PM World 14 Feb 1907 pp105/6

The Story of Primitive Methodism
in the Isle of Man.

By Rev. W. CURRY.




THE history of the Church on the human side is the history of great souls. That is why, in telling our story, we must not merely record events, but give some idea of the men and women who brought these things to pass.

Few have influenced Manx Primitive Methodism more favourably during this period than Thomas Keig. As a boy he was associated with our Society at Newtown, and became a member at the age of seventeen. In 1851 he came on full plan as a local preacher. He was then only eighteen. For business reasons he removed to Douglas, where he joined Wellington Street Society. It was in connection with Loch Parade, however, that his principal work was done. He was one of the founders, a trustee, designed the chapel, and superintended the building. He was for many years the choirmaster. His great forte lay in teaching, and under his care there flourished a theological class to which many young men owe their first impulse to a life of reading and thinking .

Mr. Keig possessed the artistic temperament to a high degree, which was well balanced by his scientific studies. His hobby of photography became his profession. He devoted himself to the study of astronomy and became so proficient as to be to be accepted a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society. He designed and constructed his observatory and moulded and built his own telescope.

His interests were wide, and his mind roamed over large fields of literature: theological, Biblical criticism, travel, exploration, and the best fiction.

He sought to make himself a worthy citizen, and for a quarter of a century was on the governing board of the town of Douglas. His aim was to make Douglas a clean, healthy, and attractive town, and, as far as one man can, Mr. Keig succeeded.

He was associated with all the latest improvements: the Loch Promenade, the pulling down of the slums, and the making of new thoroughfares like Victoria Street, and the building of artisan dwellings.

The worth and work of Mr. Keig's life were fittingly recognised by his townsmen by making him the first Mayor of Douglas, which honour, sad to relate, ho enjoyed for only a brief period of six weeks. He was smitten with a fatal disease, and passed away amid general lamentation. His funeral was one of the largest the Island had ever seen. All work was ceased, and the streets of Douglas and the roads to Braddon were lined with sympathetic spectators who had come from all parts of the Island to pay their last respects.

Said one of his colleagues who had known him all his life, " I have never known a perfect Christian, but the man who has come nearest, to my knowledge, was Thomas Keig." He was a great Manxman; greater than anyone knew. No one could more effectively efface himself. A great heart who was always caring for others and fighting their battles

The insular position of the Island limits the Manxman's influence, but Mr. Keig was well known throughout the Manchester and Liverpool Districts, chiefly by his contributions to the Ministerial Association meetings.

We must not omit our tribute to Mrs. Keig, to whom Mr. Keig owed so much. A woman of many noble gifts and rare culture, she threw herself into all her husband's interests, and for forty years was his companion and helpmeet.


Another Manksman who must be included as one of the makers of Primitive Methodism on the Island is William Proctor. As a boy he attended Wellington Street, Sunday School, and continued to do so into his teens where he found his companions, one of whom was Murry Wilson. At the age of seventeen he removed to Liverpool, where, through his associates; he wandered into the barren desert of free thought with such guides as Voltaire, Thomas Cooper, and Tom Payne. Returning to the Island, he settled down in life and married a good woman, a Primitive Methodist. Evan Shimmin had also just married. and he and William Proctor agreed to take one house between them. This was the means of bringing the young men together a good deal. Mr. Shimmin was a loyal Primitive Methodist and a good man. So that the Free Thinker, coming into daily contact with earnest upright Christians, convinced him when no arguments could that there was reality in religion. Mr. Proctor began to think differently. He considered, however, that Primitive Methodism was not sufficiently intelligent for him, so he sought out a Mr. W C. Stallibrass, a chaplain, whose father had been a missionary in Siberia, where he was born. Mr. Stallibrass established a church in Athol Street, where Mr. Proctor often heard him. One night, after the sermon, Mr. Proctor accepted the invitation, and met the preacher in his vestry, and there, after some conversation, surrendered to Christ. After yielding himself utterly to the Christ, truth found its true perspective, and God's people appeared in a new light. The Primitive Methodists were just the people he could work among. He accordingly joined Wellington Street and found his first work in the Sunday school. Soon after he was asked by Mr. Hill, the superintendent minister, to came on the preachers' plan. He complied, and accompanied Mr. James Quiggin to his appointments until in 1854 he came on the full plan, Mr. Proctor went all over the Island preaching the Word of Life, walking as much as thirty miles ire one day, and preaching two or three times. Besides, he has filled all the offices of his own church at Loch Parade, of which he was one of the founders. Especially has he taken a deep interest in the Sunday school. Mr Proctor is one of the most capable Sunday school superintendents it has-been our pleasure to know. In this capacity there is just the right blending of strength and tenderness, to which the young so readily respond.

