[From Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol 3] [part 2]



By J. J. KNEEN. 19th December, 1925.


The coloured races of the globe have not receded before the advances of the white man with greater celerity than the national customs of Mann have receded before the march of modern utilitarianism. Many of us still remember the cherished and time-honoured institutions of our early days, hallowed in our memories by the reverence in which they had been previously held by past generations of Manxmen and Manx women, and many of them inseparably associated with the reminiscences of our youth. The Hunt the Wren boys, with their green bushes gaily bedecked with coloured ribbons; the White Boys, in their quaint costumes; the mysterious rites connected with the Hop-to-naa and Hollantide Eve; these and many others are now nought but memories of our childhood's days. Our parents, also, have told us of the customs of their own early days, such as strewing the threshold on Oie Voaldyn (May Day Eve) with sumarkyn souree (primroses) to ward off the malign influence of witches and evil spirits; the great Harvest Home festival known as the Mheillea, which was eagerly looked forward to by the young people as a time of gaiety and rejoicing, and many more quaint customs and ceremonies which had been handed down through many a generation from a dim and remote past.


But among our national festivals, the Fair Day-that day which represented the anniversary of the patron saint of the parish church, or the little keeill-or, perhaps, with more hoary traditions, represented the religious ceremonials of our pagan ancestors-was in, popular esteem the most distinguished, and its return the most gladly welcomed. Constituting as it did å surviving vestige of the Christian and Pagan institutions of ancient Mannin, it became interwoven with the sentimental traditions of the people, and its celebration was, in consequence, honoured with a degree of romantic piety and national enthusiasm peculiar to the religious tone of the CeltoScandinavian temperament.


Unfortunately, the early pagan history of our Island has been lost, but in the Irish annals we find a rich storehouse from which to draw material, for undoubtedly we were, historically speaking, part of Ireland, and, before the coming of the Norsemen, her history was also ours.


The dawn of the Reformation heralded in a new era in Mann. The old Celtic saints began to be looked upon with suspicion and were regarded as belonging to an age of Popery, and their elimination began by gradually replacing them with Biblical saints whose dedication dates approximated most closely.


The following observations, written at the beginning. of the 19th century by an Irish rector, are of interest 1n this connection:-' The first institution of Patron Days in Ireland was an anniversary commemoration of those days on which their parish church had been dedicated to the respective saints whose tutelary guardianship the people annually implored as their mediators and advocates with the Almighty, which custom also prevailed in England, where such annual meetings are denominated wakes, and in both countries used to be celebrated for one or more days after the next Sunday or saint's day to whom the parish church had been dedicated. These institutions seem to have been very ancient in Ireland.'

' It would appear that the clergy and laity of each parish annually assembled at their respective churches on these solemn occasions, not only to implore the future tutelage of their patron saint, but also to offer prayers and distribute alms for their departed friends; from whose venerated tombs they cleaned the rank weeds, and decorated them with the gayest flowers of the season, renewing, at the same time, the mournful dirge in which was recounted every worthy action of the deceased and his relatives, as on the day of interment. Hence it was necessary to erect temporary lodgings or booths in the neighbourhood of the churches, and procure provisions for the poor, which were distributed to them in charity by the pious of every denomination; as also to find refreshment for strangers, whose devotion brought them from very remote places on these occasions.'

' Such was doubtless the first institution of Patron Days, and such it continued for ages until the Reformation; yet the people, ever tenacious of the religion of their fathers, assembled as usual on every anniversary day, but they were now become like a flock without a shepherd, and exercises of devotion at such meetings gradually gave place to profane amusements; the pious and devout having, in a great measure, forsaken those degenerate assemblies, a total relaxation of discipline and good order prevailed among the ungoverned multitude; drunkenness and riot became in time familiar, and those days, originally devoted to the honour of God, seemed now wholly set avart to celebrate the orgies of the Prince of Darkness.'


"These reflections by the Irish rector are full of interest and significance, for he gives a vivid portrayal of what probably took place in Mann also before the dawn of the Reformation. The latter part of his observations, in regard to postReformation gaieties which were indulged in, are reminiscent of our own Manx fairs of thirty and forty years ago. But fairs had a much older origin than that attributed to them by the Irish rector, for they went back into Pagan times, and the amusements and games connected with them were not a post-Reformation product, but a relic of Pagan ritual.


In Mann, as in other countries, the first preachers of Christ .anity accommodated their teaching, as far as possible, to preexisting observances, and tolerated the continuance of such national institutions as did not antagonise materially with the principles of their faith, and they thus conciliated popular prejudice by converting Pagan ordinances into Christian. festivals, and consecrated to Christianity those localities, times, and objects which had been previously dedicated to Pagan worship. It was on the same print ple that the Pantheon, or ' Temple of all the Gods,' at Rome, was, after the conversion of Constantine, Christianised as the ' Church of all the Saints.' We thus almost invariably find our little ' keeills ' erected on sites which had previously been Pagan, and evidence of preChristian burial in the churchyards surrounding them.


