- a talk given by Mr. L.K.Davies, at Kirk Michael Methodist Church, on 18th September, 1993.
The Society arranged to hold this meeting at Kirk Michael, to help celebrate the refurbishment of the Chapel, and also the restoration of the organ. The afternoon proved to be a great success with Mr. Davies illustrating his talk himself at the organ.
He recalled that Charles was born into a family of hymn writers and poets. Hymns by his father, his elder brother and John have appeared in modem books. As Charles had had a classical education, he had studied Latin and Greek verse, translated them, and imitated them. He knew the tricks of the trade.
In Charles' hymn writing at least one hundred different metres were used, and he would alternate between Anglo-Saxon words of one or two syllables and much longer Latin words.
An example of this is found in verse three of Hymns and Psalms
number 354, (Come, let us anew/Our journey pursue).There is only one
other hymn of this metre.
Great use was also made of Scripture, not slavishly like the metrical psalms, but skillfully adapting it - see Hymns and Psalms number 744, verse 6. Indeed ignorance of Scripture lessens the impact of the hymns. 'Hail, the SUN of Righteousness' links with 'The SUN' of Malachi, chap.4, verse 2.
Charles also wrote hymns tor the Church's year -Christmas, Good Friday, Easter and Ascension. He also wrote hymns for religious experiences (see Hymn and Psalms nos. 563, 216, and 528 - 'My God, I am Thine', 'And can it be that I should gain', and 'Jesus, lover of my soul', respectively).
Mr. Davies pointed out that with over 5,000 hymns written by Charles Wesley, there must be variations in quality, and certainly verse 5 of Hymns and Psalms no. 811 is not one of his best - 'Hell is nigh, but God is nigher'. One of Mr Davies own favourites is found in the Methodist Hymn Book, no. 325, the last verse - 'The speechless awe which dare not move,/And all the silent heaven of love." - The reference is to Revelations - ''There was silence in heaven for the space of half an hour".
Charles has left us a number of hymns which will never be
forgotten, concluded Mr. Davies, quoting from another hymn writer
Isaac Watts, while life and thought and being last'.
This was the 'sensational' title Mr. Cyril Renshaw considered for his talk to the Annual General meeting at Baldrine Methodist Church Hall on Saturday, 20th November, 1993.This was because the old chapel, surely the most important building in the whole village for Wesleyan Methodists, managed to disappear without trace. Not only did it disappear physically it left not the slightest echo of recollection in folk memory of the village. Old gentlemen now in their eighties and nineties who played as children in the village, and went onto spend part of their working lives working in the very buildings which replaced the chapel had no inkling that that site had been associated with Methodism.
All over the Island there are fields, rocks and trees which are still pointed out as having been the place where once John Wesley stood for thirty minutes to address the populace. But a chapel, standing for over forty years, in the heart of the village and only seventy yards from the gates of the Parish Church can be totally forgotten. That is indeed a mystery.
Until now it has been assumed that the first Methodist
Chapel to be built in the village was the Primitive Methodist
chapel in 1824, and that the Wesleyans did not erect a chapel until
the early 1840's when they built at Cronk-y-Croghee about a mile from
the centre of the village. Since the Wesleyans were active on the
island long before the Primitives this has always appeared to be an
anomaly, explained away by such theories as - 'Kirk Michael was the
Bishop's village and opposition by the Manx Church kept the
Methodists out'. There were a few vague hints that there were
Wesleyans operating in Kirk Michael, but these could be explained
away by assuming that some sort of "cottage society" meeting in
private houses was struggling to exist in the village.
Now we know for certain that this is not the case. The Wesleyans purchased a plot of land in the very centre of the village in 1798, and we must assume they erected a building to meet their needs very soon after that.
This knowledge gives us the true framework into which future research, and the sort of discoveries Mr. Cashin will be talking about, can be fitted, to show the real picture of how Methodism developed in Kirk Michael.
Mr. Renshaw then goes on to describe how he came to discover the site of this chapel as he was researching maps and plans drawn up by one Patack Kelly early in the last century. One such plan showed a building labelled 'chapel'which at first sight was thought to be the old Primitive Methodist Chapel. Later Mr. Renshaw realised that the chapel could not be the one he had thought, and he and Mr. Cashin then worked together to unravel the mystery.
A Wesleyan Preaching Plan of 1813 had Kirk Michael listed. An old directory indicated a chapel somewhere near the centre of the village. A newspaper article of 1834 specifically stated that there were two chapels in the village at that time. Mr. Cashin recalled a deed he had once read that seemed to have contained a reference to the Primitive's chapel of 1824.
Another look at this deed, part of which was dated 1825, made
reference to "the Preaching House", and although at first reading the
wording had appeared a little ambiguous, now that this old chapel
site was known, it became crystal clear that the cottage lay "between
the road leading to the preaching house and the main road."
