With kind permission of Mr Geoffrey Kinvig, Ballaquinnea.
The keeill at Ballaquinnea is dedicated to St. Fingan and sits in a little enclosure of Larch trees known as the ‘Faerie Orchard’, a name which suits it perfectly. The keeill is entered through a number of large stones standing on end, they make for a rather impressive entranceway to this well preserved and interesting site.
The site is just off the Glen Darragh Road and very close to Keeill Lingan just further up the hill. It has been fenced off since the then owner of Ballaquinnea, Mr Cowin, offered it to the Manx Museum and National Trust as an Ancient Monument in 1930 and they have cared for it ever since. I have no idea who planted the daffodils but it was a lovely gesture which added to the peace and beauty of this place.
The Ballaquinnea Keeill was surveyed as part of the First Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey around 1908. They found the keeill to measure 16 by 10ft. with walls around 4ft. thick, the remains of an embankment was still visible against certain areas of the walls. The doorway was found in the west end along with three upright jambs on each side, it looks the same as it was when a drawing was made for the ‘Archaeologia Cambrensis’ (1866):
There were traces of the window in the south wall but without the sill although the sill stone from the window in the east wall still remained 30in. off the floor, the window would have measured around 18in.wide on the inside. The base of the altar was in situ at the east end of the building, it sat 7 or 8in. above the pavement and had two upright pillars still in place which are visible on the photo below from 2016.
The outline of the altar was marked by small stones along the edge (see on plan below) instead of the usual long slab often found in this position and the floor was paved with small stones, the remains of two broken cross slabs were built in to the altar.
The enclosure measured 43 yards north by 53 east and west, it was artificially raised and had an embankment of earth and stones measuring 5 to 6ft. high at the east end with an outer ditch. A stream which Kermode thought had been diverted in recent times, would have originally come down to the centre of the western embankment where it divided to flow all around it. They found ‘semi circular hollows’ marked by stone against the inner face of the embankment which are thought to mark the position of small cells, the site was thought to be similar in appearance to a ‘small fortified position’ which seemed unusual and very different from the nearby Keeill Lingan. They found some graves and many of the usual white quartz pebbles.
FIG. 6. — Keeill at Ballaquinney, Marown.
As you can see from the number of photos that were taken, we enjoyed our time in this tranquil little spot. The keeill is really very well preserved, it’s a good ‘un and we liked it a lot.
There are ten known keeill sites in the Parish of Braddan and Knock Rule Keeill is one of only two with visible remains in 2016. It was partially surveyed as part of the Fifth Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey, published in 1918.
We walked out to the Knock Rule Keeill, Mount Rule, on a wet day in March. There were actually hail stones as we crossed the field but on the Isle of Man if you waited for a sunny day, you could be waiting a while. Google Earth was useful as it isn’t shown on the map and no-one seemed to know much about it, the map reference showed it in a clump of trees at the top of a field and that was where we found it, hiding in the corner.
This little keeill was a pleasant surprise as it looked in good order but a little sad and unloved, it felt forgotten. The tenant farmer didn’t even realise there was a keeill on the land.
From the cow pats inside it was obvious that animals have access to the keeill, however, the structure seems to still be intact and it doesn’t look too different to the photo of it that was taken in 1935. The Archaeological Survey team were only able to make a partial observation of it as at the time as there were a number of trees growing up through it, these are shown in the photograph (taken from the archaeological survey).
In the Fifth Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey (1918) they applied for removal of the trees so they could make further investigation but although the trees were removed, I couldn’t find any evidence of any other excavation. What they found in the partial survey they did is below:
KNOCK RULE. O.S. X, 13 (1304). The walls of this Keeill are still standing in the little plantation about 250 vards north north-west of the house at a height of about 390 ft. above sea-level.
Three small trees, ash and sycamore, are growing within the Keeill, which prevent a complete examination and must endanger what remains of the building. It measures about 16 ft. by 8 ft. The walls, of which the north and east have settled inwards, are built of small surface stones in irregular courses; all four corners are rounded (above the surface), and this is probably caused by attempted repairs.
