[From Manx Soc vol 28, 1878]
THE parish of Malew was in former times the most important in the Isle of Man; in it was placed that stronghold of Danish power, Castle Rushen, erected in the tenth century by Gudrod, son of Orry, the celebrated King of Man, remaining in perfect preservation and usefulness at the present day, and now surrounded by the town of Castletown, the present metropolis of the island. At a distance of about two miles stand the venerable ruins of Rushen Abbey, founded in 1134, contiguous to which is the village of Ballasalla, with its picturesque cottages and fruitful gardens, and about a mile from this village is the parish church, distant two miles from Castletown.
The parish itself extends from Scarlet Head in the south to the Barrule mountain near the Foxdale mine in the north, and contains some of the best, as also some of the worst, land in the island, so diversified is the aspect of the country. In this mountain region, the face of the country is covered with granite rocks, some deeply imbedded in the swampy ground, while others lie exposed on the surface, extending to a considerable distance into the low lands, forming that concomitant train of indigenous plants, while the granite of Dun Howe tinges the face of the surrounding district with the purple heather, which is softened down by the limestone region of Ballasalla into the cheerful emerald green of that luxuriant district.
It is now one hundred years since those inhabitants living in the outlying mountainous districts of the parishfinding the great inconvenience of attending the service at their own parish church, arising in a measure from the great distance from their various homes, and rendered much more difficult from the wretched state of the roads at that date, particularly during the long winter months, when they may be said to have been impassable to most of their families, while their children were entirely debarred from attending the parochial schoolconsulted together as to the best mode of remedying the evil and inconvenience. They determined to build a small chapel of ease in some suitable situation, and form an endowment for a chaplain and schoolmaster, as far as their limited means would permit. For this purpose they consulted with the Bishop, the Right Rev. Mark Hildesley,' the successor of the apostolic Bishop Wilson, who was so much delighted to find the people coming forward so energetically to help themselves, that he at once entered into their views, and promised to render them every possible assistance in his power, which he afterwards so nobly performed.
The place selected for the chapel was on a piece of ground called Dreem-freaie, which was considered as the most convenient for all parties, being within a mile of the united boundaries of three parishes, namely, Malew, Marown, and Santon. A part of each parish to this day forms the nominal district of St. Mark's, claims a right by purchase to the pews of the chapel, the churchyard, and to the education afforded in the school; and therefore have a just claim to a legitimate ecclesiastical parish, formed out of the three parishes, to prevent future disputes between the chaplain and the vicars of each respective parish. This is situate in what is called the Black Hill Quarter, a wild mountain district, for the most part then uncultivated, much of the land being covered with vast blocks of granite, which are strewed in every direction up to the mountain top, with here and there a small space which had been cleared and cultivated, and on which various homesteads had been erected, forming a pleasing contrast to the other wise bleak and miserable appearance of the district at that day.
It was near this that an old Danish rampart originally stood, called "The Black Fort," hardly a vestige of which now remains; but the field in which it stood now forms part of the glebe lands belonging to St. Mark's Chapel, and which has been named after the writer who has rendered it renowned in Manx history in his Peveril of the Peak; being the spot where the interview between Julian Peveril and Alice Bridgenorth, with her father Major Bridgenorth, took place, an extract from which may be here appropriately given.
It was on an occasion when Julian Peveril had taken his fishing-rod in hand and betaken himself to the burn which takes its rise at the foot of Baroole mountainin a ceurragh or turf bog called "Curragh ny-ronanee," so named from the frequent riotous broils amongst the surrounding mountaineers about the turfand is supplied by some of the rivulets passing through the present glebe lands, that he came upon the locality of the Black Fort
"It was a little green and rocky valley through which the brook strayed, very lonely, although the slight track of an unformed road showed that it was occasionally traversed, and that it was not altogether void of inhabitants; as Peveril advanced still farther, the right bank reached to some dis tance from the stream, leaving a piece of meadow ground, the lower part of which, being close to the brook, was entirely covered with rich herbage, being possibly occasionally irrigated by its overflow. The higher part of the level ground afforded a stance for an old house, of a singular structure; with a terraced garden and a cultivated field or two beside it. In former times, a Danish or Norwegian fastness had stood here, called the 'Black Fort,' from the colour of a huge heathy hill, which, rising behind the building, appeared to be the boundary of the valley, and to afford the source of the brook. But the original structure had been long demolished, as, indeed, it probably only consisted of dry stones, and its materials had been applied to the construction of the present mansionthe work of some churchman during the sixteenth century, as was evident from the huge stone-work of its windows, which scarce left room for light to pass through, as well as from two or three heavy buttresses, which projected from the front of the house, and exhibited on their surface little niches for images. These had been carefully destroyed, and pots of flowers were placed in the niches in their stead, besides their being ornamented by creeping plants of various kinds, fancifully twined round them. The garden was also in good order; and though the spot was extremely solitary, there Was about it altogether an air of comfort, accommoda tion, and even elegance, by no means generally characteristic of the inhabitants of the island at the time.
"With much circumspection, Julian Peveril approached the low Gothic porch, which defended the entrance of the mansion from the tempests incident to its situation, and was, like the buttresses, overrun with ivy and other creeping plants. An iron ring, contrived so as when drawn up and down to rattle against the bar of notched iron through which it was suspended, served the purpose of a knocker; and to this he applied himself, though with the greatest precaution."
