[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol 4 #3 1939]
by DAVID CRAINE, M.A.
When T. E. Brown walked through Jurby, one day near the end of his life, he declared that it was the last squeak of expiring civilisation-the civilisation he meant of the thatched roof and the open hearth, the griddle and the barley cake. What he would say of poor Jurby now if he revisited the glimpses of the moon is perhaps beside the point.
But, I think that he would agree that Jurby's neighbour, Ballaugh remains, with some small unnoticed differences, the same in appearance as when he came down upon it from blackberrying in Glen Shoggil, over forty years ago, and that it is indeed one of the least spoilt of Manx parishes.
One returns to it from districts afflicted by ribbon development and the unrestful inventions of modern architecture with great content-a content which, upon reflection, is tempered by the fear that sooner or later the blight of tasteless houses may descend here also; and that one may see the realisation of the nightmare vision of a member of the Legislature, who some years ago looked forward to the time when the road from Ramsey to Kirk Michael, now perhaps the most enchanting highway in the Island, would be lined on each side with "desirable" residences.
The Ballaugh shore, like the rest of the lovely stretch of sand and gravel that extends to the Point of Ayre, has miraculously escaped commercial exploitation, but its continual wasting by the sea is an example of the apathy shown at various times by the responsible authorities with regard to the protection and preservation of the Island beaches.
In the 19th century Welsh schooners were permitted to land on the Ballaugh and Jurby shore and carry off to Liverpool large quantities of the stones which had terraced the base of the brows and offered resistance to the attack of the sea. Since that time requests for groins or similar works to save from destruction the excellent farming land which runs northward along the coast to the Kerlane and beyond, have met with little response from the Insular Government.
One interesting point is cleared up by a document of 1703 relating to coast erosion, in which the owner of Ballakinnag complains that persons have raised and carried away limestones from under his estate at Hanmer Hould, whereby the sea has encroached on his land and washed it away.
It is evident from this, reference that the fort of Hanmer Hold stood at the Ballaugh Cass ny Howin or river mouth, and not at the Lhen as has been conjectured.
It was built by John Hammer, Captain of Man in 1575, in anticipation of attacks from Galloway and the Hebrides, and has long ago melted into the waves with many more acres of the parish.
Here, near the Cass ny Howin, from time immemorial the Militia kept watch and ward by day and night. In 1627 "Whetstone Hill" is given as the post for both watches but all memory of this name has been lost. It was probably a bouldercrowned tumulus on the brows of Ballakeoig, and its site, like that of the Fort, now lies below the tide mark.
The Dubbyr Mooar circa 1900
The Dubbyr Mooar, the Great Dub or Pool, formed by the river at its mouth, has also vanished in recent years, swept away by fierce gales from the South-west.
The picture inset was taken forty years ago when the Pool had already suffered greatly from silting. In the background is Ballakinnag and the tree-covered rise of the church hill.
At the beginning of the 19th century and in preceding times, it was a scene of great activity, for the river creek gave shelter to from ten to twenty fishing boats. Nearly half of them were of the kind called "Scouts," manned by eight men apiece, and went to Kinsale for herring. The light boats found plentiful supplies of fish on the Ballaugh Bank, until later times, when, according to local report, poaching trawlers scraped the ground clean of spawn and fish.
But the Dubbyr Mooar was greatly interesting for another reason. It was in this pool and afterwards on the Bank that young Edward Forbes made his first explorations in marine biology, and laid the foundations of his reputation as one of the most brilliant of Victorian scientists.
These places will always be associated, in the words of Professor Herdman, "with the immortal memory of the great Manx naturalist who first made known the abundant treasures of our seas."
Not far away is Ballabeg, the home of his mother's people, where he spent his boyhood vacations. Now it is roofless and desolate, like so many other old Manx country houses of its type-its voices stilled and the fire on its hearthstone long cold.
The Old Smithy
At the cross-roads near the church stands the old smithy, now the only one left in the parish, and close by, the river is spanned by a stone bridge giving access to one of the oldest trackways in the Island, the Bollagh Jiargey (Old Red Road). Happily most of it has so far escaped the serious attentions of the road makers, and apart from its hedges it must be in much the same condition as at any time these last two thousand years. It is a continuation of the coast road from Kirk Bride, negotiable all the year in ancient times, and the life of the northern parishes has moved over it for untold centuries. Along it came Neolithic man to his extensive settlements on the Broughjiarg. Along it, according to one tradition now sometimes disputed, came the men of the South to fight against the North at Santwat, near Kirk Patrick of Jurby; and along it from the barony in that parish came the Bishop's tenants with creels and sleds, bringing reluctantly to his palace at Ballacurrey their customary rents of turf, grain, sheep, geese and hens-not always the choicest of their stores, to judge from the protests which were sometimes made by the indignant prelate.
This 19th century bridge has an aesthetic charm which is not so obvious to the inexpert eye in such modern erections as, say, the new bridge on Sulby Claddagh.
It was preceded by a wooden structure which in the 17th century was kept in repair by erring sons of the Church. In 1672, for example, the Rector, Robert Parr, in a communication which incidentally reveals the tender consciences possessed by Ballaugh men, reported to the following effect:
"The offender hath made his penance in penetentiall habit in tyme of Devine Service on good fryday and to my knowledge he was sorrowful and ashamed of his offence, insomuch that I went to his house severall tymes to give him godly counsel to keep him from despaire..... The fault was forgiven him-only hee to repaire the bridge." There are similar records relating to the Kerlane Bridge and the High Bridge of Ballaugh on the Ramsey-Kirk Michael road.
