[Fom Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 1 pp182/]


P. M. C. KERMODE, F.S.A., Scot.

(Read July 22, 1890.)

The Parish of Bride, Skeeylley Vreeshey, derives its name, as most of our parishes do, from its Church, which is dedicated to S. Bridget, Abbess of Kildare (cir. 450 to 550). Situated at the extreme North of the Island it is, with the exception of Arbory, Santon, and Jurby, the smallest of our parochial divisions, containing under 6,000 acres. It has on the North a coastline of about three miles, and on the East, of four and a half miles; on the West it is bounded by Andreas, and on the South by Lezayre. Like the adjoining parishes, it is low and flat, being the northern extension of the great platform of drift-gravel of which this part of the Island composed. There is some good pasture and agricultural land, but, of the most part, the soil is poor and sandy. A low range of sandhills cross it, about midway, from Shellag in the West to Ballakesh in the East rising at Cronk-ny-Iree-Laa to 287 feet and at Ballakesh to 311 feet. The Ayre in the extreme North is a large unenclosed waste of gorse and heath about 800 acres being common. Port Cranstal on the East, about a mile and a half from the Point of Ayre, is the only creek, if it may be so called, it is now silted up, the cliffs south of it being carried away by the sea.

It was at this point the telegraph cable formerly entered the sea, connecting our Island with S. Bees. The currents, however, proved too strong, and it was moved to Port-y-Vullin, and, quite recently, to Corna, its present position. The district is but poorly supplied with water, the streamlets are very small and in dry seasons the wells are liable to fail. Formerly there were two lakes of some size, now reduced to marshes, Lough Cranstal at the time of the Ordnance Survey covering an extent of about seventeen acres, but yearly diminishing, the waters flowing northwards and losing themselves in the sandy and gravelly Ayre ; and Lough Pherrick, or the Curragh-beg, about eleven acres (but only about half an acre of deep water), flowing East to the sea at the Dogmills. Here the coot and the waterhen, grebes, shovellers and pochards, here water dropworts (aenathe/ crocata and fistulosa), and bog-pimpernell (anagallis tenella), water birds, and water plants are still to be found. If ever there were otters in the Island, they may have been met with in Lough Pherric, and have given its curious name to the Dog Mills, Mwyllin-Moddey, though, to be sure, we have the same word in Cronk-y-Voddee, Ellan-y-Voddee, Cooil-Voddee, and even Balla-Moddeys, which, I suppose, had reference to the domestic dog.

Of Neolithic man we have remains at the North-west end of Lough Cranstal. Mr. Roeder, of Manchester, was, I believe, the first to discover flints here, seven or eight years ago. Recently I have had opportunities of examining the spot, and found the remains of a cronk or tumulus, in and about which were many flints and some very small fragments of cinerary urns. The flints consist of cores and chips, scrapers and flakes ; one perfect axe-head or Celt measures 3 in. long by 2 in. broad. There is one horse-shoe scraper about an inch in diameter, and there are about a dozen with small notches, as though for polishing arrow-shafts. There seem to be fragments of about four urns, one smooth and grey, others bright red and rough ; a line or two seems to indicate pattern such as herring-bone. I picked up also a small cup-marked stone, clay-slate, measuring 4 inches by 3 inches.

At the same end of the lough, a little to the south, is a well dedicated to S. Bridget, Chibbyr Breeshey, still known to the natives, but not, so far as we can learn, now visited ; and not far off, to the east of Ballamoar, is the site of an ancient Keeil or chapel, the dedication of which is now lost. These seem to show that the early Celtic inhabitants, succeeding the Neolithic, continued on the spot ; that the Norsemen did so is implied by the name, which could not have been given to it earlier than the 10th century. Speed’s map, 1595, shows a village "Cranston," in the same place; and even the Ordnance Survey, finished October 1866, shows four or five cottages, the ruins or foundations of which are still visible. One would expect to find remains of Cranoges or Lake dwellings here, but, so far, nothing of the sort has been met with.

