[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol 4 #3 1939]
[note given as part of the reports on Excursions]
REV. CANON J. H. CAIN, RECTOR.
June 8th, 1939.
The Parish Church, where they were now seated, was but seventeen miles from the Scottish coast, that is four miles nearer than to the town of Douglas. Formerly there were several loughs in the parish; Lough Cranstal, 17 acres, still filling up with water in wet weather; Lough Pherick or St. Patrick's Lough at the Dogmills, now drained, whose waters until a comparatively recent date turned the wheel of the adjoining mill. Although enquiry had been made as to the derivation of the word "Dogmills" he had never been able to get a satisfactory explanation. The name "Kionlough" also indicates the existence formerly of another lough, and its bed may still be seen. In 1892 boring was made for coal at the Point of Ayre; brine was discovered, and this to-day is led into Ramsey by a pipe line along the shore to the Salt Works. Formerly the telegraph cable was laid from Cranstal, but later removed to Port-e-Vullen, and later still to Cornaa. Neolithic implements, flints and fragments of urns had been found. Reference was made to the ancient division of the parish into Treens, prior to the formation of parishes. There are now eleven Treens, although formerly but eight existed, Cranstal having been divided into three portions and Crosby into two. The sites of five keeills are known, and one of them, Keeill Varkish. appears to have been used as a burial place until comparatively recent times. The old church, which was demolished in 1870, was situated in the old churchyard, about 30 yards eastward of the present church, and its site is marked by a tree. It was a simple structure, not unlike other Manx churches of the time, and an illustration of it may be seen in one of the Manx Society's volumes. The site would appear to have been a sacred one from very early times. When the parochial system was introduced about the 12th century the keeill in best repair, or the most conveniently situated, or the one regarded as the most sacred, would probably be selected, and out of this has developed the parish church. It is situated on the Treen of St. Bridget, almost certainly St. Bridget of Kildare, the disciple of St. Patrick, and who was buried at Down Cathedral, 460, by the side of St. Patrick and of St. Columba. There is an ancient stone, known as the "Adam and Eve" stone, affixed to the wall in the porch; it is sadly defaced owing to having at an earlier date been placed on a damp wall; indeed there is now no trace of the carving; happily however, there is a cast, taken many years ago, in the vestry, which gives an excellent idea of the original when it was fixed on the outer wall of the old church. The stone dates from the 13th century, and very few are known in Britain. The sun dial over the door, reminding us that mechanical timepieces were not so common as they are to-day used to stand over the door of the old church, above the Adam and Eve stone, and was the gift of William Lace of the Kerrowdhoo, in 1822. A silver chalice, the gift of Archdeacon Kippax, in 1701, was exhibited; at that time Bishop Wilson was at the beginning of his episcopate. This chalice was repaired later by the Rev Philip Moore, who was Rector from 1760 to 1783. He was one of the best known clergy of his time, and it is stated that all of the clergy, save four, of the succeeding generation received their education from him; a window to his memory was pointed out. A set of pewter Communion plate dated 1759 was also shewn. That was towards the end of Wilson's time, when "The Discipline" had been enforced by him for sixty years, with the result that all parishioners appear to have attended the Communion Service at any rate at Easter. It has been said that at that time about 400 parishioners comrnunicated at Easter, practically the adult population of the parish.
The Registers begin in 1693, and it is clear that burials took place within the church as well as without; it was customary for the Rectors to be buried "under the Altar," and there are entries to that effect. Gretna Green apparently was not unknown, for in 1721 an entry states that a certain young couple went to Scotland in order to be married, and returning ten days later said they were now married. There are several entries of boats washed out to sea from Cranstal and ships being wrecked on the coast, and their occupants being drowned; that would be before the lighthouse was erected at the Point of Ayre. Small-pox also made its ravages, and on two occasions ,.at least there were severe epidemics carrying off many parishioners. One entry states that a man was 105 when he died, and. another is that of a man stated to have been murdered by the master of his vessel at sea. The action between Elliot and Thurot, in 1760, would be visible from the parish, and guns taken from Thurot's ships may still be seen, used as supports. for field gates in Cranstal. It is said that the roadway over the Cranstal watercourse is supported by such cannon. He had been told that turnips were first grown in the parish by Vicar-General Crellin, Rector from 1798 to 1808. There being no Rectory at that time he lived at and farmed Ballakesh, and the story goes that the neighbouring farmers used to visit the turnip field on Sunday afternoons to inspect and deride the Parson's boghtynid.
In the churchyard lies Esther Nelson, daughter of the Rev John Nelson, Rector from 1830 to 1847, who was the author of "Island Minstrelsy." An account of her may be found in "Manx Worthies." Two fairs used to be held, one at the parish church, St. Bridget's Fair, and the other at Ballavarkish, St. Mark's Fair, and they took place on the respective Saint's Days. From what has been narrated, these were not invariably peaceful trading occasions. Much liquor was in evidence, and the "young bloods" used the opportunity to pay off old scores amongst themselves, with the result that the fair ground was sometimes like a field of battle. After all, in those days men had to create their own entertainment! There is now no public house in the parish, although a letter in the possession of Canon Cain stated that a former Governor had laid it down that every parish should have at least one public house ! The last application for a public house was in 1879, when all but four of the parishioners signed a petition against it, and the licence was refused. The population has varied much during the last two or three centuries. In 1726 it was 612; by 1841 it had risen to 1,153; in 1931 it was 452; and as far as can be judged the number is still falling. The present church, a beautiful building, was erected in 1870, and the Tower and the Rectory were the gift of the late Mrs Edward Farrant, of Ballakillinghan. It was consecrated by George Augustus Selwyn, Bishop of Lichfield; in 1876.
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