The penance was not as costly as it sounds, even when allowance is made for the great scarcity of money at the time and its high purchasing power. In 1668 the Captain of Jurby, who had transgressed, duly appeared before the congregation in the customary white sheet and was then given the choice of making up the Lhen Moar bridge or paying a fine of ten shillings. He wisely decided to build the bridge. He bought the wood of the old structure for five shillings, spent half a crown on new wood and labour, and so completed his penance for the not unreasonable sum of seven shillings and sixpence.
Of two tumuli on Ballabeg and close to the Bollagh Jiargey the Cronk Coar (Smooth or Pleasant Hill) has been levelled after suffering severely at times from the attentions of enthusiastic but unsystematic amateurs. The other in the Magher ny Shen Rullick (old churchyard field) is in a fair state of preservation, with nine encircling boulders still in position, and deserves official protection.
At the beginning of the Bollagh Jiargey is the by-road to the farm of Ballakeoig. It was probably the original homestead of the Ballaugh Corletts. The position of this coast farm made it inevitable that the owner should be an officer of the Watch, and the post was held by one member or another of the family for hundreds of years.
One Ballakeoig who died in 1678 was Parish Clerk.
In former times the position of Parish Clerk was regarded as one of some importance. He was often permitted or tolerated as the expression went, to conduct burials and various minor church ceremonials, and members of the most substantial families in Ballaugh, Jurby, Kirk Michael and the other northern parishes did not disdain to carry out the duties of the office and enjoy its perquisites.
The appointment of the Clerk was in the hands of the parishioners who jealously guarded their special right of election. Here is a declaration of choice of a Clerk in 1671
" Whereas Thomas Cowley late Clarke of this parish of Ballaugh is deceased whereby the place is now voide and forasmuch as every parish throughout this Island has the libertie by the Spiritual Statute... to make choyce of their pish Clerke . . - and in regard John Corlett of Ballakeoig is the ablest and fittest man in this parish for this place by reason of his learning, good carriage, vicinity of the minister, and propinquitie to the church, wee therefore whose names are subscribed doe hereby declare that wee make choyce of the said John Corlett to be our Pish Clerke and crave the approbation of the Vicars General in the Ordinarie's absence-"
Thomas Corlett was the most famous of the clan. He was made Sumner-General by Bishop Wilson and was one of his most faithful followers.
Governor Horn imprisoned the Bishop and his Vicars General in 1722, on their refusal to pay a heavy fine. After two months confinement in Castle Rushen the Bishop wrote to Horn offering to pay, without prejudice to their right of appeal, and Thomas Corlett carried the letter to the Governor, who whatever virtues he had, was certainly a man of violent temper.
In an affidavit describing his reception the Sumner General says:
" I, Thomas Corlett, one of the 24 Keyes of this Isle, Do Certifie and will Depose that upon my Delivering the within writing to Governor Horn he called me Villain and Rogue repeatedly, and said I deserved to be put in the Dungeon; and upon my asking him what answer I was to return my Lord Bishop he said, `you may tell him that I called you a Villain.'
(Signed) THO. CORLETT."
The Sumner General's 17th century house still stands at Ballakeoig, but has fallen to baser uses. Cattlé are now sheltered in the living room, where one may see the chiollagh and the chimney corner recess in which, more than two hundred years ago, the Sumner General sat and watched the blue smoke curling upward and planned for his beloved Bishop, or nodded and dreamed in the warmth of the smouldering turf.
The old Church of Ballaugh occupies an elevated position close to a sheltered creek of the sea, and at the junction of coast and landward tracks-a site which must have been important in prehistoric times. A hundred yards east of the churchyard at one period stood a tumulus at a spot still marked by the swell of the ground, and there are two holy wells not far away.
As in the case of the other Manx parish churches, old St Mary's contains in its walls materials from previous works, and is probably an epitome in stone of all the sacred buildings and monuments which have occupied the church enclosure since Neolithic man came to the Island.
One finds another example of the thrifty use of ancient stones in the old Methodist Chapel, now the Village Hall; for it is partly constructed of the remains of an early keeill which a hundred years ago stood nearby in a field of Ballamoar.
The church was enlarged by Bishop Wilson and Dr. Walker in 1717, a date commemorated on the weathercock which surmounts the characteristic and attractive bell turret of the period.
Upon a petition from the parishioners a gallery was added in the second half of the 18th century. The approach was by an external double staircase over the main entrance.
After the building of the new church in 1833 old St. Mary's became ruinous but received a new lease of life in 1849, when the building was shortened and the gallery and stairs removed..
This was during the Rectorate of Thomas Howard, the memory of whose mild and benignant personality still lingers with old people in the parish.
In 1877 the church was once again rescued from decay by Rector Kermode, and has ever since been kept in a good state of repair.
The most important object inside is the Runic Cross of the 11th century-the only one known in the parish, though others may lie hidden in the churchyard or in the walls of the church.
It displays features characteristic of the work of the famous sculptor Gaut, of Cooley, in Kirk Michael, and his school. On ,one side the shaft is decorated with the tendril pattern, a ring chain design on the right, headed by a small Keltic cross, the space on the left filled with the pattern known as key-fret. On the other side the ornament of the head terminates in the arms with the looped buckle and ring design discovered by Gaut, whilst the space to the right is occupied by plait of four. On the left the Runic inscription runs up into the head
"Oulaibr Liutulbsunr raisti krs thana aiftir Ulb sun sin";
Olaf Liotulfson erected this cross to the memory of Ulf his son.
