C. H. COWLEY.
25 August, 1927.
A casual mention of the Battle of Santwat generally solicits a smile, and the remark where was it fought ? From others, who have a little knowledge, it would not be much of a battle, as there were not many people in the Isle of Man then ; but in speaking to people of an older generation the question is answered more seriously, and much importance seems to have been attached to it up to recent times.
My object is to prove first of all where the battle was fought, who were the victors, and which side was helped by their women-folk to turn the tide of victory.
Before stating my case I will refer to the records left to us by history. It seems to me that the only evidence we can rely upon in these is contained in Chronicle of Man, Manx Societys Works, Vol. I, p. 57, and Monumenta de Insulae Manniæ, Vol. IV. Latter historians seem to have derived their knowledge from the foregoing, and written it up to suit their own ideas.
The following are extracts I have culled from the various histories at my disposal.
Chronicle of Man, Vol i, page 57
In 1098 there was a battle between the Manxmen at Santwat,1 and those of the North obtained the victory. In this contest were slain the Earl Other,2 and Macmaras, leaders of the respective parties.
In the same year, Magnus, King of Norway, son of Olave, collected a fleet of 160 ships and arrived at Man. Putting in at the island of St. Patrick, he went to visit the site of the battle which the Manxmen had fought between themselves a short time before, for many of the slain still lay there unburied.
Note 8 says
The Battle here spoken of between the inhabitants of Man seems rather to have been the effect of an attempt on the part of the native Manxmen to shake off the yoke of the Norwegians, than a fighting between northern and southern islanders, from the names of the opposite chiefs, Earl Other or Ottar, and Macmaras ; the former being a Norwegian one, the latter a Celtic. The word Aquilonares ought perhaps to be translated, not the inhabitants of North-Man but the Northmen."
A further note reads :
But the text says that the battle was fought inter Mannenses, i.e., was between the Manx themselves, and not inter Mannenses and Aquilonares ,i.e. ,between the Manx and the Northmen. Unless the text be corrupt, Aquilonares must mean the Manx of the North. Robertson considers them to be the original clans connected with the Northmen of Dublin and the Isles, whilst the Southerns he considers to be the descendants of the Islemen who had contributed to the success of Godred Crowan. The South was the seat of the civil and ecclesiastical government, and he thinks that the distinction between North and South was preserved by Godreds descendants through motives of policy, in order to maintain their own ascendancy, by holding the balance between the two races.
Cumque applicuisset ad insulam sancti Patricii nuncupantur. This seems to imply that the place named Sandvath (verdum arenosum) where the battle was fought between the inhabitants of Man themselves, was situated in the neighbourhood of Holm Peel.
ii.Monumenta de Insula Manniæ, Vol. iv, Mx. Soc. works
The same year (A.D. 1098) a battle was fought between the Manx at Santwat, and those from the North obtained the victory. In the engagement were slain earls Other and Macmaras, the chiefs of both parties.
iii. Blundells History of the Isle of Man, Vol. i page 35. 1648-56.
However St. Patrick arriving (at his first landing in the Isle of Man) at this promontory, called Jorby (latter corrected to Jurby) Point, and making some small stay here, hath ever since been called St. Patricks Island, and here he placed his bishops seat, which continued there, it may be not long after St. Patricks death, howsoever, for a time, but now it hath lost the name of an island, and is now called Kirk Patrick of Jorby, which still retaineth the name of St. Patrick, and acknowledgeth thereby his landing there. Mr. Chaloner seemeth to hold yt there was no other place called St. Patricks Island but ye Island of Peel; but Joselinus confirmeth me yt it must be Jorby, for there is no other promontory noted in the Island of Man, but that to sat-isfy this doubt you need only find out a place called Stantway, near St. Patricks Island, where Anno 1098, a great battle was fought between the northern and southern men, for ye Chronicle of Man saith in the same year King Magnus arrived in Man and landed. He came to St. Patricks Island to see the place wherein the battle had been fought a little before between the Manxmen, because many of ye bodies yt were slain lay yet there unburied.
Now, Peel Island being so little I conceive, an unfit place for such a multitude of men to fight in.
iv. Chaloner states:
Kirk Patrick of Jurby ; this church was dedicated to St. Patrick : and to distinguish it from Kirk Patrick of Peel, it is called St. Patrick of Jurby.
v. Sacheverells (Governor of the I.O.M. 1693-4) Account of the Isle of Man, Vol. I, page 34, states:
One, Mac Marus, a person of great prudence, moderation and justice, who in the year 1098, laid the foundation of the Abbey of Rushen, in the town of Ballasalley.
