[From Manx Soc Vol 14]
WHEN Mr Feltham published his " Tour through the Island of Mann, in 1798," he contemplated in the"Parochial Tour" to insert a record of all the monumental Inscriptions then to be found in the Churches and Churchyards in the Island, and at page 226 of the Manx Society's reprint of his world, vol. vi, he remarks " that in going to the respective parishes, I took down every inscription in every churchyard except one, Kirk Braddan,) but they occupy such a space that I am deterred from printing them in this volume, yet hope to present them at a future period, as a treasure to the inhabitants, in some detached and cheap form." The original manuscript in which these inscriptions are recorded is in the possession of Paul Bridson, Esq., of Douglas, one of the hon. secretaries of the Society, the Council of which, considering they were not incorporated in the Rev. Mr. Airey's Reprint of the " Tour," think they will form an acceptable addenda to that work, particularly as Mr Feltham's intention of printing them in a cheap form has never been carried out. The manuscript has accordingly been placed in the present Editor's hands to superintend its passing through the press, and in order to render it a more complete record of " the frail memorial of the dead," up to that period, the inscriptions which were printed in the " Tour" have been again given in the present volume.
It is not the intention of the Editor to trace the History of Monumental Inscriptions from the earliest period; numerous examples are to be found scattered throughout the Island of Runic inscriptions from the ninth to the thirteenth century, which have been depicted in the works of Kinnebrook: and Cumming, or of those still earlier records which have yet to be deciphered in the Cup memorials discovered in various parts of the Isle of Man during the visit of the Cambrian Society in the autumn of 1865.
The Greeks and Romans have given us numerous examples of the Epitaphs of their day; to Camden we turn for the earlier records of this kind in Great Britain, and which have boon ably followed up by Weaver, who wrote in the time of Charles I. his" Ancient Funeral Monuments within the United Monarchie of Great Britaine, Ireland, &c. ;" by the "Monumenta Anglicana"of John Le Neve, in 5 vols., 1719, and in Gough's " Sepulchral Monuments in Great Britain," 3 vols., 1796. A work of the same kind relating to Scotland is to be found in Monteith's collection of " An Theater of Mortality," published in Edinburgh,1704 and 1713, and now become very scarce. Attempts have been made to induce the Society of Antiquaries to take up this department of History by lending their aid in making a collection of Monumental and other Inscriptions worthy of the country, but without any result. Various collections of Epitaphs have from time to time appeared, one of the latest, which enters most fully into the subject, giving numerous examples, preceded by an Essay, is entitled " Chronicles of the Tombs," by Thos.Jos. Pettigrew, F.S.A., 1857, whose observations on the importance of Monumental Inscriptions in the elucidation of local history are so much in accordance with the objects of the Manx Society that the Editor submits the following extract:
" The importance of monuments and inscriptions in the illus tration of local history cannot be too strongly maintained; but for these, how many persons and events worthy of remembrance would have remained unknown, and how many testimonials of affectionate regard and filial gratitude neglected? Nam multos veterum, velut inglorios et ignobiles, oblivio obruet. By epitaphial records the antiquary, the historian, and the biographer obtain legitimate sources of inquiry, and are enabled to do justice to the memory of many deserving individuals, whose laudable conduct and advancement of public and private benefit might otherwise be forgotten. Again, how frequent has been the complaint of writers of the illegible, ill-preserved, oral together annihilated inscriptions upon monumental tombs, the possession of which might have served to solve a doubt or dispel a mystery. Yet no fixed method has hitherto been adopted to secure so desirable a result. Much benefit, I am disposed to believe, would arise from the establishment of a Public Register of Inscriptions. They ought not to be left to the chance of lasting record by the hands of the local historian or topographer. Many circumstances have contributed to render our literature in this department defective. Our Church Poole contain no records of this description, and the political, civil, and religious disturbances with which this kingdom has been in various times affected have tended to the destruction and removal of a very large portion of the most interesting monuments of this description. The suppression of the monasteries and the subsequent iconoclastic rage of the Puritans also greatly contributed to the removal of monumental tombs, brasses, and inscriptions, containing the memorials of those who had distinguished themselves in the page of history, subjects for the pen of the historian and panegyrist, and giving employment to the artizans of their time. The great neglect of monuments, when disturbed or removed by the general repair of churches, is exceedingly to be lamented. No register is to be found of innumerable examples which are known to have been formerly in the churches of this country. No traces whatever of many of them are now to be found'
After the lapse of seventy years since Mr Feltham caused a copy of these records of the tombs to be taken, it is to be expected that some of them from various causes have disappeared, and more particularly when we take into account many of the churches have during the time either been rebuilt or restored, that fertile source of destruction of this kind. It is, however, greatly to the credit of the Manx people that they have ever shown great reverence for the remains of the dead, as witness the numerous ruins of Treen chapels, erected ages ago, and around which many of their progenitors repose; these, although in many instances situated in the midst of cultivated lands, remain for the most part undisturbed to the present day. Yew trees, as Mr Feltham remarks in his " Tour," which are so generally found in the churchyards in England, are not to be found in those of Man; neither is it the custom, as in Wales, to decorate the grave with flowers, probably because the Manxman enjoys more of connubial bliss than is recorded in a Welsh epitaph:-
" This spot is the sweetest I've seen in my life,
For it raises my flowers and covers my wife."
There are few monuments in the Isle of Man with any pretension to artistic taste. The inscriptions recorded by Mr Feltham are in many instances only a bare memorial of name, date, and age, yet these alone will be found useful to the future historian in recording the genealogy of families, as well as a record of the patronymics of the country. Mr Feltham, during his stay in the Island, resided in Ramsey, and commenced his work in the parish of Maughold proceeding on his way southward; it has been thought desirable to commence in the regular order in which the various parishes stand on the records. The inscriptions appear to be taken in the order as they lie in the graveyard, by which the names of the various families are in many instances brought in close proximity. The usual custom of adding the wife's surname tends materially to connect links by which many Manx families are united.
It will be observed that surnames are found to abound in some parishes to their almost exclusion in others, and this it may be said continues in a great degree to the present day. There is one peculiar feature to be noticed in these inscriptions, that out of 2,000 names that are here recorded not twenty bear a double Christian name, adhering as Islanders generally do to their own peculiar customs. At the present time, owing to the greater intercourse and connexion with English families, the fashionable mode of having a double name is becoming more prevalent, and we meet with John Thomas and Mary Jane at every turn.
The oldest dates recorded in the several parishes are as follow:
On the whole it may be said that this forms the most complete record of the dead that is to be met with, and may in point of fact be styled unique, as it gives a copy of every stone up to that date, 1797, with the exception as before mentioned, and as such it is submitted to the members of the Manx Society.
Rock Mount, 1867
Since writing the foregoing, Dr Oliver, one of the honorary secretaries of the Manx Society, has obligingly taken a copy of the inscriptions in Kirk Braddan Churchyard to the end of last century, which are given in the Supplement to this volume, thereby rendering the inscriptions for the whole Island complete to that period.
It has been found on examination that numerous records mentioned in the present volume are no longer to be met with, thereby confirming in so short a space of time, the observation of Mr Pettigrew, that " no traces whatever of many of them are now to be found."
It has been thought desirable to give views of the old Churches taken from drawings made in the time of Bishop Wilson ; these have been obligingly etched by Miss Oliver expressly for this work, and printed by Mr G. A. Dean of Douglas, thereby forming an appropriate illustration to the volume as well as a record of the primitive nature of the architecture of Manx Churches.
April, 1868. W. H.