From Olaf or Oulaibr comes the surname MacAuley, Cowla, or Cowley; Liot is found in Macthorliot or Corlett. Whether these two names are directly connected with the persons commemorated on the cross will never be known, but both are found in the earliest records relating to the parish and MacAuleys and MacCorleots owned land adjacent to the church in 1500. The Corvalley is still in the possession of descendants of the Corletts of that time.
The font is of unknown antiquity. It is made of red sandstone block built into a window seat. It is decorated with a cross, once painted in blue and red, and an inscription in Manx reads:
" Ta un Chiarn, un Credjue, un Vashtey,
Un Jee as Ayr jeh ooilley-"
"There is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism,
One God and Father of all."
The lid is modern.
Of the external features of the church perhaps the leaning gate-posts have, naturally enough, excited most comment. It has been seriously suggested that they symbolise a primitive religious cult. The simplest explanation, that the foundations have slipped, is probably the correct one, for they are not earlier than the 18th century; and one cannot imagine any Manx mason deliberately building such an eccentric gateway, and exposing himself to the barbed witticisms which would pursue him relentlessly for the rest of his life.
Among the interesting gravestones is one near the church door to the memory of Thomas Corlett, of Ballacrye, who died. in Jamaica in 1757.
His father left his adventurous son five shillings if he would. come for it. Thomas's ironic commentary upon his parent's will was to bequeath £300 to the poor of the parish, in addition to legacies for his family.
There seems always to have been a considerable amount of emigration, in spite of impediments made by the Insular Government to prevent loss of population. A Manx cloth merchant named Christian lived in London in Elizabethan times, and long before the famous Philip; there was a little colony of Manxmen (including a Stevenson of Balladoole) in Barbadoes, in 1650; a Castletown man died in Arabia in 1707; a son of Archdeacon William Mylrea, of Ballaugh, was one of the crew of a Guinea slaver in 1788; a Craine of Ballaugh was a merchant in the West Indies at the end of the 18th century; and so one could go on indefinitely; for the Manx have lived and died on all the shores of the world.
According to tradition a Mylrea tomb close to the church gate was once used for the concealment of goods obtained from wrecked vessels.
The Ballaugh men were not often exposed to the temptation to plunder wrecks. They were not more virtuous in the matter than those living on the rockbound coats of the east and' south, but the opportunities were fewer. When, however, on rare occasions, an apparently considerate providence cast a. vessel ashore under the Broughjiarg, they were not slow to avail themselves of the chance given them.
One long remembered wreck occurred in 1697. Eighty years later the Rector. James Wilks, noted it as a remarkable happening, and said the ship carried the first cargo of brandy ever known in the Island. The advent of a new type of alcoholic stimulant may have given rise to legends of joyous carousals in the parish and prolonged its memory, but no doubt what added piquancy to the event in the eyes of the sinful Ballaugh men was the fact that the Curate in charge of Ballaugh, who had so often assisted them on the penitential way, had himself" been accused before a jury with buying a saddle, rich cloths and other articles from wreck.
The fate of the brandy is, indicated in the artless petition of one found guilty of carrying off some of the liquor:-
"1699: To the Hon. Nich. Sankey, Governor of this Isle. The humble petition of Dan Cowell, of Ballaugh Sheweth
That your petitioner chanced to carry a small quantity of brandy off the strand when the late ship was wracked, which he sold afterwards to one James Radcliffe and which occasioned a suspicion in a simple Jury that your Petitioner procured the said brandy otherwise, and therefore returned him in fine.
Therefore he humbly begs your Honour to consider how fallible such suspicion may be since but few persons that were on the strand that day could free themselves of that wrack;
and your Petitioner not doubting but some of that said wrack may afford intertainment by some as yet.
From which he humbly implores your Honour to mittigate his said fine and he as in duty bound shall pray. . . "
The truth is the Manx saw no crime in taking wreck, and so anticipating the greedy hand of the Lord of the Isle.
" If any vessel," says the declaration of 1411, "or ship or any other goods be imbay'd within the Heads of Man above water or under water, it is the Lord's by his prerogative."
In 1835 the Attorney-General, Jas, Clarke. an Englishman, wrote of us in a tone of restrained commendation
"After a knowledge of 17 years," he said, "I think favourably of the pure Manx. They are somewhat litigious but not given to crime-and the practice of plundering wrecks I fear to be mainly attributed to the antient custom of the Lord of the Isle taking wreck with no sparing hand. The Lord's wreck is, pregnantly referred to in old documents, and I never find anything in favour of the original owner."
He was referring to the extensive plunder of a brig that had come ashore between Scarlett and Pooyl Vash in 1834, an occasion on which the 700 Methodist members of Castletown took a determined stand. They issued a public notice condemning the plunder, and having called for the return of the stuff, expelled sixty of their number for not obeying.
Mr. William Cubbon has a pleasant story of an old lady who drove away from the wreck with loaded cart, and brandishing an ancient sword, threatened to give "belltinker" to anyone who attempted to deprive her of the loot.
Besides the Archdeaconry and the Rectory of Andreas -which was generally attached to it,, the benefices of Ballaugh and Bride were the two modest promotions for which the Island clergy might reasonably hope, and, as a result, the lists of Rectors, of Ballaugh in particular, include most of those clerics who are famous in Manx church history.
Among them in the earlier period are Sir Robert Parr, Sir Charles his son, William Walker, Matthias Curghey and Matthias his son, and James Wilkes. All of these were VicarsGeneral, selected for their eminence in sanctity and learninga tradition which was broken in 1824 by the appointment of a layman with dubious antecedents.
