BALLURE CHURCH, RAMSEY

P. W. CAINE

THIS charming little church received its present form in approximately the year 1850, when after having fallen into ruin it was restored by the Rev. William Kermode, then chaplain of St. Paul's, which is this church's successor. I say 'approximately ' because I have seen the date stated, in different books, as 1849, 1850, and 1851, and all I can be certain of, from newspapers of the period, is that work on the walls and gate of the churchyard had begun by 28th February, 1849. Previous restorations had taken place in 1706 and 1747, at the instance of Bishop Wilson.

The first documentary record of the church is in 1637, when 'William Sumpter had his penance commuted for 20s. to be paid towards Ramsey Chapel.' In 1640 Bishop Parr appointed wardens for the 'chapel of Ballure,' and directed them to present to the ecclesiastical courts for punishment such inhabitants of Ramsey and of this neighbourhood as absented themselves from the services, 'except at solemn feasts and Communion days, when we will them to go to the mother church ' - that is to say, Maughold. The chapel is then described as ' having been made with great cost.' (Canon M. W. Harrison, South Ramsey and its Churches).

There is no satisfactory evidence on the question of the saint to whom the church was dedicated, but it was known at different times as St. Catherine's, St. Mary's, and simply 'the chapel of Ballure,' or 'the chapel at Ramsey.' Canon Harrison says the church has been called St. Catherine's, and the naming of it thus has been attributed to Bishop Parr. It was called St. Catherine's in the newspapers of 1849. But Leech's Guide to Ramsey, in an edition published not earlier than 1855 or later than 1861, describes it as St. Mary's; Mr. P. M. C. Kermode uses the name St. Mary's in the Fourth Report of the Manx ArchŠological Survey, and St. Mary's is the name in the Ordnance Survey map of 1870. Mr. David Craine has given me a copy of a record dated 1688, showing that John Parr was appointed curate to read Divine Service in St. Mary's chapel of Ballure.

I venture to suggest an earlier date and a different derivation. The meaning of Ballure, the name of the estate on which the chapel stands, and also the name of the treen of which this estate formed one quarterland, is commonly said to be 'farm of the yew-trees.' Canon Harrison states that some old yew-trees were seen standing near the churchyard at the beginning of the nineteenth century. King Godred II, who reigned between 1153 and 1187, granted to the abbey of St. Bees an estate in the Isle of Man called Asmundirtoft, 'in exchange for the church of St. Olave and the little estate which is called Euastad, which was too short and narrow for them, as well for culture as for the feeding of animals.' Where Euastad was, no scholar has been able to discover. But stad is the Norse equivalent of the Manx balla, and on the face of it, Euastad means the farm or homestead of Eua. Mr. J. J. Kneen considers that Eua is derived from the Norse personal name Ingvor or Ivor, and though Mr. Kneen did not use this argument, there is an exact analogy in the variation of the Scottish (and Manx) personal name Evan (by most Manx people pronounced Eevan), and Ewan. Ivor may also have been pronounced as if spelt Eevor.

It may be, then, that the first church on this site, other than a presumed keeill associated with the well Chibbyr Woirrey, 'well of St. Mary,' situated a short distance away - the existence of which is an argument for the naming of the present church as St. Mary's - existed in the second half of the twelfth century, that it belonged to the monastery of St. Bega or St. Bees, and that it was dedicated to the Norse martyr-king St. Olave. Canon John Quine has pointed out that the great Benedictine abbey of St. Mary at York, from which St. Bees sprang, had as its nucleus a church dedicated to St. Olaf.

Services in Ballure, at least from the time of Bishop Parr, were conducted by a layman licensed as a reader and schoolmaster. School was in fact kept in the chapel. The inhabitants of Ramsey and of the treen of Ballure had to pay cess for the upkeep of the chapel, and to make contributions towards the reader's wages. Appointments to this post of reader are recorded with some detail in John

Keble's Life of Bishop Wilson. The document copied by Mr. Craine apparently records an exception. John Parr is stated in the Manx ' Society's Volume, Church Notes, Diocese of Sodor and Man, to have been appointed vicar cf Rushen in 1691 and rector of Bride in 1700. T. W. J. Woods, reader and master of the school in the middle eighteenth century, was in holy orders, and after two years of readership was appointed chaplain. Later he was vicar of Maughold and then vicar of Braddan.

The chancel window was given by admirers of the Rev. George Paton, chaplain of St. Paul's from 1871 to 'goo, and father of Miss Sybil Paton and Canon E. C. Paton. The small circular windows at the west end are a memorial to one of his daughters, Miss Jessie Theodora Paton. The windows in the north and south walls, numbering seven, were given by Miss Ann King, of Port Lewaigue, in memory of her parents, sister and brothers. There is a tablet in memory of William Paton, formerly of Largs in Ayrshire, and his wife Elizabeth - not of the same family as the Rev. George Paton - and one in memory of John Cruickshank, lost on a voyage from Calcutta to Liverpool. A tombstone in the churchyard shows that Robina, daughter of William and Elizabeth Paton, married John Cruickshank, late of Liverpool. We may perhaps assume that this family of Cruickshank was the same as that of the late Mr. James Murray Cruickshank, for many years High Bailiff of Ramsey and Peel.


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