[From Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol 3]
WILLIAM CUBBON, F.S.A.. Scot.
Read at Greeba 18th September, 1930.
The study of ancient boundaries-Quarterland boundaries, Treen boundaries, and Parish boundaries-is probably one of the most useful and interesting studies that we can pursue.
Very many instances could be given in all parts of the Island which present, at once. important problems and create fascinating interest.
The plan illustrates the details of this remarkable departure from the natural boundary.
Chibbyr Roney is in the salient in the boundary on the southern bank of the river Rheyn. Thorbjorn s 12th c. Norwegian Cross slab came from the Keeill.
If one will take the 6in, Ordinance Survey plans and go over the boundaries of any particular parish, one will find cases where they do not follow the usual natural features, such as a river, a valley, a hill ridge, or a swamp.
The physical features were the natural guides of those who in the distant past set down for us our Treen and Parish boundaries. Take, for instance, the remarkable case of Chybbyr Roney, in the northern part of Kirk Marown. In that case, Marown captured a small part of what was naturally Kirk Braddan territory, for the reason that it contained Chibbyr Roney, the sacred well which was dedicated to the patron saint of the parish, St. Ronan.
I will refer to another remarkable case at a point near where we are standing (Greeba Towers, Marown).
Through the kindness of the vicar of Kirk Marown, I have been able to inspect the oldest parish register in his possession, and I came across in it the following record, written on parchment. It was undated, but I am judging from the script-that its date was about 1780. The record was apparently written by the vicar, John Bridson (1780-1799).
"The boundary betwixt Kirk Marown and Kirk German "begins at Laught a Cuinry extending towards the top of Kneeb and to Largy Volley westwards of St. Patrick's Chair southwards to Cronk en Yeul to a grey stone in Archallaghan."
Then comes the postscript:
"The boundary on the south side of Curroo Glass is the fence betwixt Captain Quilliarn's Quarterland (Cooilingel) and the "Rhenny."
As far as we know, the Ordnance Survey in 1868 set down the 'boundary exactly as recorded by the vicar a century before. Ths interest of the vicar's record (which is unpunctuated) lies in the place-names used by him.
Laught a Cuinry, the boundary's commencement, is three and a half miles away from Greeba on the western slope of Golden mountain. The exact spot is a little grave mound covered with white quartz boulders, at a height of over 1,500 feet, and near the source of the stream which runs to Rhenass corn mill.
The top of Kneeb, is, of course, 'the top of Greeba.' The writer gave the Norwegian form Gneeb, from gnipa, " a peak." He must have included Sheau Ruy, the highest point in the boundary, in the term top of Kneeb.
(Ordnance Survey, Lagavallough) " The hollow of the old road." (J. J. Kneen's "Place-names"). This is the slope between Pear Tree Cottage and Greeba Tower, and overlooking the old highway.
[Query] "St. Patrick's Chair," Kirk Marown.
This reference to St. Patrick's Chair, in an eighteenth century document, is very important. The old vicar who wrote the docurnent, knowing the importance of these sacred boundary marks in his day, deliberately claimed St. Patrick's Chair as belonging to his parish of Kirk Marown. The exact spot is outside the point of the wedge-like salient which is shown upon the Ordnance Survey plan near what is shown as Gob ny Creg; that is in the parish of Kirk Marown. "The Chair," if it may be so named, consists of a huge outcrop of rock, with spots of quartz, humanly fashioned like a seat, and overlooking the low lands around the ruin of St. Trinian's, and giving a most impressive outlook. It lies on the upper corner of the slope described by Ordnance Survey as No. 441, 2.055 acres of wood. This is the earliest record we have of a St. Patrick's Chair in Kirk Marown. The illustration shown is given because of its 'chair'-like appearance. Its site is within a few feet of the boundary on the Kirk German side.
A remarkable feature of this peculiar salient in the boundary between Kirk Marown and Kirk German (Ordnance Survey X9), is that it does not follow the natural lie of the ridge; on the other hand is goes over a steep slope of rocky ground. It is obvious that Kirk German desired to include within its boundaries, and within this salient, something which it considered to be of great value. What that was we may well inquire.
Major A. B. Clowes, R.E., of the Ordnance Survey Office, has kindly informed me (26th September, 1930) that no reasons are on record regarding the parochial location of the salient referred to. He states that "The parish boundary there was pointed out on the ground to the Ordnance Survey ascertainer by the legally-appointed meresmen, James Kelly for Marown Parish, and William Kaighen for German parish, in March, 1868, and according to Ordnance Survey records, the boundary was at that time defined by mounds."
There are, as one might expect, many places of interest within the area, of this salient. The two chief places marked on the Ordnance Survey plan are (1) "The Cave," and (2) "Garey Feeyney," both of which lie in the extreme eastern point of the salient as shown on the plan.
What "The Cave" and "Garey Feeyney" stood for, and why they were claimed as important to the parish of Kirk German, we cannot even guess. Major Clowes, of the Ordnance Survey, reports that (3637 and 3635 O.S.) "no traditions are recorded about 'Garey Feeyney.. " "It is," he continues, "described as a grass-grown rock feature, with an overhanging southern face forming a small cave. No traditions are recorded regarding the cave or adjacent pathways."
I had drawn the Major's attention to the remarkable number of apparently very old constructed pathways which intersected the Falient from side to side, almost all of which are set down on the Ordnance Survey plan.
It appears from the Major's letter that "The Cave" and "Garey Feeyney" are one. The "Garey Feeyney" is a grassy plot on the summit of the cave.