The most notable of the 17th century Rectors of Ballaujh was Sir Robert Parr (the title "Sir" by the way was used at that time in the case of a clergyman who had not graduated at a, university).
He was not, as his biographers have suggested, a son of the Bishop of the same name. His father was Robert Parr, Parish Clerk of Kirk Arbory, who owned the property now known as Parville, and was probably descended from William Parr, Comptroller of the Island in 1497.
Thomas, another son of the Clerk, was fifty-four years Vicar of Maiew, and has revealed his quaint and amusing personality, with humorless candour, in the Malew Register and various other documents.
Robert appears to have been a man of ability and came to Ballaugh in 1640. It was alleged with a great show of truth that he was in the counsels of the Illiam Dhone party and knew their plans, but he escaped the penalties visited on the insurgents and retained the favour of both sides.
He was probably not quite as Vicar-of-Brayish in his ability to steer a middle course and catch the wind from whatever quarter it blew as commentators have made out. He did not, for example, shrink from a quarrel with Bishop Rutter, the favoured proteg6 of the Stanleys, and used such downright expressions of disagreement that the Bishop accused him of abusing and belying him, and he was promptly consigned to St. German's prison.
Bishop Barrow, a shrewd judge of men, re-appointed him Vicar-General, and there are various indications that he performed his Rectorial duties and supervised his parish officials with efficiency. In 1665, for instance, Barrow, who had begun to discipline the demoralised diocese, demanded returns from the parishes. When they were not forthcoming every churchwarden in the Island was gaoled, except those of Ballaugh and Kirk Bride-a notable and probably unique prison assembly of over sixty church wardens which excites the imagination.
But what they said in sorrow or anger in the time of their adversity, what pious resolutions they made, are unfortunately lost to us.
The Ballaugh men, no doubt, appreciated the good counsels which had saved them from the inhospitable dungeon of the Peel. In their reply to the Bishop's questions they said,
" The minister is a constant preacher, and that eerie. much to edificacon in our own tongue, a man of sober liffe and meeke condicon."
Asked concerning his dress, they said,
" For his habit we think it decent."
The most famous of the Manx Parrs was the Vicar-General's son John, born at Ballaugh in 1651. He became Deemster, and it was said of him in the early 19th century, with regard to his, ability and integrity, that no better judge had ever occupied the Deemsters' bench.
" That great and learned man," wrote an English judge in 1817, "that great and learned man Deemster Parr, of whom we have spoken with that praise which so justly belongs to him."
His virtues brought him little pecuniary reward. He died in 1713 and was buried with his ancestors in the chancel of Kirk Arbory.
The Ballaugh Parish registers are the oldest in the Island, the earliest date being 1598. They were the subject of articles in A. W. Moore's Manx Note Book. They suffered severely owing to the negligence of the incumbents at various times, particularly in the Restoration period, and because of the inadequate protection they received.
In 1675, for example, the churchwardens were presented for not repairing the church door, the church chest, and church lock, whereby, says the chapter quest, "the bookes and surplice are much abused and cutt with mice."
Through similar neglect and the damp chambers where they were stored, the early Diocesan records suffered greatly.
Sir Nicholas Thompson, Rector of Ballaugh and Episcopal Register, wrote in 1621 that of the Diocesan record books before 1572 most of them were perished before he had them, "yett God willing," he says, "I shall doe my best to preserve what is left." After his time there was more destruction, and the earliest will I have found on record does not go further back than 15-98.
The wills were not infrequently written by the parish minister when the testator was. in extremis, and describe his last minute arrangements for the disposal of his earthly possessions. In the result such documents exhibit an unusual quality of drama. Here is part of a Ballaugh will of 1678, written apparently by the Rector, Sir Charles Parr, who inserts the word "loud" in two places, like directions in a play. (The husband, as was usual, left half the team of oxen and half the crop to his son, the other half being, by law, reserved for the widow).
"To his eldest son Thomas Corlett," says the will, "his parte of the cropp of corne and teame of oxen, anct desirea his wife to give her consent that the said Thos. should have her parte of the cropp of corne and team of oxen but she replied, alas will I have for my parte of them but three pounds that were little enough for the nursing of the child if I be with child, and upon this he said againe (loud) you have your owne still. After which discourse both the testator and his wife held their tongs for a prettie space, and then againe he said what say you (loud) will you give your consent to halfe the teame of oxen and she replied I wille."
And here is another 17th century will which strikes a note of victory, and demonstrates the truth of the Manx adage that the grey mare is often the better horse. The testatrix had been deserted by her husband, a Ballaugh man, and begins by cutting him off with sixpence. In addition, to make doubly sure that he should not be able to claim a widower's right in her property, she described how she had come by it.
He ran away, she said, leaving her with but half a cow worth ten shillings, and a small house also valued at ten shillings; but this was reserved with much ado for the satisfying of her son William to whom twenty shillings were owed by his father. She sold her only asset, the half cow, and, with the price and borrowed money, bought another cow which, she says in Biblical phraseology, by God's blessing increased to fourteen beasts, and of the same increase and breed were every one of the beasts she now possessed. She therefore left all to the son.
Occasionally one comes across a footnote to history as in a will of 1655. "Robert Christian of Ballaugh," runs the simple statement, "went for England, a souldier with the Earle of Derbie and did not returne."
He was one of ten men recruited from Ballaugh, as from each of the Island parishes, and taken by the Earl in his illjudged expedition to Lancashire in 1651. There they were cut to pieces in the battle of Wigan Lane, those who did not fall in the fight being hunted to their death through the countryside.
With the wills are often found marriage contracts arranged by the parents of the betrothed young people; and these documents became fruitful ground for disputes on the death of one or other of the signatories many years later.