The residence of the Irish urradh or ' toparch ' constituted the ancient Irish bally (baile), villa or township, which was peopled by the chieftain's family and numerous retainers. Each of these localities had its own church, its patron saint, and festal anniversary. Similar conditions obtained in Mann, and the balla (ballet')-later known as the treen-was the family unit, and, according to tradition, each of these treens had its ' keeill,' and although many of the dedications have been lost, we may. be quite certain that each of these churches had its patron saint and festal anniversary, and some of the fairs connected with these ancient churches survived until within recent times.


Most of these antique social centres are now far removed from our modern highways, and are approached only by old bye-roads now almost or entirely out of use, but which were once the great thoroughfares of the country. Along these old neglected ways, which are frequently difficult to negotiate on account of their being overgrown with weeds and grasses, and the hedges on either side being covered with briars and gorse which has not been cut for many a generation, we discover interesting localities-not unfrequently hidden in the fields-with traces of ancient boundaries and primitive plantations, their verdant sward and leafy sweetness at once indicating their venerable old age, with, perhaps, here a clump of fuschia or there a gnarled gooseberry bush;, and where the progress of modern reclamation has not obliterated the landmarks of previous generations, the peculiar configuration of these places at once points them out as the scenes of former life and importance, often retaining, in the midst of rural silence, names indicative of a population whom utilitarianism had forced to abandon their ancestral homes to seek for subsistence in other parts of the Island. Here we usually find an insignificant enclosure-perhaps still retaining its Gaelic name, the Rellick-yet revered for ages past as ' holy ground ' ; here, too, we find a ' Holy Well,' retaining the name -of the ancient patron saint of the locality; yonder hillocks of earth and scattered stones are now the only remains of the local church. Here, on the patron saint day, the village boys and farmers' sons, in brand new home spun suits, and the rosy-cheeked country girls dressed in the quaint fashions of the period, blushing and smiling, and free from the cares of life, timed with light hearts and agile limbs their favourite dance to the music of the fiddle. Here friendships often originated that developed into unions for after life.


There is probably no Western archaeological fact so amply proved as that of the origin of well veneration, as still found existing in the Celtic portions of Britain. Essentially Asiatic in birth and imported hither by a wave of population whose history has been lost to us, little more can be said concerning the subject than that 4n Pagan days sacred wells and pools, such as exist in the Far East from time immemorial, and such as exist there to this day, are to be found in the British Isles in the loth century. Numerous references to holy pools and wells may be found in the Bible.

Descriptions of the appearance of, and the rites practised at, holy. wells situated in various parts -of the East, remind us who live in Celtic Britain not a little of what we-or our parents-have witnessed at home. It is the same there as here, the main features of the scene being absolutely identical. A venerable tree, festooned with many coloured offerings of rags, and a sacred well-sometimes surrounded by devotees-form the picture. Abroad as well as at home, pins and nails are frequent offerings. The late Thomas Moore, Bradda, Port Erin, told me that he had remembered seeing Chibbyrt Balthane decorated in this manner in his early days.

As I have already stated, the early Christian missionaries converted to Christian uses, times, places, and things which had been sacred to the people from time immemorial; we thus find the pools, wells, and springs, which the Pagans worshipped converted into baptismal fonts for the purpose of converting them to Christ-anity.

In Adamnan's ' Life of St. Columba ' we read:-' Another time, remaining for some days in the country of the Picts, the holy man (Columba) heard of a fountain famous among the heathen people, which foolish men, blinded by the Devil, worshipped as a divinity . . . The pagans, seduced by these things, paid divine honour to the fountain.' And 11rechan relates, in the Book of Armagh, that St. Patrick, in his progress through Ireland, came to a fountain called Shin, which the Druids worshipped as a god, and to which they used to offer sacrifices.

When Christianity had been established, the people's affection for wells was not only retained but intensified; for most of the early preachers of Christianity established their humble foundations beside these fountains, whose waters, at the same time. supplied the daily wants of the little communities, and served for the baptism of converts. As a general rule, these wells retain the names of she saints with wham they were originally associated, even after the little church has disappeared. Some form of devotion at the holy well was nearly always included in the ceremonies of the Patron Day. At Kells, in Meath, the well is nearly a mile from St. Kieran's Church; and thither, on the Sunday after the Saints' Day, pilgrimages were made. St. John's Well, in the parish of Rathcool, near Kilkenny, is more than a mile from the ruin of the ancient church, and the devotions on Patron Day were exclusively confined to the well, or to the basin or reservoir into which it empl-ies itself, and all the miraculous cures said to have been effected there took place in this basin, and on the night of the eve of the Saint's day, the 24th June.


There was another cult among the ancient Celts which one might call ' tree veneration ' ; large branching trees, under whose shadows chiefs were inaugurated, periodical games celebrated, or religious rites performed, were held in great esteem by the people. Professor Joyce (Ir. ' Names of Places ') says ' trees of this kind were regarded with intense reverence and affection; one of the greatest triumphs that a tribe could achieve over their enemies was to cut down their inauguration tree, and no outrage was more keenly resented, or, when possible, visited with sharper retribution. Our annals often record their destruction as events of importance; in 981, for example, we read, in the ' Four Masters,' that the bile of Magh-adiiar, in Clare, the great tree under which the O'Briens were inaugurated, was rooted out of the earth and cut up by Malachy, King of Ireland; and, in 1111, that the Ulidians led an army to 1 allahogue, the inauguration place of the O'Neills, and cut down the old trees, for which Niall O'Loughlin afterwards exacted a retribution of 3,000 cows.'


