[From ManxNoteBook vol i,1885]
WILLIAM WALKER, LL.D.
THE BALLAUGH REGISTER
UNDER THE YEAR 1679, WE FIND
THE FOLLOWING ENTRY AMONG
THE BAPTISMS: "GULIELMUS
WALKER, filius Thomæ, de Kk. Christ, Lezayre, natus 18s die Februarii, et baptizatus fuit 21s Sequente, istâ parochiali ecclesiâ, a Johanne Harrison Revndo, Rectore de Kk. Bride."
Nothing further is known of the Thomas Walker here named, but this entry being in Latin, and appearing in the Register in bold and prominent characters, it is probable that he was a man of some education and position. Dying soon after, he left his widow and orphan son in very straitened circumstances. In spite of this, however, the lad's education was not neglected, his mother taking care that he should be taught to read and write ; and that he was a zealous and eager student the following anecdote will shew: "When about twelve or thirteen years of age he was employed as a servant in the family of John Stevenson, Esq., of Balladoole ; and in the harvest his business was to drive one of the cars1 which were used at that time for carrying home corn. The boy's passion for books began to shew itself at this early period. One day in autumn, whilst sitting on his empty car, he took his book out of his pocket and began to read with such profound attention, that the horse, taking advantage of the inattention of the driver, and getting the halter off his neck, ran furiously down the lawn before the parlour windows. Mr. Stevenson, standing at one of the windows, saw what had happened, and hastened to stop the progress of the horse. When he came up to the car he soon perceived the occasion of the mistake. The little reader had still his book in his hand. This circumstance appeared to the master to mark the character of the boy; and, therefore, instead of rebuking him for his neglect, he turned round to him, and said: "Since thou art so fond of reading, thou shalt have enough of it." Accordingly the next day he sent him to the Castletown Academy, where, by his diligence and good conduct, he made rapid progress in classical and academical learning, and at a proper age offered himself a candidate for the Holy Ministry."
His gratitude to this family was sincere and lifelong, as may be seen from his will, dated a few days before his death: "As it is well known how great my obligations are to the family of Balladoole, I should think myself bound, were my effects never so considerable, to be principally grateful to them. I do, therefore, bequeath to John Stevenson, Esq., those following pieces of plate, my silver tankard, two silver cans, six silver spoons, and a silver porringer to Mrs. Elizabeth Stevenson, my goddaughter ; and I leave to Mrs. Elinor Slater, alias Gibbons, half-a-guinea; and do hereby constitute and ordain my ever-honoured friend Mrs. Alice Stevenson, widow, sole executrix of all the residue of my goods and chattels, moveable and immoveable, whatsoever, requiring her to give to her four daughters some small part of the effects to buy them mourning rings by which I may be remembered by them. And I beseech God of His infinite mercy to shower down His blessings on all the branches of that worthy family, and make them and their descendants partakers of His manifold gifts and graces both here and hereafter."
He was ordained Deacon by Bishop Wilson on the 11th of March, 1700, being then just two years below the canonical age*, and was appointed Master of the Douglas Grammar School. The Rectory of Ballaugh becoming vacant, through the death of Henry Lowcay, on the 24th June in the same year, the Bishop wished to bring young Walker there, who, however, was not yet in Priest's orders, and not for three years to come of sufficient age to be admitted to the Priesthood; the living, therefore, was kept vacant for him, as the following entry in his own handwriting in the Parish Register explains: Note ye above Henry Lowcay was succeeded in the Parsonage of Ballaugh by William Walker, Chaplain and Schoolmaster at Douglas : the cure being supplied the first year by the Rev. Thomas Christian, and other four years by the Rev. Matthias Curghey; then the said Wm. Walker came to reside in the Parish himself, vizt, in the year 1705. The profits of the first year belonged to the exor of the decedent."*
Bishop Wilson must have been impressed greatly with his ability to have thus gone out of the way to appoint him, when so young, to one of the most valuable livings in the Island. It is probable that the Bishop's motive in bringing him thus near to himself was to employ him as much as possible in the administration of the Diocese. If so, the opportunity. was not long delayed, for in 1712 Mr. Walker was appointed Vicar-General, on the death of Robert Parr, Vicar of Lezayre; and from that time to his death he was most intimately connected with the Bishop, both in public and private matters, "very high in his confidence and friendship; the chief of his fellow-workmen and fellow-sufferers."* Not only was their official intercourse always smooth and pleasant, but from their private papers it is evident that it was not simply mutual respect, but real affection, that linked them together in the most intimate friendship. In his will he speaks of the Bishop in the following terms: "Item, I humbly desire the Lord Bishop of this isle, my trusty, esteemed father in Xt, will be pleased to accept two broad pieces of gold and my seal rings as a token of my most real affection and veneration for him; and I pray God his L'pp's days may be long and happy on earth for the good of this poor Church and for the preservation of its doctrine and discipline. Item, I leave to my godson, the Rev. Mr. Thomas Wilson, Doctor Cave's works."