The east end is 3 ft. wide, the south wall 2 ft. 6 ins., the west 3 ft., and the north from 2 ft. 6 ins. to 3 ft. A little digging at the corners proved the foundation to be about 2 ft. below the present surface, giving the heights of the walls north and east 6 ft., south 4 ft. 8 ins., and west 3 ft. 6 ins. ‘There had been a skirting of upright stones as shown by two at the north-east corner, 16 ins. high by 7 ins. wide, and 14 ins. by 8 ins. ; and at the south-east one 22 ins. by 11 ins., and another 29 ins. by 16 ins. About 12 ins. from the north corner remains of the altar were met with, 2 ft. wide and 12 ins. high. The doorway was at the west end.
Application was made for the removal of the trees, without which, further examination was impossible. The aspect is south-east and the orientation (by compass) east-north-east.
This keeill has more visible remains than many of the sites we have visited and is well worth recognising as a good example although without the results of a full survey we cannot be sure exactly what is hiding in the undergrowth.
Update, 31st August 2016:
In a summary of the Fifth Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey, found in the uncatalogued Kermode papers (MS 08979 box 2 of 2), there is more information on the Knock Rule Keeill:
The walls of this keeill are still standing in the little plantation. It measures about 16ft. by 8ft. The walls are built of small surface stones. The remains of the altar are present, 2ft. wide and 12ins. high. There are three trees growing within the keeill which endanger what remains of the buildings. Endeavours were made by Mr Kermode to have the site made an Ancient Monument, but the condition of the owners that no digging be allowed, could not be agreed to.
A few weeks ago I examined the site; and found that it is by far the best preserved in the parish of Kirk Braddan. Another endeavour ought to be made to make it an Ancient Monument. The trees should be destroyed at once.
The information given that the owners were reluctant to give permission for the excavation is an explanation of why there is no further information on Kermode re-visiting the site for further exploration. What a pity!
Further in the summary it says:
The only two keeills in the parish worth protecting by rails are this one at Camlork and the one at Knoc Rule. No delays should come in the way of their adequate preservation.
It is sad that these two keeills are the least protected in the parish in 2016 with Camlork being almost completely destroyed and Knock Rule very neglected. It is a great pity that the recommendation to fence them both off was not followed up.
We rather liked the Knock Rule Keeill, even in the rain. The worry is that the keeill will remain neglected and the structure will be damaged by the grazing animals. Hopefully this will create some awareness of it, the ideal would be that it could be fenced off finally and come under the protection of the Manx Museum but this may be a bit optimistic.
Knock Rule Keeill is not quite forgotten, it’s just waiting to be found!
This rarely visited keeill sitting on the land of West Nappin, Jurby, is thought to be dedicated to St. Patrick. Kermode in the archaeological survey calls it St. Patrick’s Chapel. Around 1900, a Father Gillow of Ramsey wrote:
‘At the Nappin, Jurby, we find in the middle of a large field, the remains of what was once a Catholic Church. The northeast gable has a three-light window, embedded in the orthodox red sandstone. In the southeast wall, in the corner, are the two niches for the wine and water cruets, and underneath, the Sacrarium. I was informed that some 200 years ago, the building was cut through the middle in order to make a school. This church was dedicated to St. Patrick, and the east and southeast gables, which are still standing, afford ample evidence of its former uses as a Catholic place of worship. In the south west corner of this field there is a charming green spot, under which is a heap of stones filling up what was once known as St. Patrick’s well, the water from which still flows down to the sea’ (Cain, 2004)
J. J. Kneen (Manx Placenames, 1925) described the chapel at West Nappin as having a dedication to St. Cecilia ‘St. Keyl’s Chapel’
‘This chapel was dedicated to the Roman Saint Cecilia whose dedication date was November 22nd, but in Mann she was venerated on November 9th (O.S.). This day was called in Manx Laa’l Kickle, ‘Cecilia’s feast-day,’ and a fair was held annually in the parish of Jurby, which in early times must have been held in close proximity to the Chapel of St. Cecilia. The fair is mentioned by Feltham in 1797, and it did not disappear until after 1834.
It may be noted that Cecilia was pronounced Kikilia in Latin and Irish, and as is usually the case in Manx, the final unstressed vowel dropped away.