The Pagan Irish divided their year into four quarters Geimhreadh, Em-rack, Sawlzradh, and Foghnihor (in Manx Geurey, iIrragh, Sourey, and Fouyr), Winter, Spring, Summer and Harvest; and the beginning of each of these quarters was heralded in by a great festival, which has come down to our own times as a fair.

These festivals were usually held in places already sanctified in the traditions of the people, such as a cemetery where their ancient kings and chieftains had been laid to rest, or, near some famous well, the virtues of whose waters was religiously believed in-waters which their ancestors, at a still remoter period, had venerated and worshipped for their curative and other properties, or, perhaps, under the restful shade of a tree, where their chiefs had been inaugurated from time beyond memory.


In Ireland these assemblies of the people had various names, such as aenach (O. In oinach), forrach, nzcis, sluagh, etc., and they commonly enter the place-nomenclature of the country.

The aenach (or aenach) is now always applied to a cattlefair, and no doubt these are the modern representatives of the ancient popular assemblies, which, as Professor Joyce says (' Irish Names of Places ') ' have continued uninterruptedly from age to age, gradually changing their purposes to meet the requirements of each succeeding generation.' Likewise, the modern cattle-inarts in Mann have succeeded the old fairs, although the former are not now usually held on days which have any particular significance on the Manx Calendar.

The aenach was-almost without exception-held at one of the great regal cemeteries. Thus, in the Irish annals, such as the Book of Ballymote, Le,bor na h-Uidre, and others, we find such entries as these: ' Oinach n-Ailbe, the burial place of Calhair Mõr and the Lemstermen.' ' Oinach Carnzdin, the Rigrad of Coicead Galian buried here.' ' Oinach Colmain, burial place of the Munster princes.' ' Oinach n-Emna, assembly place of Emain, one of the chief cemeteries of Ireland (prinzreilice h-Erend).' ' Oinach Sera in Mag Sera in Lemster, Finn snac Cunnhaill buried here.' In the Book of Lecan the double purpose of these assembly places is clearly shown in the accounts of the origin of Carn Anzhalgadh, near Killala:' Carn Amhalgaidh, i.e., (the cairn) of Anzhalgadh, son of Fiachra Ealgach, son of Dathi, son of Fiachra. It was by him that this earn was formed, for the purpose of holding an aenach (assembly) of the Hy Amhalgaidh around it every year, and to view his ships and fleets going and coming, and as a place of ;nterment for himself.'

These names, marking out the old assembly places, enter extensively into the local nomenclature of Ireland, but a careful research into Manx place-names, whilst not yielding entirely negative results, is rather disappointing from a numerical standpoint. The cause of this is not far to seek, for whilst Ireland has continued uninterruptedly for a thousand years to use its Gaelic names, the older place-names of Mann were super-imposed by Norse ones, and -on that account most of its Gaelic names are post-Norse, and the direct result of a later Gaelic influx of population, probably from Ireland and Galloway. But, in spite of the many vicissitudes through which the Island has passed, a few early Gaelic names still survive in out-of-the-way corners of the Island.

A very careful combing of our Manx names has only yielded one doubtful example of the Irish aenach, which is all the more remarkable seeing that it is so common in Irish names. In Kirk Christ, Rushen, the shore of the treen of Kyrk Sansan is called 'Ennaug,' and, locally, the ' Nennagh,' which may represent the Irish an aenach, ' the fair.' The ' keeill ' which would be associated with this fair or assembly is on the quarterland of Ballagawne, but the saint ' Sansan '-if a saint -to whom the church was dedicated, has not yet been identified. This name, Ennaug, however, may be a corruption of one of our Norse wick names, which are so prominent a feature of this coast. We find a similar distortion in Grenaugh for Grenwick.

In dealing with another name in the same neighbourhood we are treading on surer ground. The Irish forrach, also a .ti assembly, certainly occurs in Lhiack ny wirragh or vzrragh (Ir. Leac na bh-fhorrach), ' the liag or pillar-stone of the asses+ blies,' on the Mull Hills, Kirk Christ, Rushen. This is the name of the land below the ' Druids' Circle.' I verified the pronunciation of this place-name over twenty years ago from old Manx speakers in the neighbourhood, and am quite satisfied that the interpretation I have given is the correct one. There is a legend still current in the neighbourhood ' that crowds of people may still be seen at Lhiack ny wirragh on a fine dark night,' and that there was formerly a monolith called Crosh Molley Mooar, which the late C. Roeder translated as the ' great deceiving cross,' and, in all likelihood, it was simply another name-probably later-of Lhiack ny wirragh. Whatever the nature or purpose of this cross or monolith was it is now impossible to say, as it has disappeared; but a long avenue of large stones may still be seen on the south side of the circle. Anyone interested in the legend to which I have referred will find it in ' Folklore of the Isle of Man,' in Y.L.M., Vol. 111, Part IV, and in ' Notes and Queries,' published by Broadbent & Co. The great crowd of fairy-people in the legend, singing. and dancing, and indulging in all kinds of merriment, is undoubtedly an echo of an ancient fair or assembly, which has been handed down orally through the ages until the true history has been forgotten, and the people who long ago took part in this human drama now simply exist as fairies in the minds of the modern population. Thus do the histories of one age become the legends of the next!

