[Taken from Manx Wesleyan Church Record p5/6 et seq,1893]

Manx Wesleyan Methodism

Thoughts on an old Circuit Plan

By the Rev William T. Radcliffe

I have before me an old plan for May to July, 1835. It is the annual united plan for the Island, with an interchange of appointments between the Douglas and Ramsey Circuits, which then comprised Insular Methodism. It numbers ninety-six Local Preachers - fifty on the North and fourty-six on the South. The first name on the Douglas section is that of Samuel Broadbent, the Superintendent Minister - in his day one of the best expository preachers in Methodism - the very last being my own initials, minus the T., with an asterisk instead of a number, as if added when the greater part of the plan had been made After the names of the three Circuit Ministers, and at the head of the list of Local Preachers, comes the name of the famous clergyman, Robert Aiken, of Eyreton, Marown. A sharp discussion, I remember, arose in the Local Preachers' Meeting, on the unusual circumstance of a beginner beginning at the top instead of the bottom of the plan ; if not taking his place among the men of mere initials on trial, like myself and my friend George Quiggin, and five others, leaving the country people to guess who was coming, at least to make his first appearance at the bottom of the list which gave the names in full. First he assuredly was in other respects, great in ministerial influence in England, as well as in the Island, at the time. It might be interesting to my Manx friends to give a future paper on his striking personality and course ; his mighty preaching and great usefulness among the Manx people. Of the entire list, North and South, few survive. many of the names, however, are historic in Manx Methodism. The two colleagues of Mr Broadbent - John Keeling and William Henley - will still be remembered as faithful ministers of Christ. But let me hasten, within convenient limits for this Church Record. to select a few of the Manxmen Local Preachers on both sides of the plan. Among them are some who preached only in Manx, then happily, as I think, better known than now ; some who preached only in English, and others - a few - in both languages. In social position, some were tradesmen, some prominent in commercial life ; some farmers, tenant or on their own acres ; and, I believe, one, if not more, with a place in the House of Keys.

The names of some are suggestive of the past in manx life. Here is William Fargher, of Coilcan, converted under a sermon by John Wesley on the slopes of Mount Barrule. He soon began to preach, and among those turned from darkness to light under his preaching, were William Cowley (Illiam-e-Close), Humphrey Stephen, of Ballavarran, and Daniel Lace, brother of Deemster Lace - names almost historic among us Manxmen. Illiam-e-close - to take the manx style of naming a man after his locality as if part of his name - himself soon became a local preacher, coming down from his mountain home to stir up the men of the plain from Ramsey to the Point of Ayre, and famous throughout the Island. His character and preaching are well delioneated in an excellent lecture by Mr Thomas Kelly, of Clypston. He abounded in sayings still reapeated by tradition. I have some of them, as well as other facts in this paper, from my esteemed old friend, Mr J.S. Moore, of Lhergydhoo. I think it is was of him the late Rev Hugh Stowell, of Manchester, used to speak in his Manx reminiscnces, as having in one of his sermons to his fellow countrymen (who alone could fully understand the illustration) described the blessedness of eaven under the idea of Mountains of Solaghan and rivers of buttermilk ! He could be stern and sarcastic in retort. Said the clergyman of Kirk Arbory, whom he met in the parish as he was going to his appointment, " I think the Methodists are wolves in sheeps' clothing." Said Cowley in reply "Oh, dear me what a mistake we had been under ! We always thought you were so." They were dining together, but probably for the last time. He was a rather severe critic as a hearer. In a preaching service in his own house, the preacher being Mr Kelly of Sulby, as Mr Moore informs me, Illiam thought the sermon tedious and slow in getting to the gospel substance of the text, and said aloud, Give us meat we can eat, man," to which the preacher gave the ready answer, "Give me time to carve it!" But I have anticipated, in this noted name, the older generation of local preachers, some of whom I will mention before I close this paper.

[part 2 pp17/18]

To return to the Douglas list. One of the earliest names is John Cowle, Clerk and Sexton at St. George's Church, ; a true Methodist as well; a man of few words and of singular integrity ; and, as a Methodist amid near clerical influence, as unmoved as Conister in the waves of Douglas bay. Near his number in James Cretney, intelligent and emotional as well as devout, and not unwelcome in the town pulpit as supply for the minister occasion. Here is Anthony Lewthwaite, a little eccentric, but of godly life, and often of original thought, especially in prayer. William Quiggin was a name well known on a higher social level; a pillar in the Douglas circuit, diligent in religious services, often, a preacher at anniversaries, a useful helper, I remember the great revival of 1832; my own class-lender I may be permitted to add, and an intimate friend of "Parson" Aitken, to whom, in his earlier religions life, he land been a great helper when gathering the views. of truth and privilege which led to so marvellous a ministry. Tradition speaks of them both retiring from the road near Kirk Braddan Church, on their way once from Crosby to Douglas, for .special prayer, in the spiritual crisis. of his career, and of a blessing then whose grace enricled his opening course of usefulness. Lower on the list is John Cannell, one of a family of local preachers, brothers and uncles, an admirable preacher himself, and afterwards one of our minister. in his native Island, in both circuits, and in English circuits where I have often heard of the esteem in which he was held. William Mercer, is one of the best names in full ; a son of the Rev. John Mercer who became noted in Sheffield years after his Methodism,as a clegy- man of the Established Church.