The bride's portion was an important part of the agreement. When a Kirk Bride girl married the eira (eldest son) of a Ballaugh quarterland farmer in 1649 she brought, as her dowry, two oxen, three kine, twenty sheep, six blankets and one mare and foal. In addition her parents provided a wedding dinner of thirty messes.
A normal feature of Ballaugh wills was a bequest to the Rector, generally a mutton, and to the poor, of the parish varying quantities of corn, meal, and malt-as a rule a firlot, a measure equal to two bushels of wheat and to three of barley or oats.
In 1664 an enquiry by Bishop Barrow and his Vicars-General showed that the executors and the supervisors appointed to watch the executors did not carry out the testators' wishes in this respect, but with their friends made use of the best of the gifts to the poor by eating and drinking them at the funerals. This revelation had an immediate result, and two years later it was stated that few gifts were then left to the poor, but what was left was still spent at the funerals.
The custom did not, however, die out. In 1678 a John Corlett, of Ballaugh, left a firlot, of barley to be given to the poor at the Cross of Douglas, and there are many similar cases in the 18th century.
An important part of the funeral ritual was the feast of "the corpse lodging," apparently the night preceding the burial, though drinking also took place before and after the funeral ceremony. At the funeral feast in 1692 of Susannah Murrey, a Castletown merchant's daughter, the following were consumed ten bottles of brandy, twelve bottles of wine, ten dozen cakes, one and a half barrels of beer, and quantities of meat equal in value to an ox, with sugar and spices.
Manx country people could rarely indulge in such a generous expenditure and the Ballaugh records are therefore modest. In 1663, for example, a woman left "four shillings worth of beere to be dranke by her friends and company the time of her lodging." In 1721 William Craine, the Glaick, left two sheep for the feast.
One curious mention of the corpse lodging may be quoted from the neighbouring parish of Jurby, in 1725, when Thomas Teare, of Lough Croute ordered and desired an undutiful daughter to restores a certain pewter dish the same night he should be lodged in his own house; for, as he no doubt shrewdly calculated, she would not dare to disobey at such a fateful hour.
In the 17th century burial often took place within the church beneath the family seat of the deceased, though the crüncel was the most desirable position. The floor of St. Mary's was unpaved at that time, and the church wardens excused its condition by referring to the constant disturbance caused by the interments.
Poor people were buried coffinless, their bodies wrapped in a blanket and fastened to the bier with bands made of split osiers or briers. Sometimes a wattle coffin woven with similar material was used. The leaves of the magic trammon were strewn in the grave as a specific against evil influences and occasionally carved on the gravestone.
The old Rectory adjoining the churchyard was built by William Walker, who was born in 1680, and was probably the most learned and respected Manx divine of his period.
The romantic story of his rise from farm boy to Rector of Ballaugh, Vicar-General, and intimate friend of Bishop Wilson, is well known. With his fellow Vicar-General he shared the imprisonment of the Bishop in Castle Rushen. In this dispute between the temporal and ecclesiastical powers, Ballaugh provided two of the chief figures in each of the opposing parties William Walker and Thomas Corlett, the Sumner General, supporters of the Bishop, and the two Mylreas, Deemster and Attorney-General, on the side of Lord Derby.
Nothing confirmed William Walker's popularity in Ballaugh more than the modesty of his behaviour on the occasion of his return to the parish with the honour of the Doctorate of Letters fresh upon him. His mother was among those assembled to welcome him, and he knelt before her to receive her blessing, in accordance with a charming Manx custom which did not long survive the eighteenth century.
It was usual for children to greet their parents at the beginning of the day by asking for a blessing.
"Dy der Jee dou e vannaght!" they said, bending the knee: "God give me His blessing!" and received the answer "Dy bannee Jee oo!" "God bless thee!"
"When didst thou last ask thy mother's blessing?" enquired the ecclesiastical judge in 1716, in a case where mother and son were at variance. ,
"I have not asked it these seven years," replied the son, and shocked the court by such evidence of filial depravity.
In the old Rectory, one fine June morning in 1781, Rector Daniel Gelling entertained John Wesley to breakfast "very agreeably," says the famous Journal.
Daniel Gelling and Henry Corlett, a Ballaugh man, appear to have been the only two Manx clergymen who refused to be intimidated by the Episcopal ban upon any commerce with the Methodist movement.
On the other hand their clerical brethren generally were no doubt in sympathy with another Ballaugh man, Archdeacon William Mylrea, who was greatly exasperated by some of the phenomena of the new religious revival which had delivered such a shock to the complacency of 18th century churchmen, secure in the belief that they lived in the best possible of worlds.
It is true that he complained with some reason when a woman who was guilty of some of the extravagances which accompany new and vigorous movements, "broke out," he says, "with wild enthusiastic effusions fraught with insinuations of breach of Duty in the Rectorship with many expressions indecent and unseemly.... When quite exhausted with her enthusiastic harangue she advised her audience to accompany her to a Love Feast when many of those tinctured with Methodism, some on foot and some on horseback, immediately hurried along with her-"as if hurrying to a fair!" says the horrified Rector-"to a meeting holden at Ballaugh on the same day."
In 1787 the Church Courts were still able to deal drastically with obscure rebels against ecclesiastical authority, and the Enthusiast, a significant 18th century synonym for "fanatic," was fined and committed to prison until she found bonds for her good behaviour.
Dr. Walker died in 1729. In his will, which contains a glowing tribute to the Stevensons of Balladoole who had befriended him in his impoverished boyhood, he left funds for the erection of a parochial school which had, so far, been held in the church. This building stands on the highroad a quarter of a mile from the church. In the 19th century it was known as the Old School or the School at the Low End, and is now a dwellinghouse.