The Irish nås, which would become nags in Manx- names, may occur in Rennesse, the name of a treen in Kirk Bride, now called Naish. There are no archwological remains in this treen, however, which one naturally expects to find wherever these names occur, so it is possible that the Scandinavian nes is involved, but if so, the ' naze ' has long ago been eroded away.

The Irish sluagh (Mx. sleih) is very well represented in a local Kirk Maughold name, now known as Ballasloe, and at the beginning of the 16th century, Ballanasloe, which means ' the homestead of the assemblies ' (Ir. Baile na sluaigheadh). There is a Ballanasloe in Galway also. On the adjoining intack stood the church, known as Keeill ny hove, ' the church of the mound,' which the early Christian missionaries had raised upon a pagan site. In our own times the Manx Friends used the same place as a cemetery, when it became known as Rhullick ny Quakeryn, ' the cemetery of the Quakers.' A recent examination of the sj,te has proved the existence of a na-yan cemetery. Canon Quine and Mr. P. M. C. Kermode have discovered a chambered tumulus similar to the one in Kirk Lonan, now known as King Orry's Grave, but at the beginnings of the 18th century simply called the Carn. We may conclude that wherever these tumuli are found, there repose the remains of the great men and chieftains of a bye-gone age-an age which antedated the introduction of Christt1anity. Such stately mausoleums-as they would be then considered-would not be raised to the ordinary individual. In Ireland many of these old pagan cemeteries can be identified with a degree of certainty from their description in old records and annals; but in Mann, which has had a more chequered career, all history of these monuments of antiquity has disappeared. Even coming down to much later times, we are unable to connect any of our rich collection of Runic monuments with any individual mentioned in Manx history.

Adjoining Ballasloe is a quarterland bearing a name of equal importance, Crozvcreen. The Irish craebh (Mx. croazv), signifies ' a large branchy tree,' and, like bile (Mx. billet'), it was given to large trees under whose shadows games or religious rites were celebrated, or chiefs inaugurated, and Joyce remarks (' Irish Names of Places ') ' that we may conclude that one of these trees formerly grew wherever we find the word perpetuated in a naive.' Lough Crew (Ir. Loch craebhe) in Meath, and Mullacrew (Ir. Mmllach craeibhe) in Louth, are two typical Irish examples, meaning respectively ' the lake and the hill of the tree.' Our Manx example, Crow creep (Ir. Craebh crion), means ' withered tree,' and probably records the fact that it was held in such veneration that it was allowed to die of old age. Whether it was merely a memory of this sacred tree which had been handed down through the generations. or whether it actually still existed when the quarterland was named, it is now impossible to say.

We have at least two examples of billet' (Ir. bile), ' a tree,' in Manx local names, and both of them are apparently connected with pre-Christian sites. Ballavilla (1643, Ballavilley), 1n Kirk Santan, means ' the homestead of the tree,' and the proximity of this quarterland to the parish church suggests that the church is built near a place sacred to the people before the dawn of Christianity. In the parish of Kirk Bride there was a tumulus called Cronk y villey, ' the hill or tumulus of the tree,' which was levelled about sixty years ago.

The usual Manx name for ' well ' is chibbyr in the North and chibbyrl in the South, both from an old Irish form, lipra, Gen. lipral, Dat. liprail, which is found in the Irish local name Tipperary. The modern Irish word for ' well ' is lobar, and it is significant of its origin that this word in Manx (lobbyr) always means a baptismal font, and is never applied to a well. As ;n Ireland, these holy-wells were frequented for all kinds of diseases and ailments. Feltham, writing in 1798, says that : ' a well in the parish (of Santan) used formerly to be much resorted to for sore eyes.' In the Abbey lands of Lezayre there is a well called Chibbyr Slaynl, ' health well; and another in the same position, at Gob y vollee, called Chibbyr Launch, also mentioned by Townley (Chibbyr Launch), where lanch is simply another form of slaynl, ' health.' This was a common appellation for a well among the pagan Irish.


The four quarters of the Celtic year were each ushered in with a festival of rejoic~ng and merriment, the first of these being the feast of Samhain (Mx. Samin), the first day of November. This day was reckoned the beginning of the Celtic year, and a tradition still obtains in Mann to this effect, and the old people were accustomed to predict the weather for the ensuing year from that of the 12th of November (previous to the alt,rat-on of the Calendar in 1753, the 1st of November), and this is explained by the fact that the ceremonies now practised on New Year's Eve were, not so long ago, practised at the beginning of November. In Mann the Eve of November was called Oie Homney, and the following day-Hollantide Day-Loa Somney. Many quaint customs were observed in Mann on Hollantide Eve, an account of which may be found in Moore's ' Folklore of the Isle of Man.'

