[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #4 1926]



3rd April, 1924.

The following extracts from a letter written on the 20th May, 1826, by a certain C. Radcliffe, and published in the 'Manks Advertiser,’ September 7th, 1826, are interesting from the fact that they form the first printed record we know of that treats of the Keeills, or so-called treen churches, the next being Oswald’s Vestigia,’ published by the Manx Society in 1860, 34 years afterwards,

The appeal which he made to his countrymen to make a complete list of these interesting relics of antiquity seems to have fallen upon deaf ears, as in the subsequent numbers of the 'Manx Advertiser' no further letters appear.

The ruins of many of these keeills must have been standing at the time this letter appeared, 98 years ago, and it is a pity that Manxmen living on the Island did not follow the lead so ably given by their countryman in exile in England.

Not only might many of the names have been saved from extinction, but many of the keeills preserved, or at least accurate measurements taken of many, of which now not a single trace exists.

If this had been done it would have conferred an incalcuable benefit on later workers—like Mr. Kermode—in the same field.

Extracts from a letter to the Manks Advertiser,’ Thursday, September 7th, 1826.

There are to be seen all over the Island, the ruins of a considerable number of small churches, said to have been built about the same time. The honest-hearted Manksman, who is in the habit of seeing some of these ruins daily, views them with perfect indifference. He feels nothing of the enthusiasm which glows in the bosom of the Antiquarian, who gazes at them with a feeling of veneration which he can scarcely express

I set myself to work to recollect what I could respecting those venerable ruins, thinking I might possibly find some evidence of higher antiquity: and now I beg leave to lay before you and your readers the remarks which I made at that time.

One of these ancient Churches, I remember, was dedicated to St. Bartholomew, called Keeill Pharlaa, or Parlane—Parlane is the Manks of Bartholomew. Some part of the burying-ground of this Church was to be seen about the middle of the last century, hut I suspect every vestige of it is now swept away by the sea. There is in Kirk German, if I mistake not, an estate called Ballakheeillvoirrey—evidently deriving its name from a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary : whether there be now any remains of this church I have not the means of ascertaining. In Kirk Bride there is an estate called Ballakeeillmean, from Keeill Mean, probably St. Matthew ; in Manks : and Keeill Vael, in the same parish, if I remember right, dedicated either to Michael the Archangel, or St. Mael or Mel, one of the disciples of St. Patrick, by whom his life was written. Keeill Thraie, i.e., the Church of the Strand, from its situation near the sea-coast. Cabbal-ny-Guilcagh—whether the estate takes its name from the Chapel, or the Chapel from the estate, I cannot conjecture

And there is Keeill Thusjag, dedicated to St. Thusag, from whose hands St. Patrick received the holy sacrament when on his dying bed. Cabbal Vaartyn, i.e., Martin’s Chapel, whioh stands on the road between Kirk Andreas Church and the Lhen-moar, no doubt was dedicated to St. Martin, bishop of Tours, the maternal uncle of St. Patrick—a man of eminent piety. St. John’s Chapel, near Tynwald Hill, is called by the natives Keeill Lowin. The Manks of John is Ean and Juan ; between Lowin and Ean there is little or no affinity : Lowin and Juan in point of sound, come nearer to each other ; but then it must not be forgotten that Juan is never used in the sacred and ecclesiastical style but in the colloquial and familiar . The genuine Manksman, who is thoroughly acquainted with the idioms of his native language, would invariably consider Keeill Yuanas a ludicrous appellation, and I can hardly persuade myself that Keeill Lowin is a corruption of Keeill Ean, but am. strongly inclined to think, that formerly there was a Church dedicated to St. Luan or Luanus (whose festival was on August the 4th) , a man of great celebrity, who is reported to have founded not less than a hundred monasteries. Keeill Pharic-e-drommey, i.e. , the Church of Patrick of the Eminence, from its elevated situation. Ballakheeillingan is evidently derived from the name of some Church ; but to whom dedicated ? perhaps St. Finian. There were several saints of that name; there was a St. Finnian, under whom the famous St. Columcille pursued his studies, and St. Finian surnamed Lobhar, who was the first Abbot of Swords, near Dublin.

