[From Manx Antiquities,1863]



TRAVEL in Manxland is not accomplished by help of the locomotive. Indeed, a railway would grate harshly on the peculiarly primitive-looking landscape which opens upon us in our progress north-wards from Ramsay along the lonely level road — the monotony of the scenery being occasionally diversified by a farm with its inevitable windmill. If there is no railway, there is at least, along our way, a line of telegraphic wire which the gentle breeze causes to discourse not unpleasant æolian music. Those unacquainted with this part of the Island will be struck with the method adopted to divide the fields from one another. Instead of a paling or hedge, as we see throughout Scotland and England, here the division is accomplished by means of a thick mound of earth, in some instances so thick that it might be used for the purposes of defence. How this method of dividing the farm took its origin, I have not been able to trace ; but think it molt likely to have been done at the time the drainage and levelling of this part took place. The spare soil was then more serviceable to be used for this purpose, although it has now been calculated that the removal of these earthen dykes would increase the size of some of the farms by a fourth part.

The monotony of this level drive is broken as we approach Kirkbride by rounded sand hillocks, which shut out the old church and village from the view. These rounded hillocks are especially interesting to the geologist. They are very characteristic of the Pleistocene period, and correspond with others of a similar age in the southern part of the Island. Kirkbride is now situated close to the seashore ; but the ancient maps of the Island show it as occupying a site somewhat inland, while other well-marked spots there, close to the shore, have disappeared. The geologists who believe that this Island is gradually rising from the sea, will have difficulty in explaining away this circumstance.

Wayside Cross, Kirk Braddan
Wayside Cross, Kirk Bride

The road now bends abruptly round one of the sand-hillocks, and reveals to the visitor the village of Kirkbride. The old church, covered with platter and whitewash, stands on a slightly elevated platform of the village. The road which winds prettily down a hollow in front of it, exhibits on its right hand fide, and nearly opposite the church gate, a rude representation of a small-faced cross, cut out of red sandstone. Its workmanship is rude and unsystematical, and it is much weather-worn. Still, four bosses can be made out at the different branches of it. These bosses are in every way similar to those on the Kirk Maughold wayside cross, and there can be little doubt that this was one of a similar description, marking the way to the sacred place, and reminding the pilgrim of the duties which his religion demanded in approaching the sacred precincts.

From the neighbourhood of the church a good view northward is to be had, with the Point of Ayre lighthouse in the extreme distance. This view includes a considerable expanse of barren sand, but a few feet elevated above high water mark. The peculiar, wiry grass, which Nature has arrayed as pioneers of other vegetation in loose sands, is here doing its duty in abundance. Still the scene looks cheerless and desolate ; the few gorse bushes which have as yet sprung up only adding to its apparent barrenness.

We must somewhat retrace our steps to enable as to reach the next old parish church and village, called Kirk Andreas. In doing so, we come upon an interesting monument to the left, an encircled barrow, called Cronk-y-Vollen, or hill of the fallen. This is undoubtedly a Scandinavian place of sepulture. It is a rounded, elevated mound, in sight of the sea, with small standing stones around it. I was informed by an old villager, that it was opened in his time, when a large stone cist and burnt bones were found. This may or may not be true, but the energetic antiquary in this locality, with but small expense, might expiscate much that is obscure and unknown of these ancient Scandinavian barrows. In addition to the one just mentioned, we have Cronk-y-Dooney, Cronk-Ballavarry, Cronk-Ain, and many others in the immediate neighbourhood, of whose history we know nothing, many of which have never been opened, and the examination of which, would, doubtless, more than repay the trouble and expense of the enquiry.

Runic Stone, Kirk Andreas
Runic Stone, Kirk Andreas

We easily make out the parish church of St Andreas (St Andrew's) with its defaced runic cross in the middle of the church green, and several others in the graveyard adjoining. We shall pass, in the meantime, the consideration of these runic monuments. It is not unlikely that, after the more troublous times of the history of this Island had passed, emigrants from the nearest shore were attracted to and settled in it. In this way, probably, the two northern-most parishes have been named after the patron saint of Scotland (St Andrew) and Saint Bridget, who, according to " Florence of Worcester," was a Scottish nun, who died in Ireland, in the odour of sanctity, A.D. 521. We shall afterwards have occasion to refer to a similar arrangement, when we come to notice the ecclesiology of the other parts of the Island.

