[Taken from The Manx Church Magazine Vol v #1 Jan 1895 pp i/iii by G.W.Wood]

A Biographical Account of the Rev John Clague, Vicar of, Rushen, Isle of Man, 1782-1816.

Among the small religious books translated into the Manx language early in the present century was one known as " Crossman’s Catechism." The author was the Rev H. Crossman, Rector of Little Bromley, in Essex. The title of the English version was " An Introduction to the knowledge of the Christian Religion, in two parts, to which are added short forms of prayer for several occasions." This work has long since gone out of date, and, like others, in this case copies are now seldom to be met with. It was translated into Manks by the Rev J. Clague, Vicar of Rushen, in 1814, and printed in Douglas by Beatson & Copeland. Its Manx title is " Aght giare dy heet gys Tushley as Toiggal jehu Chredjue Creestee ayns daa ayen." According to "Church Notes" Diocese of Sodor and Man " (Manx Society, vol. xxix) the Rev John Clague was appointed Vicar of Rushen May 22nd, 1782, his successor being the Rev Joseph Qualtrough, April 13th, 1816. I was not aware that anything existed in the form of a biographical account of this worthy man until a short time ago I met with the following memoir in manuscript. It will, I think, be interesting to readers of " The Manx Church Magazine.’ ‘—S G. W. Wood, Streatham, London.

." A man he was to all the district dear,
And passing rich with forty pounds a year;
Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And even his failings leaned to virtue s side,
And In his duty prompt at every call,
He watched, he wept, he pray’d, and felt for all."

On the demise of the Rev. Nicholas Christian, Vicar of Kirk Christ, Rushen, Isle of Mann, the Rev John Clague succeeded (1782) to the pastorate of the parish, " and he was a man, take him for all in all, I ne’er shall look upon his like again." Well do I remember the venerable Vicar Clague with his cauliflower wig and white surplice pacing the aisle of Rushen Church and, like a legate from the skies, take his place in the pulpit, and with tears beseech his hearers to be reconciled to their God and Saviour. I have also seen him assemble the fishermen on the sea-shore, and read Bishop Wilson's Forms of Prayer for the herring fishermen before they launched away on the sea to cast their nets and often, very often, I have heard him fervently pray for the blessings of the sea to be restored and continued so as in due time we may enjoy them. " As dy chur er ash as dy hannaghtyn dooin bannaghtyn ny marrey, myr shen ayns nyn imbagh cooie ui vod may yn soylleyoc y gheddyn," as the said prayer is expressed in the Manx dialect.

In Rushen Parish Vicar Clague enjoyed the blessings resulting from retirement, natural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life, progressive virtue, and approving heaven with every other advantage to make him meet for the inheritance of the saints in light, and, to eke out his poor paltry pittance of parochial stipend, he kept a school for the children of his more respectable parishioners, and he had a few pupils from the West Indies whom he fitted to follow their fortunes in mercantile pursuits, some of whom were wild enough, and like Goldsmith’s Village unruly urchins " learned to see the day’s disasters in the Vicar’s morning face," and felt the full force of the thong just as they merited the salutary chastisement.

Notwithstanding the care of the school and his parochial charge, he found time to attend to philosophical pursuits, and an eclipse (solar or lunar) or any celestial phenomenon had a large share of his keen attention. The current tradition of ghosts and fairies found no place in his creed and I remember hearing him preach a powerful Manx sermon on the superstitious belief of the peasantry in those " airy nothings which," he said, ‘ were a source of mischievous terror to women and children"! He, however, allowed with Milton that " millions of spiritual creatures walk this earth both while we wake and while we sleep," but he contended that the they could not be seen by eyes of flesh and blood, though they tempted us to transgress, and rejoiced when we fell by the force of their temptation.

The repentance and return of the prodigal son was a theme on which he delighted to dwell in both languages, and in a very pathetic manner the Venerable Vicar would urge his hearers to return to their heavenly Father from whom they had so very widely wandered in the wilderness of sinful pursuits.

