[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #4 1926]



15th January, 1925.


Donald M’Corkyll, 1408.
(There are no records from this until 169 years later)
Philip .Hodgkell, 1576.
Donald Callow, 158o.
Edward Baguley, 1580.
Nicholas Thompson, 1598.
Robert Parr, 1640,
Charles Parr, 1670.
Henry Lowcay, 1678.
William Walker, 1703.
William Bridson, 1729.
Philip Moore, 1751.
Matthias Curphey, 1761.
James Wilkes, 1771.
Daniel Gelling, 1777.
Daniel Mylrea, 1802.
Hugh Stowell, 1814.
Thomas Howard, 1836.
William Kermode, 1877.
Edward Wm. Kissack, 1890.

Of the first five of these we know little or nothing. Robert Parr we know was Vicar-General from 1646 until his death, when he was succeeded by his son Charles, who was also made Vicar-General.

William Walker, who was Rector of the Parish from 1703 till his death in 1729, is the most outstanding of all who have held this office. In 1712 he was made Vicar-General; from this time till his death he was very intimately connected with Bishop Wilson, the chief of his fellow workmen and fellow sufferers. He was one of the clergy who, with Bishop Wilson, in 1722, suffered imprisonment in Castle Rushen for nine weeks. They spent their time in translating the Bible into Manx. Walker went to London several times in connection with the law suit which arose of his imprisonment. The suit was ultimately decided in the Bishop’s favour.

During one of the visits, he had conferred on him by Archbishop Wake, the degree of LL.D., for the zeal and ability with which he pleaded his diocesan’s cause. He died in the following year, 1729, and was buried the chancel of his church in accordance with his will, but as the walls of the chancel have since been taken down, his grave, with the inscription written by Bishop Wilson, is now in the old churchyard. His Will is a very long and curious document, in which he leaves all his personal belongings to his various friends and relations. In it he also left money to be expended on the religious instruction of the children of the Parish, and a large sum for the building of a parish room or hall.

Philip Moore, who was appointed Rector of the Parish in 1751, by the Duke of Atholl, whose chaplain he was, was also chaplain to Bishop Wilson, and he preached the latter’s funeral sermon. He never lived here, but held this living with his other appointments, employing a curate to officiate here. Philip Moore was one of the chief of the translators of the Bible into Manx.

Matthias Curghey succeeded next (in 1761) as Rector. He was Vicar-General and also one of the translators of the Bible into Manx. He was one of the clergy imprisoned in Castle Rushen with Bishop Wilson and Dr. Walker. On his tombstone in the Old churchyard, Ballaugh, it is said he was an humble, meek, pacific man, sound, divine, learned and exemplary.’

James Wilkes was the next to hold the Rectory of Ballaugh. He became Vicar-General 1769 and Rector 1771. He also was one of the translators of the Bible into Manx. He paid several visits to London in connection with the chancery suit against the Earl of Derby for the recovery of the impropriate tithe. His diary of these journeys is of great interest. On his first visit he dined with the Duke of Atholl, who introduced him to Dr. Hildesley, whom he had appointed Bishop in place of Bishop Wilson, who had then passed away. Wilkes made a journey to London once again in 1766 to assist in the defence of the clergy in the dispute between them and the fishermen concerning the fish tithe. On this occasion he had an interview with the Archbishop of York. On the death of Bishop Hildesley in 1772, Wilkes was left executor along with the Bishop’s sister. Jas. Wilkes died in June, 1777, and was buried beside Wm. Walker and Mat. Curphey in the old churchyard of Ballaugh. On his gravestone is the following epitaph:-—

Sleeping in Jesus.
Translated hence the good man never dies,
But like the day-star, only sets to rise.
REV. Jas. Wilkes,
Rector of this Parish and Vicar-General,
Aged 58 years.

Colonel Mark Wilkes, S.H.K., was a son of the above, while Margaret Wilkes, his daughter, and sister of Col. Mark, was the mother of Sir Mark Cubbon.

Laura, Lady Buchan, was the eldest daughter of Col. Mark Wilkes, and grand-daughter of Rev. Jas. Wilkes. She gave the silver communion service to Ballaugh New Church.