The ruins of St. Cecilia’s Chapel, now under the care of the Ancient Monuments Trustees, may be seen on the estate of W. Nappin, a little south of the parish church.
The usage of this chapel as a school house in the 18th century has probably been instrumental in saving it from destruction.’ (Kneen, 1925)
The dedication to St. Cecilia is generally thought to be unsubstantiated, however, because of this, the building is also known as Keeill Kickle (a derivation of Cecilia), Keeill Kickle or St. Patrick’s Chapel.
The chapel is under the care of the Manx Museum and National Trust although it is on private land.
The Clarke family farmed at the Nappin for centuries and when there was a desperate need for a school in the area in the mid 18th century, Thomas Clarke used his own money to restore and extend the old chapel which was then used as a school for a time. This served to protect the earlier parts of the keeill but has also given it a unique character of its own. The annual fair to celebrate ‘St. Cecilia’s feast day’ was held close to the chapel on November 9th until the early 19th century.
An extract from the Isle of Man Times (www.imuseum.im) of 1959 gives a good introduction in a description of a visit to the keeill by the Antiquarian Society:
‘This tiny keeill, Church of St. Cecilia, has a remarkable history. Originally a Bronze Age tumulus, it became a Christian ‘cell’ probably falling into decay in the Middle Ages until in 1749 Thomas Clarke, of The Nappin, restored and enlarge it to make a day school for the children of the neighbourhood, Now it stands, a bleak little ruin, probably unique.
Where else would one find in so tiny a building traces of an early Christian Piscina, a window of the Middle Ages and an eighteenth century schoolroom fireplace?’
Where else indeed.
This photograph taken from the iMuseum (www.imuseum.im) shows the building in 1911 at the time of the survey in a similar condition to that in which you find it now. The keeill in 2016 is in need of conservation work with one gable pulling away from the wall, however, it has survived in surprisingly good order which is probably down to it not being easily accessible and therefore rarely disturbed.
The visit to this fascinating little chapel one early evening in March has definitely been a high point. When you think of how simple most of the remaining keeills are, finding the carved windows and a Celtic cross standing inside the building itself really was wonderful. Keeil Kickle was surveyed as part of the Third Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey, in the survey they call it ‘St. Patrick’s Chapel’ but I’ll call it ‘Kickle’ as that seems to be the accepted name now. This interesting survey shows the level of architectural detail that has survived over the years.
The survey team found the keeill to measure 20ft. by 11ft. and consists of two distinct parts from different time periods. The building is built using shore boulders although the jambs and carved stones are all sandstone, the east end uses cement and rough cast and dates from around the 14th or 15th century, the rest dates from around the 17th or 18th century at the time it was converted in to a school. The keeill was roofed at this time and slates were found inside the interior, there are some projecting stones in the south wall which may have been part of a raised dais for the altar although no part of the altar itself could be found. The upper part of a decorative window in the east wall was still intact although the sill stones were gone, Kermode suggested the window was from the 14th century and had grooves for lead and glass, a small fragment of iridescent glass was found below the window.
The inside lintel of the window was found to be a broken Scandinavian cross slab which P. M. C. Kermode removed and cast in 1891 with permission from the owner at the time, Mr Clarke. Kermode thought they slab may have been intentionally placed in the 14th century building as the moulding on the side would have been ornamental. A recess for a piscina (a stone basin near the altar in Catholic and pre-Reformation churches for draining water used in the Mass) was found in the south wall although the bowl was lost, it is thought this space was used as a cupboard during its use as a school. There was knowledge of a small ‘stone cup’ which had been kept in the piscina and was possibly the original bowl but this was sadly lost. Around this recess was a decorative stone arch:
Inside this hollow had been placed by Mr Clarke an early cross slab which he had found in the ruins, this is visible in the photograph above from 2016. A number of graves were found, some passing under the walls and showing that the current building is not on the lines of the original, many of these graves were covered in many white pebbles.
A fireplace had been built in for when the building was in use as a school. The survey team found the enclosure to measure 38 yards from north to south by 25 yards, the chapel sits in the centre, Kermode suggests that a square hollow in the ground at the west end of the building may have been occupied by part of the 14th century building, a few foundation stones were found nearby along with cement mixed rubble similar to that used in the east gable. A lintel grave was found in the enclosure, also covered with pebbles.
