[Fom Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 1 No 3 pp80/83]



(Read May 9th, 1889)

THE remaining Manks Dials are, perhaps, not quite so interesting as those already described in the first part of this paper, and they are connected chiefly with the old parish churches in the Island. There can be little doubt that originally all, or nearly all, our old Churches had each a Sun Dial, and a very necessary appendage it would in old times be; the only regret is, that as soon as they ceased to be useful, they, in most cases, ceased to be cared for, and now, we as often as not, find them neglected and discarded, and even their very existence is unknown.

Take for instance the Dial at the old entrance to the Churchyard at Kirk Michael, this has been an exceedingly good and interesting one, and there are many people still living who remember it when it was perfect; but after the present church was built, some 50 years ago, and the old entrance to the churchyard closed, it seems to have been left a prey to the energies of the parochial school children, who, not having then (as strange to say they have not yet) any playground, amused themselves by throwing stones at this dial, and getting in and out of the churchyard over the wall where it is placed; consequently the face has been entirely destroyed, and the sandstone pedestal upon which the inscription was cut, is much chipped and broken. The inscription is in Latin, and is said to have run thus :—" Temporis memor mei tibi posui monitorem" (Mindful of my time, I have raised this admonition to thee), but the words must have been much abreviated, and now only a few letters remain. On the north side are these words and date:—" Christian de Whitehouse, 1681," —thus showing it to be about 200 years old. On the east side are the arms of the Island, the Three Legs, which with the name and date are fairly perfect.

The dial by the Stile at Ballaugh Old Church is in pretty good condition, thanks to the care of the present rector, the Rev W. Kermode, who on coming to the parish discovered it lying on the ground, and had it restored to its original position. It is made of very thin slate, prettily ornamented in a manner similar to some of the stones in the Churchyard; and has the inscription—" The gift of Thos. Moughton, 1813."

The dial at Jurby Church is not so satisfactory, it is also of slate, and let into a round red sand-stone pillar, built in the wall of the churchyard, near the entrance. The gnomon is broken off and the face much disfigured (as also is the Ballaugh one) by persons scratching their names and initials on it. The inscription runs thus—" The gift of Patt. Brew to Jurby Church, A.D. 1757. Latitude 54 d. 24 m." Certainly it is worthy of a fresh gnomon, and of having a little care taken of it.

At Kirk Bride new Church we find the dial which was removed from the old Church, when the latter was pulled down about twelve years ago, and has been put into its present position in the south wall of the Church, by the Rector, the Rev E. W. Kissack. It has no inscription, only the date, 1824.

Outside the Church gates at Maughold, on an open piece of ground, there is a good bronze dial, it is set in what is believed to be a portion of the shaft of an old cross; this is built in masonry some 6 feet high, and ascended by two steps, the whole being very good and perfect. The dial bears the words "Ew. Christian fecit 1666. Latitude 50. 8." This Ewan Christian was of Lewaigue, and it is strange he should have erred in the latitude, which is not correct. He was, I believe, commonly known by the name "Kione Prash," "brass head," and was perhaps so named from the colour of his hair, in the same way as the well-known "Illiam Dhone" was so called; or it may be that originally he was "Ewan Prash" from the work that he was engaged in; or, possibly, from the story told of him that, like Lord Bacon, he attempted to make a brazen Head, which having uttered the words,—" Time is, Time was,"—fell to pieces. However his dial is very perfect, and very interesting, being, along with the one which belonged to his home at Lewaigue, already described, the oldest that we have in the Island.

Santon Church must once have had a Sun Dial, as Mr Gelling a former vicar there, used to say, that "his dial kept Manks time"! Unfortunately it has disappeared, and I am not able to discover what has become of it, nor to get any description of it.

At Marown old Church is the granite pedestal of a dial, but everything else belonging to it has disappeared.

S. Mark’s Church, in Malew, has a Sun Dial on a pedestal in the Churchyard, with the date 1849, but there is no inscription.

In the south wall of the old Church of Kirk Braddan, there is a dial which measures about 2 feet by 4 feet, the centre is white marble about one foot square, set in a red sandstone lozenge, painted black, at the top corner of which are the arms of the Island, the Three Legs, in relief; outside this again is a square of red sand-stone, which has been whitewashed over; at the lowest end is the inscription in Manks "Ta ny laghyn am myr Scaa." (Our days are like a Shadow) and below this again are the words "Tempus fugit." The whole is surmounted by a funeral urn. The ivy grows very much over the Church, so that unless it is kept well cut, the dial is in danger of being hidden.