We next turn our steps towards the extreme north-west point, on an elevated and very desolate part of which stands Kirk Jurby, near the headland of that name. The vicarage is close by. Like most other parish churches, this is a modern structure, built of the ordinary slate of the Island. It was rebuilt in 1814, on the site of a more ancient church, which, like the present, was dedicated to Saint Patrick.

At the time the present church of St Patrick at Jurby was built, Runic sepulchral monuments seem to have been too common to meet with regard; for, in addition to several interesting inscribed fragments in the garden of the vicarage and church-yard, the Rev. Mr Hardie [Rev Henry Hardy] pointed out to me a number of similar fragments, which had been built into the wall, and a large and finely-executed example, which still stands as a gate-post in front of the church.

At a point called the Llare in the parish, and not far from where we now stand, the famous King Orry is said to have landed. The old maps of the Island show a lake to have existed in connection with the sea at this point; and it is not unlikely that he took advantage of this inlet to land in safety from a tempestuous voyage.

Runic Stone, Ballaugh
Runic Stone, Ballaugh

Proceeding in a south-west direction now, we soon reach the parish of Ballaugh, situated on the site of the ancient Ballalough, a portion of the still older lake Mireshaw. Although the village of this name has been divided into two, that of New and Old Ballaugh, each of which have their respective places of worship, it is chiefly in the Old Ballaugh church that the antiquary will feel interested. In the graveyard attached, a small, but most exquisitely carved, runic cross is to be found, a memorial of " Thorlaf Thorjolfsen to his son Olaf." No other has been left to delight the archæologist in this place. Its church-walls and gateway, however, are fast tottering to decay, and the day cannot be long distant when it must be demolished for safety. Then let us hope that some one imbued with respect for these ancient memorials, may be near to save them, from the hand of the destroyer. Passing onwards and southwards by the coast road, we pass the Episcopal Palace of the Bishop of Sodor and Man. The ancient part of this palace, which was called " Torkilstadt," still exists, and is of high antiquity. The much-revered Primate of the Island, Bishop Wilson, resided here, and did much to beautify it by planting trees, etc., around it. Kirk Michael, the next village, is soon reached. In the middle of the village, and in the centre of the roadway, stands a beautiful memorial pillar ; the church gate is opposite, and on each side the gate, on the top of a low wall, two other neatly carved crosses have been placed ; others are to be seen both in the church itself and in the graveyard. The present church was built in 1835, after the early English or pointed style of architecture ; and it was in the process of demolishing the old church that the memorial crosses just referred to were found built into the walls. How long they had remained there it is impossible to trace, but certain it is that they owe their very perfect state of preservation to their having thus been protected from the action of the weather.

Runic Monument, Kirk Michael

Runic Monument, Kirk Michael

I propose that here, surrounded by the most perfect runic monuments which this Island affords, to take a general survey of the subject, which will not only save much repetition, but prove more interesting to the general reader.

The monuments called " Runic," consist of memorial pillars and crosses, carved with peculiar curb-work and scrolls, with rude representations of men and animals intermixed. We have already referred to other Scandinavian remains in various parts of the Island, but none exhibit Runic writing but the crosses and memorial pillars. This form of writing seems to have been specially designed for Bones, or hard substances, having no curved lines in its characters. It undoubtedly had its origin among the Teutonic tribes, and was brought to this country by the early Norse invaders. These letters (for it must always be kept in mind that this is not a language but a mere series of letters) were used by these nations long anterior to the Christian era.

The Manx Runic characters are few and simple, but somewhat peculiar ; they consist of fifteen letters, which can be easily learnt, and the characters upon the stones as easily made out. We are not left in doubt as to the period during which such monuments were manufactured and inscribed on the Island. The Chronicon Manniae, Norse Sagas, and Irish Saintly Annals, record distinctly that the Norsemen conquered and occupied the Isle of Man from the end of the ninth to the middle of the thirteenth centuries.

That they were heathens, worshippers of Thor and Odin, cannot be questioned ; but whether they were so when they arrived in the Island may be questioned. Professor Munch seems to think that, before reaching the Isle of Man, the Norse Vikingr or emigrants had resided in some of the Northern Isles, where they, in all probability, became embued with the early ideas of Christianity, that faith having been very early preached in the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland. This view, however, appears hardly borne out by the Scandinavian monuments here. These barrows and tumuli, with cists, urns, and incinerated bones, seem to denote the sepulture of a heathen people, while the gradual introduction of Christianity among them may be traced, in the burial of their dead, by a rude cross over the grave-that rude cross being afterwards supplanted by one more ornamented, and bearing a suitable inscription and design.