After giving details of the Cistercian order, he goes on
But while Mac Marus was employing himself in these works of piety, which rarely secure the best of n.ien from the misfortunes of this world, the northern men, who were the original natives, formed a conspiracy against him, commanded by Earl Outher. The battle was fought at a place called Stant\vay in St. Patricks Isle (which therefore must be the parish of Jurby), in which both the generals were slain ; and Mr. Cambden says the northern men had the victory ; but the Manks tradition in-forms us that the women of the south side came with so much resolution to the assistance of their husbands, that they not only restored the battle, hut, as a reward of their virtue and bravery, to this day they enjoy half their husbands estates during their widowhood ; whereas the northern women have but a third. But whatever side got the victory. the public had the loss, for the Island was so weakened that it lay exposed to the first that would attempt it. These private factions at home too often betray the public liberty to some potent invader abroad.
Note at end of this Vol. I, Mx. Soc. works (Editor) states that:
Magnus Barefoot, on his return to Norway, left, as his viceroy in Man, Outher, against whom the southern Manx rebelled and appointed Mac Marus. At this juncture (A.D. 1098) Magnus Barefoot returned from Norway and, after landing, went to the place where the last battle had been fought three days before, and ordering the bodies to be buried, he viewed the Island round, and found it, in comparison of his own country, fruitful and pleasant; he therefore fixed upon it as his own residence and fortified it carefully.
vi. In Felthams Tour, 1798, we find: History informs us that the inhabitants of the North-side conspired against the government of Macmarus, and were headed by Earl Outher ; a battle ensued which was fought at a place called Stantway in St. PatricksIsle (Jurby). The generals were slain, but the North-side people gained the victory, until the females of the South-side came with great ardour to the assistance of their husbands and turned the fate of the battle; for which, to this day, they enjoy half their husbands estates during their widowhood, while the North-side ladies have only a third.
vii. Robertson in his Tour through the Isle of Man, 1794, states: Olave, their natural Prince, was then a youth in the Court of Henry the First ; and the Chiefs of the Isles being anxious to seat on the throne a man of mature abilities, elected Mac Manis ( according to some authors his name was Mac Marus), whose merit amply sanctioned their choice. From the pride and jealousy of Earl Outher, a conspiracy was however (AD. 1098) formed against him and, in the combat which it occasioned, both the Prince and conspirator, with many of their partizans, were slain.
By this Civil contest, the Kingdom being considerably weakened, it became an easy prey to Magnus, King of Norway. . .He reigned for six years in this Island.
viii. Woods Account, 1811
Macmanis was the next King of Man ; but who he was, and what title he had to the crown, history does not inform us. His election to the dignity occasioned civil broils between the south-em and northern districts of the island. The inhabitants of the former were headed by the King whom they had elected ; those of the latter, the original natives, by Earl Outher. The armies met, and a battle was fought in the parish of St. Patrick. According to the Manks tradition the northern men had nearly won the victory, when the women of the south-side came with so much resolution to the assistance of their husbands that they restored the battle ; and, as a reward for their bravery, enjoyed one half of their husbands estate during their widowhood, while their northern countrywomen had only one third.~
ix. The Guide to the Isle of Man, Kneale, 1860, says:
The battle was fought at Sandwath in Jurby, and the northern women helped their husbands to defeat the inhabitants of the southern portion of the Isle.
x. A. W. Moores History, 1900:
A battle took place at Santwat near Peel ; the exact site is unknown. Of Other and Macmaras, said to have been the leaders on each side, nothing is known, but possibly Other, or Otter, may have been the Earl said by Worsaæ (p. 288) to have been appointed Governor of Man and to have been expelled by the inhabitants, who chose in his place another jarl named Mac-manus (? Macmaras) in which the north gained the victory, according to tradition, by the assistance of their women.
From the foregoing, it is easy to see that not one of the historians is sure upon any of the points raised. One states the battle was fought at Jurby, the other that it took place near Peel. Others have an affection for the northern women, whilst the southern women have not had their claim neglected. Robertson tells us that the Earls name was Mac Manis, but gives no authority for it, and also states that the Kingdom was considerably weakened by this battle, which I presume he quotes from Sacheverell.
Sacheverell being Governor of the Isle of Man would, no doubt, at that time be more conversant with local tradition than latter writers, and if what he states is correct, there must have been a much greater number of men in the battle than is generally supposed.
He also upholds the claim of the women of the southside as having helped to win the victory.
However you have all the evidence now which I intend quoting; and I will set forth my own opinion.
i. I know not, and have never heard of the name Santwat applied to any place in Jurby : but have been told many times by old people, that the battle of Santwat was fought at Kirk Patrick near Peel.
ii. Two sites have been pointed out to me as the places where the battle was fought.
iii. In every instance mentioned, it was stated that the southside women helped to win the victory.
During the course of many years I have given a great deal of thought to these three facts, and covered all the ground in the locality for evidence ; but after a lapse of 829 years one can understand there would be very little left of value.
However let us first take the two sites of the battle.