Besides this burial mound, I have heard of seven or eight others in this parish, of which all but two have been entirely demolished. One on Ballakesh, near the boundary with Andreas, at a height above the sea of about a hundred feet, is very perfect, measuring 25 feet in diameter by about six feet high. It is, however, overgrown with gorse, the roots of which have most likely struck into and broken any urns which it may contain. It bears a curious name, Cronk Bouyr, Deaf Mound. Not far off, on Ballacree, was another called Cronk-Villey, removed about 1860. Near by was the Chibbyr-feeney, Wine Well, in a meadow called Lheaney-feeney. The Ordnance Survey notes " an urn found " on a field of Glentruan, a little west of the Church. Doubtless there had been a Cronk there. At the southern foot of the low range of hills, on the East Kimmeragh (the name of which may have some connection with the word Kimmyrk, a refuge) are the sites of two large mounds, one known as Cronk-y-Vowlan, and the other nameless. These, as I am informed by Mr. Wickert, who was present, were excavated in September,1866, by Dr. Sydney, Dr. Craine, and others. In the former a huge granite boulder was found, since broken and built into the foundation of the church tower ; beneath was a cist, containing an urn and some calcined flints. The urn measured about 12 inches high, and was un-ornamented ; it contained some ashes and a molar tooth of an adult. The remains of the urn, the tooth and flints are. now in the possession of Mr Wickert, who, I am happy to say, has offered them for our Museum. The other Cronk contained, as I am told, a cist of stone slabs ; a little to the E. of it, in the adjoining field, a bronze axe head was found. (I have the broken head of a bronze axe, said to have been from one of these mounds.) On the other side of the road from Cronk-y-Vowlan, and conspicuous from it, is a large erratic boulder of feispathic sandstone or grit, set up on one end, and to all appearances intentionally so raised. Possibly this may mark a place of burial. The stone measures 6 ft. high by 3 ft. 6 in. broad, and 3 ft. thick. The next Cronk is at Kionlough, near the S. end of the Parish, and on the E. coast. It is a fine and very perfect specimen, standing about 200 feet above the sea level. It measures 42 ft. N. and S. diameter by 36 ft. E. and W., and is about 6 ft. high. On the summit, near its centre, is a large square block of white quartz, making it a conspicuous object and useful landmark from the sea. The Ordnance Survey marks the site of one more mound on Glasgoe, nearly opposite the entrance to Kionlough, about 300 yards S. of the Smithy. Its remains form part of the hedge by the high-road, and cannot now be distinguished ; doubtless others have disappeared from the parish.

Next in date and interest are the Keeils, the cells or chapels, erected from the earliest days of Christianity in the Isle of Man. It has been supposed there was a Keeil to every Treen—one of our oldest territorial divisions, probably ecclesiastical in origin. The "Traditionary Ballad" (circ. 1520) ascribes the buildings of the chapels, Caballyn, " ayns dagh treen Balley " for each Treen Balla, to S. German, " Karmane noo ;" and to Maughold the making of regular parishes—" Hug Maughold shear-tanse jeu ayns Unnane As myr shen ren eh Skeeraghyn cooie." Maughold put several of them in one And in that manner made he convenient " parishes." Does this refer to the division of which the Treen was the third, but the very name of which is now lost ? It is noteworthy that the Sheading, which is later, and of Scandinavian origin, contains three divisions, Skeerey, shires, or, as now called, Parishes, and that to each Parish there is a Kirk, as formerly to every Treen a Keeil.

