[From Ramsey Courier 7 March 1930 - part 6 of a series]
by a Retired Rector
This town, which not many years ago was the capital of the Island and the seat of Government is now the smallest in population of the three -other towns, even less than Rushen and some country parishes. it once contained the Tynwald Court and the House of Keys, even after the latter was elected by the people, the Courts of law, and Military Barracks and Government House. Most of these have been removed to Douglas, as being more central. more greatly populated, and the chief centre of trade and Commerce. Before the trains ran, Castletown was most inconvenient for members of the legislature who lived in the North, and who represented the Sheadings of Ayre and Garff. These latter especially when the House of Keys met for some days at a time had to stop in the town sometimes for nearly a week.
And yet Castletown has its attractions - the wild, rugged rocky scenery, the bracing sea air, and Langness and Scarlett with their numerous shipwrecks of former days. But perhaps the greatest attraction of all is the grand and ancient building of Castle Rushen parts of which are over 1000 years old and most of it intact so mighty is its strength. But more of this later on. Another famous building is King William's College, with its pretty modern chapel, its gymnasium and playing fields. The College is renowned nearly all over the world, and its scholars come from every part of the globe. Almost 100 years have passed since its foundation was laid and many improvements have since been made. The first headmaster I remember, was the Rev Dr Dickson [sic Dixon], afterwards Canon. Upon his promotion to St, Matthew's, Rugby, in the early sixties, the Rev Dr. Jos Jones, D.C.L., afterwards Dr. Hughes-Games and Archdeacon of Man, was appointed principal. It was during the latter's time that I was a pupil and after that a theological student. The Doctor was not only an excellent schoolmaster, but a preacher of great power and eloquence, though his voice was somewhat against him. I can remember even now, - 60 years or more afterwards - his faithful Scriptural sermons: two of which especially impressed me - "Justification by Faith in Christ alone," and on "Conversion." I also recollect Dr Hughes-Games mother. At that period there were no less than five masters in Holy Orders, and the services were in the old Chapel of the College.
It is only comparatively lately that Castletown has become a separate ecclesiastical parish, it was formerly included in Malew. For a great number of years it has been a Government Chaplaincy. St. Mary's Church was once attended by the Governor and Legislature, including the Clerk of the Rolls and the attorney General. The Chaplain had also to visit the barracks, Castle Rushen and conduct prayers at the old House of Keys. The first Chaplain I remember was the Rev. E. Ferrier, who was appointed about 1865-6. His predecessor was the rev. G. parsons, who was the father of the late Mrs. J. J. Crellin of Orrisdale, and of Admiral Parsons. In those days St. Mary's church had a beadle as well as a clerk. The former was dressed in a blue uniform cocked hat, together with a long staff in his hand - about 3 or 4 yards long. A friend, now long dead, told me that the beadle's business was to keep the children in order ; on one occasion when he saw some boys behaving badly, he leaned over several pews, and bought his long staff down with a rap resounding through the church, on the heads of the delinquents. Some pity, however, was felt for the poor children, as they were obliged to attend Sunday School and Church; in other words they had to keep still from about 10 am to 1 p.m.
The Rev E. Ferrier was Chaplain for, I think, the best part of 40 years. During most of this time he was also secretary to the Board of Education, and this necessitated him going to Douglas every weekday ; so that most of the pastoral duties of the town were undertaken by the Vicar and Curates of Malew. In his earlier days, Mr Ferrier was a great cricketer and in the sixties used sometimes to play in the matches at Ballakillingham, in a field opposite Lezayre Church, and I was often present. Among other players were Messrs R. and Q. Farrant who had lately returned from Australia, and Mr Jas. MacKenzie, Woodlands.
There was also curious or rather quaint custom which once prevailed in Castletown some 40 or 50 years ago and it may be in use now. That is every night, especially the end of the year, men, whom we called "watchmen" went round calling the time at the hours. Frequently I have been awoke in the middle of the night by a stentorian voice shouting outside the window : "Three o'clock" (or some other hour), "in the morning, and a fine frosty morning!". Then about Christmas time they came round and asked for a Christmas box I suppose as a reward for waking you of a sound sleep. Sometimes they came round two or three times during the night.
In days gone by the Barracks and the soldiers made the town more lively, and many entertainments took place. The average number of the military was 38 rank and file, but different detachments were moved about. Though small in number, it was a fine sight to see them on parade, with their scarlet uniforms, and especially a Highland regiment.
Among the principal families in Castletown about 50 years ago, were H.M. Quayle, Clerk of the Rolls; Sir James Gell, Attorney-General; Mr Jeffcott, High Bailiff; General Dickson, General Farrant, Colonel Caly, Mr G. Crellin, West Hill; Captain Vogs, Rev E. Ferrier, Rev H. Davidson, Mr V. L. Plegnier, Mrs Hillier etc., etc. About the end of the fifties, a good many Castletown people came to live in Ramsey. Among them were the Rev W. Sparrow (master of the Grammar School), Mr and Mrs F. Gray, Mr E. Creer (stonemason), Mr T. Mills (Tinsmith) and others. The late High-Bailiff of Ramsey, Mr F. Tellet, who occupied that position from 1832 to 1874 - a period of over 40 years - was, I am told, a native of Castletown. Captain Mylrea Tellet Quayle, M.H.K., was I likewise hear, called after him. The late Dr Tellet took his degree of M.D. at Trinity College, Dublin; and a large number of the Manx clergy, 60 and 70 years ago matriculated at the same College, among them being the Rev W. Kermode, Ven Archdeacon H. S. Gill, Rev B.P. Clarke, Canon E. Moore and others.
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