With Mr. Keig, Mr. Proctor has taken a leading part in the government of his town's affairs. He was a Town Commissioner for over twenty years, a strong debater and earnest advocate. He continued in the Council when the town became a borough, and has had the honour conferred upon him of being made Alderman and Mayor. The Governor has recently made him a Justice of the Peace for life.

Mr. Proctor has always been regarded as a strong and fearless man. No opposition could ever move him from a position which, from conviction, he took up. A great reader and hard thinker, with an equal facility of ready, forceful utterance, he has mace the impress of his strong personality on our Church. Although approaching four score years Mr. Proctor is still vigorous, and takes an active part in the affairs of his Church and town.


Continuing our story of Douglas Circuit, a few words must be devoted to some of the Societies so that the circumstances of their origin may be preserved.

In Santon our Church began in a cottage at the lower end of of the parish. At the higher end several houses were built, and this was called Newtown. An old pensioner, a Mr. Ducker, came to live in one of these houses. He was a good man, although, as far as we know, not at this time a Primitive Methodist, and invited the young men to his house, when he introduced talks on religion and held prayer meetings. By the. sheer weight of his goodness Mr. Ducker gained great influence, and when, on his invitation, our preachers went to Newtown to conduct services in his house, several of the young men were converted. Among others were T. Kinnish, W and T. Keig, Paul Faragher, and the McNeil brothers, to which family belonged the mother of Rev. F. N. Shimmin and the wife of Mr. W. Proctor.

The need for a chapel arose with the growing Society, and so the McNeil brothers went to their father, a farmer who farmed his own land, and asked for a plot on which to build a chapel. The father, struck with the earnestness of the lads, at once offered to sell them a site for five shillings. In a short time the ground was cleared and a little sanctuary built, mostly by free labour and given material. That was in the year 1827, and it was very small, with a thatch roof and a mud floor, but it was their own, and the Lord of Hosts deigned to fill it with His glory. As the Society increased in numbers the chapel grew in size; the thatched hut gave place to a schoolroom of stone and slates. And latterly a neat little chapel has been built adjoining the school, and stands on the roadside, pointing the wayfaring man to the way of holiness.


- is a scattered district between Douglas and Foxdale. When it was missioned Mrs. Cretney opened her house for a regular service, and there the Society met for some time.

About 1856 a Camp Meeting was held with a view of not only preaching the Gospel, but also of setting on foot a scheme to build a chapel.

The Camp Meeting Sunday began with fine weather. Mr. W. Proctor was one of the preachers. A large company of people assembled in the. field, but the hearts of those so anxious for a new chapel began to sink when the rain began to fall. It turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. The people were asked to come into a barn; most of the people accepted the invitation. The word was with power, and several were converted. There is nothing like a revival for promoting a chapel building scheme. The idea of a new chapel was taken up with enthusiasm.

The Superintendent of the Circuit at the time was George Herod, who entered heartily with the people into their enterprise, and the chapel was built in 1857. Since then it has been rebuilt and a small schoolroom added. Much self-denying work has been done, and many gathered into the kingdom. Mention should be made beside the Cretney family, of Mr. Kermode, of Ballacallin, a good man and an earnest worker.

