Manx Methodist Historical Society - Newsletter 12


Mr. Jack Gair
The 1990 Spring Meeting was held in April at Baldrine Methodist Hall when the speaker was Mr. Jack Gair, who has done a great deal of research into the place of Methodism in the Sheading of Garff, and presented a most informative lecture.
In the Sheading, there were originally 13 Methodist chapels - Baldrine, Lonan, Laxey Glen, Laxey Minorca, Baldhoon, Ballacowin, Agneash, Ballaragh, Ballagorry, Cardle, Ballajora, Port-e-Vullen and Glen Roy.
Many of the famous early Methodist preachers visited this part of the Island, and Methodism took a firm hold, from these early visits:
John Murlin and John Crook were both visitors in the mid-18th century, John Wesley in 1781 preached at Lonan, and John Butcher in 1823 walked from Kirk Michael to Laxey, via Glen Roy.
The opening of the lead mines at the end of the 18th century brought an influx of population, and also a growing interest in Methodism.
Bishop Hildesley commented "if the parochial clergy had some of his(Wesley's) zeal the Christian church would be none the worse. I verily believe he has set some of us upon being more active in our duty".
The first mention of Methodists in Maughold was in 1791 - "After the interment of John Kermode, Thos. Gawne of Maughold, a Methodist, had the assurance to sing psalms over the grave of the said deceased. The Vicar asked the said Gawne, "Who gave him the liberty to sing in the churchyard? and desired him to desist, upon which the said Gawne gave over. But immediately after, one Robert Kerruish of said parish ,a Methodist, sang aloud in the churchyard in defiance of the Vicar. This performance was rewarded with a fine in the Chapter Court".
100 years later, burials according to a Methodist form of service were eventually legalised - the first interment was that of John Clague(Ironmonger) of Maughold.

Cardle Chapel, built in 1815, was only partially floored. Three box-seats on either side of the pulpit had a wooden floor, the rest was beaten earth. Mr. Robert Kerruish was a local preacher who only preached once as the pulpit was not substantial enough to bear his weight of 24 stones!
When Cardle Chapel closed in 1986, the congregation was the first to share premises with an Anglican church - they meet now at the Dhoon Parish Church .
Ballagorry Chapel built in 1834 at a cost of £100 (and sometimes called Corony or Cornaa Chapel) merged with the Cardle Methodists in 1934.

The history of Ballaragh (formerly Abbeylands Lonan) has required some detective work, but seems to have been built because of a dispute between the Methodists and Anglicans. Two daughters of a wealthy Douglas man - Mr Christopher Saltmarch, had a serious accident going down the hill near the Dhoon - their carriage overturned but they were not harmed. By way of thanksgiving, they gave a donation of £730 for repairs to the Dhoon Anglican Church. However, the church authorities thought the Dhoon was not a suitable centre - Glen Mona had a bigger population, so a new church was built there, and still called the Dhoon. This didn't please the local folk since they had to walk twice as far, so they decided to build their own place of worship, Abbeylands Lonan. The Chapel was re-named Ballaragh in 1952 to distinguish it from Abbeylands Onchan. When it finally closed in the 1960's the pulpit and some of the other furniture was given to Baldrine Chapel.

Agneash is perhaps one of the great success stories in the area. There were cottage services for many years until a chapel was built in 1856. The Oliver family have played a leading role in the history of the chapel, as has also Mr. Leslie Bannan, who led the dwindling congregation into a revival, so that Methodism in Agneash has taken a new lease of life.

Baldhoon Chapel was built in 1871, after many years of house meetings at Ballamilghyn Farm and Baldhoon Farm. But this was always the poor relation of the Laxey Station and never recovered from the emigration of so many people from the locality. It closed in the 1940's.

Lonan Chapel, built in 1797 on the site where John Wesley preached in 1781, was closed in 1980 and it is to the eternal regret of many Island Methodists that no home could be found on the Island for Wesley's chair and the pulpit. They were eventually presented to the World Methodist Council, and now rest in a Methodist Museum at Junaluska, U.S.A.

Mr. Gair referred to Baldrine Methodist Chapel, as the "Jewel in the crown". The first chapel was built in 1843, but this soon became too small and it was proposed that a new chapel be built. A mortgage of £55 had to be repaid first, so in 1884 a special bazaar was held which raised £180 - tremendous effort! The new chapel was completed in 1885 at a cost of _383, including a mortgage of £90 which was not repaid until 1921. The decreasing local population made things very difficult, and the chapel has had many ups and downs, but a streak of independence has ensured that the society has survived.

A very interesting afternoon concluded with refreshments provided by the Baldrine ladies.

Mr. Gair's lecture has been recorded at some length because of the wealth of information contained therein. The Society is grateful to Mr. Gair for making his notes available to us.


" A TALK AND WALK AROUND COLBY " was the theme for our autumn meeting with Mr. C. C. McFee, assisted by Mr. Lloyd Watterson
We met first in Colby Methodist Sunday School Hall, where Mr. McFee introduced us to the village of Colby and some of its characters.

