[From Manx Soc vol 5, 1860]



[NB the archaeology is plain wrong - however his descriptions of the various sites based on personal observation from the 1820's is of course valuable and presented on that account]

IN an old country of Europe like this, numerous antiquities are expected to be in existence. The most curious of these, and those of magnitude have been often described, but the unattractive and obscure objects have only been noticed in a very general way by writers ancient as well as modern; therefore, to supply this absence of historical record, I now purpose to enumerate the undescribed remains of antiquity in detail, as manifest indications of the condition of our civilization in early times, and as important evidence in an ethnological point of view, not only to the Island itself but to tribes of Celts and Northmen who inhabited the adjacent countries. As the present grows out of the past, so the future is to be studied by comparing the past and the present one with the other. The more we have studied the Armour of Man, and its original - the Tripod, the more we become desirous of studying contingent objects of history, convinced that they all bear a relationship to one another. Creuzer observes that the tripod, like the three-stringed lyre, contained in ancient times an allusion to the three seasons of the primitive calendar of the human race, and tradition in many nations, from the earliest antiquity, ascribe to the tripod the virtue of having formed some foundation or other for rights of dominion and possessions of inheritance. The more we study the early ethnology of the human race, the more we are led to admire that Almighty Providence which over rules the universe as a whole, from generation to generation, irrespective of the vain strugglings of human discord and power, and to comprehend the necessity of our adopting just conceptions regarding ultimate principles which over-rule all conventional civilization in the long run that are dependant on the imper fections of man, and not supported by the universal laws of the God of Nature.

I purpose speaking of the ruins comprised in this chapter in the following order, convinced that the arrangement will impart some degree of perspicuity to a subject so abstruse and confused: -

1. - Hillocks and cairns under pagan and fabulous civilization, comprising barrows and brooghs, cronks, stone graves, Druidical circles, watch and ward hills, fortified stations and mud enclosures of the people, including notices of Peel Castle and Castle Rushen, and some encampments of magnitude of ante-historic date.

2. - Keeils of the treens and barrows, and the cemeteries of the primitive Christians, including notices of the Abbeys and the Nunnery.

3. - Ancient Romans in Man. - Danes and Norwegians.

I am aware that little dependance is to be placed on the local traditions descriptive of such objects: it accords with my own experience that fabulous legends regarding some of them have grown prodigiously within the last forty years. The details of the marvellous stories about Peel Castle and Castle Rushen, and others, were merely in embryo previous to the public notice being attracted towards them by Sir Walter Scott in his Peveril of The Peak, and by subsequent authors of periodicals. I wish it to be understood that I was familiar with the history of many of them before that time. In 1815 I read a paper descriptive of many of them before the Literary and Philosophical Society of Douglas, and had communicated a notice of them, with illustrative sketches, to the Society of Scottish Antiquaries in Edinburgh, which communication was ultimately published in Vol. II, Part 2, of their Transactions. Fabulous accounts would only obscure the subject I have in view; but I think these ruins worthy of particular description, because there is nothing fabulous about them as they appear at present. They are only humble and unpretending realities, - facts which the native inhabitants do not attempt to account for. They are practical evidence, even at the present time, by which we see and tangibly examine the works and the people that are unrecorded in history. There is nothing fabulous or ambiguous about them but the era of their construction. For the most part these ruins are not only diminutive and unattractive but obscure and unknown. They are reputed, in general, by Manxmen, as having belonged to races of their progenitors whom they still reverence, but concerning whose history they have few or no traditions. Many of them have been demolished by agricultural improvements within my own memory, or their elevations have been much reduced by excavations and by the effects of time acting on their loose and earthy materials. Consequent upon their general appearance, and the feeling prevalent that many of them were relics of a pagan worship opposed to our own revealed religion, these remains are considered by many moderns as unworthy of particular notice, and were it not for the historical interest they involve, I would not feel inclined to question that judgment. But we may carry our indifference regarding them too far, for the Scriptures of the Old Testament do not sanction it. Revealed religion, in correcting the errors and superstitions which spring up in natural religion, does not ignore it, The aspirations of both religions in the mind are towards the same end, namely, the education of man for an obedience to laws and customs, and the enjoyment of a higher and progressive state of existence, under the sanction of a Superior Power: "Learn not the way of the heathen: worship Him all ye gods."

  index next  

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001