Julius Caesar of Ballahick

WHENEVER I enter Kirk Malew a handsomely-engraved marble slab on the south wall of the chancel always captures my attention. Its inscription reads: -

' Interred here is the body of Julius Caesar, a virtuous youth, and esteemed for his proficiency in academick learning. Buried the 9th January, 1739, aged 23 years.'

He was a member of the Caesar family of Ballahick. Ballahick is in the Treen of Kyrke Mychell, adjoining Ronaldsway, in Kirk Malew. In 1511 it was held by John Hyk. I have heard that in the sixteenth century a member of the Caesar family attached to the Derbys at Castle Rushen, married the heiress of Ballahick and thus came into the property.

The earliest record of the Caesar family that I have come across is of John Caesar of Ballahick who was a member of the Keys from 1643 to 1653. John had a son Robert. He was entered on the Manorial Roll for Ballahick in 1703. He also became a member of the Keys in 1735 and continued for eight years. This Robert was the father of Julius, the youth who is recorded on the mural tablet. The mother's name was Lettice. Her maiden name I do not know.

Quite recently I have found in the Books of the Monastery of Rushen in the Record Office, some interesting details about Julius. He was born in the year 1716. He attended the Academic School in Castletown for some years until he was 19. He then decided to join the Church as a minister of the Gospel. He made the usual formal application to the Trustees of the Academy for their approval and financial help. This was usually 5 a year for three years.

Before starting his studies Julius had to get two bondsmen of substance to guarantee his conduct. His father and Deemster Charles Moore of Billown were the sureties. Our President is a direct descendant of the Deemster. Julius joined his companions at the Academy in 1735; but through ill-health he was unable to complete his three years' course.

He was educated by the very gifted scholar the Rev. Wm. Ross,. Master of Arts, whose tomb stands by the west wall of the church.. Ross was responsible for the training of a group of young men who in after life became gifted scholars and zealous ministers in the Manx Church. Vicar-General James Wilks, the right-hand man of Bishop Hildesley, was one of these. And many others who were able to translate the Scriptures into the Manx language from the original Greek and Hebrew. Willis and young Caesar must have been companions at the Academy. The boys were about the same age. Wilks' father was John, a Smith working at Ballasalla. His mother was Margaret Moore of Billown.1

In the year 1733, when the boys were in their teens, the Earl of Derby established a mint at Derbyhaven, to fashion the coinage of that date. The smiths, father and son, were engaged in helping to make what is said to be the most beautiful copper coinage ever made in the British Isles. John Wilks is down in the accounts for having made six small melting-pots for making silver and was paid one shilling and ninepence. Only thirty copies were made in silver for the Governor, the Council and the Keys, two of which are in the Manx Museum. Even Julius' father, Robert Caesar, was among those engaged. He is mentioned in the accounts as providing ' 301 lbs. of strong leather ' for making ' a new paire of Bellows,' and charging 35 / 1oj;d. for the same.

Jane Caesar Accused of Witchcraft and Sorcery

I have already said that the grandfather of Julius was John Caesar a member of the Keys in 1643. His wife's name was Jane: her maiden name I do not know.

In the Parish Register there is, under the year 1659, a very dramatic story, told in graphic language, about Jane.

She was accused ' upon suspicion ' of witchcraft. She was put to trial in the Ecclesiastical Court and after examination was acquitted. This incident occurred during the period of the Commonwealth, when there was no Bishop for 17 years.

The Governor was James Chaloner who had Bishopscourt as his residence.

From there he sent a peremptory message to the Vicar of Kk. Malew, Thomas Parr, to read to the congregation in Manske and English, an order from which I have copied the following:

' This pair became the Manx ancestors of the late Sir Mark Wilks ColIet and of Baron Norman.

' ' Whereas Mrs. Jane Cesar hath been accused upon suspicion of witchcraft charminge or sorscerie whereupon certain examina cons have beene taken. And the said case beinge putt to the triall of a Jurie, they (after examinacon of the business) have this day cleared and acquitted ye said Jane Cesar , . .

' Nevertheless, that the said Jane Cesar may declare her innocencie of such practizes, and that shee doth renounce the same as diabolicall and wicked; shee is hereby ordered to acknow ledge the same before ye congregacon off Kk. Malew pish on the next Lord's Day to the end that others may be admonished to relinquish, detest and abhor such delusions . . . '

The Governor's order was peremptory. At the time it was read she was sitting with her husband in the Ballahick pew. It would appear that she hesitated to stand up and speak.

John is recorded as saying to his wife: ' Can't you say that you renounce ye Divell?'

She answeringe said: 'I defie ye Divel and all his works,' and followed by this curse: ' May those who brought me to this scandle never see their eldest children in the estate that my youngest are in!' Jane was in this case more sinned against than sinning.

Another 'Offence' by Jane Caesar

She must, however, have been a strong-minded and high-spirited woman. Here is a brief quotation from a record in the Liber Assed., Rushen, under date 1676:-

' Jaine Caesar for breakinge ye Lockman's Rodd in a peremptory maner and threateninge to run a spitt into him for executinge his office hath forfeited iiil. by law: but in respect of her disibillitie is mittigated to iis. rid.'

She died in 1788, twenty-nine years after the event. She was buried beneath the Ballahick pew, above which is fitted the mural tablet of her grandson Julius.

The Caesar Collecting Boxes

Since this paper was read I have seen in the vestry of Kirk Malew a pair of copper collecting boxes, with long handles, with the inscription artistically engraved as follows:-

' The Gift of Jane Caesar to Ye Parish of Kk. Malew 1751.'

She was probably the wife of John Caesar of Ballahick, who was a member of the Keys from 1768 to 1789; and a grand-daughter of the before-mentioned Jane.


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