Not more than about 100 of the Keeils or their sites are now known in the Island, and of these the names or dedications of very few are remembered. In Bride were eight treens, two having been subdivided, probably in recent times, namely Cranstal into First, Second and Third Cranstal, and Crosby into Mooar and Beg. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the keeils were as follows :—1, For the Treen of Glendowin, the Chapel, of which the site and the memory alone remain, on Ballawhannel ; 2, For Ballamine a keeil on Ballacree, the remains of which were removed, as I am informed, some years ago ; 3, For Crosby that on Ballachrink ; 4, For Cranstal one on Ballamooar, of which no trace now remains ; and for Ballavaranagh that on Ballarvarkish. I have heard of a Keeil Pharlane,1 Bartholomew’s Cell, on Grenaby, but now washed away by the sea. If so, that would account for six out of the eight. Perhaps my informant got this from Train, who says (" Historical and Statistical Account of the Isle of Man," II, 43) :—"There was likewise a place called Keeil Pharlane, the last word being the Manks for Bartholomew, the burying ground of which church was in the course of the last century totally swept away by the sea." There was another chapel at Port Cranstal, of which no trace remains, but the field still bears the name chapel field,’ and it was part of the Rectory Glebe, till, so recently as 1866, when the road was made to the Lighthouse, the Rev. D. Nelson exchanged it for a more convenient one nearer the village. The Parish Church on Ballakilley, is an ancient site, doubtless that of Kirk Bride Treen. There remains then only one Treen without its keeil, namely Ramessay, with its two Quarterlands, Ballavarteen and Rheneash. As regard Tallamine, I have been told there was once a chapel on Ballakesh, but have not been able to learn for certainty. Was this the one removed some years ago?

Of these Keeils or chapels four are entirely lost ; of the rest, Ballachrink shows the foundations, measuring about 26ft. by 12ft. inside ; the walls are about 3ft. thick and 4ft. high inside. It is surrounded by a raised enclosure 4ft. 8in. high at the west, and about 7ft. at the east end, the field sloping in that direction, and about 25 yards by 22 yards outside measurement. No inscriptions or carved stones are to be seen, possibly some lie buried in the soil, and some may be built into walls and hedges around. Outside the enclosure is a distinct ring about 31 yards in width, very slightly raised. Train mentions a Balla Kilmean, Farm of Matthew’s Keeil. Does he refer to this chapel which is near Ballacamain, a name sufficiently similar in sound ? He speaks of another, Keeil Vael, which I am not able to identify. Was it on Ramessay ? The chapel on Ballavarkish is absolutely in ruins, but a raised mound may still be traced measuring about 35ft. E. to W., by about 20ft. N . to S. There has been a building of some little pretension, as evidenced by the mullion of a window carved out of red sandstone, probably the top of a lancet shaped window ; it measures 17in. by 16in. and has two lights about 8in. by sin. One or two fragments of tombstones still remain buried in the long grass, the most recent bears the following inscription :—"John Cowle, 17[88];" the last two figures are broken across the centre, but I have no doubt of them. The name of the farm, Ballavarkish, suggests the dedication to S. Mark as a possible one for this Keeil, though perhaps if the farm derived its name from it we might expect to find it called Ballakilvarkish. A stone built into the corner of the stable wall shows three cup-like depressions ; these may have been worn by water or intentionally formed, but without knowing the original site and position of the stone it is not easy to determine. I have been told of another Well on Ballacottier, not far from this chapel, which was resorted to as a cure for sore eyes. About 20 years ago the old well was filled up, the water being led to another place, since which it has not been visited. There remains to be considered the Parish Church ; though the foundation stone of the present structure was only laid by Mrs Loch in 1869, the site is an ancient one and the dedication to S. Bridget was doubtless that of the first Keeil erected on it. This is shown by the name of the Treen, "Kirk Bride," and that of the Quarterland, "Ballakilley," Church farm. That the place was held in esteem and veneration from at all events the 11th century is shown by the sculptured crosses which in this parish have only been found at S. Bride’s Church. One perfect cross and two portions of crosses are still to be seen, the rest having been built into the walls. One is carved out of a piece of sandstone and stands 23in. above the ground. Originally it was about. 4ft. high, but unfortunately the head has been broken off, and is now lost. It had, however, been figured both by Kinnebrook and Cumming, and what still remains confirms the correctness of their drawings. Unlike most of our early crosses it was cruciform in shape, the limbs being equal and broader than long, their junction with the head at right angles, the shaft sloping from 10in. wide at the limbs to 15in. wide at a point 9in. lower down . It was ornamented simply by an incised circle at the centre of each limb connected one with the other by straight lines ; a line also connecting the upper and lower circles, the latter throwing out further lines to the angles below the arms of the cross, whence they descend forming a border to the fust.