In the 17th and 18th Centuries Ballaugh was more favourably situated in the matter of education than many of the other country parishes.
A report of 1670 proudly stated, "School was kept all year though not only for our own parish children, butt for such as come from Kirk Michael and Lezayre."
But apart from study of the catechism and preparation for Confirmation the children's schooling does not appear to have been of much account, and if one is to judge from signed petitions and other documents a large proportion of the country people were illiterate until the 19th century.
Indeed nothing more could be expected. There was an .almost entire lack of school books, and no certainty of continuous instruction. This was owing to the wretched pay of the licensed schoolmasters, who eked out their scanty wages with other occupations and had little to lose if suspended for negligence. The case of the parochial master of Kirk Conchan who was presented in 1810 for keeping a cow in the schoolhouse was not likely to surprise the people of that time.
On the other hand there is ample evidence of the anxiety (of parents to obtain what education they could for their children. In Ballaugh in 1680, when the Church authorities failed to provide a school, twenty of the parishioners, maintained one at their own expense. Indeed, one of the things which force them~selves upon one's notice in going through the church records. of the 17th and 18th centuries, is the constant prayer of the patient Manx laymen for regular church services, preferably in Manx, with instructional sermons, and religious and secular teaching for their children.
The Dolly is a little group of houses built round a triangular green which until the middle of the 19th century was the scene of the patronal fair. This was held on August 26th, the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, called in Manx "Laa'l Moirrey 'Toshee," Mary's chief feast day. "Dolly" is a worn down form of "Dollagh," the name of two quarterlands, and derived from the ancient Dhoolough (black lake), still existent but reduced in size.
Ballaugh has always in spirit been one of the most independent and democratic of the Manx parishes.. Perhaps it owes this to the fact that, unlike some other parts of the Island, it has never produced a family capable of dominating its neighbours. It is true however that the Mylreas of the Dollagh Mooar quarterland were prominent in Church and State for over a hundred years.
The first was William Mylrea, who was out with the Ballaugh company in the Illiam Dhone rising, but went to some pains to convince the Restoration authorities of his loyalty to the house of Stanley. He was successful in this and was eventually made Captain of Ballaugh. Illiterate and of somewhat 'truculent temper, he came into collision, in 1671, with the Rector, whom he affronted by using the familiar "thee" and thou" instead of the politer "you."
He demanded who had written verses about Mylecharane: and himself, and evidently suspected Sir Robert Parr. One would like to think that here is an early reference to the Mylecharane ballad. Apparently, however, some country poet had been exercising his satirical wit upon the military record of Mylrea and William Mylechraine, of Lezayre, neither of whom had cut a very heroic figure in the events of 1651.
His son, Daniel I, filled various posts, including that of the the Coronership, which was still sufficiently important to provide, as in his case, a step to the Deemster's bench. He was, also Deputy Governor. He strengthened his claim on the benevolence of the Lord by a whole-hearted support of the Governor's party opposed to Bishop Wilson, and the Deemster's son,. Daniel II, was made Attorney-General, and later, Deemster.
The Attorney-General's heir, Daniel III, in his turn, received. the Deemstership, and the second son, William, through they influence of his father with the Duke of Atholl, became Archdeacon.
The death, in 1832, of William's son, Daniel IV, who also, was Archdeacon, completes the tale of four generations of the Dollagh Mooar which in that time had produced three Deemsters and two Archdeacons.
But although the Mylreas had such a remarkable succession: of public posts, their reign was too short to create a tradition of superiority in the parish, and their land-holdings, disposed of in 1777, were not sufficiently important to give them the prestige which at that time arose from the possession of large estates.. It has often been asserted that in Hall Caine's "Deemster" the unattractive character from whom the book takes its name was the portrait of one of the Mylreas. But the novelist denied the identity of his characters in that book with any particular figures in real life, and claimed the right of every creative artist to the paternity of the child of his imagination.
The popular Manx Christian name Daniel, which figures so prominently in the Mylrea pedigree, was, of course, a corruption of Donald or Danold. In the 18th century it was confused with the Biblical name, and under the influence of the religious revival of the time supplanted the native Donald. Patrick, another popular Ballaugh name, passed into eclipse about the same time and for much the same reason.
The new St. Mary's was built in 1833 to the plans of John Welsh. His work has been adversely critcised, and his church at Ballaugh received the equivocal compliment of being classed the best of the bad designs for which he was responsible.
An interesting possession of the Church is, a silver Communion Service, presented by Lady Buchan, daughter of Col. Wilks, and grand-daughter of Vicar-General Wilks, who was Rector of Ballaugh and died there in 1777. The Buchan School at Castletown was named after her, and in extreme old age she still retained vestiges of that unusual beauty which captivated Napoleon's entourage during her father's governorship of St. Helena.
The Ballaugh river is crossed at many points by large slabs of tough fibrous slate, fourteen feet and over in length, and obtained from a local quarry. They are called "dail stones," "dail" perhaps referring to the deal planks, or "dails" as they were called, first used for bridge making. One of the finest of these stones is at Squeen, where the millstream from the disused mill rejoins the river. They are now being gradually superseded by concrete and steel.
The village of Ballaugh came into existence at the end of the 18th century, with the improvement of roads and transport. The population of the parish steadily increased to its maximum in about 1840, when it was 1,500-three times its present size.