But I must hasten to the Ramsey side. The three esteemed ministers, George Clarke, Jeremiah Pontefract, and Joseph Moorhouse, have passed away, as have the three on the Douglas section. Mr Clarke sometimes impressed his hearers with noble thoughts, Mr. Pontefract was a very rapid speaker. His sermon on the Queen of Sheba, which I still remember, was a marvel of memory, without a pulpit note, and rushing on without pause from beginning to end. Mr. Moorhouse was careful in pulpit preparation. The Rev. R. M. Aitken once remarked, after, hearing him preach, that he, was too careful in the construction of his sentences. Among the local brethren on the north I may first select the name of John Harrison, of Ballabeg, his Manx designation being "Jack Kensey'"; a man of singular gravity. One of his sons, Robert, was a powerful Manx preacher and, emigrating to the United States, became a mister in the Methodist Episcopal Church, as I have been told. Another son, - John, was highly musical, and popular as a teacher of vocal music in Andreas and the neighbouring Parishes. He married a short time before emigrating to America, as many then did from Andreas, to Ohio especially, "Ohio Cottage," at the gate of Ballavarry, taking its name from the movement. The passage for the married couple was taken, and the time of sailing fixed, but the bride suddenly disappeared, and "Juan Jack" had to delay his passage. Rumour said that the bride did not wish to go ; and after days of anxious searching in the mountains and other " hidlands" had discovered her hiding place, the ship having sailed from Liverpool, Her explanation was that "she had been taken away by the fairies !" I knew both bride and bridegroom. The story at least shows her confidence in the Manx belief of that age in these mischievous little people, who, they used to tell me as a boy in Andreas, usually rode on Cushags in their nightly wanderings. There was in the house of the venerable John Harrison, in my day, an electrical machine, which he and his good wife skilfully and kindly used for the public good. Next comes the name of Patrick Caley, senr., who had been, sent in the early days as a " travelling preacher" to Scotland, to preach to the Gaelic population there in his own Manx - which the Highlanders could understand, but was now spending a venerable age among his own people. A little below him on the plan is John Cain,Ballaskyr; patriarchal in bearing, farming his own inherited acres, and earnest in Methodist service. Richard Radciffe (in the homely Manx style "Dick Richard", his father's name having been Richard too), was then "an old disciple" and preacher, firm and consistent in his Christian profession, perhaps apparently stern in manner, but really kind. The first wedding I was ever invited to was that of his eldest daughter, nearly 70 years ago, when living at my uncle's Mr Killip of the Rhenwhee. Ramsey is now the residence of his two Methodist grandsons, relatives of my own, John and Richard Radcliffe. The plan leads on to two other Radcliffes (the name abounds in Andreas, among the graves of the churchyard, and among the living in the parish), John and Thomas, brothers of William and Charles Radcliffe, who entered the Wesleyan ministry in the early years of this century, and were held in high esteem by their ministerial brethren. The eldest son of Charles, Dr C.B. Radcliffe, of London, a distinguished specialist in the medical profession, has only lately passed away. The four brothers were sons of a mother who prayed that her four sons might be preachers of the gospel. John Kneale, of Regaby, tall and stately, I still remember. He was captain of Andreas parish, as well as Methodist local preacher, and a member of the Manx Legislature. On one occasion he felt it his duty to reprove Edward Gawne, Speaker of the House of Keys, for what he deemed improper language, and was assailed with a horsewhip by Mr Gawne for the reproof. With the moral courage to reprove there was the meekness to endure the violence without resentment in a spirit that won the friendship of Gawne ever after. I must not omit a name lower down, William Callister, a man of distinguished gifts and eloquence, both in the pulpit and insular Legislature : of great wealth also, and social influence. The name that follows is John Moore (it should be John S. Moore, I believe), of Lhergydhoo, and still surviving his generation : then some 57 years younger than now : until advanced age a member of the House of Keys ; still preaches with an almost youthful energy, the gospel of Christ ; one of the older generations which laid the foundations of Manx Methodism. Many of the other names are worthy of special mention, but the space of the Church Record forbids.