He entered heartily into the Bishop's plans for building and beautifying Churches, and himself contributed offerings to that end. In 1714 he gave to "St. Patrick's new church, near Peeltown," lately built by the Bishop's exertions, "a corporal and napkin to cover the holy elements on the altar ;" and four years later Bishop Wilson writes, referring to the enlargement of Ballaugh Church: , The worthy Rector and I engaged to finish it." Their close intercourse, however, was not in such labours of love alone. On the 29th June, 1722, the Bishop and his two Vicars-General Curghey and Walker were committed to Castle Rushen, by order of Governor Horne, for exercising the rights of the Ecclesiastical Courts. There they remained for nine weeks, but not by any means idle or disheartened; the time was employed in translating the Bible into Manx, a work which the Bishop was most anxious to accomplish, and here he found in Mr. Walker an. ever ready and able helper, not only in general supervision, but in actual translation, the four Gospels, the Acts, and part of the Common Prayer being his portion of the work.*
More than once Mr. Walker journeyed to London on business connected with the Bishop's lawsuit, which ultimately came before the King in Council, and was there (though after Mr. Walker's death) decided entirely in the Bishop's favour. During one of these visits to London Archbishop Wake conferred on him the degree of LL.D., being urged thereto, as Stowell says, by the zeal and ability with which he pleaded his Diocesan's cause.* But Keble conjectures that this may have been an act prompted by Bishop Wilson himself, who, seeing in him a most suitable successor as head of the Manks Church, hoped by this token of favour from the Archbishop to make the prospect of his being appointed to that position more sure. This is not unlikely, for it is certain that Dr. Walker stood out prominently among his contemporaries, and appeared to impartial observers to be intellectually head and shoulders taller than any of his countrymen. Waldron, who was living in the Isle of Mann from 1710 to 1730, says of him : "What eminent men this Island has formerly bred I know not, but at present I hear of none famous abroad ; nor can it boast of any more at home than one clergyman, who is indeed a man of letters, and who, I hope, will oblige the publick with his instructive and polite writings.",
He returned home from his last visit to London in 1728, and on landing at Ramsey was met by a number of the principal people, who were most anxious to learn the state of the Bishop's case ; for this conflict between the civil and ecclesiastical powers was a struggle by the latter to resist an arbitrary and unjust Governor, who tried to set aside the privileges of the people: and the Bishop and his Vicars-General were everywhere hailed by the Manks as the champions of their ancient rights ; the case was, therefore, watched by the whole Island with the keenest interest. But the role of popular hero in no way altered the simplicity of Dr. Walker's character. In the midst of the crowd pressing to welcome him on the beach "he espied his aged mother coming towards him, and instantly, according to the simple manners of the day, he dropped upon his knee to receive her blessing."~:~ She was at this time married again to a man named Tear, and they were both living with her son in Ballaugh Rectory: an arrangement which could have been nothing short of a severe trial to the Rector and must have been endured only for his mother's sake on account of the drunken habits of his stepfather.'~ But his "dear and ever-honoured mother " is remembered in his will with thoughtful care, and various articles of furniture are left for her use "towards keeping house again," and his executrix is charged "for Christ Jesus' sake that she may not want anything that may be necessary for her during the remainder of her days."
In the following year 1729 he died, in the very midst of his usefulness and popularity, "to the great grief of all good men who had been witness of his great virtue," as Bishop Wilson mentions in recording his death. He possessed "a true judicial mind, an imperturbable temper, sagacity and courage ever ready for emergencies, and the gift of sympathizing with all sorts and conditions of men . . . there was a calm sweetness about him, which seasonably tempered his friend's [Bishop Wilson's] energetic indignation."