We are tempted to continue the quotation a little farther, as it gives a description of the portrait of William Christian of Ronaldsway, who was executed at Hangoe Hill, near Castletown, on the 2d January 1662-3, for the betrayal of the island to the Parliament in 1651. The portrait is said to be still preserved in the family of Waterson of Ballanahow of Kirk Christ Rushen :
"He passed through a little low-arched hall, the upper end of which was occupied by a staircase, and turning to the left, opened the door of a summer parlour, wainscoted with black oak, and very simply furnished with chairs and tables of the same materials; the former cushioned with leather. The apartment was gloomyone of those stone-shafted windows which we have mentioned, with its small latticed panes and thick garland of foliage, admitting but an imperfect light.
"Over the chimney-piece (which was of the same massive materials with the panelling of the apartment) was the only ornament of the room, a painting representing an officer in the military dress of the Civil Wars. It was a green jerkin, then the national and peculiar wear of the Manx men; his short band which hung down on the cuirassthe orange-coloured scarf:, but, above all, the shortness of the close-cut hair, showing evidently to which of the great parties he had belonged. His right hand rested on the hilt of his sword, and in the left he held a small Bible, bearing the inscription, 'In hoc signo.' The countenance was of a light complexion, with fair and almost effeminate blue eyes, and an oval form of face, one of those physiognomies, to which, though not otherwise unpleasing, we naturally attach the idea of melancholy and of misfortune."'
"Such is Sir walter Scott's description of this locality; but it was his brother, Mr. Thomas Scott, who lived many years in Douglas, who penned a small historical sketch by way of data for Sir Walter. Mr. Scott was guided by the information he could gather from the inhabitants of St. Mark's, especially the late coroner, John Callister, who was Mr. Scott's principal friend in that neighbourhood. Mr. Scott was so delighted with this mountainous district, that every summer he frequently conveyed his tent to the Black Fort, and accompanied with a host of juvenile friends as picnic parties, not only enjoying themselves with all kinds of sports and games, but amusing the whole neighbourhood, who resorted there in groups from every quarter. This information is from Callister himself, who was at that time the proprietor of the Black Fort and its adjacent appurtenances. Mr. Thomas Scott held a commission in the Edinburgh volunteers when a young man, and was paymaster to the 70th Regiment, in Canada, in 1812.
After meeting to decide upon the best mode of proceeding, it was deemed advisable to memorialise John Wood, Esq., the Governor-in-Chief of the island, for permission to solicit subscriptions within the isle for that purpose, as also the Lord Bishop for his assent, which will be best understood from the following copies of those documents.
1 He was Bishop of Sodor and Man from 1755 to 1772.
1 This same portrait had been given by one of the family of waterson to the late Dr. Oswald for professional services, and by him given to Miss Thomas of Balla Cosnahan, near Peel, and is now in the possession of Samuel C. Nelson, Esq., M.D., of Douglas, as custodian thereof. The papers and records connected with the trial of Wm. Christian are given in the Manx society's Series, vol. xxvi.
The "Santon Burn," which is mentioned, is nearly a mile and a half farther to the east than the stream near to the Black Fort.
To His Excellency John Wood, Esq., Captain-General and Governor-in-Chief of this island, etc.
The Petition of Hugh Cosnahan and Thomas Fargher,. Gentlemen, in behalf of themselves and many others of the Inhabitants of the Parish of Kirk Malew,
Humbly shewethThat the parish church of Kk. Malew being upwards of six miles distant from the places of residence of many of your petitioners, and upwards of four miles from most of them, your petitioners and families are rendered unable to attend the public worship of God in such manner as their duty and inclination dictate to them, nor have they a school for the education of their children nearer than three miles; for remedy whereof your petitioners have applied to the Right Reverend Ordinary, praying his Lordship's permission to erect a chapel of ease and school-house at a place called Dreem freaie; the same being convenient for that purpose. But whereas so great a work as that proposed will be attended with a heavy expense, and that your petitioners purpose to apply for the aid and assistance of such well-disposed persons as shall be inclined to promote so good a work
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray your Excellency's permission to solicit and collect the contributions of all well-disposed Christians within this isle, towards the purposes aforesaid. And your petitioners, as bound, shall pray, etc.
On consideration of this petition, I do hereby authorise the petrs or such other proper persons as shall be appointed by the Right Reverend Lord Bishop, to collect contributions from all well-disposed Christians within this isle, in order to carry on the necessary and laudable work therein mentioned.
Given at Bishop's Court, 13th April 1771.
In Archi-Episcop. Anno Domini 1772.
To the Right Revd. Father in God Mark, by divine permission Lord Bishop of Sodor and Mann,
The humble Petition of several of the inhabitants of the Parish of Kk. Malew ShewethThat the places of residence of many of your petitioners being upwards of six miles, and most of them up wards of four from the parish church, they, contrary to their duty and inclination, are rendered unable, particularly in the winter season and all severe weather, to attend the public worship of God, by means whereof your petitioners, with hearts full of grief, cannot but lament the deplorable state of religion in said part of the parish, as their children and servants can but too seldom resort to their parish church for the purpose of being catechised or otherwise instructed in the principles of our holy religion, and the more to add to the weight of petitioners' distress, they have not a school nearer than three miles for the instruction and education of their children.
That your petitioners, truly sensible of the spiritual wants of themselves, their children, and families, have applied to, and have reason to hope that several well-disposed Christians will contribute towards erecting a chapel of ease and schoolhouse in a place convenient for that purpose called Dreem-freaie.
They therefore pray your Lordship's approbation and recommendation of so necessary and laudable work, to the honour of God, and promoting the welfare of many souls in the present and future generations; and to that end that your Lordship would be pleased to appoint trustees as well for collecting contributions, as for carrying so great and good work into execution; and your petitioners, as in duty bound, shall for your Lordship's eternal felicity pray, etc.
HUGH COSNAHAN, H.K.
CHRISTOPHER BRIDSON, my X
JOHN CAIN, my X