for the seat of a chief, and it seemed as if Wm. McLaghlen, of the Rent Roll, and John McClaghalen, holding a small place in the same parish, were two sole survivors in the eighth generation of a once powerful family. Thus we had also a light thrown on the origin of treen-names.

Clans sprang from families, and families from individuals growth and expansion on the one hand, decay on the other, were always in progress. Sub-division of estates, and inheritances through heiresses, giving altered names, led to the gradual breaking up of the system. An instance of this was given in the case of the holdings of the McHellys of Andreas, the present Ballakelly and Ballaradcliffe,when the heiress of McHelly married Henry Radcliffe.

The clan Molvurra (Morrison) a sept of the McNeles, probably a Northern clan, appeared in the Rent Rolls no longer intact, yet with considerable holdings, mostly in that district, but with two singular exceptions, two Morrison holdings at Colby. where are also a group of McNele holdings, and four on the borders of Santon, very near Knokaloghan, in which locality are three McNele holdings.

Remembering the part played by Loghlen, the deaths of the McNele chieftains, the return of Harald, and the flight of Loghlen, and what was said about the exile of certain chiefs, we might have no hesitation about explaining the planting in the South of these Northern clans as the work of Harald in connection with this event. In confirmation, we found in Santon two McCowles, foreigners in that region, in two of the best estates in the parish ; and side by side with them a McKermeen and a McComish, both of Andreas clans ; also adjoining Knokaloghan other Northside foreigners. The Rent Roll thus, concluded Mr. Quine, had in it elements of romance, to those who could pore over the hieroglyphics in which it was written, the story of a great feud of the Manx clans!

Among exhibits was an example of Stocks for punishments which had been presented to the Insular museum by Mr. W. Corkill. They had come from a house in Waterloo-road, Ramsey, formerly occupied by General Buck, whose name was cut on the wood-work. It would be interesting to know when this form of punishment was introduced into the Island. Probably it would be in the 15th century, as it originated in England about the middle of the 14th century. One would like also to know the latest date for their use.

Another exhibit was a Crock formerly used for brewing and for keeping the light ale or " jough " which was the usual drink of the time. These crocks appear to have been imported from Whitehaven, and of course they have long gone out of use. The present example came from Ballaugh curraghs.

It was reported that some rather interesting windows had recently been discovered in the old chapel of Ballure, and, at the close of the meeting, members walked over to inspect them. Mr. Rigby was of opinion that they dated from the time of Bishop Wilson, by whom the chapel was re-consecrated after having been extensively repaired.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001