So now there was independent documentary evidence of a preaching house on the very lane where the tithe map had shown it to be, but the deed had not revealed the identity of the sect which worshipped there.
The final solution of this mystery came through the work of Rev. John Mercer who was the Wesleyan Circuit Minister in Ramsey during the period 1816 -'20. In 1818 Mr. Mercer assembled details of all the title deeds held by Methodist Chapels in his circuit up to that date, and bound them together to form a small register, which still survives, and a copy of which Mr. Renshaw was able to consult. One deed, dated 1798, was for the sale of a plot of land for the purpose of erecting a Wesleyan Methodist Preaching House in the very centre of Kirk Michael village.
Such a discovery raised three questions - Who were the men and women who established the old chapel and so laid the foundation of Methodism in Kirk Michael? How can we be sure that a chapel was actually built, and do we have any description of what it looked like? What are the implications of the discovery of this chapel?
The deed of sale gives some guidance as to who founded the chapel - the land was bought from a John Kaighen of Ballacreggy for a nominal sum of one guinea. That may suggest that he himself was a Methodist and sympathetic to the cause. Certainly there were some of that name in Michael who leaned toward nonconformity, for in1780 a Thomas Kaighin ot Kirk Michael was 'presented' to the Ecclesiastical Court for "falsely alleging he had silenced the Curate by proposing to him some question or questions" and thereby "endeavouring to render him mean and contemptible among his parishioners". The purchasers of the land are listed as William Cannell, John Corjeag, John Caine, John Caine, John Cannell, William Cannell and John Quayle. Future research may shed more light on them and their activities, but it must suffice for now to say that one of the John Caines was almost certainly John Caine of Ballaskyr who was a figure of enormous importance in the early years of Manx Methodism.
It seems that the chapel was certainly built because it is advertised for sale in the 'Manx Sun' in 1840. As to its description, when the Park View Chapel was opened in 1913, a speaker described the previous chapels thus: "the site, in many cases was a waste ground, of no use for agricultural purposes. Right up against the road, with no boundary wall, enclosing lawn or shrubs, four square walls of doubtful composition were run up, and the poor building was made to do duty for all the church's purposes."
Now Mr. Renshaw is very keen to discover why the Wesleyans of 1840 abandoned their old chapel in the centre of the village, and moved to another, quite inappropriate site outside the village. And also why it was that they chose to forget so completely the site of their first chapel, neglected to have their children and grandchildren remember and revere the place where their ancestors erected the first Methodist preaching house in the village. This is the real mystery of the phantom chapel in Kirk Michael.
Mr. Tom Cashin followed Mr. Renshaw's intriguing talk with some discoveries of his own. An assorted collection of papers belonging to the Joughins of Bride and the Caines of Ballacorlett, Michael, both very old Wesleyan families, yielded a harvest of 19th century Plans and Anniversary hymn sheets- some of which have survived for 150 years!
The earliest Plan dates back to 1813, a
copy of the original, but important nonetheless, as close inspection
of it provided confirmation of the existence of the chapel discovered
by Mr. Renshaw. In 1813 there are recorded 67 meeting places,
including thirteen in cottages, with 79 local preachers. The cottage
meeting places had virtually disappeared by the 1850's as Methodists
became more affluent. The number of preachers remained consistent for
most of the century.
In contrast, the 1824 Primitive Plan reveals there were 23 places of worship and many local preachers are listed in subsequent plans. The 1854 Plan indicates that the people were able to meet on Saturday evenings at 7.0pm for Prayer Meetings conducted in the Manx language at St. Thomas' Chapel in Douglas. The fact that there were very few morning services held in Methodist Churches in the last century enabled worshippers to attend their Parish Church.
In 1843, Anthony Lewthwaite preached at the Anniversary Services at Barregarrow. By referring to the Plans it can be seen that he is listed from 1813 to 1854 - a period ot 41 years. Seemingly, one of the most noted preachers of his day.
The names of the old meeting places such as Brundle[fpc - in Lonan], Cloven Stones and Cold Clay posed a few questions. It seems that Cloven Stones is in Baldrine; and a newspaper cutting from Harvey Briggs' column in the Examiner indicates that Cold Clay was formerly Hillberry Farm. Mr. Cashin suggests that at some future date, we should try as a group to identity as many of these old meeting places as we can.
The way in which Mr. Cashin had examined these Plans and shared his findings with the meeting was very much appreciated by all, and his conclusion that such a oollection would be a valuable addition to our archives is certainly true.
Mr. Renshaw and Mr. Cashin presented their papers at the Annual General Meeting of the Society last November. The original research in which they had been engaged made for a very exciting afternoon, and hopefully will inspire others to look out for old documents and to examine them with care.