[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #2 1923]
By MR. W. A. KELLY.
Position. In a field at the turn of the road leading from Rushen to Castletown, on east side. The grave opened is about 30 yards from road. The body in situ lay N.N.E. by S.S.E., about. The skeleton, evidently that of a very big man, was partially decomposed, the smaller and more tender bones having entirely disappeared; the larger bones were in position, and still fairly tough and strong. The head, with the exception of a tender place in the front of the mouth on upper jaw, where the teeth had fallen away, and the jaw itself rather crumbly, was strong and perfect.
Size of grave. Length, 6ft. 6½ins.; breadth, 22ins.; depth, 17ins. The grave was built of large slabs of rough-hewn Poolvaaish marble, in thickness of 1½ ins. to 2½ ins.. The largest stone., that on the right side of the body, was 4ft. 9ins. by 23ins. The Poolvaaish quarry is only about half a mile away. There is no dressing, carving, or inscription on any of the stones, the stones being rough and jagged as they came from the quarry.
The character of the subsoil in which the body lay is the same as that of the graveyard in the Chronk field at Balla-queeney a pebbly shingle, mixed with smaller stones and sand.
The grave is about 30 inches below the present surface of the field. There were here certain marked differences from the graves at Ballaqueeney, where this year I opened thirteen.
Speaking of the graves at Ballaqueeney, there were marked differences between individual graves there, some showing particular carefulness in the choice of stones forming the grave. I must here state that, with the single exception of the grave of 'Davidona, Son of a Druid,' the stones forming the graves were local, some from a quarry, but many formed from stones gathered on the seashore, these latter having rounded edges, and otherwise chewing water wear.
There was further, in some, careful preparation for the reception of the body, a layer of sand, varying in depth, being placed in the bottom of the grave. Other graves were carelessly made, both with regard to the stone of which they were built (several had two or three round shore stones placed one on the other to make up the height of the side of the grave; these would also lack the bed of sand). These differences seem to me evidences rather of love for the deceased than of respect due to their position in the community.
The outstanding difference in this grave is the position of the body. It faced about N.N.E., the back of the head being towards the sea and the feet towards Barrule. The graves lately opened at Ballaqueeney lay approximately E. and W., the body facing E. Further, there was here evidence of greater care in preparing the grave for the body, and an outstanding difference, a care for the body after it was laid down: the body had been carefully covered with sifted sand. Even the most cared-for graves I have seen have had a layer of sand under the body only. The sand used in every case, and in this, has been field sand, carefully sifted and fine. Here, of course, being less than 50 yards from the shore, fine shore sand could much more easily have been obtained, yet field sand was used.
The grave was accidently discovered by a man digging for sand. He had started opening directly above it. When he came on to it and took off the top stone, he thought he had come across an old box drain, and struck his pick to open deeper. In doing so he struck the skull, exposing it out of the layer of deep sand in which it lay. The hole in the side of the skull is where the pick struck it. The poor chap who did it didn't sleep that night. and has been waiting for a visit from the bogie man ever since.
When at Poolvaaish, Dr. Williams and myself heard of another grave which had been opened under similar circumstances a number of years ago, 30 to 40 yards further into the field. There was mentioned, also, legendary recollections of other graves having by chance been opened. Dr. Williams, who brought me with him to Poolvaaish, was present when the grave was fully opened and the skeleton exposed. He will give you fuller details on that, he has the skull here. Dr. Williams went carefully over the stones also. We are quite satisfied they contained no marking whatever, either decorative or symbolic.