On the estate of Mr. Clarke, West-Nappin, Jurby, there are the ruins of an old Church dedicated to St. Columba, or Columcille, the apostle of the. Highlands, and the founder of the Culdees. He was a burning and shining light in his day and generation—one of the holiest men of whom the Church of God could ever boast since the apostolic age. This little church was no doubt built between AD. 1270 and 1344, when the Island was under the dominion of the Scots ; and also Keeill Treen, on the road between Douglas and Peeltown, dedicated to St. Ninian or Trinian. Treen is a Manxification of Trinian. Near Richmond, in Yorkshire, there are the ruins of a small Church, dedicated to St. Ninian ; he was the apostle of the Southern Picts, and the son of a Prince of Cumberland. It is said that while he was yet a child, he showed great devotion to Churches and wonderful love to his associates ; he was sober in his diet, sparing of his tongue, diligent in reading, grave. in conversation, averse from lightness, and always careful to subject the flesh to the spirit. About the same period, no doubt, the parish of Andreas was formed, and perhaps the old Church built, bearing the name of the titular saint of Scotland ; and the formation of the parish of Lezayre must be referred to the same time

The Church of Arbory is said to be dedicated to St. Columba, or Arbory, and Columcille. Most probably at. the period above referred to, a Church was built there and dedicated to St. Columba ; but I am per-suaded that, originally, the parish derived its name from Cairbre, one of the early converts of St. Patrick in Ireland ; and I am inclined to think that Kirk. Christ. Rushen, obtained its name at the same time, from St. Russen, or Russ, styled by Maguire, De Insulis Pictorum.’ The Church of Malew is said to be dedicated to St. Lupus ; supposed, I rather think, to be the Lupus who came into England with Germanus (not the first Bishop of Man) to suppress Pelagianism, AD. 429. They were Gaulish bishops, and excellent men, who frequently preached in the open air. But it appears to me extremly improbable that a parish and church in the Isle of Man should be dedicated to this St. Lupus, though a most worthy prelate. It appears very likely that St. Lupita, the sister of St. Patrick, was the person to whom the Church of Malew was dedicated, and not the famous champion for orthodoxy. On the estate of Mr. Stephen, Ballamoar, Ballaugh, there are the ruins of an old church, about six yards long by four broad ; another at Keeill-e-brickey, in the mountains, five yards long by three-and-a-half broad. Brickey, or Breegey, i.e., Bridget, seems to come very near in point of sound ; indeed, the difference appears only provincial . it is a possible case that this little Church was dedicated to St. Bridget, the sister of St. Patrick. On the Cunnaly estate or Mr. Collister, Ballacunnaly, Jurby, there are the ruins of Keeill Coolaghyn : Cooilaghyn is a. compound Manks word—cooil and Lhaight, both of the same import, signifying a den, or place of retreat ; so that the Church must, I presume, have taken its name from some local peculiarity, which perhaps may no longer exist. On the top of Skyhill are the remains of Keeill Bow. From the formation of the word, I should suppose Bow to be the name of some saint Manksified, but whether St. Buan, or some other, it is impossible to say. And there is Cabal Ronican, on the Bishop’s land, not far from Ballachurn. Ronican must be either the ancient name of the place or a man’s name. I do not recollect having met with any saint’s name which bears any affinity to the word Ronican. Maroonah. or Marown, seems to come nearest. Marown was one of the early bishops in Man, and is said to have been buried at Marown Church, with two of his predecessors ; but I cannot think that Runican is derived from Moroonah, as those churches are supposed to have been demolished prior to the episcopate of Marown.

I wish some of my countrymen, who have leisure, would be at the pains to make out an accurate list of the venerable ruins of these places where their ancestors offered unto God, through Christ, the sacrifice of prayer and praise. They are gone to their long home, and the very places where they worshipped the God that made them, and which are now so many heaps of ruins, should possess no common share of interest in the minds of that posterity.

I am, Sir, your’s etc.,


Boston, Lincolnshire, Aug. 20, 1826.