Mr F. Nicholson, Mr Bregazzi and I, have spent a good deal of time in examining the "Cave" and its vicinity. The floor of the cave is paved with' large flat slate slabs. These we raised and found some evidence that the place might have been occupied in primitive times.
Here are the evidences; they may be slight, yet they show human handiwork. The roughly hewn stone is different from anything which has been found elsewhere in the Island, and the flints are rudely chipped-but chipped they are by human hands.
But there are other interesting features which you will be able to examine for yourselves. There are the remains of a stone wall built to protect the mouth of the "cave," and there is an artificially made entrance and flooring, with a pathway and steps leading to the ground above the cave, namely "Garey Feeyney."
Why it was called by that name we can only guess. It is thought
to mean " the Garden of Wine." But that derivation can hardly be appropriate. Possibly the strange name means "the Garden of the Feni," the place where resorted the Feni, the early Celtic legendary heroes, called after Fin, the great Irish-Manx heroic figure.
To judge from the evidence, then, "Garey Feeyney" was conceded to Kirk German, leaving St, Patrick's Chair outside it. Now, the old vicar of Kirk Marown (setting down the view of his parish), claimed that this salient should not come further eastward so as to take from him his revered St. Patrick's Chair. He claims the chair for his parish.
There are other places of interest within this peculiar salient. Greeba Tower is built upon an earthen mound called Cronk ny Ringagh. The name is not mentioned by the Ordnance Survey. I found it in one of the Castle Rushen Papers in the Library of the Manx Museum, under the date 1760. The overseer of Kirk German in the repairing of the road-(there must always have been a road, or bollagh here)-commenced his work at Cronk ny Bingagh, from thence going westwards to Peel.
Cronk ny Bingagh means "The Hill of the Jury"; therefore this cronk was in all likelihood a place of great importance as a Place of Assembly in Celtic times; it might possibly have been a Thing in Norse times. The house and garden covering 1.374 a., now stands upon the site of the crook.
The run of the boundary southwards from St. Patrick's Chair to the highway had, it appears, been in dispute, for, according to Major Clowes's letter, " the portion of the boundary referred to, as "originally ascertained in 1868 from the meresmen, was disputed by a Dr. J. R. Oliver, the owner of the ground on both sides of the boundary. He convinced the meresmen that they had been misled by his moving a large boulder marking a salient in the boundary. A Mr J. Kelly, of Greeba Bridge, a member of the Setting Quest, supported Dr. Oliver, and stated that he was well acquainted with the boundary."
The introduction of the name of Dr. Oliver is interesting. He owned the property in 1860, when Wood made his great parochial Survey. It is understood that Dr. Oliver did not live at Greeba ; he lived at Douglas. He edited the three volumes of the Manx Society known as Oliver's Monumenta, published 1860-1862.
On the piece of land marked on the 25in. Ordnance Survey plan as "468-265 a, houses, garden, etc," there are ruins of a little stone erection which I am led to believe are the remains of one of the oldest inhabited houses in the Island. What is left of it ought to be preserved. Its site is among the trees, east of the words "Rocks Plain" on the plan.
Quite an outstanding feature of Greeba are the numerous well-built pathways that cover the whole area. No nineteenth century Landowner in this area could possibly have been responsible for the making of them; to build them would have taken a large staff for years. They are probably the work of the St. Trinian's Barony servants and tenants in the distant past.
There are in the Ordnance Survey records no traditions relating to the old buildings, pathways, outstanding rocks, etc.. and no derivations for the names "Rocks Plain" and "Lagavallough." "Crega,cable," is, however, also given-"Crag-a-cable," "Creg-y -chabbyl" = "the horses' Craig." These places are all on Ordnance Survey sheet X. 13, 437, 438, 440, 466, 467, 468.
We are not positive as to this point, but it probably refers to a tumulus on the North side of Archallaghyn, quite near to the boundary between the parishes. The site is Ordnance Survey 25in. 3694. Mr Kneen suggests Yeul is Norse, and containing two elements, the second being fell.
Where this is I have not been able to find out, although I have looked time and oft. I would advise anyone wishful to locate this stone not to go into Archallaghan wood unaccompanied.
In early history, Greeba and its environs must have been of great military importance. Greeba (gnipa=peak) commands the most important pass in the valley of the Dhoo. On Creg y Quilliam, opposite, there are the remains of earthworks, which are possibly part of a scheme of defence.
But however important Greeba was from a military point of view, its chief interest lies in the Ecclesiastical side. It was the centre of the religious life in the district in Early Christian tunes-even before the commumty attached to St. Ninian's Barony came into existence in the 12th Century.
There was, we know, " the Hospital of Ballagnipa." I suggest that that building lay in the shadow of St. Patrick's Chair. The foundations of a large, more or less rectangular, building lie a short distance from the ruin of a primitive dwelling at Lhergy Volley.
There were both clerical and lay brethren attached to the Barony For many generations they, along with the tenants on their lands, trust have laboured on the soil, and on making roads within the shelter of the rugged rocks.
It is easy so imagine that many of the astonishing roads and pathways all along the southern and eastern face of Greeba are the work of the community attached to the Barony. The paths are well shown on the Ordnance Survey plan of 1868, and these wonderfully constructed roads extend over and around Greeba and Slieau Ruy to Cooil Slieau on the western slope, and to Boshen on the eastern slope
However much we study Greeba its Sphinx-like riddles defy a solution. It has a weird mystery that no other place in the Island possesses.