The next Rector was Daniel Gelling, of whom little seems to be known, except that he was one of the pioneers of scientific farming in the Island.

Hugh Stowell was Rector of this Parish from 1814 to his death in 1835. He wrote the Life of Bishop Wilson. He was the Rector of this Parish during the building of the new Parish Church, of which he was the first minister. This Church was built in 1832, and Hugh Stowell passed away in 1835. Thomas Howard succeeded him in 1836. He published two series of his sermons, entitled, Plain and Practical Sermons.’ He was, indeed, the 'beau ideal' of a Christian clergyman. And although feeble health prevented him from visiting the outposts of his Parish, the Parish had never had a Rector who was so popular as Thos. Howard; he was loved by one and all. He made a copy of the oldest registers (church), which were in a state of decay. These are all written in a beautiful hand, though the writer was over eighty years of age at the time. He died in 1876, after being forty-one years Rector of this Parish. He was succeeded by the Rev. Wm. Kermode in 1877, who, on the revival of the office of Rural Dean, was appointed first Rural Dean of Peel. He built the new rectory here, besides restoring and re-opening the old church. He initiated a parish book for Ballaugh, in which he wrote an account of the antiquities of the Parish and a record of special events which would be of interest to its people. He was a keen antiquarian, and at one time President of the Antiquarian Society. When he died, in 1890, the people of this Parish lost a valued counsellor, who was always calm, wise, sagacious and practical. He was the father of Mr. P. M. C. Kermode, Curator of our Manx Museum, and Cushag,’ the Manx Poetess.

The Rev. Edward Wm. Kissack succeeded him as Rector. He was Canon of St. Columba and Rural Dean of Peel, and his chief work during his short residence here was the reseating and improvement of the New Parish Church. In 1890 he resigned his living here to take up that of Chillenden, in Kent, where he died in 1901 . He was succeeded by the present Rector.

I have purposely given just the chief particulars of their work and lives as connected with this Parish, of which none were natives, so that in most cases other parishes can also lay claim to these worthies of the Church, though it was here most of them did their greatest work, and here they died, and in several cases were buried. Of them the people are justly proud.


This Parish, like many others in the Island, has two Parish Churches, an old and a new. Both are dedicated to St. Mary. The New Church was built in 1832, on Ballatersson. The land on which it is built and that for the churchyard were the free gift of Thos. Corlett, of Ballatersson, for which he and his heirs were granted a free pew in church (beside that belonging to their farm), this pew being the first in the middle row. The Church is built in the early English style of architecture, having a handsome buttressed tower with pinnacles. In 1894 it was re-seated and entirely altered and improved inside.

The Old Church is on the Treen of Ballamona, and it is thought is built on the site of an old Keeill church. Whether this is so or not we cannot say; but anyhow, though we have no record to tell us, we know it is of a very ancient date, though exactly what we cannot say. It was rebuilt in 1717, and I understand that the west gable is the best example of Bishop Wilson’s architecture on the Island. Many years after this the east gable was pulled down to make the building smaller, and I understand that those employed in the work found it very hard to break up the wall owing to some kind of flinty cement which the first builders had used to fasten the stones in place. The door of the Church is of oak and nail-studded, like the doors of Castle Rushen. The arch of the doorway is old red sandstone and Norman in style of architecture. The font, the only one of its kind on the island, is also of red sandstone and set into the seat of the first window on the right as you enter the building. On it is carved the cross, which is coloured red and blue, and beside it is cut the inscription in Manx, One Faith, one Baptism.’

Just away from this font is now set up the Runic Cross, found in the yard of the Church thirty-four years ago. The cross is a beautiful example of early sculpture, the design of bands converging and diverging, linked together and interlaced with rings. The runic inscription on the face of the cross states that Olaf Liotulfson erected this cross to the memory of Ulf, his son.’