One is at the extreme end, west of Peel Golf Links and adjoining it, the field being named Cronk y ghuilkee (hill of the broom).
The other site is the field beyond the bridge on the St. Johns road from Kirk Patrick, on the left adjoining Ballamoor.
It is more reasonable to suppose that a battle between the northern and southern peoples of the Island would be fought here mid way, than that the latter made their way along the coast line to Kirk Patrick of Jurby.
No ! the northern men came along that route without opposition until they came to the river Neb. Here they were stopped by the river and, worse still, the bogs on either side. They may have been joined by stragglers from the eastern side of the dividing range of mountains but I think the greater part of the inhabitants at this time lived on the western side of the range.
A camp was made on the Congary brooghs where the Golf Links now are, and a tribal fort of earth hastily thrown up ; this fort still exists upon the most prominent part of the brooghs and is an ideal site. Overlooking the river on the south side, with a magnificent stretch of country before them, the defenders could at once discern any attack from invaders ; whilst behind them they feared none. The fort is about 30 yards in diameter. The southern men however were determined to give battle first, and selected the narrowest point of the river and bog land to gain access to the enemy. This was a place about where the railway was run up to Knockaloe Camp.
Above that was useless because of the bog, below, or down the river, nearly as bad, the river running deeper and with steep banks on either side at Glenfaba.
Gaining the opposite bank of the Neb the southside men gave battle, but were at a great disadvantage. After crossing the Neb they then were faced with a hill which had to be carried before forcing the enemy to their fort further east. If they did gain the hill top, it is probable that the northerners had a reserve of men hidden in Glenfaba which runs parallel with the river, behind the Congary brooghs. These were brought forward and pressed the enemy back across the river.
From there a running fight continued along the east side of Glen Craue, up to about the place where the bridge on the St. Johns to Patrick road stands.
This bridge is still called the bridge of the bloody battle. I was told by an old man that he had picked up weapons of stone in the field adjoining, where the battle was fought.
We can take it, that a firm stand was taken by the southerners at this spot, and the main battle fought.
But, evidently the southerners were still fighting a losing battle, for it was at this juncture, and on this spot, their wives came to their assistance
The women from the South had been watching the tide of the battle creeping up the glen, and now determined to aid their men.
Sweeping down from their camp, which was high above the field of battle, they picked up stones as they ran ; filling their brats with them, they entered upon the scene, wild-eyed and weary with running, and tired with the weight of stones ; but yet eager to help the men who were giving their lives for them.
Evidently their weight told, and the northerners were beaten, and retraced their way over the track, which, in the morning, had led them nearly to victory.
I have not been able to get anyone to enlighten me as to the meaning of Glen Craue, but am strongly of the opinion that it means the Bone Glen. Craue is the Manx word for bone, and what more likely than that the bones of those killed in the battle were exposed in the side of this glen for many years after.
Again, I mentioned that the women were camped high above the field of battle. Why ? Because the road known as Barnell starts at the battle-field and, if we follow it to the foot of the hill, the name changes to Creggan ny Mraane, the womens rocks.
As a matter of fact the name is mis-applied as to the road itself the rocks are on the right side about half way up. The name is still used, although the local people have no idea now as to its origin, but I think, without doubt, mine is the true explanation.
Higher up, the roadway narrows and is called Baare Dowin, or deep road ; continuing to the cross-road, where it is named Kione ny Baaryn, end of the roads.
Strange to say, a small field near here is called the Hospital field. It may be a coincidence, but, on the other hand, it is possible that a halt was made here by the victors, on their way south, to refresh themselves and rest their wounded.
Further on is Cairn ny Greie, or Cairn of the implements, near to which place is buried a number of implements of warfare. Was the battle of Santwat such a decisive one, that the southerners thought war was at an end ; buried their weapons, erected a Cairn to commemorate the event, and, marching home again, like the victors of 1914, changed their minds, to start anew their efforts to subdue their fellow men.
i. The Barnell road would, from the field of battle, be the most direct to the South of the Island.
ii. I do not think the Congary Fort is marked on the Ordnance Survey, or has been noted before.
iii. What became of the bodies of the chiefs Mac Marus and Other?
If, as it is stated, Magnus ordered the bodies to be buried of those killed in the battle, would it not be likely that he, following precedents, ordered that these be accorded special honour because of their standing.
That honour would be, burial in the most prominent position and in this case would probably be the summit of Peel Hill, where we know the sites of three burial places, excluding of course the Corrins burial ground.
1 In the manuscript of the Chronicle these three names, of which so many variations have been introduced by later writers, read plainly, Santwat, Other, Macmaras. (Ed.)
2 There were two places called the Island of St. Patrick Holm Peel and Jurby Point. It is at the latter that Dr. Oliver places Santwat, or Sandwith.
Quoted from Sacheverell.
[see also 'Battle of Santwat']