Manx Methodist Historical Society - Newsletter 9


by Rev. Fred Costain
Mr. Costain had nearly 70 slides of "Old Manx Worthies" - all of preachers and class leaders in the south of the island in the second half of the last century, and early part of this. There was one exception - John Ellison who lived in Dalby, but whose class meeting was in Douglas, so he walked regularly from Dalby to Douglas and back for his meeting.

We were reminded of the long distances walked by preachers for their appointments - John Sansbury ("Danny" [? Memorial notice of son John, also LP, has 'Daddy']) from Ballafesson, for instance. He was an accepted preacher all over the island and his two sons eventually became preachers and class leaders too (Tommy, seed merchant, Castletown and Joseph, also Castletown). Danny was preaching on one occasion in Ramsey, so he walked from Surby over the mountains, over night, and arrived in Ramsey for his appointment. His hosts, inviting him to spend the night had prepared a bed for him but Danny replied,"No thank you - I'll have my supper and then I'll get home for the milking". It was at Danny's home at Ballachrink, Surby, that preachers and tramps alike were welcomed. One evening a fellow arrived at the door, barefoot and travel-stained, asking for a night's lodging. "I'm sorry", he was told, "We're expecting the preacher from Ramsey soon". "I am the preacher" was the reply.

Thomas Charicy Clague, also from Surby, was a local preacher known as a travelling evangelist. He conducted his own missions and from the converts encouraged some to be preachers.

There was a splendid slide of James Moore from Port St. Mary, who always wore a top hat. He was an exhorter - one who used hymns, personal experiences, etc. to share the word, unlike the preachers who used texts. John Harrison, from Eary Stane,was also an exhorter.

Henry Clague, the founder of Methodism at Ballabeg was known as a very narrow-minded preacher, father of the author of the tune "Crofton". He was preaching at Colby on the Sunday the harmonium was introduced. As he announced the hymn ""O for a thousand tongues.." he remarked, "not fiddles and that there thing".
Henry was once in chapel with another local preacher - John Duggan, when the appointed preacher didn't turn up, so John took the afternoon service, and Henry said he would take the evening one. They were both taken to Ballnorris for tea, and after the meal Henry sought seclusion with his Bible to prepare for the service. John went to the chapel and sat in the pulpit. "Sorry, boy", he said when Henry finally arrived, "You're too late".

Slides of two ladies featured during the afternoon - Mrs. Nelson, who was a very popular preacher from the Howe, and frequently travelled the island to fulfil her appointments; and Mrs. Gale, a class leader at Ballakilpheric - a great-grandmother to Barbara who plays the organ there now.

Also from Ballakilpheric was Edward Quirk, local preacher, and Ella Quilliam's grandfather. (Ella is Sunday School Superintendent at Ballakilpheric - one of the Sunday Schools to win a prize in the Society's recent competition).

Then there was Charles Gill, a man who travelled the island to promote abstinence, and who once walked seven times round Gawne's brewery in Port St. Mary. And John Moore from Clagh Vane, a preacher and a class leader, who was blind and recited his lessons by heart.

Phil Clucas was an all-island evangelist who had the reputation of "frightening folk into the kingdom". He preached in his stocking feet, walking up and down the aisle. Once, at Dandy hill, Port Erin, he smelt someone smoking - so he crept down the aisle and there in the doorway was a man with a pipe in his mouth.
"Art thou a Christian?" roared Phil Clucas.
"No, I'm a Cregeen" was the trembling reply.

It was a thoughtful afternoon as we heard time after time the names of chapels which had produced such a splendid band of men over many years for God's work of preaching. One or two of the chapels Ronague, Eary Stane - have gone, but their influence persists.

These men were ordinary working men, who would have worked long hours each day, and whose time for study and preparation would have been limited, but the strength of character and dignity in their faces marked them out as men of God.

A very appreciative word of thanks was given to Mr. Frank Quayle for the use of his projecter, and to Mr. Costain for this sharing in the communion of saints .
TW (my apologies to Mr. Costain for any errors in this account, but my notes were scrawled in semi-darkness)


Information was received recently about this new society, formed by the Council for British Archaeology, with a view to promoting an interest in non-conformist chapels. It is non-denominational, and it is planned to hold conferences and produce a newsletter. Membership is £5, and subscriptions should be sent to Mr. R. Morris, King's Manor York,Y01 2EP. This Society has decided to become a member, and a copy of the first Newsletter is available from theSecretary.