The genuine old Manxman was a Celt; and there can be no doubt that as early as the fifth century, the doctrines of the Cross were preached to the Celtic inhabitants of the Island by St Patrick. We can, therefore, readily see a means by which the conquerors acquired a knowledge of Christianity from the conquered ; and this seems to me a more ready explanation of the change of faith noticed in the people during their four centuries' residence in the Island, and to be more in accordance with the relics which they have left behind. There is nothing to indicate the precise period at which any of these monuments were raised. Professor Munch thinks that they were engraved in the eleventh century, and Worsæ is of a similar opinion, which corresponds with the idea that their knowledge of Christianity was acquired on the Island. It is certain that these crosses and memorial pillars of which we are speaking, were not raised to heroes who fell in fight, or were in any way connected with war. Everything denotes the reverse. The cross, the " emblem of peace," flocks and herds, shepherds, watering places for the cattle, hunting scenes, fishing nets, &c., all denote that the spear had been beat into the pruning hook, and that the art of war was studied no more.

In demolishing the walls of the old church at Kirk Michael in 1835, they came upon a sculptured stone which proved sufficiently curious. It was richly carved with cable ornament work, but without any animals or figures, and bore the following inscription very distinct:-" Malbrig, the son of Athakan, the smith, erected this cross for his soul; but his kinsman, Gaut, made this and all in Man." The peculiar style of ornamentation adopted by this early sculptor, is now recognizable throughout the Island ; and it is difficult to reconcile the statement on this atone with the fact that he was the only sculptor then. We have the names of other artists of this class. " Ina the Swarthy" and " Thurid" engraved crosses ; and unless Gaut had been the first, he would have known of these. The examples of their work, although wonderful for the period, are not to be compared with that of Gaut, and naturally lead to the belief that they were anterior to him, or that he reckoned himself the sculptor of the Island. These, however, must be mere matters of opinion. Of these crosses and memorial stones it may be generally asserted that they have been erected to the memory of departed relatives and friends, just as our grave-stones are erected at the present day. In addition, however, it would seem to have been customary, with impressions made by the dawn of Christianity, to erect crosses for their own souls. Of such is the inscription we have just quoted. Of the other memorial crosses on the Island, one other is worthy of our limited notice here. It is in the Distington Museum, and was taken from the old church at Kirk Michael. The early part of the inscription has been broken and effaced, so that the name has disappeared:-

" To , whom Oskatel deceived under security of his pledge of peace." " This person," says Dr Cumming, "would appear to have been slain by an enemy who had been bound to ' keep the peace,' but who broke his pledge. The Norwegian name Oskatel became general in subsequent times, and is connected with the eagle and child, the crest of the Stanley family, who possessed the Isle of Man through so many years."

One cross only bears the name of Jesus Christ. It is in the garden at Kirk Corchan-a fragment, but with the Saviour's name distinctly written. These sepulchral memorials assume three very distinct forms in Man. First, we have the memorial pillars, an elongated flat block, with the cross, figures, and ornamentation, in relievo, upon it on both sides. The edges, too, are generally embossed. These monuments stand from five to eight feet high above the level of the ground, and from three to four feet broad, and six to eight inches in thickness. Most of them have names upon them. Second, we have rounded stones of much smaller size-some adorned, others not-but all bearing the cross on the greater part of the surface on both sides. These have been fattened by a pedestal into a niche in a flat stone, which apparently covered the grave of the departed. No Runic writing has been found on them. Third, we have a variety of stones cut out into the form of the cross, some extremely rude, others most exquisitely ornamented, and clearly inscribed. Of these three varieties, the second is probably the earliest example, and is to be found at Kirk Maughold, Kirk Braddon, and Kirk Corchan. The first or Monolythic pillar comes next, of which we have beautiful examples at Kirk Michael, Kirk Ballaugh, Kirk Andreas, Kirk Maughold, and Kirk Rushen. Of the third variety, examples are only to be seen at Kirk Braddon. These are slender, beautifully carved, and ornamented crosses, the names upon them being very distinct. All, but especially the latter, are worthy of a detailed visit from the antiquary.


(1) Many sepulchral tumuli are to be seen in the neighbourhood, some of which. have been opened and found to contain cinerary urns, or loose collections of burnt bones. Much, however, in this direction remains to be done by the antiquary.


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