The Rev Samuel Burdy (an Irish clergyman), who published a book ("Ardglass, or Ruined Castles," Dublin 1802-3), paid a visit to the Isle of Man sometime before the publication of his curious book, and had an interview with Mr Clague in John Cain’s house, Port Iron, and the unsuspecting Vicar got alarmed when he saw the Irish ecclesiastic taking notes of their tête-à-tête, lest Burdy might mean to take advantage of him. Burdy employed his laughing faculty at the parson’s expense, but, as I never saw Burdy’s book, I know not if he used his pungent pen to his disadvantages

When John, Duke of Athol, visited the miniature Kingdom of Mann, he honored Parson Clague with an invitation to his table, not only at Castle Mona, but also to dine with him in a field at Port Iron.

I saw the Vicar and his lady take their seats at table in the open air in Port Iron about the year 1804. The Duke was accompanied by many Manx grandees, every one of whom has gone to the grave to give the worms a feast long ago.

Vicar Clague had little or no sympathy with the erring sisters of his parish. I have seen them clothed or enveloped in a white sheet, and led by the Sumner into the church during divine service, and placed in front of the pulpit, where they were admonished in no measured terms on their besetting sin ! A widow in the parish had to do penance in other parish churches as also in her own, and no admonition of Mr Clague and his brother clergy had any salutary effect in checking her levity. The Sabbath-breaker and profane swearer had also to stand sheeted in the church and hear the parson’s admonitions ; often to very little good effect. A Manx mule could not be more regardless of the whip than I saw one J— K— in the sheet on the Lord’s Day, lending a deaf ear to the rebuke and admonitions of the venerable Vicar.

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R—— C——, the Parson’s near neighbour (a tenant in Ballakilley), proved a nuisance and an annoyance to the good old man. He poisoned the Parson’s pigeons, and subjected him to many petty insults to the utter disgust of all peaceable people. And, strange to say, when " Bobby "was in the very height of his unneighbourly annoyance he was struck by a stroke of palsy, and for the remainder of his life he dragged a dangling length of leg after him I And many believe his affliction to be a just retribution for the wanton and malicious mischief done to the good old Vicar.

When the Duke of Athol desired the Manx clergy to advise the herring fishermen to fish on Saturday night, I heard the Parson say that he confronted his Grace, and assured him he would not tell his herring fishing parishioners to do so, for it would lead to a desecration of the Lord’s day, and incapacitate them from attending divine worship in the house of God ! And, so far as I can learn, the Manx fishermen never go to sea on Saturday night, for it is well known if they did so the Lord’s Day would be desecrated by selling the fish and drying the nets ; and drinking too much Manx ale!

With the few gentlemen resident in Rushen parish Mr Clague was on the most intimate terms. The Hopkin, Barrington, and Bensen families, when they resided successively in Ballacurry, often invited the Vicar and his lady to their hospitable table, and a regular return of courtesies exchanged. And no gentleman’s society was more congenial to Mr Clague than the courteous company of Thos. Drury, Esq., and his hospitable lady in Port Iron. Often have I seen the venerable Vicar and his lady (true types of the old school) take their afternoon walk to and tea in Mr Drury’s house. Mr Drury was a gentleman of a respectable Derbyshire family, who lived for a number of years in Port Iron. He was a blessing in the place.

Close by the sea his ever open door
Obliged the wealthy and relieved the poor.

And his urbanity was experienced and appreciated not only by Parson Clague, but also by Cornelius Smelt, the Lieutenant-Governor, and the poorest peasant in the place. And there were there the poorest of the poor, who found a difficulty in keeping body and soul together. But Mr Drury helped them liberally according to his means.

Mrs Clague was a daughter of the venerable and reverend Mr William Crebbin, Vicar of Jurby ; and she was a helpmeet for her husband, for many long years they went hand in hand along the highway of this mortal life.

Mrs Clague predeceased her beloved partner two or three years, and the loss was irreparable to him, as he fell into the fangs of some mercenary relatives, who paid more attention to their own pleasures than the comforts of the bereaved parson.