Mr Wallace has a fragment of a sculptured cross in his Museum at Distington, which he believes came from Bride, having been given to him by the Rector, Mr Nelson, about 1840. It only measures 15½ in. by 9 in., and shows a dragon-head and interlaced work. The style and workmanship, I however, incline me to think that it must have belonged to Michael. Now that we have Trustees appointed and our National Museum almost an accomplished fact, it is to be hoped that Mr Wallace will see his way to present this, and the other Manks relics he has gathered, to be kept where from their associations they are of the greatest value.

The other broken cross is a slab of clay slate, about 3 ft. 8 in. high, having on either face the lower portion of the shaft of a cross, in slight relief. On one face this is ornamented with the vertebral pattern, to which a lighter appearance is given by an incised median line ; the space to the right has the tendril pattern much worn, but, like the last, having a median line. The space to the left has a remarkable development of the loop pattern, two bands not twisted but approaching at even distances and throwing out tendrils connecting one with the other. On the other face we find the shaft ornamented by a plait of five cords, plain. To the left, a plait of four bands, with diamond-shaped rings, interlaced at the points of junction. There is an unusual irregularity in the drawing, the lower hand passing into the third ring from the bottom, where the upper one should do so, the other band passing under it and so into the ring. This pattern, near where the upper part is broken off, passes easily into the key-pattern, which was probably continued to the top of the shaft.

The space to the right has, above, an elaborate development of the loop-pattern, similar to that on the other face. Below, is the figure of an animal~ with a pointed and crested head, four legs and a straight thick and pointed tail, not unlike a chameleon in appearance ; the feet are to the shaft, the head towards the head of the cross. Below, is some knot-work, too worn to decipher. Taking the proportions of the cross to have been as on the Ufaag cross, Andreas, that is, the height about eight times the width of shaft. one may estimate the height of this to have been 4 ft. 8 in. or 5 ft., and, as the cross and pattern end about 13 in. from the bottom of the slab, its total height would originally have been about 6 ft. ; the missing piece, broken off the top and probably built into the Church walls, if ever brought to light, will be found to be about 2 ft. 8 in. long, ornamented on either face by the head of a cross, surrounded, no doubt, by a circle.

Running up one edge is an inscription fairly legible, but having the tops of the runes worn away. It appears to read :—TRUIAN : SURTUFKALS RAISTI : KRSTHINA: AFKATHMIUL : KUNU : SINA—Druian, son of Dufgal, raised this cross to the memory of Cathmiul, his wife. As shown above, the slab was originally about 6 feet high ; the inscription, therefore, might be, and no doubt was, continued for another 2 or 3 feet. This would allow space to add the name of the lady’s father, as in the case of the Mal Lurnkun Cross, Michael, and the Asrith Cross, Peel. It may have. mentioned the name of the sculptor or the rune-cutter as on the Ufaac Cross, Andreas, and the Onon Cross, Jurby, in either case adding greatly to the interest of the inscription. Let us hope the missing piece may yet be found. The name Truian (Droian) occurs in an Ogham inscription from Shetland. TUFKAL (Dugald), a Celtic name still common in Scotland, we have on the Lumkun Cross, Michael, erected to Mal Muru, daughter of Dugald and wife to Athisi. It is by no means unlikely that this was the same Dugald in which case Druian, of Bride, and Mal Muru, of Michael, were brother and sister. The slurring of the N in SUR for SUNR is peculiar, and not before met with in runes. The S of KRS, for KRUS, is smaller than the other runes, and scratched rather than cut, as though accidentally omitted, and afterwards added by the rune-carver. THINA, spelled in a great variety of ways, but not elsewhere with an I in our inscriptions. AF, as a contraction for AFTIR, is found only on the Ufaag Cross, Andreas, I believe nowhere else. KATHMIUL occurs frequently in the Four Masters as MacCathmhaod, Anglicized into Mac Cowell ; in the latter form and dropping the prefix, it is still a common name in Man. It is curious that these two names, Druian and Kathmiul, are preserved in two farms or Quarterlands close to the church, namely, Glen Truan and Ballacowell. The spelling KUNU we have on the Asrith Cross, Peel ; on the Sandull Cross, Andreas, it is KUINU. In the last word the runes are almost worn away at top and bottom, but the distinguishing twigs being in the middle are fortunately preserved and perfectly clear.