A list of its activities makes melancholy reading for those who deplore the decay of the countryside. In addition to over a hundred men who went to the seasonal fishing from the Cass ny Howin, there was a considerable number of skilled craftsmen in varied occupations. There were at least three smithies at work, and two nailmakers' forges; hat factories of modest size, where beaver and straw hats were made, the straw being plaited in various homes; a tannery; a walk mill; weavers and bleachers; lime burners; glove-makers who produced strong leather gloves; and of course, shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, masons and millers. Finally there were three breweries.
In times before coffee, tea and cocoa came into common use, beer was regarded as an important and indeed essential article of diet.
It is interesting to note the attitude of a Church Court before which a Kirk Arbory man appeared in 1720 for drunkenness. He was punished not only because he was intoxicated, but also because he had wantonly spilt good ale on the road as he carried it homeward.
In the 15th and 16th centuries Ballaugh had its two parish ale-tasters who kept a watchful eye on the quality of the drink and saw that it was sold in sealed measures at the price fixed by law.
The Stanley regime encouraged home brewing by letting out brewing pans at a yearly rent, and as late as 1715 there were twelve of these circulating in Ballaugh alone.
The 18th century witnessed a change for the worse in the drinking habits of the people, due to the growing contraband traffic and the cheap spirits which flooded the country. Prior to the Revestment the duty on these was only 2d. a gallon, and as late as 1830 Bishop Ward declared that cheap liquor was the curse of the Island, and that a man could make a beast of himself for sixpence. A few merchants in Douglas, Castletown and Peel enriched themselves by astutely combining smuggling activities with legitimate trade, whilst large sections of the population were demoralised and impoverished.
This social deterioration displays itself in unexpected ways. In. Ballaugh not only did prosècutions for drunkenness increase as the 18th century moved on, but presentments for using bad language reveal that even the curses. which had on occasion shown some traces of the poetic quality or an unexpected turn of expression, had degenerated into the coarse and monotonous profanities of the pot house.
In 1820 the House of Keys made sound, if belated, suggestions to restrict the sale of intoxicants, but ten years later over 800 drink licences (including 700 for wine and spirits) were issued, and Ballaugh, although not so plentifully equipped as other districts, still possessed one hotel and seventeen public houses.
Out of the violent and inevitable reactions to this state of affairs sprang the temperance movement, which swept the Island, and other countries suffering from the same evils, with a crusading fervour which did not lose its intensity until the end of the century.
More than a mile north of the village on the Ramsey road is still to be seen one of the white boulders which Bishop Wilson, in 1715, accepted as a Ballaugh-Lezayre boundary mark. From there the line runs through the Curragh and finally follows the course of the Kerlane Water to the sea.
The upper part of this stream flows through the Lag ny FoilIan (the hollow or cove of the sea gulls) below Ballavolley. According to a legend once current in the parish, sea raiders coming in at the Lhen in ancient days were able to penetrate the undrained Curragh to this point in their flat-bottomed boats, and then landed to plunder and burn.
In 1677 the Ballaugh-Kirk Michael boundary was in dispute. Ballaugh witnesses declared that it came down the Bishop's Glen, through the Chapel and so by a devious route to the Purt Noa on the sea at Balnahowin. Some have said that the witnesses, in an unreasonable zeal for the truth, made the line zigzag through Orry's Tower before dividing the Chapel, so that a Bishop, if he wishes, may sleep with his head in Ballaugh and his feet in Kirk Michael.
The witnesses also asserted "that in ancient days the respective Parsons and Vicars did severally officiate divine service, the one at the one side or end of the said Chappell and the :other at the other side or end... alternately upon the. . . dayes of perambulation."
In 1741 Bishop Wilson drew the attention of his clergy to their failure in not maintaining the traditional practice of walking the parish boundaries annually on Holy Thursday, and called upon them to resume so laudable a custom. His orders were carried out for a time, but later only at long and irregular intervals. There was a Ballaugh-Kirk Michael perambulation in 1860, and one on the Jurby boundary in 1877. The last recorded in the "Parochialia"-the admirable parish record instituted by Rector Kermode-was between Ballaugh and Kirk Michael on May 23rd, 1882.
The Rector and Vicar took part in religious exercises at the Purt Noa, on the coast, and continued the service in Bishopscourt, Chapel, taking up their traditional positions in that building. The boundary walk was then resumed to Druidale and the Sulby river.
At the entrance to the Glion Dhoo-the Glen of Ballaughwere two circular earthworks occupying dominating positions on the flanking hills. The western one on Sheau Curn was de~stroyed early in the 19th century. The other. the Castal Lajer (strong castle) still stands high up on Slieau Vollee.
There is no record of its ever having been systematically examined, and its original purpose is not known. There is a tradition of an underground chamber, but whatever entrance it had is now hidden.
The earthwork approaches sixty yards in diameter and on the lower side of the slope the embankment' is still twelve to fifteen feet high.
The Glen has many euphonious names to match its nltural beauty-the treen names Carnedal, Scrondal and Glion Dhoo; field names like Breckan y Kayl and Magher ny Castal; the hill slopes of Brough ny Vannag and Ard ny Crongan; and the subsidiary gills of Glion Vorrey, Glion Shoggyl, Glion Shellagh, and Glion na Halaina.
At the Carmodil Glen foot, where its stream joins the Ballaugh river, is an interesting little group of houses, one of them with an outside stairway; and nearby is the site of Keeill Vorrey, the Chapel of the Virgin Mary. A boundary hedge crowns the chapel hill, which on the far side has been completely dug away. There is little visible evidence of the building which once stood there. From time immemorial the Mollavorras - the devotees of the Virgin Mary, and perhaps the original guardians of the keeill-have clung to the slopes of the glen, and the Anglicised form of the name, Morrison, is still to be found in the neighbourhood.