The festival of Samhain was not only a celebration of the beginning of the Celtic year, but a harvest thanksgiving for the gathering in of the fruits of the earth, and the use of nuts, apples, and other fruits on Hollantide Eve is no doubt a surviving vestige of the ancient ceremonies of this pagan festival.

Tuathil, King of Ireland in the first century of the Christian era, instituted the feast of Samhain, which was celebrated that day at Tlachtga, now the Hill of Ward, near Athboy, in Meath, where fires were lighted and sports carried on. It was also on this day that the Feis, or Convention of Tara, was held; and the festivities kept up three days before and three days after Samhain. The Well of Tlachtga springs from the foot of the hill, and it must have been esteemed one of peculiar sacredness, connected as it was wi'h the most celebrated of the pagan festivals of ancient Ireland. The Annals inform us that marriages were also celebrated on these festive occasions. These primitive ceremonials have descended through eighteen centuries, and even at the present time, on the Eve of Hollantide, the people of our own country practice many observances which are undoubted relics of ancient pagan ritual.

Our Manx ancestors have not bequeathed us any hill or wellnames showing a dedication to the festival of Sauin, at least, if there are any, I have not yet discovered them. The festival of Beltane has, however, left us several names, which I shall mention later,


Feltham, in his tour of the Island, in 1797, records two November fairs, which were of pagan origin. One of these was held in Peel on the 1st of November and the other in Douglas on the 12th. A Santan vicar leaves us an early record of the Douglas fair for 1733, just twenty years before the alteration of the Calendar, when it was held on the 1st of November. The Peel fair was held at the Cross-probably in the market place-but it must have been afterwards transferred to St. John's, for it was held at the latter place in 1808. The Douglas fair is still held, although shorn of much of its former merriment and gaiety. Feltham records that dancing was a favourite pastime at the Manx fairs in his day. Unfortunately; historians have not told us where these fairs were held in early times, but we know that they must have been held near some place hallowed for many a generation, and, in many cases, that Christian churches were afterwards erected on these sites.


In regard to the Douglas Hollantide Fair, it was probably held where the Douglas market now is, and the ' Fairy Ground,' which adjoins the market, is very likely a corruption of ' Fair Ground '; as many of the old fair grounds all over Britain became, in after times, ' market places ' in the centre of populous cities. In the Manorial Roll of 1703 two Douglas churches are mentioned : Mr. John Murrey has a stable at the ' Chappell,' a garden above the , Chapple,' and a house near the ' Old Chapple.' Mr. Richard Joyner had also a garden at the ' Chappell,' and a house at the ' Chappell Hill.' The older of these churches, near the site of which Bishop Wilson built St. Matthew's, in 1711, was either dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene or the Virgin Mary. The Diocesan Registry records a convocation in Douglas Chapel on July 22nd, 1684, which is the Nativity of Mary Magdalene; and in the following vear, August 17th, 1685, the same source records a convocation in St. Mary's, of Douglas. This date is two days after the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Both dates were recognised on the Manx Calendar; Laa'l Moirrey Malane, ' the feast day of Mary Magdalene ' ; and Laa'l Moirrey Tos ape ' Mary's chief feast day.'

An old engraving of Douglas in 1640 shows a church near the site of the Douglas Corporation Electricity Works, and it is probable that the old Cattle Market was part of the cemetery belonging to it. This church appears to have been dedicated to St. Martin of Tours, as an old plan of Douglas, in 1834 shows a lane leading from the Market to Heywood Place, called St. Martin's Lane, which did not disappear until the

last Douglas improvement scheme, about 30 years ago. There was formerly a fair held at Douglas on April loth, of which we have a record in 1802, but which had disappeared as early as 1808. This date was the eve of St. Martin of Tours feast in Rome.


The Irish name of the Spring Festival was probably Faoillidh, which the old Irish dictionaries give as the name of February, but which is now obsolete; the modern name being Feabhra, from the Latin Februarius. We also find this word in Scottish Gaelic, Faoilleach or Faoilteach, where it means the last fortnight of winter and the first fortnight of spring. But this festival must have died out at an early date, for the Irish annalists do not mention it; and one would naturally think that the festival of Spring, when all nature returned to life, would be an important date on the early Irish calendar. There must have been some reason for this omission, and although I have not heard anything previously advanced to account for it, I think the following may have been the reason. Bridget, Abbess of Kildare, who died c. 523, was one of the most popular saints Ireland has ever known, and her dedication date falling on the 1st February, the same date as the spring festival, eventually took the place of the latter; but there still cling, to St. Bridget's Day certain customs which must have originated long before the virgin saint was born.*

*Since writing the foregoing I have had the pleasure of looking over Richard Irvine Best's translation from the French of TT. D'Aribois de Jobainville's "The Irish Mythological Cycle and Celtic Mythology.' According to Tu~hainville there was a- Celtic goddess rained Brigit, who later became supplanted by St. Brigit