In the sanctuary of this Church are two chairs, given by Bishop Wilson to Rev. Wm. Walker for use in the Church. These chairs are of oak, now almost black with age, and are of the Stuart period in design, etc., they are cane-backed and were cane-seated, but these seats have long been replaced by seats of common wood, which is a great pity, for they could be easily restored with old cane. The entrance to the Church and churchyard is flagged with slate stone, and the quaint pillars of the gateway are unique in the Island, and in the world, I dare say. They are built in such a manner as to look as if they were falling, each towards the other. What purpose they were supposed to serve by being built in this manner it is impossible to say, but tradition (in the Parish) says they were built in this way, and certainly they are as firm as it is possible to build anything of so unusual a type. If they were built in this fashion they are certainly a feat of architecture which it would be hard to equal.


The Church Registers of this Parish are the oldest in the diocese, commencing with a Register Book of Burials, made in ye year of our Lord God, 1598.’

The baptisms are in the same book, but do not start till 1607. The Register following this being 1695.

The baptisms and burials are on parchment, some few sheets of poor paper have been inserted at the end, where we have the marriages from 1695-1749.

Next in order to this is a book of baptisms commencing 1751. Burials are in the same book from the same date, 1751, the next being a Register Book of Marriages, on strong paper, provided in pursuance of the statute and beginning 1757. There is no account of marriages in this book, but there is an account of marriages between 1749 and 1757 inserted in the end of the book of baptisms.

The following entry relating to the boundary between Ballaugh and Lezayre is of interest to all who take any interest in place names. I might state here, that one of the great white stones mentioned in this record still remains to make the boundary. The ecclesiastical boundary between these parishes is almost three-quarters of a mile further along the Sulby road towards. Ramsey.

JUNE 7, A.D. 1715.

The Rev. Mr. Wm. Walker, Vicar-General and Rector of Ballaugh, and the Rev. Mr. Henry Allen, Vicar of Christ Church, Lezayre, together with the ancients of both parishes, having met this day at a place called Cottery Plate or Ganafher, in order to determine the boundaries of the two parishes from the place aforesaid into the high road leading from Bishopscourt to Ramsey, and both parties having agreed to leave it to me to hear what can be said on both sides, and to put a final end to all controversies for the future concerning the said boundary. I, therefore, having heard all that hath been said by both parties, and having carefully viewed and walked the ground, do adjudge and declare that a straight line down from the east side of the Plate aforesaid, betwixt two remarkable trees growing in the highway aforesaid and betwixt two large white stones on the other side of the said highway, to the end of a hedge leading from there to the mountains shall ever hereafter be looked upon, and be the true boundary of the two parishes, with which both sides being entirely satisfied, I do hereby require that nobody do presume presumptuously to cut down the trees or remove the stones aforesaid, and that a true copy of this determination be preserved in the Registers of both parishes as an end to all strife on this account, given under my hand and seal at Bishopscourt, the day and year above written.


The original hereof inserted and remains in the Parochial Register of Lezayre.

Cottery Plate, or Gaafher, as it is called in this record, must have been the name at that time applied to the field on the hill side of the road at this spot.

The Churchyard, in which almost all the oldest gravestones are of slate stone, is the resting-place of many illustrious sons of the district, of which those of whom I will now make brief mention are some.

On the left side as you enter the yard are to be found the tombs of Deemster Daniel Mylrea, his wife, Margaret, who was one of the Parrs of Parville, Arbory and their children. The next tomb to this is that of Wm. Corlett of Ballamona Beg he was a member of the self-elected House of keys (the rusty bunch), a member of the Manx Bar and Captain of the Parish and a Fencible; he died in 1863.

Close to these is the grave of Capt. Wm. Kelly, R.N., of Ravensdale, who was present at the capture of Cape Town, and for his bravery on this occasion received a silver cup. After many adventures he, in 1817, retired to his native parish, where he owned part of the Ravensale estate in Ballaugh Glen. He built the first house there, where the present mansion house now stands. He used to say that when sailing round the world he could always tell when he was exactly beneath Ravensdale. He became a member of the Keys in 1821.

Not far away is the grave of Wm. Teare, of Corvalley and Ballabeg, the grandfather of Edward, David, and James Forbes, whose only daughter and heiress was their mother. She being the last of her line, this family of ‘Teare has now died out.