The oldest Ballaugh mill was that of Scrondal, and the only one mentioned in the Manorial Roll, of 1513. Another corn mill was established at Squeen in later times. To this the crofters were compelled to take their grain, whilst Scrondal was reserved for the use of the quarterlands. This ancient mill, like fourteen others in the Island, had the doubtful privilege of paying an annual Tithe pig, which would be expected to be of high quality because of the abundant provender under the miller's control. In the 18th century, the tithe in kind was commuted for a sum of money.
On the eastern side of Glen Shoggil, above Ballathoar, are some remains of the ancient earthern fell dyke which marked the limit of the Common Lands, and is often mentioned in the early laws. After 1866, it was replaced by drystone walls, excellently built by Scottish dykers.
At the beginning of the 18th century, various encroachments were made by the Lord upon the mountain lands. In some cases, Government officers acquired portions, and in others stretches of land were granted to lessees-in particular, one, McGuire, of Dublin.
In July, 1724, bitter resentment was aroused in Ballaugh when it was reported that the commoners' rights were threatened, and that the Governor's officers and McGuire were making a survey in the hills. A body of men assembled at Cronk Ould, and made an attack upon a cart conveying provisions and liquors for the survey party. The rope harness was cut and, according to the indictment, the Ballaugh men "behaved in a most raging manner."
When the soldiers who had been prudently brought by the officers appeared on the scene, Robert Corlett, of Ballakeoig, boasted that he could beat any two of them, for he did not feel them in his hand; and the Coroner of !Michael said he heard another cry, "Maugher !" "which in English," he said, "I take to be `Battle !'."
Bloodshed, however, was averted, and the ringleaders punished. Adam Cain, who had taken the lead, was heavily fined and put into the stocks of the four towns for two hours in turn, with a paper on his breast, naming the crime. Ten others, who included representatives from seven of the Corlett quarterlands of the parish, were given similar punishment, but of less severity.
From Scrondal upwards, the glen was full of legend, now only vaguely remembered by a few of the oldest people, and most of it forgotten in the last generation-of fairies and phynnoderees, of small snow-white goats dancing in the moonlight and making thunder as their dainty hooves struck the responsive ground; and of powerful witches, one of whom was recalled when cloud or mist wreathed the head of Slieau Dhoo, for then they said that the mountain was wearing the cap of Nan-yCaillagh.
The Port had its stories of robbers htding in the ravines, of eagles carrying off lambs, and the dismal end of travellers who, met bad weather on the hillpath from Injebreck and were found dying or dead, disfigured by the beaks of carrion birds of prey.
There is, as a contrast, the adventure of one coming from. Douglas on a Saturday night in 1715, who was so drunk that he fell off his horse on the mountains and did not find the animal till the next day. His descent into Ballaugh with the creel-laden horse was observed, and he was presented for Sabbathbreaking.
His excuses were,however, accepted by a sympathetic Court which found in happily-chosen phrases that he was indisposed by an ague-a complaint common in the Curragh before it was drained-and was, therefore„ intoxicated unawares!
On a summer's day, the Port is a delightful spot, joyous: with birds and the music of the swift bright river. But when the westering sun deserts this strange and beautiful amphitheatre among the hills, and the shadow of Sheau Curn creepsacross the green flats, people sensitive to environment find that. the place acquires a subtle and disturbing quality in the evening light.
The harsh, impatient croak of the ravens still quartering the sky takes on a more sinister note; and a solitary cor-ny-hastan; looms up gigantic and threatening through the growing dusk, as, he flies with heavy wing towards the ridge above the Glen Dhoo.
It is not to, be wondered at that the imaginations of the little community which once existed here responded to the atmosphere .and that they saw and heard unusual things. The Port is now deserted, the river flats are no longer tilled, and the tuckmill is a roofless ruin.
Above the Port, a gully, called the Glion,na-Halaina, comes down Slieau Çurn into the narrowing Glion Dhoo. Half-way up this little ravine are the remains of two earthworks. The one more strongly defined is a pentagonal enclosure, each side about fifty feet in length, standing on the south bank of the rivulet which divides the gulley.
Old men of the Port said that it was a fort of the Danes, and young people were warned to avoid it for fear of enchantment. Urns, too, are said to have been uncovered on the site by rabbit trappers.
The parish of Ballaugh climbs over Sheau Vollee and Slieau Dhoo down to its last outposts in the valley of the Awin Mooar (Great River), as the Sulby was once called. There, under Druidale, Ballaugh makes rendezvous with three other parishes -Kirk Braddan, Kirk Michael and Lezayre-at a point to which some significance, religious or territorial, must have been attached in far-off times. It is the site of urn burials, and the remains of a chapel, Keeill Vael, and a holy well are to be found there.
The wedge of Ballaugh which comes down to the Great River, between Kirk Michael and Lezayre, forms the isolated treen of Ardrenk-the Height of the Dancing - and constituted the Forester's Lodge. In ancient days, it was the perquisite of the Lord's Forester, who guarded his master's rights and prerogatives in the Forest. Out of this land he paid customs of oats from ground now gone out of cultivation.
It was from here that he set out annually on St. Columba's Eve, June 8th, to sound his horn thrice on the summit of Snaefell. Two days after this symbolic ceremonial, and carefully watched by the justly suspicious sheepowners, he ranged the hills in search of unshorn sheep whose fleece became his lawful due.
The Lodge has been in ruins for more than a century, and its land is now merged in the Commons.
| Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received MNB
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