The next slab is, for variety of design and skill of execution, perhaps the finest of our crosses. It is about 5 ft. 6 in. high by 1 ft. 9 in. wide and 3 in. thick. Each face is elaborately carved, showing a cross pateé within a circle, the spaces between the limbs being pierced. On one face the cross has three limbs decorated with a modification of the key-pattern diagonal and made to fit into the space for it ; the lower limb has a plait of four bands ornamented with a median line. The centre square is worn smooth, but appears to have had a plain plait. The circle, which is in higher relief bears twist-and-ring pattern, which, about a third of the way round breaks into the key-pattern, and that into a plait of four bands, the short space between the last and the first being filled in by a scroll, all ornamented by an incised median line. The inside of the circle and the limbs of the cross have a plain moulding by way of a border. Above the circle a panel is occupied by modified diagonal keypattern, and bordered by the step-pattern On either side is a triangular device, and the figure of a man very rudely cu the face of that on the right having a very simian profile, the triangular figure to the left, now almost worn away, with a plain border and horizontal line across suggesting pellets. The rounded top of the slab has a cable border broad and boldly cut. Outside of it there may have been a step-pattern border, now worn away. The space between the panel referred to at this border is occupied by a zig-zag. Immediately below the circle is another panel, with the modified key-pattern, hut on a larger scale, and having a cable border. From it a narrow band runs down the middle to the bottom of the slab, bearing the step-pattern. To the right, a spiral, below which some knotwork flow entirely effaced ; below, a square plait of eight ornamented with median line ; below, the figures of two men seat between the legs of a stag, the back of which is broken. off ; below, the space appears to have been filled in with two spirals or volutes. To the left of the panel is the figure of a man, by whose side is some knotwork which may have represented a serpent, but now much worn. Below, a figure of aman with conventional arms like two loops, scored so as to bear the appearance of cable pattern, above and at the lower corner of which are in Triquetras, the spaces between being filled with plait and knot work below, a large panel having a plain border arched above, with step-pattern filling the space between arch and panel, occupied by a modified key-pattern The border of this panel at the lower right-hand corner is continued form a large and very perfect double volute of three convolutions ft tight to left, which fills up the space below. This left side of the slab has a cable and a step-pattern border, the other side having a similar double border, but the step-pattern inside.

The other face shows a cross, the centre of which has a device not unlike an irregular double Triquetra in general appearance ; the upper limb has knotwork, having a twist-and-ring pattern effect ; and the left arm seems to have had a similar one, but now almost entirely flaked off ; the right arm is occupied by two pairs of links or lozenges on skewers, and the lower limb by a modified key pattern. The circle has a twist and ring pattern, with S shaped device in the spaces betwixt the rings, this breaks into a plait of three, which again changes, probably into the key pattern, which, however, is now flaked off. The inner edge of the circle is bordered by a plain moulding continued round the limbs of the cross. Above the circle is a panel with the key pattern, bordered by a plain moulding. At either side the panel is a figure of a cock facing it, behind which a Triquetra, ornamented with median line ; but that on the left flaked off. Above this panel all pattern is worn completely away. Below the circle is a panel occupied by two double spirals or volutes, from this a band runs down the. middle, having the vertebral pattern ; to the right, the figure of a man, holding in his left hand a peculiar bag-shaped article, possibly a net ; below, a large falcon ; below, a stag, with a hound at its back. To the left is a bird, apparently a cock, and a mail with outstretched legs, apparently a huntsman in pursuit of game ; below, a stag and hound. This face, like the other, is bordered by step-pattern and rope-pattern.