Of Renshent, or East Foxdale, as it is now named, we have given some account in the early pages, :but a few more words may be of interest. When the first chapel, which was built under such unusual conditions, became too small, it went back to the mine owners. The condition in the deed was that our people could make no other use of it than for chapel or school purposes. This necessitated the Society making a fresh start, which was not at all a disadvantage; it brought the very best out of them. A second chapel was built, which has since given place to a third commodious chapel and schoolroom, which stand for much religious fervour and independence of character, M.. James Shimmin, a man of wide intelligence and force of character Mr. Thomas Shimmin, and Mr. Kermode, of Kions Glen, have done splendid service. Nor must we forget the work of Captain John Bawden, a strong,, loyal Primitive Methodist, who has not only done good service locally, but always has taken a deep interest in the Connexion.


Quine's Hill was one of the first places missioned, and a chapel was built in 1823. Situated in a thinly-populated neighbourhood, there has been little need of larger premises, although the small chapel has several times :been altered and brought up to present-day- requirements. The chapels on the Island are never built for anniversary services, as they are in some places, which are filled only once or twice a year. And yet nowhere is the Sunday school anniversary so well attended, as many as four or six times the number that could be crowded into the chapel. The difficulty is overcome by holding these services in the summer time in the field in true camp meeting style.

The Sunday school at Quine's Hill was started by Mr. E. Quine and Mr. W. Cormode. Mr. Cormode had a summary way of dealing with longwinded preachers. When the preacher had spoken as long as he thought was profitable to the people, William would stand up, and, if. no notice were, taken of this sign, he would vigorously kick the panel in front.

With this little church at Quine's Hill will henceforth be associated the name of Thomas Cormode, a young man of exceptional ability and strength of character. Born at Quine's Hill in the early 'sixties, he was converted, ere he left his teens during some services conducted by the Rev. B. Dain He at once devoted his energies to the work of the church and school. He became a local preacher the following year, and today is the most popular speaker on the Island. He has attained this position not merely by his great natural ability, but also by hard and careful work. He has never missed an appointment, and never gave the smallest audience less than the best he was capable of at the time: The quality of his sermons may be judged from the fact that when the Editor offered, through the " Christian Messenger,"'a prize for the best sermon outline, the first prize was given to Mr. Cormode. When preaching in Prince's Avenue, Liverpool, he had in his audience Sir Edward Russell, who referred to the sermon in the most flattering terms in the " Liverpool Daily Post.'' On several occasions he has been urged by the Circuit to enter the ministry, but never felt satisfied that he was called. What undoubtedly would have been a gain to our Church at large would have been a loss to his native Island. His powerful influence has been thrown on the side of progress, sobriety, and morality. Mr Cormode has been a Rechabite since he was seven years of age, and received all the honours that his Tent could give him, and is looked upon as the leading temperance advocate in the Island. It was from the temperance platform that he addressed his largest: audience, estimated at from five to seven thousands, on the occasion of the Band of Hope Jubilee, which was held in the Palace of Douglas: his speech won for him the title of "The Manx Orator" which title he has done his utmost to discountenance.

'Perhaps the first utterance which made known to those outside the pale of his own church the mettle of which Mr. Cormode was made, was an address to the Manx Free Church Council on " Hindrances to the Kingdom of Christ in the Island;" in which he fearlessly attacked some of the gilded vested interests, and which created no small stir. From that time the Manx people looked upon him as their trusted: champion and spokesman.

Twice he was asked to represent the people of Rushen Sheading in the House of Keys, but refused. When, however, the Progressives of Peel came forward, he consented to stand in opposition to the chief magistrate of the town and the strongest Tory on the Island. He was elected by a majority of twenty-four, and has been a great accession to the House. No one has a more respectful hearing: within and none more read without. With the other Progressives, Mr. Cormode-is advocating Constitution Reform, which has for its salient points: (1) appointment of the Lieutenant-Governor for a term of years, and not for life as at present; (2) to limit the Governor's powers of the exclusive right to initiate taxation and expenditure; (3) demanding that a majority of the Council (Manx House of Lords) shall be directly elected by the people-at present five members of the Council can set at devotee a combined majority of twenty-eight; (4) the abolition of a second deemster, or High Court judge.