He says : ' Brigit, the goddess of the Pagan Irish, was supplanted in Christian times by St. Brigit; and the mediaeval Irish, in some measure, transferred to her the cult their pagan ancestors had rendered to the goddess Brigit. 'The cult of Brigit was not unknown in Great Britain. Four votive inscriptions going back to the Roman occupation have been found there, dedicated to a goddess whose name is identical with hers. . . . The date of one of these corresponds to the year 205 of the present era . . In mediaeval Ireland Brigit had a second name, Dana or Dona, genitive Danann, Donand. She is the daughter of the supreme head of the gods of Day, Light, and Life, and, in herself the mother of these gods belonging to the same divine group, who are called, 'after their mother, they gods of Dana. But in this triad we have in reality but three aspects of one god, Brian, who is the first of the three, and of whom the other two are in some sort merely counterparts. 'Thence the name by which the whole group of the gods of Day, Light, and Life is determined, namely, " the folk of the god of Dana " (T'vath(t De Danann)" (pp. 82, 8'3).

Manannan, with whom the Isle of Man is traditionally connected, was one of the Timtha De Dwnaailt, gods.


St. Bridget's Day was called in Manx: Laa'l Bridey, 'the feast day of Bridget,' and it was an old custom on this day to gather rushes, and, standing with them on the threshold, to invite St. Bridget to come and lodge there that night, saying, in Manx, ' Bridget, Bridget, come to my house to-night! Open the door for Bridget and let her come in!' (Vridey, Vridey, tar dys my hie noght! Foshiljee yn dorrys da Bridey as lhig jee cheet stiagh !) After these words were repeated, the rushes were strewn on the floor by way of a carpet or bed for her. There can be no doubt but that this custom was a relic of pagan ritual, the green rushes representing the reawakening of Nature after its winter's rest, and the invitation to Bridget to enter the house was obviously copied from an earlier pagan custom; when our forefathers rejoiced at the coming of Spring, and bade it welcome. St. Bride's or St. Bridget's Fair was held at Kirk Bride on St. Bridget's Day.


The first day of May, which was the beginning of Summer, was called Bealltaine in Ireland, Bealltainn in Scotland, and Boaldyn in Mann.

Tuathil, king of Ireland in the first century, instituted the feast of Bealltaine at Uisneach, now the hill of Ushnagh, in Westmeath, where, ever after, the pagan Irish celebrated their festivities, and lighted their fires on the 1st of May; and from these fires, according to Cormac's Glossary, the festival derived its name. . . . ' two goodly fires which the Druids were used to make, with great incantations on them, and they used to bring the cattle between them against the diseases of each year.'

Keating informs us that ' upon this occasion they were used to kindle two fires in every territory in the kingdom (of Ireland), in honour of the pagan god.'

Down to a very recent period these fires were lighted and the May-day games celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and Mann, and, even at this day, in many remote districts of Ireland, some relics of the old druidic fire superstition of May morning still linger among the peasantry.

Many quaint customs were observed in Mann at this occasion, a very full account of which may be found in Moore's ' Folk-lore of the Isle of Man.'

Prof. Joyce says that: ' The May-day festivities must have been formerly celebrated with unusual solemnity, and for a long succession of generations, at all those places now called Beltany, which is merely the Anglicised form of Bealltaine. There are two of them in Donegal, one near Raphoe, and the other in the parish of Tullaghobegly ; there is one also near Clogher in Tyrone, and another in the parish of Cappagh in the same county.' We also find in Ireland Tamnaghvelton and Meenabaltin, both signifying the field of Beltane; and a Lisbalting iu Tipperary, the old lis where the festivities were carried on is still to be seen. There is a stream in Limerick, called Glasheen na Baultina, the streamlet of Beltane or the May-day sports.

There were two Beltane fairs held in Mann, one at St. John's and the other at Chibbyr Pharick, ' Patrick's Well,' in Kirk Lonan. The latter fair ceased to exist after 1834, but the St. John's Fair was carried on for many years after.

The May festival must have been as popular in Mann as in Ireland, for it has bequeathed us three place-names. Chibbyrt Balthane, Bradda, Port Erin, meaning ' the well of May, or the Beltane festivities ' I have already mentioned. There was a ' keeill ' here and a cemetery, from which a slab bearing an incised cross was taken, which may now be seen in the Museum.

This well was regarded as sacred down to recent times. The quarterland of Balthane, in Malew, was one of the demesnes belonging to Rushen Abbey, and is mentioned in the Chronicle of Mann (Byulthan); also m the Manorial Roll of 1643 (Boaltane). Townley mentions in his journal: ' near Ballasalla, on the road to Derbyhaven, three fine barrows in a large field, placed in a triangular form.' This field was probably on the quarterland of Balthane, and the May sports may have been held here. There is a field on the quarterland of Ballingan; Marown, close to the site of the ancient ' keeill ' called Bolthaan, where the Beltane sports must have been also indulged in.