Mr. McFee said he remembered Colby when it consisted of about 75 cottages, 25 of which where thatched. He was born in the Mill House where his grandfather was the miller. The name of Colby is lost in antiquity, but is thought to derive from the Viking words - col, meaning "Hill" and Byr - meaning "farm". It sat on both sides of the river the west side Colby Mooar and the east side Colby Beg. Methodism has long been associated with the area: John Wesley preached at Balladoole in 1781, invited to do so by the Fishers, a family from Cumberland. The result of that preaching was that Mrs. Kneen of Colby (great-grandmother to Mr. Harry Kneen) was converted, and the Kneen family were very active Methodists in the area. Billy Kneen was one of the early local preachers and was appointed to take the minutes of the Plan Beg.

Jane Shimmin of Ballachrink was another whose father was converted by John Wesley's preaching, this time at Cronk-ny-eary-lhaa. The first class leader prior to 1800 was John Quirk, a Wesleyan who lived by Colby Bridge.

When John Butcher, the Primitive Methodist preacher, arrived in 1822,one of the first people influenced was Jane Cubbon, who brought Mr. Butcher to see her parents, and their home became the first preaching house for the Primitive Methodists in Colby. Mr. Butcher liked Colby, he lived at Ballacannell and made Colby his centre. By 1833 the cause had grown to such an extent it was decided to build a chapel. There then developed a rivalry between the Wesleyans and the Primitives to see who could open their chapel first. Captain Watterson, a Wesleyan, donated land for the Wesleyan chapel, and the Kermode family donated land for the Primitive chapel. The Primitive chapel opened first, but only because it had no seating accommodation! Alfred Costain (uncle to Rev. Fred Costain) said, "David has conquered Goliath". The gallery in the present chapel (ex-Wesleyan) is part of the original building and was approached externally. The chapel had underfloor heating, provided by a 5 foot space and a fire. The chimney pipe went up the back wall between the two windows.
When the two societies united in 1950 some alterations were made.
Hooks along the right hand wall, which were for the men's top hats, were removed, and the choir pews and pulpit were brought from the P. M. Chapel to commemorate past P. M . worshippers.

James Skillicorn, a preacher in the early 19th century would never preach in English and objected strongly to the introduction of the organ; insisting that "a thousand tongues" sufficed.

At the conclusion of Mr. McFee's talk, Mr. Watterson led the members on a walk up the Glen road, where many of the sites referred to by Mr. McFee could still be seen.
A most enjoyable afternoon concluded with refreshments provided by the ladies at Colby.


was held at Salisbury Street Methodist Church, under the chairmanship of Rev. T. Isherwood. During the business part of the meeting it was felt that the Society was in good heart with a membership of over 60 with a healthy bank balance.
The officers and committee elected for the ensuring year are listed on the back page of the Newsletter.

Miss Ann Harrison, the Methodist Archivist, was the speaker for the second part of the meeting. She began her talk with a warm tribute to Mrs. Chapman and Mr. McFee who had both done so much to gather together the church records and to establish the society. The society celebrates its 20th anniversary in 1991 and Miss Harrison felt that this might be the start of a new era for the society as we sought to gather the works of those many gifted people who have had an interest in Methodist history.

The fact that most of the records are now held in the Museum instead of being scattered around the Island was commendable and should be encouraged, for there they could be linked with other records, for example, those of the established church, as well as secular records.

Miss Harrison referred to some of the records held, highlighting the depth and variety of them: an extract of the Onchan Methodist Leaders meeting, illustrated the activities of the church in the 1970's - e.g. arrangements for a Youth Club, ecumenical activities during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. An extract from the Journal of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society made reference to a complaint made in 1781 against John Gawne, one of the wardens of Kirk German for lending the sacramental vessels of St. Peter's in Peeltown for the use of the Reverend John Wesley in the administration of the Communion in his meeting house. The charge was dismissed for lack of evidence.
In 1779 the preacher, John Crook, was asked to answer a complaint to a Consistory Court at Kirk Michael that he had libelled a certain Mr. Higgins, boatman, of Peel town. His reply to the charge, in his own hand-writing is eloquent - the letter he had written to the petitioner had not been intended for public eyes and it was not his fault if the letter had been read in the presence of Mrs. Higgins.
Mr. Crook was asked to bring his witnesses to the Court - but we were not told of the outcome.

John Crook's conferences with the preachers are minuted in question and answer form:
"Question - complaints have been made that some of our Brethren are too much addicted to levity: this should be prevented ?
Answer - by all means: let them beware of this, which may easily steal upon us when we are among persons we esteem and love but which will (proportionately to its increase) weaken all graces, grieve God's Spirit, and render us more useless.
Question - In the Standard Minutes we are required to be punctual in all things, but are we so hardly in anything?
Answer - it seems we've been shamefully inattentive to this Rule: I pray you let us herein endeavour to amend.
Question - It has been observed by several persons that some of our Brethren sing hymns in Class meeting or Society meeting, calculated only for the unawakened world?
Answer - let them for shame think what they are about and always suit their hymns to the occasion for which they are met. "

And finally -"Peel Wesleyan Bazaar -
Pray stop my good friend for a moment attend one shilling will do at the door
Ah I see by your smile you will tarry a while and cheerfully help us I'm sure
Very useful the task which we venture to ask and easier than many by far.
Then list to my verse, wide open your purse and buy at our Wesleyan Bazaar. "

Miss Harrison had several other gems from the Methodist Archives and at the conclusion of her talk she was warmly thanked for the variety of the information produced and also for her care of the archives.

At the close of the meeting refreshments were provided by the folk at Salisbury Street.
NOTE - Any inaccuracies in the reported lectures are the fault of Editor's note-taking and not the Speakers - corrections,therefore, are welcome.


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