The Bishop preached his funeral sermon, in the course of which he referred to his having declined " a considerable living" in Ireland; and he closed with the following words: "Would to God that every one who attends his funeral may leave the world with the same fair unstained character ! It is the best prayer I can put up for myself, or for those who hear me."§
It was not only as Rector of Ballaugh that he was mourned and missed, but as one of the champions of the country's liberty; and his death is recorded beyond the limits of his own. parish, being regarded as a national loss. In Kirk Michael Register is the following:" Mem: The Revd. Dr. Wm. Walker, one of the Vicars-Genl and Rector of Ballaugh, departed this life on the 18th, and was buried the 20th June, in his own chancel, opposite to the gate, without the rail." He was so buried in accordance with the directions of his will-" My body I leave to be decently buried in Ballaugh Church, viz "without the altar rail." On the flat stone which covers his grave in the old church-yard at Ballaugh (for the chancel walls have been taken down) is the following inscription written by Bishop Wilson:-
GVLIELMVS WALKER, LL.D.,
HVJVSCE ECCLESIAE RECTOR,
PER ANNOS XXV,
E VICARIIS GENERALIBVS,
NECNON NOBILISS. DOMINO A CONCILIIS,
PASTOR, JVDEX, CIVIS,
QVO NEMO FIDELIOR, EQVIOR,
AVT BONI PVBLICI STVDIOSIOR.
MANSVM OMNIAQVE RECTORIA.~EDIFICIA
PERMAGNO SVMPTV RESTAVRAVIT.
OBIIT XVIII. JVNII, A.D. MDCCXXIX.
AETAT XLIX. +
which may be rendered:
WILLIAM WALKER, LL.D.,
Rector of this Church
for 25 years,
One of the Vicars-General,
And a Counsellor to our most noble Lord,
as Pastor, judge, and Citizen,
Never was one more faithful, more just,
or more zealous for the public weal.
The Rectory and all the glebe buildings
utterly in ruins
He restored at great expense.
He died 18th June, 1729,
Aged 49. +
His mother, who survived both her sons, was the writer of a Manks ballad, still extant, descriptive of their virtues. Of the 23 stanzas it will suffice to quote the following:
Bannaght ny moght, scaa ny mraane treoghe,
Fendeilagh chloan gyn ayr,
Da ny atinooinee dreem nagh goghe
Veih treinee dewil aggair."
Which Stowell thus translates:
He to the poor a blessing proved,
Their refuge, and their friend,
The orphan's and the widow's cause
Still ready to defend."*
ERNEST B. SAVAGE. St. Thomas,' Douglas.
1 Sleads or sledges: low carts without wheels, still used in the
2 * Stowell's "Life of Bishop Wilson," pp. 415,416
3 Keble, P. 705.
4 BishopWilson's Works. Cruttwell, 1782; vol. ii. pp. 485-6.
4 He was born 18th Feb., 1679 ; at first sight, therefore, we should say that he was 50 at his death ; but the year then began on the 25th March, and 18th Feb., 1679, is what we now should call 1680. The change to 1st January was made in France, 1564 ; Scotland, 1600 ; England, 1752 ; the Isle of Mann, 24th June 1753. We were, therefore, the last, or nearly so, of the nations of Europe to effect the change.
6 Stowell, P. 419. For the whole Ballad and English version see Mona Miscellany 2nd series, Manx Soc. Pub., Vol. XXI. pp. 55-63.
7 Keble's "Life of Bishop Wilson," p.151.
8 The ordinal of 1522 gives 21 as the canonical, for a Deacon, and 25 a Priest; but by the xxxiv. Canon of 1600 they were changed to 23 and 24, though for a sufficient reason the Archbishop may grant a faculty for ordination at an earlier age. In no case may the rule be set aside with regard to Priests. This is not the case now.
9 "Memoirs of Bishop Hildesley," P. 254.
10 Stowell, PP. 416, 417.
- Keble, pp. 690, 691.
1 Manx Soc: Pub: vol. xi., p. 16.
~~ Stowell, P. 417.
* A son by this second marriage Robert Tear was schoolmaster at Peel.
see Manx Worthies