'Methodist Preachers'

as seen by Hall Caine ('Little Manx Nation' 1891)

I have said what true work for religion Nonconformity must have done in those evil days when the clergy of the Athols were more busy with backgammon than with theology. But the religion of the old type of Manx Methodist was often an amusing mixture of puritanism and its opposite, a sort of grim, white-faced sanctity, that was never altogether free of the suspicion of a big boisterous laugh behind it. The Methodist local preachers have been the real guardians and repositories of one side of the Manx genius, a curious, hybrid thing, deadly earnest, often howlingly ludicrous, simple, generally sincere, here and there audaciously hypocritical. Among local preachers I remember some of the sweetest, purest, truest men that ever walked this world of God; but I also remember a man who was brought home from market on Saturday night, dead drunk, across the bottom of his cart drawn by his faithful horse, and I saw him in the pulpit next morning, and heard his sermon on the evils of backsliding. There is a story of the jealousy of two local preachers. The one went to hear the other preach. The preacher laid out his subject under a great many heads, firstly, secondly, thirdly, up to tenthly. His rival down below in the pew spat and haw'd and tchut'd a good deal, and at last, quite impatient of getting no solid religious food, cried aloud, " Give us mate, man, give us mate ! " Whereupon the preacher leaned over the pulpit cushion, and said, " Hould on, man, till I've done with the carving."

But to tell of Happy Dan, and his wondrous sermon on the Prodigal Son at the Clover [sic Cloven] Stones, Lonan, and his discourse on the swine possessed of devils who went " triddle-traddle, triddle-traddle down the brews and were crane drownded; " and of the marvellous account of how King David remonstrated in broadest Manx patois with the " pozzle-tree," for being blown down; and then of the grim earnestness of a good man who could never preach on a certain text without getting wet through to the waistcoat with perspiration — to open the flood-gates of this kind of Manx story would be to liberate a reservoir that would hardly know an end, so I must spare you.

It must be said that Hall Caine was not enamored of Methodists - his parents were strict Chapel folk who migrated to the Myrtle Street Baptist Chapel in Liverpool from an initially Anglican background. It is likely that Hall Caine's description was based on his embroidery of tales he heard whilst school mastering in Maughold in 1870/1. Neither was Hall Caine liked by Manx Methodists - many of whom thought his novels cast slurs on Manx morality.



Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001