I . KEEILL PHARLANE, (Michael).—If Mr. Radcliffe was right in his assertion, erosion cannot have been so rapid here as is generally supposed. According to his statement, only part of the Churchyard remained c. 1750, and in the 3rd Report of the Manx Archæological Survey we find that in 1855, more than one hundred years afterwards, Dr. Crellin found a lintel grave protruding from the cliff, and in 1884, the Rev. E. B. Savage, then Vicar of Michael, found a cinerary urn a little to the S.W. about half-way down the side of the broogh.

2. KEEILL VOIRREY, (German).-—In connection with this Church, it is interesting to note that a small stream—a tributary of the Neb—which has its rise here is called Strooan-y-Kirkey : the stream of the Church, where we have the Norse Kirk with a Gaelic genitive ending. This is fairly common in Scottish Gaelic place-names, but does not occur often in Mann.

3 . KEEILL MIAN (Bride).—Probably the writer is correct in assuming that this is a dedication to Mian (Matthew). Strictly speaking, Mian means Matthias rather than Matthew. On the Manx Calendar St. Matthias’ Day was Laa’l Mian, while St. Matthew’s Day was not usually noticed. Bishop Phillips refers to both saints as Mian. In Irish Madhan always refers to Matthias, whilst Matha is the translation of Matthew. In the 3rd Report of the Manx Archæological Survey we find it called Cabbal ny cooilley—the Chapel of the Corner. It is on the estate called Ballacamain in the Manx Rolls of 1703, spelt— Kemaine. Mr. Radcliffe called it Ballakeeillmean. It is very remarkable to find Keeill Mian corrupted into Kemaine as early as 1703, but, as the writer was apparently a native of the district, he probably had good authority for writing it as he did. It is well to remember, however, that the surname McKemayn is found in the Island in 1511 , but in the parish of Patrick.

4. KEEILL VAEL, (Bride). I am unable to trace this at the present time. The name has apparently been lost. Among the Intacks of Kirk Bride in the Manorial Roll of 1703 we find the following entry : —‘ John Cowle, Creggy, for 8d. intack, parte in the Nyrea and the rest in the highway near Cloughaveila.’ The latter means the basin stone,’ and may have been a font. Ballacreggey adjoins Ballawannel, on which there is the site of a Keeill.’ As most of the Keeills' in Bride have lost their dedications, however, it is impossible to connect this with Mr. Radcliffe’s Keeill Vael.’ In the 3rd Report of the Manx Archæological Survey, Mr. Kermode says that the Keeill on Ballavarkish (Bride) was no doubt dedicated to St. Mark. He also mentions Chibbyr y Varkish on the same estate. The fact that there was a fair held at Ballavarkish. Kirk Bride, on St. Mark’s Day (N.S.) confirms Mr. Kermode’s view. (April 25th O.S., May 6th N.S.)

5. CABBAL NY GUILCAGH, (Andreas).—This seems to indicate a Keeill on the Guilcagh estate. The fact that it is not entered in the Manx Archæological Survey Report seems to indicate that all history of it has been lost.

6. KEFILL TUSHTAG, (Andreas).—I have not heard of the Saint referred to by Mr. Radcliffe. In the Martyrology of Donegal we find an Irish saint, Tassach, Bishop of Raith Colptha, whose dedication date was April 14th.

7. CABBAL VARTIN, (Andreas).—Mr. P. G. Ralfe identifies this as a Keeill which formerly stood on Ballacamaish, on the road between the Church and the Lhen, as stated by Mr. Radcliffe.*

*See AS. Report No. 3, p. 31 ; and Proc. N.S., Vol. 1, No. 9, p. 521.— (Ed.).

8. KEEILL EOIN, (German).—Evidently the writer was unaquainted with Eoin, one of the Irish forms of John which occurs in this name.

KEEILL PHARICK Y DROMMEY.—-The site of this Church is well known.