At the far eastern corner are the graves of Jas. Taubman d. 1828), and several of his children. He was a younger member of the Bowling Green family, and he was the builder of a number of the houses in the village. One of his sons Robert, was the first organist of the new parish Church, and prior to that he played first a bass fiddle (in the Old Church) and afterwards the seraphine. The whole of this family were musical, and they were the first family in the parish to possess a piano.

James, another son of Jas. Taubman was the father of another Robert Taubman, who, in his turn, was the father of the Manx sculptor, Frank M. Taubman, of London who carved the bust of the late A. W. Moore, for the House of Keys, a few years ago.

Next we come to the tombs of the Stephens of whom one, the Rev. Thos., was Vicar-General, his wife being a daughter of the Rev. Daniel Gelling, a rector of the parish. Their son, John, afterwards became Deemster.

A little further away we find the grave of Thos. Kewish, whose wife was a sister of Capt. Kelly (R.N.). Kewish will always be remembered for the skill he displayed in the putting together of the skeleton of the great elk which he dug up in 1819. This is now in the Edinburgh Museum. Kewish found that one front leg of the elk was missing, so, with the bones of an old horse, he made a new leg. When he had completed his task he found the Duke of Atholl wished to claim the elk, so he sent it to Whitehaven to be exhibited, where the Duke bought it for seventy pounds and gave it to Edinburgh Museum. It was with great difficulty he (Kewish) was able to get it off the Island, for the Duke’s soldiers were on watch, but they were sent to chase what they thought to be the elk into Ramsey, but what proved to be the remainder of the old horse’s bones, while the real elk was safely shipped off from Glen Trunk.

This, I think, ends, so far as I can remember, the list of parish worthies who are buried here. I will now just briefly mention some who were natives or in some other way connected with the parish.

Of these the Forbes family come first, as their mother was a native of Ballaugh. Here Edward and David Forbes pursued their scientific researches, and here their younger and less known brother, James Grellier Forbes, the artist, painted his pictures, several being hung (six at least) in the Royal Academy, one of which was entitled, ‘The Village Blacksmith Ballaugh.’ Jas. Forbes died when only twenty-six years of age, so he must indeed have been as talented as his brothers, and had he lived to their age would doubtless have been as famous in the world of art as they were in science.

Deemster Lace lived here for a time, his wife being a Ballaugh lady, Christian Corlett, of Ballamona Beg.

John Corkill, of Squeen, who served in the Royal Navy during the French wars, and who afterwards married a French countess and resided in France for the remainder of his life, was also a native of this parish. He left a fortune of three millions, which is still held in chancery for his heirs, they being the children of his only sister, who married John Kneen of this parish.

Charlotte Agusta Stephen, the mother of Deemster John Fredk. Gill, was a sister of Deemster Stephen, who held lands in Ballaugh.

Rev. Philip Corlett was a younger brother of Wm. Corlett, M.H.K. , J.P. , of Ballamona Beg, in this parish. He was the last chaplain of Ballure and the first chaplain of Ramsey (St. Paul’s), where he served from 1822-1825. His youngest brother, John Corlett, was a sea captain and a great friend ( as well as a relation) of Prof. Edward Forbes.

William Kneen, who died in 1921, in London, was an artist of distinction, and for thirty-eight years art and mathematical master in Westminster School, which appointment he received when only twenty years of age. He was educated at Manchester Grammar School and the Manchester School of Art. He was the youngest son of John Kneen, of Grest, Lezayre (where he was born), and formerly of Cammall, Michael. He was a first cousin of the late Thos. Kneen, C.R., they both being descended from Johnet McNyven (Kneen), who owned Carmodil Moar in 1515. Their grandfather, Thos. Kneen, moved to Cammall from Ballaugh.

Of Edward Forbes I have made little mention, for his history is so well known to almost every Manx man and woman. As my paternal grandmother, Margaret Taubman, was the chief playfellow and friend of Jane and Edward Forbes during their young days at Ballabeg, I have often heard of how Edward and his sister formed his first Museum at Ballabeg, Ballaugh. So that if one wishes to see the site of the first Manx Museum one must pay a visit to the now roofless home of the greatest of Manxmen, Edward Forbes.


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