Malew Church has also one in the south wall, close to the roof, and about 1½ feet square; it is quite plain, and has unfortunately been whitewashed over. At the lower end is this text in Manks, "Ta nyn laghyn er y thalloo myr scadoo," 1 Chron. xxix. 15, (Our days on the earth are as a shadow). This dial is not very old, it was planned and designed and put up by the late vicar of Malew, the Rev William Gill. An older one had, until that time, been in the churchyard, probably on a pillar or pedestal, as an entry in the parish register says that Governor Ready is buried near the Sun Dial. What has become of this, or why it should have been removed, I cannot ascertain.

Thanks to the energy of one of our members, Miss Stevenson, of Balladoole, an old and interesting bronze dial has been brought to light; it had formerly stood on a pillar in the churchyard at Kirk Arbory, but for many years has been lying on a shelf in a cottage in the parish, where after much enquiry she discovered it, and it was willingly given up to her; it is unfortunately very much battered and broken, and has lost the gnomon, and is altogether more suitable for our Museum (where I trust it will eventually be) than to be restored and replaced in the churchyard, though had it not been so disfigured, this is certainly what I should like to have seen done with it. The dial is octagonal, and the inscription runs thus—" Horula dum quota sit Quaeritur hora fugit." 1678 (While one asks the little hour, the hour flies). There are also the words "Thomas Kirkall de Bolton fecit," and below this a Coat of Arms. As there is at present a dial in the south wall of the church, with the date 1846, but no inscription, it seems probable that the old one, which was much more beautiful and interesting, had been discarded and lost (as it was supposed to have been until last year), before this present one was put up.

There is a dial on a stone pedestal in the Churchyard of Kirk Christ, Rushen, with the date, 1829.

In vol. xxix. of the Manx Society, edited by the late Mr Harrison, of Rock Mount, allusion is made to one as standing at the eastern entrance of this churchyard, and having the inscription "Horula dum quota sit, Quaeritur hora fugit." But as these are the words on the old dial belonging to Arbory (already described), and as I can gather no information about any previous dial belonging to Rushen Church, I cannot help thinking that he intended to allude to Arbory, and not to Rushen at all; especially as the parishes join, and the two churches are not very far apart. Still, of course, he may have been correct, and both dials may have had the same inscription; and certainly the stone shaft of the pedestal of the Rushen dial does appear to be older than the dial plate.

There is now only one other to describe, and it is by far the best, and stands at the old entrance to the churchyard at Kirk Patrick. It is made of Pooilvaish marble, some three inches thick, being nearly two feet square, and of considerable weight. When I saw it last year it was in a very neglected state, lying loose in the top of the wall, apparently uncared for; and I wondered much that it had not been carried off or broken, but it was quite perfect, even to the gnomon, which is of brass, supported by Three Legs. Great interest centres, or should centre, round this dial on account of its connection with the old church (now, alas, entirely removed), because this church was one that was built during Bishop Wilson’s episcopate by his suggestion. And it is not too much to assume that in planning and designing the old church, he planned and designed the Sun Dial too—therefore, for this reason, if for no other, it deserves to be taken greater care of, and to be moved to a spot where it could be better seen and appreciated. There are upon it three inscriptions in different languages, Latin, English, and Manks. At the upper end are these words, taken from Psalm 89, v. 46. "0 cooniee cre cha giare as ta my hraa" (Oh remember how short my time is.) Close behind the pointer is this verse, from Job iii. 19, "The small and the great are there, and the servant is free from his master." And behind this again at the lower end, "Ut hora sic vita, dum spectas fugit" (As the hour, so is life ; whilst thou lookest it flies.) Altogether it is most interesting, and I hope some effort will be made to preserve it.

We have now come to an end of all the Sun Dials in the Island that are worth describing; as I said before there are many more, some 48 in all, but the rest are not of any particular interest; at the same time all are worthy of care; and many that are now neglected and cast aside, might be restored to their original situations, or to others equally conspicuous and sunny; though, in these rapid and enlightened days, we may all he inclined to agree with the writer who says, that "none but a fool takes his time from a Sun Dial."

NOTE.—The remark in the first part of this Paper (ante p. 40) with respect to the inscription on the Ballakilley Dial, Rushen, that the Greek was rather odd, had reference to the fact that on the dial, though by accident not so quoted in the Paper,—the accents are wrong, and the last word is spelled with a Chi instead of a Kappa. At p. 42, for "transactions" read "translations."

My best thanks are due to those members and others, who have so kindly supplied information on the above subject; had it not been for their willing help I could have done little.


Back index next

Part 1

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