[part 3 pp30/31]

The local preachers on the plan, which is my text on the present occasion. were the worthy successors of a noble race of labourers in the manx vineyard from the time of Wesley's visit and successes in the Island. He was much impressed at a meeting of the local preachers which he held in Peel in 1781. In his journal, under that date, he remarks that "there were two and twenty in all. I never saw in england so many stout, well looking preachers together. If their spirit be answerable to their look, I know not what can stand before them." I name a few of that former race of local preachers :- John Ellison, who was the first Manx local preacher. His perils in preaching at Earey Stain, near dalby, at Rheaby Moor, and at ba;dwin, remind us of much in the life of John Nelson, the mason, of Birstal. His escapes were suggestive of a special providence. For ten years while residing at Peel, he led a Sunday Society Class at Douglas, and walked weekly the eleven miles between, taking off his shoes and stockings and doing the journey barefoot, putting them on again before entering the town ; no doubt wasjhing his feet in some clear pool or stream at hand, as I have, in the olden time, seen a robust country woman, comely though homely in apparel, wash her feet at the Ballaquayle stream, then open in its flow on to the sands, where now stands the Iron Pier, and where the arch still remains in the wall of the Villa Marina grounds, through which the water rolled in the days of Colonel Stewart. The washing of the feet there was followed by the putting on of the stockings and shoes, to make a decent appearance in douglas after the shoe-saving journey from the country. Days truly of careful economy and of simple manners, self respect withal ! I will add only the name, typical of Manx diligence in self improvement of John Sayle of Dalby, who used to burn ling for light to prosecute his studies, and was able at last to preach in both Manx and English, and - what was yet more exacting in culture - to translate his sermon correctly from the one language into the other.

In those times opportunities of schooling were few. But many of these excellent men had the leisure of the farmer in the long winter evening. Some of them were well read in Wesleyan literature and theology. The admirable Manx version of the Scriptures had been completed only a short time before the introduction of Methodism into the Island ; with the advantage on the part of the learned translators, first of the Authorised English Version, and, secondly, of the consultation, through their able secreaary, the Rev. Mr moore, of the old Douglas Chapel and Rector of Bride, with the two most eminent Biblical scholars and critics of that age, Bishop Lowth and Dr Kennicott, who gave special help in difficult cases. The few books of those days left these local preachers the more free for the study of their Manx Bibles. They could speak with the enemy in the gate, and turn as they often did, the stream of battle there. An instance may be given in the late Mr Joughin of Ballacrebbin, Andreas, who was equal to many a Wesleyan minister in his acquaitance with the works of Wesley.

[part 4 pp40/41]

The sphere of labour, thus repesented, included the Island: The Douglas Circuit taking in Castletown and the South on to the region near the Calf of Man, extending on the West to Crosby, and on the North to Laxey and Baljean, and further to the Abbey lands, skirting the base of Snaefield on the way; the Ramsey Circuit included the remaining portion of Ellan Vannin, from Greeba and Peel, along Jurby, and round Point of Ayre to Ramsey, and further South, until at Cardle, Maughold, the boundary of Douglas was reached. Certainly "large fields" opened "before" the brethren of those times, in the seventeen parishes of the Issland. Over all the country could be seen then, and much more can be seen now, the modest Wesleyan chapels bringing the gospel near to every part, and in the spirit of a true Catholicity towards the Established Church from the first, and now towards kindred Churches of Methodism and other denominations. Wesleyan Methodism did this for the first time since the age of the Treen Chapels, inferior, perhaps, in number to those ancient places for prayer, but with a purer gospel. The preaching was sometimes in the open air when no building could hold the assembly, as well as in chapels, schools, barns, and farmers' kitchens. Tradition or history tell of one great occasion at Lezayre, when manx farmers and others on their horses came from all parts around and distant, and when the road was lined, for about two miles, with tethered horses, while the riders attended the service. Probably the Manx language had never been so correctly and eloquently used in public address as by those ancient preachers of Manx Methodsim. In expressing things sacred and sciptural, that language rises to a grave dignity to which I know no parallel in English. You cannot deal with those high themes in Manx, so easilyas you can in English, in a cold and half secular phraseology ; it would be out of harmony with its genius and idiom. The preaching of these useful helpers has been, under Heaven's blessing, a chief cause of the strong position of Methodism among the Manx people, and of their moral and religious elevation. At the time of this plan, in 1835, we had within the two circuits 74 places for preaching (in Douglas 41, in ramsey 33), with about 96 services every Sabbath ; the membership, in 1836, was 2845. This 57 years ago ! Besides this, accomodation for many thousands of worshippers. In later years, an official report mentions accomodation for 13,000 hearers under Wesleyan preaching ; since which we have erected the two chapels in Douglas at Rosemount and Salisbury-street, with other enlargements elsewhere.

Should these reminiscences prove to be of interest to the readers of the Record, other Manx subjects, with the editor's kind leave, may follow.





Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2004