The peculiar feature of this cross, and in a less degree of the other, is the wonderful variety of patterns, and remarkable way in which one pattern breaks into another. On this cross alone are eleven distinct geometrical designs, besides three original knots, and figures of men, of beasts, and of birds. The compressed and diagonal key-pattern, so frequently met with on Irish and Scottish crosses, occurs on no other in the Isle of Man, except the large one on the Green at Maughold, which I take to have been set up to the memory of Bishop Roolwer or Hrôlfr (1065). The spirals or volutes and the Triquetra are found in perfection on the large Joalf cross at Michael. The cock, a symbol of the resurrection, occurs on the Roolwer and Joalf crosses, on the Grims cross, Michael, and the Sandulf cross, Andreas. I take it to be a very fine specimen of Gaut’s work, dating from the end of the eleventh century. The other slab shows even more certainly the hand of the great sculptor, whose boast it was that he had " carved all the crosses in Man."

But, there is another piece of carving in this church, of, probably, as early a date —the temptation of Adam and Eve. This subject is represented on four of the Irish high crosses, together with the expulsion, and, by itself on seven other crosses in Ireland ; in Scotland there are two examples, and Mr R. Allen says he knows " of no example in other parts of Great Britain on sculptured stones of the pre-Norman period." This is the only thing of the kind in the Isle of Man, and shows some originality of treatment.

A slab of Peel sandstone, about 15 inches by 12 inches, and 4 inches thick, shows on one face the figures of Adam and Eve, with the tree of knowledge between them, Eve to the right of it, Adam to the left. Eve, whose long hair falls down her back, with her right hand holds an apple to her mouth, while her left is outstretched towards Adam ; he is represented as having received an apple from her in his right hand, with his left he covers his nakedness. The tree differs essentially from the usual representation, the first pair of branches, each with an apple at the extremity, being below the outstretched arm of the figures, another smaller branch just above their hands, and, probably, the top of the tree with three apples, a little above, but now flaked off. There has been no overhanging branch to frame either of the figures in an arch, as at Monasterboice, Kells, Iona, &c. But the most remarkable thing of all is the entire absence of the serpent. The edges show that the stone had been cut down, how much or how little it is impossible to say. It may be there was a serpent at the back of Eve, and a corresponding figure at the back of Adam. The stone is very friable, and flaking all to pieces. Happily, the Rector has now taken it down from its exposed position over the vestry door, and is about to set it up inside the church, where he has already placed the crosses. There are two sandstone corbels (thirteenth century) which, with the last, were brought from the old church. They also ought to be placed under cover. The old font now serves as a support for the new one, being placed upside down for the purpose. It is of sandstone, and measures about three feet diameter. It is a round bowl, without a pedestal, and perfectly plain, with the exception of two ears.

In the Rectory garden is a large slab of Peel sandstone, which shows two well-drawn classic profiles, and some irregular marks. It also came from the old Church, but what it was intended for I will not venture to say.

There are no remains of Earthworks in this parish. I should like to know where the fortification was that Chaloner refers to, 1646—" It were to be wished that some fortication were made about the Point of Ayre ; which the Earl of Derby in the time of the late troubles did perform ; but now neglected and ruined." Could this be at Gob-y-Gurrom, Jurby, where a place on the cliffs is called " Cashtal Ree Gorree," or did he refer to that at S. Jude’s, as " about the point of Ayre ?"

I had thought to have said something about the names in this parish, but this paper is already of sufficient length ; I will, therefore, hand my notes to our Place Name Committee, to which I wish our members would give greater support, by making full inquiries in their own neighbourhoods, and forwarding the results to the Committee, as to the old names of hills, rocks, streams, fields, and divisions which are not to be found on any map, and the knowledge of which is fast dying out.


[Notes - FPC]

The R Allen was J. Romilly Allen Early Christian Symbolism in Great Britain and Ireland [Rhind Lectures for 1885] London: Whiting & Co 1887


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