Parson Clague purchased a portion of Bell’s property in Jurby, which he termed the Grampian Hills, although the place bears not the slightest resemblance to the wild aspect of the Caledonian mountains.

Often he, accompanied by his lady took his afternoon walk to superintend the building of the farm-house and offices. And ultimately they left by bequest the property to a son of Norris Clague (the parson’s nephew), and Jane Coulthard (Mrs Clague’s niece), who became the wife of Mr George Geneste [? Charles Geneste ?], advocate, in Douglas.

In the year 1811 a terrific thunderstorm broke over the Isle of Man, to the dismay of many of its inhabitants. A fearful flash of lightning, shattered Bell’s house and instantly killed three brothers of the name of Cubbon. On the day of the funeral a large concourse of people were assembled at the house, the corpses were taken out and laid on chairs, when Mr Thomson (a Wesleyan preacher)[George Thomson Douglas/C'town cct 1809/11] took for his text " Be ye also ready, &c," and preached an impressive discourse. And some time after Parson Clague got a gravestone laid over the grave relating the awful catastrophe, and the following verse from the Apocalypse :— " Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of Saints."

And the same stone will record the terrific tragedy to unborn generations, when none can know, who got the calamitous catastrophe, recorded to tell the Manks of the marvellous works of the Almighty !

Our fathers where are they ? And the prophets do they live for ever ? Oh, no ! Parson Clague is gone the way of all the earth, and so have parsons Qualtrough and Corrin, his successors in the vicarage of Rushen.

It was toward the end of the year 1809 that Mr Shepherd, the psalm singer, first formed a class to improve psalm singing in Kk. Christ Church, and the good old parson entered heart and soul into the movement In fact, he was indefatigable in getting a class formed to improve psalmody in the church ; and, after a lapse of about seven years, when Mr Shepherd returned again to form a second class, Mr Clague was on his death bed, and Mr Shepherd taught his class to sing a funeral psalm for the parson’s burial which was sung with good effect. He was also a good poet, as the beautiful hymn by Mr Crossman, translated by the parson, and printed in his book at page 56, will bear witness. It is on prayer, and I think It is quite fit to be placed beside the beautiful hymns by the good Bishop Ken, entitled the " Morning and Evening hymns"—

" Glory to Thee my God this night,"


"My God who makes the sun to know
His proper time to rise."

And I think it is a subject of regret that he did not favor the Manx with a translation of Homer s ‘ Iliad and " Odyssey" as he was quite qualified to do.

But alas the Manx in general, who have to rise early and sit late and eat the bread of carefulness, are not able to remunerate any man (however well qualified he might be for the task) for any literary work whatever. Requiescat in pace. ,Sit tibi terra levis.

Mr Burdy’s reference to this interview is as follows (see page 52 of " Ardglass") :—" One of these clergymen, whom we visited, had a handsome income from his school, though he could not accuse himself of extravagant charges ; for, as he told us, he allowed his pupils diet, washing, and lodging, and taught them himself the English, French, Greek, and Latin languages, also Euclid, algebra, navigation, geography, the use of the globes, arithmetic, book-keeping, reading, writing, and spelling, all for £12 (British) a year. He was particularly skilful, we understood, at English grammar, and gave us a dissertation on it, pointing out a short method of teaching it of his own invention. His fame, it seems, extended very far, for he had many pupils from Liverpool and the North of England and a few even from the West Indies. He was, at first, sufficiently communicative In answering several questions we asked him with respect to the Church, &c., but when, in order to’ assist our memory, I desired a friend, who was a kind of secretary for us, to take down notes of what he said, he stopt short and exclaimed " Gentlemen, what do you mean by taking down my conversation I " This produced an enquiry of who we were, whence we came, and our business in the island. I told him we came from Ireland merely in a journey of curiosity, and that I was a clergyman of the Established Church there. just from the other side of the channel. This answer, however, did not seem to satisfy him, as he replied dryly to us, " Oh I suppose so ; I’m mistaken. I find, for I thought you were revolutionists." We soon parted, for we could not prevail on him any more to enter freely into conversation with us. They are wonderfully apprehensive of French emissaries in the Island."



Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 1999