The customs and ceremonies connected with the festival of Midsummer were practically identical with those of the May festival ; and it is probable that it was universally observed over the greater part of Europe. The following account -of it by Vigfusson, as it was held in Scandinavia, is interesting

' St. John the Baptist Day is, in the Northern countries; a kind of Midsummer Yule, and was, in Norway and Sweden, celebrated with bonfires, dance and merriment; and tales of fairies and goblins of every kind are connected with St. John's Eve in the Summer as well as Yule in Winter. . . . The origin of this feast is no doubt heathen, being a worship of light and the sun, which has since been adapted to a Christian name and a Christian calendar.' Mr. A. W. Moore says

' Very similar are the observances of this eve in Mann. Bonfires were lit on the hills, and blazing wheels were formerly rolled from their tops, probably originally with the intention of typifying the beginning of the sun's declination, Cattle were also driven between or over fires to keep them from disease, and men and boys leaped over the flames.' Train says that

' On the Eve of St. John the Baptist, the natives lighted fires to the windward side of every field, so that the smoke might pass over the corn; they folded their cattle and carried blazing gorse or furze round them several times.'

On this eve were gathered the Bollan Feadl Eoin (John's Feast Wort), ' mug-wort,' which was made into wreaths to be worn on the heads of man and beast.

There were two Midsummer fairs held in Mann, one, the more important, at St. John's, and the other in Kirk Christ, Lezayre. Mr. A. W. Moore describes the St. John's, or Tynwald, Fair as follows:-' The next morning the great Tynwald Court, corresponding to the Icelandic Allhing, was held, when the laws were promulgated, and the festival proper, all witches and evil spirits having been disposed of on the previous evening, began. At this festival, which probably lasted about a fortnight in old times, there took place, not only the Court, but probably a religious feast, and merrymaking of all kinds, such as hurling and football, match-making, feasting, and, above all, recitals of legends and tradition.'

In 1636 Bishop Parr wrote to Archbishop Neile as follows

' On St. John the Baptist's Day I found the people in a chapel dedicated to that saint in the practice of gross superstitions, which I caused to be cried down, and, in the place of them, appointed divine services and sermons.'


Manannan, the Sea-god, and, according to tradition, the first king of Mann, received his annual tribute of leaghyr or ' rushes ' on this day, and the pathway from St. John's Chapel to the Tynwald Mount is still strewn with rushes every Tynwald Day, which were formerly supplied from a nearby farm, held on the tenure of doing this service.


There does not appear to have been any special name for this festival in Gaelic, but the Scots called the month of June Ogmhios, 'the month of youth ' ; the Irish called it Meilheamh, ' pleasant month ' ; and the Welsh, Mehefin, ' summer month.'

Tullahogue or Tullyhog, near Stewartstown, in Tyrone, where the O'Hagans reside', and where they inaugurated the chiefs of the O'Neills, is very often mentioned in the Irish Annals, always by the name of Tulach-õg or Tealach-åg, ' the hill of the youths ' ; and the name indicates that the place was used for the celebration of games, as well as for the inauguration of the chieftains. Prof. Joyce says that ' the fine old fort at whicli the ceremonies took place in long past ages, still remains on the top of the lulach or ' hill ' ; and from time immemorial, down to fifty or sixty years ago, a yearly gathering of young people were held on it, the representation of the ancient assemblies.'


Mr. P. M. C. Kermode, in the Manx Archaeological Survey, second report, i9io, writes: ' There would appear to have been a burial ground on the Western edge of the natural plateau on which stands Tynwald Hill, about 193 yards W.S.W. of the mound. . Here, at a height above sea level of about 145 feet, lintel graves have been found in ploughing, . . . and they appear to have been Christian; but if there was an early Christian cemetery there would almost certainly have been a ' keeill ' in association with it. At about 16o yards to the W.N.W., on the eastern brink of the same plateau, an undoubted Christian lintel grave was found by members of the Committee. Th=s is at the N.E. end of the enclosure, the bank extends here from the present church of St. John's, and a little northwards, in the enclosure, turns to the west. In this latter field many graves have been found at the same level, and, from the description given by those who found them, as well as from some of the stones with which they were formed, now lying on the hedge, it is evident that they were of the same type. Mr. Lowney, who is about 75 years old, told us that he remembered seeing many graves of a smilar character withiil the Tynwald enclosure all along the line of the northern bank to the pathway from the church to the mount, but none were to be seen south of that.'

It will be seen that the area around Tynwald Hill was an extensive cemetery, and there can be no doubt that pagans used it for the same purpose prior to the introduction of Christianity. Probably St. John's Chapel is built on the site of an ancient ' keeill ' also.


Our earliest mention of the Tynwald ceremony is found in the Chronicle of Mann. Under date 1237 we read: ' In the following autumn Harold sent the three sons of Neil, Dufgal, Thorkel and Molmore, with his friend Joseph, to Mann, where they landed at St. Patrick's Isle. On the 25th day of the month of October, which was three days after the arrival of Neil's sons, a meeting of all the people of Mann was held at Tynwald (Tingualla). At this assembly the three sons of Neil appeared, with all the partizans they could procure from every part of the Isles. Lochlen, the keeper of Mann, -came likewise with his friends to the place of convention; lie provided for his safety, however, as ne distrusted the sons of Neil, on account of an enmity between them. After much altercation and recrimination, the litigants found it impossible to compromise their differences; and the two factions, rushing out of the assembly, commenced hostilities. At last victory declared for Lochlen and his party, and there fell in this place the aforesaid Joseph, King Harold's friend, the two sons of Neil, Dufgal and Molmore, and the remainder fled. After this, the convention of the people dissolved, and every one returned to Ills home.'