Since Mr. Cormode's election to, the House of Keys, to the great surprise of the public, he has, through the nomination of the Governor, been made a Harbour Commissioner, an office previously preserved for aristocrats with strong Tory leanings.

With Mr. T. Keig, Mr. Cormode founded the Local Preachers' Association, and was made secretary. This continued for many years; a most stimulating institution for the local preacher. Recently it has been amalgamated with the Wesleyan Association, and a united association of all Methodist Preachers in Manxland has been formed of which Mr. Cormode is secretary.

Thomas Cormode
Mr. Thomas Cormode, M.H.K.


Strang was missioned in the Thirties and a chapel built in 1839. Although the Society was never very larger as far as numbers go, yet at one time it included half a dozen of the most intelligent laymen on the Island. James Kaye was a schoolmaster and gathered the children into his own house. A local preacher of the quietly thoughtful kind, who got to the heart of his subject and lighted it up with apt scientific illustrations Thomas Kelly, R. Gick, Gilmour, and Cannell, all remarkable men. Strang, which is about two miles out of Douglas, was called the "college" because of the kindly criticism and guidance the young preacher received on his visit.


Before leaving the Douglas Circuit we must give a brief account of the Marathon Road Mission, which has been opened by the Loch Parade Church

This Mission was the outcome of a revival at Loch Parade, a revival which was preparing for many years. Mr. Keig and the second minister formed a Young People's Guild, which attained a membership of nearly one hundred. The Guild kept the young people together, as the seed of the Word fell into their hearts, ready to break forth when the fitting atmosphere came. The required spiritually climatic conditions came about four years after the formation of the Guild, and nearly all the young people were converted and became members of the Church. The direct instruments of the revival were Rev. W Carr, Mrs. Corrin, and Rev. E. Quine.

The exuberant life of the church after the revival found an outlet in open-air missions, held in Back Strand Street and other similar places. The young people chiefly sustained these missions, which went on for nearly three years. It was suggested by Rev. E. Quine that an attempt should be made to establish a Mission in the North of Douglas, where there was no place of worship. With this object in view an open-air service was held, and about fifty children gathered round. The missioners asked the children how many of them went to a Sunday school and discovered that only about six of the fifty did so. This they thought was their opportunity to begin with the children. They visited their parents and asked if they would allow their children to attend a Primitive Methodist Sunday school if one were started near by. The parents gladly consented. The room of an empty dwelling-house*1 was rented on the personal responsibility of two young men - Isaac Quirk and Mr.(now Rev.) John Kinnish - and on the first Sunday seventeen scholars attended. A few weeks after it was thought that a service might be held an hour before the regular service in other churches. It was accordingly announced, and the room was so packed that it could only be continued half an hour. It was a good service, however, with the right Primitive Methodist ring about it, both in the speaking and singing, which was led by a violin.

This went on for six months until-they were compelled by numbers to look for a large place for the mission. The Victoria College in the neighbourhood had become empty*2, and the schoolroom was secured by the leaders of the mission. In these more suitable premises the school was begun in the morning as well as the afternoon, and a service held at half-past six. From the first the mission was a success beginning with two members and seventeen scholars, at the end of the first year there were nineteen members. Today there are sixty-five scholars, six teachers, twenty-six members, and a congregation each Sunday night of about seventy. It is to be hoped, therefore, that the leaders of Loch Parade will remember the lessons of their own origin and by a bold policy aid this new mission in securing a site for a new chapel in this rising part of the town.

William Proctor
Ald W. Proctor, J.P.

This completes our story of the Douglas Circuit and we have only to add the principal statistics to give an idea of its present strength. These are from the official returns of 1906: - Members, 380 travelling. preachers, 2; local preachers, 36; chapels, 8 and one mission room; chapel property, £16,666; sittings, 2,236; hearers, 1,630; scholars, 928; teachers, 122.

 (to be continued)


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