[From Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol 3]
By W. CUBBON.
27th August, 1925. Read at Patrick.
Perhaps the most interesting historical figure connected with the parish of Patrick is the Rev. Thomas Stephen, who was Vicar there from 1827 to 1841. He belonged, I understand, to the Ballaugh family of Stephen; he was the father of Deemster Stephen, and grandfather of Mr. R. S. Stephen, H.K., of Spring Valley, Douglas-all of them gifted men.
In the year 1833, Archdeacon Philpot made a visitation to all the churches in the diocese, and put a series of questions to the Vicars concerning the fabric of the churches, the fittings, and the parochial government.
The answers to all these questions on the part of the clergy were usually commonplace, and give little information; but the replies to the Archdeacon's queries given by the Rev. Thomas Stephen are full of interest, and they well describe the state of the parish in the early part of the 19th century.
To the Archdeacon's query: . ' Have you made any improvements in your glebe ?' the Vicar sarcastically replies : ' Yes, many; for which I expect neither reward nor thanks.'
He continues: ' The orchard has a few fruit trees, apple, pear, plum, and gooseberry, most of which were planted half a century ago. There is no valuable timber on the premises. All that was so had been cut down by the late Incumbent Cottier, the proceedings of whose career are recorded in the Episcopal Registry.' [His predecessor, Vicar Cottier, had been unfrocked for drunkenness.]
The Archdeacon's enquiry concerning the custom of private baptism elicited the remark that ' the people expect that the minister should attend to baptize their infants at any hour at home, alleging the infant's extreme weakness and danger of death, which is, however, seldom the case.'
One of the Archdeacon's searching queries was: ' Are you ' careful to exclude from the Lord's table obstinate and impenitent offenders, disorderly livers who refuse to reform, such as persons whose lives are blemished with the vices of drunkenness, tipling, swearing, profaning the Lord's Day, quarrelling, fornication, or any other crime by which the Christian religion is dishonoured?'
This lengthy query was met by the pert statement: ' There is ' no necessity of warning bad livers not to approach the Holy Table, as they seldom or never come to church, unless to a burial or, occasionally, as sponsor at baptism.'
The Archdeacon's cross-examinations must have been irksome to some of the Vicars. He asks: ' How many times do you preach on each Sabbath Day, and how often during the week ?'
The Vicar of Patrick's frank reply was: ' One sermon only on the Sabbath for want of a congregation. Two sermons were attempted, and also a weekly night lecture, but both were deserted!' [This was attempted in his young, enthusiastic days.] He continues: ' This can be accounted for only from the increase of Dissenters, and the church being situated in a corner of the parish.'
He further remarks: ' Two chapels of ease are requisite, one at Dalby and the other at Foxdale; both points of the parish being nearly five miles distant, and where the population ' attend the Methodist chapels.*
Continuing, he says: ' The number of the inhabitants of Kirk Patrick amount to above 2,000 according to the last census taken (? by the Vicar) from house to house.' He says: ' They do not attend church as regularly as they ought, owing to their preference of meeting houses.'
The Vicar preached in Manks every alternate Sabbath.
In 1825 there were 700 communicants recorded at Easter; but in Vicar Stephen's time, in 1833, the number came down to 200 at Easter and 50 at Whitsuntide and Christmas.
*Dalby Church built 1839; Foxdale Church 1860.
On the subject of education in the parish of Patrick in the year 1833, the Vicar is particularly interesting. In answer to the Archdeacon's detailed enquiry: ' Is the parish school white washed and well-ventilated?' the reply came: ' The school house is ventilated often too well by an almost perpetual breaking of windows, for which there is no remedy but a ' better discipline of the children at school, as well as of idle boys in the neighbourhood. The master has lately undergone a public trial, and I am happy to say that he is more diligent than formerly. He was appointed by the Bishop. . . The scholars are seldom or never taken to church, their parents having no care about them or authority over them.'
He reported that ' the master of the parochial school was Thomas Cosnahan, and his salary was £12 9s. 2d. per annum. Miss Halsal was the teacher of the Female School of Industry instituted by Mrs. Ward, the wife of the Bishop, ' and her salary was -£4.William Ellison was master of the Dalby school, John Corris of the Glenmoij school, and John Quirk master of the Foxdale school, all of which, except the parish school at the church, were supported by voluntary quarterages.
The masters follow, in general, no occupations, excepting that Mr. Ellison letts tythes, and Mr. Quirk breaks stones by ' the roadside. They are, in a general way, moral. Their qualifications are sufficient for their situations.
The number of children at the parish school when fullest amount to 50; at Dalby about 30; at Glenmoij about 30; at ' Foxdale about 20. The children generally attend Methodist meetings, except in the neighbourhood of the church."
[As a rule, in the early part of the 19th century, Vicars ignored the Methodists, but Vicar Stephen did not, and we are indebted to him for his records of the Dissenters and their influence upon the Church.]
The Archdeacon asked: ' When were the bounds of your ' parish perambulated last, and is there any dispute as to the boundary with any adjacent parish?' The Vicar, in his reply, gives some valuable information: ' The parish was per ambulated twice in my time, and it is requisite now, particularly as several farmers have been cultivating over the limits of the parish and thus invading the rights of the Church, as well as effacing by the plough the marks of the parish boundaries. Pillars placed at regular distances would designate by a perpetual line the boundaries. At present no dispute exists, but there is a particular line of demarcation running transversely through certain meadows between Patrick and Malew on the estate of Baroole which requires to be designated at this time, as there is now living a parish officer who is a competent witness, being fully acquainted with the subject.'