This was the great Convention of Spain, or November, of which I have already spoken, and the fair in connection with it was held until quite recently; thus we have a record of its continuance through seven centuries, showing with what tenacity the people clung to their old traditions.

There was also a Midsummer Fair at Sulby until quite recently; and probably this fair was originally held at the Ballameanagh Cabbal. Mr. P. M. C. Kermode, in the fourth report of the Manx Archaeological Survey, 1915, says: ' We learned that a mode of divination was formerly practiced here (at Ballameanagh Cabbal) by people curious to know who was to be taken during the ensuing twelve months. They visited the ' lceclll ' on St. John's Eve and watched at midnight. One year 21 little lights came dancing up the glen; it was the year of the ' great epidemic ' ' and there were 21 deaths that year.' ' This custom, taken in conjunction with the fair on St. J(ohn's Day, seems to suggest that the keeill was originally dedicated to St. John.


The Irish Annals tell us that one of the Dedannan kings, Lewv of the Long-hand, established a fair or gathering of the people, to be held yearly on the first day of August, at a place on the Blackwater, in Meath, between Navan and Kells, in which various games and pastimes, as well as marriages, were celebrated, and which were continued in a modified form down to the beginning of the present century. This fair was instituted by Lewy in commemoration of his foster mother, Taillte, who was daughter of the King of Spain; and in honour of her he called the place Tailltenn (Tailltee, gen. Tailltenn), which is the present Irish name, but corrupted in English to Teltown. The Irish Free State has recently revived this fair under its old name 'the Tailltenn Games.'

Prof. Joyce says that ' the place still exhibits the remains of raths and artificial lakes; and, according to tradition, marriages were celebrated in one particular hollow, called Laganaenaigh, ' the hollow of the fair.'

The first of August is called Lughnasadh in Irish; Lünasd, Lünasdal or Lunasdainn in Scottish Gaelic, and in Manx Lhunys or Lhunistyn.

A comprehensive account of the ceremonies practised in Mann on Laa Lhunys, or Lammas Day (the 1st of August), may be found in Moore's ' Folklore of the Isle of Man.' The ancient custom of ascending the highest hills and visiting holy wells has not quite died out, in spite of the Church's opposition for centuries past. In 1732 the Curate and Wardens of the Parish of Lonan made representation to the Ecclesiastical Court as follows :-' The curate and wardens represent to the Court that there is a superstition and wicked custom, which is yearly continued and practised in this and the neighbouring parishes by many young people (and some of riper years) going to the top of Siiaefell Mountain upon the first Sunday in August, where (as they are informed) they behave themselves very rudely and indecently for the greater part of that day. Therefore, they crave that the Rev. Court may be pleased to order what method inust be taken to put a stop to this profane custom for the future.' The Court tried to stop these practices, but all their efforts ended in failure. Bishop Wilson raised the most rigid disci r)line of the Church against them, and even his endeavours proved unavailing, as they were carried on quite commonly a century ago, and, perhaps, have not yet become quite extinct.

The fair in connection with this pagan Festival of Autumn was held on the 1st of August at Ballasalla (N.S., 12th August); and we have an early record of it for the year 1733, when it is called Lammas Fair, Lammas being the AngloSaxon name of the Christian festival which supplanted the Pagan one in England, but which had no lingual connection with the Irish Lughnasadh. There can be no doubt but that this fair held in Ballasalla went back to pre-Christian times, and was held on a site which afterwards became Christian. It is quite possible that Lhunys Fair was held on the place later occupied by Rushen Abbey, and this theory is strengthened by the fact that there is a phonetic resemblance between the pagan Lughnasadh and Luoc, the Celtic saint to whom the early religious house was dedicated before it was turned into a monastery and dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and who, also, bequeathed his name to the parish of Malew.

Lughnasadh means ' Lugh's fair or assembly.' Lugh, called Lleu in Wales, was a Celtic divinity, corresponding partly to Hermes and partly to Apollo, and tradition describes him as follows: ' Like to the setting sun was the splendour of his countenance and his forehead, and they were not able to look in his face from the greatness of its splendour. And he was Lugh larch fada (i.e., Lugh of the long hand), and his army was the fairy cavalcade from the Land of Promise, and his own foster brothers the sons of Manannan.' He is said to have been brought up at the Court of Manannan, here called the Land of Promise, which, in many of the ancient tales, is identified with Mann.


The saint, whose identity I shall discuss in the next part of my paper, was Lua, who often became Molua, with honorific prefix added, and Luoc with diminutive suffix. The phonetic resemblance between Lugh the Celtic divinity, and Lua the Christian saint, was probably sufficient reason for the Early Christian missionaries to substitute the latter for the former; and thus the ancient pagan assembly place of Lugh became the Christian temple of Lua.


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