JUNE 1920

"What was announced as an 'Old Time Methodist Love Feast' was held in Victoria Street Church after the evening service on Whit Sunday.The Rev. G. Osborn Gregory conducted it. A happy family gathered round the Lord's Table that evening and the service was indeed memorable and blessed in its fellowship and association. Testimonies, at once bright, brief, and full of hope, were given and hearts made glad as members of the family of God's children told of what the Lord had done for them. Now it was the testimony of a converted gambler from Manchester; then it was the experience of a young demobilised classleader recalling the story of how his class of 20 young men were converted. The manager of a Lancashire Mill contrasted the way he had spent Sunday with the way in which he had spent Sunday on a former visit. He had turned into the Esplanade Chapel that morning. No preacher had turned up, yet a saintly brother had stepped into the breach, and they had a season of refreshing. He would knight all such saints of God, not the profiteers, the brewers and the rest. A young lecturer from a Canadian University told the story of the 'Forward Movement' in the Great Dominion, where, despite the failure of the crops and farmers having to sell their horses for 4s a head and many people rendered practically penniless, there was a magnificent spirit of self-sacrifice and giving by the Methodists of that land, subscribing four million dollars for the furtherance of God's work. A Circuit Steward from New Zealand who had as co-steward a Manxman by the name of Cowley, hailing from Ramsey neighbourhood, spoke hopefully and encouragingly; a minister at home from the United States, as well as stalwart Manx Christians, all had rich experiences to tell - strangers to each other yet brothers in one common faith .It was a real love-feast, and will live long in the hearts of the large number, nearly 100, who were present. . 'The Lord be praised for His wonderful works to the children of men."'
(from the Manx Wesleyan Methodist Church Record)

The Society may soon be in the position of having its own library in which to house books, etc., for those interested in the history of Methodism. This is apart from Manx Methodist records which are housed in the Manx Museum, but if you have anything that might be of interest, which you would like to donate to the Society, we would be glad to hear from you


Standing on Dandy Hill, Port Erin, looking out over the Bay, one can possibly glimpse why the first place of worship was erected there.
On January 10th, 1823, the Rev. John Butcher arrived in the Isle of Man at Derbyhaven. He preached his first sermon in Port Erin on January 22nd, 1823, in the open air! Think about it.
The village at that time was called "Port Iron". The residents in those days were fishermen, miners, crofters. It would be reasonable to assume they had few worldly possessions as we know them to-day.Life must have been difficult to say the least.
Rev . Butcher was well received . Cottage services and prayer meetings were held. The Bolton Quarterly Meeting were instrumental in sending this Methodist preacher. During the period 1823 - 1827 local Methodists were holding meetings and many had to listen outside. Something had to be done, and in 1828 land was purchased on Dandy Hill in order to build a Preaching House.

Looking back 160 years, and being aware of the circumstances of the people, to erect a chapel must have been a monumental undertaking. Such was their faith that in 1832 the Methodist Chapel on Dandy Hill opened its doors for public worship.
The story of the erection of the building is one worthy of mention as it shows clearly how talents can be used by even those with the least to offer. Records show the following names as persons who were directly responsible for the work carried out:- Kelly, Cubbon, Quayle, Cannell, Kermode, Watterson, Cregeen, Crebbin, Clague, Karran, Collister, Teare, Gale, Curphey, Qualtrough, Carine, Cooil, Gawne, Christian, Nelson, Taylor, Nixon, and no doubt many others. Lists were drawn up and men went around the Parish to beg for money. Others sent carts for a day's work - double carts in some cases.
The labour force had amongst others - shoemakers, smiths, quarryers, farmers, fishermen.
The chapel was rebuilt in 1860 and was the only place of worship in Port Erin until 1880 when St. Catherine's Parish Church was built.
In 1903, the present chapel in Station Road, Port Erin, was opened on 25th of June. Dandy Hill Chapel became the Sunday School at that time, and served Methodism and the community well for another 60 years. It was demolished in 1963 as the structure was considered to be unsuitable for present day requirements.
Mrs. Gertie Dixon, a lifelong Methodist, bought the site and still lives there today - her house bears the name "Dandy Rigg".
There are still today in Port Erin and possibly all over the world, people who are what they are because of the influence of our Methodist forebears who built the little chapel on Dandy Hill.
Jack Lewis


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