The Archdeacon was a very curious person, and wanted to &now many particulars of parochial difficulties that most of the other Vicars gracefully smoothed over. But Vicar Stephen was different from all his brethren. The Archdeacon's pertinent questions were his longed-for opportunity; and he could safely write in his Report what he would not have dared to say in a parish meeting.
Here is a penetrating and comprehensive query put by the Archdeacon: ' In watching over the morals of your people, are you careful (in conjunction with your Wardens) to prevent all swearers, tipplers, adulterers, fornicators, ale-house ' keepers who encourage or permit tipling ; persons who practise unlawful pastimes on the Lord's Day, carriers, butchers, or other persons who pursue their calling on that day,'
The Vicar tersely replies: ' The people are very demoralized, and the Wardens seldom attend their parish church; those who are religious go a-preaching, and the lay Wardens go some other way; so that the Clerk has nearly every Sunday to levy the contributions for the poor.'
Another pertinent query: ' The Parish Clerk, does he faithfully discharge his duties, such as ringing the bell at the times ' required by you; attending you in visiting the sick if required; raising the Psalm; reporting persons who profane the churchyard ?'
The Parish Clerk surely must have had a hard time under such a master. The Vicar replies to this query as follows :' The Parish Clerk does his duty very well, and I have no blame to attach to him unless for allowing the bell to be rung on the Sabbath by casual comers and not keeping to the stated hours, which are at 8 and 10 of a Manks Sunday morning, and 9 and 11 on an English Sunday morning; and at 2 and 3 ' o'clock every Sunday afternoon-a quarter of an hour each time. This ought to be done, as otherwise there is no stated notice of the approaching worship; besides, it has an appearance of levity and irregularity. I trust this will hereafter be attended to.'
The Archdeacon put the curious query regarding the Sumner of the parish:-' Does he fulfil his duty in keeping dogs out of the church and aid the Wardens in preserving order and decorum during divine service?'
This query gives the Vicar his opportunity for expressing his opinion about the Sumner, who, he says, ' seldom or never ' comes to church. He might as well belong to a Turkish mosque for any attention he pays the church.'
The subject of fees was a vexed one in Kirk Patrick. The Vicar says:-' The people have it that the burial of an infant or young person should not be paid, though the same service, word for word, be read and the same vestments worn. This abuse requires remedy. . . . It ought also to be observed that many paupers are buried here from Peele and Dalby, but their relatives never think of paying a single fee alleging they are paupers,-although several shillings are laid out on ale, tobacco, and other luxuries. Here followeth a ' list of the Fees paid to the Minister and Clerk when they do ' happen to receive them:
For Christening 6d. Brit.
For Marriage 2s. 6d.
For Burial 1s. 0d. ..
To the Clerk for Marriage, 6d. or 1s., as the party pleases; for Burial, Is. 6d.
To the Sumner for summoning before the Ecclesiastical Court. 6d. Brit.
For calling anything at Church no fee fixed; but he agrees with the party as he can. His chief stipend is the Sumner's sheaf, for which he drives the best bargain he can with the Sumner-General. T. STEPHEN, Vicar.
In 1833, in accordance with the orders of the Archdeacon, Vicar Stephen made out ' a True Terrier of all the Glebe Lands, Messuages, Tenements, Tithes, portions of Tithes, and other rights belonging to the Vicarage and Parish Church of St. Patrick . . . taken, made and renewed according to ' the old evidences and the knowledge of the ancient inhabitants at a Vestry holden 24th October, 1833.' This Terrier, from the antiquarian point of view, is really valuable, as it introduces quite a large number of forgotten place names and field names in the parish.
The Rev. Thomas Stephen was the author of a ' Poetical Guide to the Isle of Man,' published in 1832; it has a frontispiece of Glenfaba Bridge.
It is one of the earliest guides for visitors to the Isle of Man, and it is very intelligently written in pretty good rhyme. Vicar Stephen, in addition to being a classical scholar, was an able writer of poetry.
One of his pieces, composed in Manks, entitled ' Cre to ' Gloyr ?' (What is Glory?) is reputed by competent scholars to be one of the best pieces of verse written in the Manks language: -
As cre to gloyr' a,JL valid ennyin vie,
Ennym! to myr y goll to sheidey shaghey?
The following interesting particulars of breaches of the ecclesiastical laws in the early part of the 18th century by inhabitants of Kirk Patrick are taken from the documents in the Registry of the Diocese of Sodor and Man: -
Par. Hutchin, for bring of a pack of ling on Sunday evening on horseback. (1
Pat. Hutchin, for not coming to divine service on Sundays. To be committed to St. German till he give bonds to reform.)
Pat. Clarke and Wm. Quayle for picking their millstones on Sunday. (1 die.)
Wm. Killey (German) for not co-habiting with his wife as becometh. (To be committed to S. German till he give bonds to co-habit.)
Margaret Gell, alias Kelly, for making a burden of goss or ling in ye mountaine
and fetching it home upon Sunday at night.
Margaret Karran, als. Maddrell, and Ann Karran, alias Coole, for quarrelling and fighting on Sunday.
Wm. Quayle, milner, for grinding at his milne at Glenmoy upon Sunday morning.
Wm. Quayle, presented for carrying ' tailes from house to ' house to ya disturbance of ye neighbourhood, and Sarah Quayle his wife for the like.'
Jon Shimmin, ffidler, for playing, and Jon Quine, senr., for entertaining him, and dances upon Sunday at night late.
Wm. Gell, Foxdale, and his wife, and Jon Kermott and his wife, for not attending ye church.
Wm. Shimmin, ffidler, for playing for company and dances at Pat. Crellin's upon Saturday at night, presented by Silvester Mcylchreest, warden.