[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #2 1923]


The report dealt almost entirely with the sheading of Garff, the fourth that had been examined so far as this class of antiquities was concerned. The concluding pages summarised the results as follows : —

Garff Sheading includes only the two parishes of Kirk Maughold, or Skeeylley Maghol, and Kirk Lonan, or Skeeylley Lonnan.

In Maughold we have found the remains or sites of 19 keeills, including the four within the large parish churchyard, while it is possible that the parish church itself may contain within its walls remains of buildings yet earlier than those of the 12th century, which are there certainly revealed. Of the 19, only eight have still foundations or slight remains of walling; only six show the position of the doorway, which in each case is at the west end; while only one has still some remains of the east window, while for the first time this one — Keeil Woirrey, in Cornadale — gives also an example of a window in the north wall: The base of the altar can be traced in two. Cross-slabs have been found in seven — these, with the fragments of a fourth, having been brought to light by our excavations; but no other carved stones were met with, excepting those at the parish church, which appear not to be earlier than the 12th century. Unfortunately, one or two of these had already disappeared, and while everyone would wish that they might be there to be seen by all, visitors as well as residents who were interested, it really seemed as though the only safe way of dealing, at all events with small pieces, would be to have them kept under lock and key.

In Lonan we must certainly include the old church, portions of which are undoubtedly older than the 12th century, thus accounting for 12 in this parish, and a total of 31, or if Maughold be included, of 32 for the sheading. In one case the actual site was uncertain, the rest were well known; but only in one instance were there remains of walls, namely, at Ballamillgen, which was too far ruined to show either windows or doorways, and the old parish church at Groudle.

Our third report was published towards the end of 1911, and the reason why we have been unable to bring out another sooner has been our lack of funds for the purpose. Very few subscriptions have been received since that date, and it is due to Lord Raglan's handsome donation of £25, to Mr. Harrison's donation of £5 in connection with our work at Maughold, and to our Society's two years' subscriptions, amounting to £10, that we have been able to carry out our work. We now have a balance in hand of about £25, which will enable us to meet the charges of actual field work for a little while; but we should have been unable to bring out this Report if the publication this year had not been undertaken by our Museum Trustees, who recognise that our work is of some importance as well as of interest to the Island in general, and that unless the results be published, they cannot be made available for reference, and might even be in danger of being lost.

We desire to express our thanks to occupiers and owners of land in the sheading, who have readily given its permission to search for and examine the remains on their holdings, viz.: — The Revs. J. G. Pope, Vicar of Maughold, the Woods and Forests Department of the Crown, and Messrs. W. Callow, J. J. Looney, W. H. Walker, and Mr. Kneale, of Ballamillgen. To the Rev. S. N. Harrison and the Rev. Canon Quine we are indebted for help in identifying sites and recovering the names of the Treens in which they are, as well as for information and assistance generally. We have to thank Mr. L. L. Corkhill also for helping us by making a large scale plan of Maughold Churchyard and some architectural drawings.

An appendix gives a list of the articles found or heard of in the course of the survey.

The most interesting part of the report was that dealing with the Parish Church of Maughold and its surroundings: — The church has been frequently restored, and more than once enlarged. Whatever the date of its foundations, it seems certain from some windows, of which both the outer and inner jambstones appear in situ at a distance through the thickness of the walls of about three feet, that portions of these walls must date from at least the 12th century. Within the walls also have been found some 13th and 14th century remains, but nothing earlier has been identified.

The churchyard as a whole, though not precisely as now bounded, is undoubtedly ancient. In our 'Manx Chronicle ' mention is made of the pastoral staff which, in 1158, was brought by the parish and clerks to prevent the raids of Gilcolman, under Somerled. Though now lost, its memory is preserved in the name of the adjoining estate, 'Stafflands,' so called undoubtedly from the fact that these lands, under the Celtic system, had been assigned to the hereditary keepers of the staff, or 'bachal.' The large cross-house erected in the churchyard contains, with the nine pieces brought in from various keeills in the parish, the exceptional number of 42 sepulchral monuments, dating from the 6th to the 13th century, and belonging to our Celtic, Anglian, and Scandinavian periods. Of these, at least three which are earlier than the 11th century were erected to bishops or abbots, and, altogether, it looks as though we had at Maughold an establishment with the characteristics of the earliest Irish monasteries, that is to say, an enclosure surrounded by a cashel or defensive work, containing several churches, with abbot's house, guest house, refectory, and separate cells for the monks, together with barns and out-houses. It is not to be wondered that, in the passing centuries, all further trace of them is lost when we reflect that even in the case of Columba's establishment at Iona (c. 560) the original structures were of wattles and sods, and that, had it not been for his biographer, Adamnan, who was one of his successors, we should not have been able even to identify the site. Unfortunately, there was no one to record either the origin of the foundations or the nature and extent of the earliest buildings at Kirk Maughold.

The Rev. Canon Quine has recently made the very interesting discovery that in certain of the St. Bee's charters relating to church lands in this parish. there is record, for the first time in the Isle of Man, of a dedication to St. Olaf, and from the context, it would seem probable that this St. Olaf's was the actual building of our present parish church.

The report then described in detail the beautiful standing cross at the church gates, the early windows, porch, and many architectural fragments of different periods, which had come to light, and were now placed in the cross house; drawings of these had been prepared for illustration.

A plan of the churchyard was exhibited, and separate plans on larger scale of the keeills within it. One of these, at the S.E. corner, was placed close to the ancient east and south boundaries, the former being represented by a dry stone wall, built of stone throughout, but of small size, for a thickness of six feet. This had been surmounted by an earthen embankment, which sloped down to a fosse, and had come all the way from the north end of the churchyard. At two places, about ten yards apart, excavation had brought to light remains of the burial close to the outer face of this walling, and on a level with its foundations. The south wall was of a different character; it was three feet wide, and had very strong foundations of large stones, carefully set. It was possibly a part of the same wall which had formerly been discovered by Mr. Harrison at a point about 35 feet south of the parish church. The western boundary had not been traced, and possibly there were now no remains of it, but the contour of the land rather suggested that it had been much in a line with the present wall. Of the three small keeills still showing slight remains of walls, that at the S.E. corner was probably the oldest. It measured 21ft. by 11ft. ; the walls were built of stone throughout, undressed, but carefully chosen and well set. There was a footing in this, as well as in the two others, within and without. The middle keeill measured 19ft. by 11ft. 6in., was well built of similar stones, but had also some ashlars of sandstone in the doorway. The north keeill seemed to contain some quarried stones, and showed traces of lime-mortar and rough casting at the west end. The narrow doorway shows a rebate, and both in it and at the outer corners of the building are ashlars of red sandstone. It is peculiar also in having had a porchway.

As regards the S.E. keeill, the excavations showed that after its walls had fallen there had been other buildings erected; the foundations of a rectangular building, about 15ft. by 13ft., extended westwards from the wall of the embankment, and there were other broken walls close by. These, although evidently constructed for some purpose, were without definite foundations, and the nature of the building, with more earth than stone, was very inferior. At a still later date, as proved by its position, was a built well. This had broken into the S.E. corner of the keeill, and slightly into the south wall of the secondary building. It was barrel-shaped, with a greatest width of 5ft. 10in., and depth of 7ft., its covering lintels being now about 2ft. 6in. below the surface; its walls were of stone, no doubt taken from the earlier buildings. Still later, it had been sunk for another six feet, this lower part being under pinned with inferior walling, and roughly rectangular. Its floor, four feet wide, was flagged. but nothing was found in it except fine mud and some stones which had fallen in.


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