9. KILLINGAN, KEEILL (F)INGAN, (Lezayre).—Mr. Radcliffe suggests that this Keeill was dedicated to St. Fingan, an opinion which I have held myself. His festival day in Mann was the 22nd December, the preceding day being known as Oie’l Fingan,’ i.e., St. Fingan’s Eve. A saying associated with the day was Faaid mooar moayney son Oie’l Fingan, i.e., a big sod of turf for St. Fingan’s Eve. This Saint’s name is variously written Findia, Finnio, Finnen, Finden, Finnian, and Fingan. His dedication date was (OS.) Dec. 12th (N.S.) Dec. 23rd. This Saint, to whom two churches in Mann were dedicated, was an Abbot of Clonard, in Meath. Like many Celtic saints, Fingan had suffered displacement in Mann, and Thomas the Apostle had taken his place; this accounts for the slight discrepancy in dates. Another factor which lends weight to the theory of the Lezayre Killingan’s being associated with St. Fingan is, that Ramsey fair was held on the 21st December, or St. Fingan’s Eve, and it is possible that it was originally held at Ballakillingan, for fairs in the olden days were always associated with wells and churches.

10. KEEILL COLUM KILLEY, (Jurby).—Mr. Radcliffe’s statement that the 'Keeill' on the West Nappin, Jurby, was dedicated to St. Columba, comes to us rather as a surprise. In a petition to Bishop Wilson by Thomas Clark, of the Nappin, in 1749, this church is referred to as St. Keyl’s Chappell. Keyl or Kickle was the Roman Saint Cecilia, pronounced Kikilia in Latin and Irish. Her dedication date was November 22nd, but in Mann a fortnight earlier. Laa’l Kickle, Cecilia’s feast-day', was November 9th, and a fair was held at Jurby on that date, which was probably held near the chappell in early times.

11. KEEILL TREEN, (Marown).—This as the Manx form of St. Trinian’s Church is interesting. It would lead one to suppose that the Latin sanct and not the English saint was responsible for the interchange of n and r, i.e., Ninian to Rinian. In Urquhart, in Scotland, we find a similar corruption, a church there being called Keil Sanctringan.

12. ARBORY CHURCH—Mr. Radcliffe notes the dual dedication of this church to Ss. Cairbre and Columba. The churches of Kirk Christ, Lezayre and Rushen, are also dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

13. MALEW CHURCH.—Dedicated to St. Molua of Lismore, In Scotland, who was venerated on June 25th.

? The Keeill on Ballamoar, Ballaugh, is mentioned in the 3rd Report of the Manx Archæological Survey. The ruins of this Keeill evidently existed in 1826, but according to the Manx Archæological Survey Report not a vestige now remains. Mr. Radcliffe gives no name for this Church, but gives measurements which are lacking in the Report.

14. KEEILL E BRICKEY, (Lezayre).-—Probably Mr. Kermode is right in fixing this as a dedication to S. Breaga and not S. Bridget, as the late A. W. Moore conjectured. From a phonetic standpoint the evolution of Bride to Breaga is inadmissable.

15 . KEEILL COONLAGH, (Jurby).—The forms given by Mr. Radcliffe seem to be all corruptions of the one time holder’s name, Mac Conoly.

16. KEEILL Bow, (Lezayre).—Mr. Kermode says that a crag near this site is called ‘ Creg Keeill Bouyr,’ which he translates as the ‘ Creg (or rock) of the ‘ keeill ‘ of the dead.’

17. CABBAL RONICAN, (Ballaugh).—In the Martyrology of Donegal we find a Saint Roincheann to whom this Cabbal may have been dedicated. The form given in the third Report of the Manx Archæological Survey — Cabbal Rhullickey — is probably a modern corruption of the older name.

When engaged on research work in connection with these notes, I gathered some very interesting data in connection with Fairs and Festivals in Mann and the Saints to whom they were dedicated, which I hope to make the subject of a future paper.

The passing on to posterity of the knowledge we have acquired of these fast disappearing monuments of antiquity is a work of national importance, and was bound to draw someone into its toils sooner or later, and Messrs Radcliffe and Oswald were to be followed later by one to whom the Manx nation will ever owe an eternal debt of gratitude. Mr Kermode picked up the worn and jagged ends of the threads which his predecessors had dropped and spun them into a silken cord, which will be handed down as an heirloom to generations of Manxmen still unborn.


The writer of the communication in the 'Manks Advertiser ‘ of August, 1826, was one of the well-known family of Ballaradcliffe, Andreas. He was one of two brothers, both eminent Wesleyan ministers. Charles Radcliffe, who spent most of his time in England, was the father of the celebrated Doctor Charles Bland Radcliffe, of London. He was probably the first competent Manx antiquarian.— (W, Cubbon.’)


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