[From Manx Soc vol 5, 1860]


Those mounds or hillocks referable to Christian origin generally bear some name, mark, or tradition, which identifies them with Christianity. They consist of ruined hillocks of earth and of mud enclosures, which are generally places of interment, and, till very lately, some of the inscribed crosses called Runic pillars, were found in them. Excepting their being designated by some name, the history of these ruined mounds is involved in almost as much obscurity as those of the Druidical age, and to all appearance they are quite as ancient. The monuments of the two religions, which we have frequently seen to have existed together at the same time, have already presented a mixed condition of civilization, and in both of them we may suppose were portrayed those customs distinctive of their several eras in a greater or less degree, according to circumstances. Feltham notices a cross planted on the summit of a barrow, outside the precincts of the parish churchyard of Keeil of the Christian planted near the altar of the heathen, in opposition to each other, - I think we have already seen some examples of this, and others will occur as we proceed.

A small monument of this anomalous character is a carved stone which I found on the southern headland of Port Soderick Bay, near a heap of immemorial rubbish, called The Old Chapel, on the estate of Balnahow, Santon.* It is only the top part of a pillar broken off. It is very hard, and retains the carvings, which are slight, with much integrity and sharpness. These represent neither the cross in its ordinary form, nor any of the emblems that are distinctive of Christianity, but still I believe it represents the cross somewhat like the Maltese inclosed in a circle. That it belonged to the small mound in the neighbour hood, called "The Old Chapel," is probable, but not certain. Within the memory of man it had been lying about unappropriated, excepting for some years, when it was used by a cottager as a kind of domestic sideboard. Its carvings represent the circle, enclosing a cross formed by crescentic lines in a variety of combinations, not unlike the triquetra knot; and in them the idea of the Gothic arch readily presents itself to the observer. A few of the carved Runic crosses in some degree exhibit this curved contour, but there is a manifest difference in the object intended to be represented. The only similarity, in this instance, appears to be in the convolutions and the similitude of an animal, most likely a horse, on which a man's figure is mounted. If, from these considerations, we can look upon this relic as belonging to the Pagan era, it is a most interesting one, and furnishes an original to the cruciform pillars of the Christians. If this is allowed to be Druidical, it is a solitary specimen, for I am not aware of another that has been subjected to the chisel; on the contrary, history shows that in some instances the altars and monuments of primitive nations were indispensably constructed of unhewn stones. From the injury this has received, it has most likely escaped destruction with some difficulty; the reason why none others of a similar character have been found most probably is from their not having been gathered into places of safety after the manner of those of a decidedly Christian origin, which are all now placed within (or near) the precincts of the consecrated grounds of the parish churches.

In conversation on this subject, an indistinct story was given me to the following effect, by some intelligent Manxmen, whether gleaned from history or transmitted by oral tradition I pretend not to say ; - that upon Christianity becoming the prevailing religion, those attached to the Druidical superstition were driven into the wildest and most difficult parts of the country, like that where this stone was found, and resisted their opponents at the point of the sword. Monuments belonging to them being found for the most part in such situations, certainly gives some colour of truth to the report.

Other ancient carved pillars, evidently crosses, are numerous, one or more Runic stones being found at most of the parish churches. With an exception or two, they are all slabs of a hard and fibrous blue clay slate, which is found in the Island. Excepting that last described, they are all decorated with the sign of the cross and otherwise covered with convoluted ornamentations, snake-like carvings, and rude representations of various creatures, principally domestic animals. (Representations of the serpent, even among Pagans, are considered emblems of eternity; but Mr. French, of Bolton, thinks these convolutions are merely copies or imitations of the primitive crosses of the Britons in England which were made of basket or wicker work.) 1 Many of these stones are exceedingly rudely executed, the cross being represented by four holes placed in the head of the pillar at right angles to each other, and cut right through the stone. Many of them are lying about unappropriated in the burial-grounds of the parish churches, or have been used as paving flags, whilst those in the best preservation are erected in conspicuous parts of the precints. There is no account as to the manner in which they have congregated at the present churches; but it is understood by some of the natives that originally they occupied other situations, and instances of this are given in Waldron's work. This traditionary belief is confirmed by three or more facts: first, by the stone just described having been found several miles distant from any of the present churches; second, by the cross at Port-le-Voillen, which stands by the side of the way leading from Ramsey to Maughold Church; and, third, by a pillar about seven feet high, whose carvings are obliterated, but which is an ancient cross, and which is placed at the crossing of the roads near Port Erin, in the parish of Rushen. Indeed, it is well-known that in Roman Catholic countries of old crosses stood everywhere. Waldron, in his account of the superstitions of the Manx people, mentions that there existed, in his time, a cross in a wild and barren field, at a considerable distance from the church of Braddan, which they wished to remove - to where, or for what purpose, he does not inform us; but, very probably, it is one of those at present in the churchyard.3 It may be added that several of the fonts used by the Romanists remain in the parish burial-grounds to this day, unappropriated. The veneration of the natives for such objects is very tenacious, and their ancestors have handed down an ancient saying expressive of their superstitious respect for religious relics - " Clagh ny keeilagh ayns corneil dly hie wooar," (" May a stone of the church be found in the corner of thy dwelling.") It is most probable that many of these old stones belonged to the numerous chapels, one of which, called Keeil Albin, above Baldwin, possesses to this day its cross rudely cut upon a rough slab of granite, which was built into the gable of the present St. Luke's Chapel, when it was lately erected on the old site.

1 Vol. ii., No. 2., Transactions of Scottish Antiquaries, Fig. A, No. I.

2 Before the incas of Peru and their vast empire were destroyed by the invading Spaniards, the Peruvians had not attained to tlse art of hieroglyphic writing practised by the Mexicans. They employed, instead of the Quipu, a twisted cord, with a fringe of various coloured threads, on which, by means of knots, they were able to record historical events and legislative enactments; the tangled skein, however, merely serving as aid to the memory of persons employed to preserve them. By this means the Peruvians could calculate with remarkable rapidity and narrate with great fluency, events partly preserved by oral tradition. This we know from the chronicles of the Spanish invasion, but unfortunately we have lost the art of reading the Quipus. Repeated attempts to read it having been made without success.

3 Since writing the above, I have found out that a carved stone belonging to the Cronk-ny-Keeilayn, at Ballalough, German, was buried many feet underground by a man still living, in consequence of a superstitious belief entertained by some of the neighbours, that a murrain then prevalent among the cattle took its rise from its laying tossed about. If this is a runic stone it would decide the question.


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