It is thought that the site must have been a Bronze Age burial site as a much earlier grave was come across and many years earlier, a cinerary urn (holding human ashes) had been found.
Fig. 12. St. Patrick’s Chapel, West Nappin, Jurby.
What an incredible place, I wouldn’t have known it even existed before we started this journey, it really is a building with a rich history and its survival is both surprising and wonderful. Here’s to it surviving for many more years.
I hope Nicola’s lovely photos tell their own story.
We set off one damp and windy child free day to find the Sholghaige y Quiggin Keeill (named from the quarterland on which it is situated) near Little London. After an hour of hunting in the rain, we admitted defeat. I remember saying to Nicola that if anyone had seen us with our maps out in the rain and wind, they’d have thought we were mad!
On our second attempt we were armed with the old O.S. map which we’d lined up with the current map, not so easy as you’d think down to field boundaries moving and changing, we also had Google Earth and we needed it. A further hour of walking up and down fields and climbing over gates and we were about to give in a second time when we realised that a patch of scrub that we must have walked past a number of times was actually the site of the ‘keeill’!, there was great satisfaction in finding it at last and we celebrated with some of Nicola’s homemade fruit loaf and a cup of tea.
Although we knew this was the site that we had been looking for, there really was very little to see, a few stones only but mainly bracken, it was definitely the most disappointing site so far.
The disappointment was compounded on reading the Third Report of the Manx Archaeological Committee when we saw that in their opinion, this site was not actually one of a keeill but an early pagan burial ground! I have shared the extract from the survey below:
The O.S., VII, 13, (2044), marks “Site of Chapel” on the Intack lands of Sholghaige y Quiggin, about 383 yds. N. N. W. of the last. When cleared, however, this showed a circle of white quartz boulders about 23 ft. 6 in. diam., the inside area packed with small stones mostly quartz. It had all the appearance of a pagan burial-place, and there was no sign of any building. As it was so close to the last, and on the same Quarterland, it is unlikely that there was a Keeill, and it seems probable that the titles of these two on the O.S. had by accident been transposed.
It sounds like the Sholghaige y Quiggin ‘Keeill’ needs to come off our list altogether!
Still, not altogether a wasted experience, we laughed a lot and there was cake of course.
This very early keeill has no known dedication although the name Renshent comes from Rheynn sheaynt, the Manx Gaelic for ‘blest division’, and was originally part of the ‘Abbey Lands’. The Keeill sits in landscaped grounds and looks picturesque with its unusual covering of heather, the standard shape is obvious but we couldn’t see any of the stones as the plant cover was so thick.
I found this newspaper extract from the Manx Sun in 1877 describing a visit to Renshent Keeill by commissioners who had been tasked with reporting to his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor on the ancient monuments of the Island, they were a bit more floral in their descriptive language than we’re used to in 2016! The setting and keeill are still very attractive so I assumed from this article that perhaps the structure had remained unchanged in the intervening years:
This was until I read the section on Renshent in the Sixth Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey. The Sixth Report was a much later edition published in 1966 where Mr J.R.Bruce reported on the keeills and burial grounds in the Sheading of Rushen in relation to what P.M.C. Kermode and his team found fifty years earlier. Many thanks to Sam Hudson for lending me his copy, it makes for fascinating reading.
The survey reported that in 1870 O.S. map, the site is marked as ‘Chapel and Burial Ground (Ruins of)’ and the building is shown along with a surrounding bank, around 50 yards in diameter. However, in the 1957 edition, the bank is no longer shown and it is simply described as ‘Chapel’. Bruce laments the damage suffered by the chapel over the years:
For many years no protection seems to have been afforded to this monument, nor any examination undertaken, and at a meeting of N.H.A.S, in December 1916 (Proc. N.H.A.S., II, No.2, p.95) attention was drawn to ‘grievous damage’ suffered by the keeill during the year. The nature and extent of this damage is recorded by P.M.C. Kermode (in a personal letter to Wm. Cubbon, dated 18th August 1917) – ‘Renshent Keeill has been stripped entirely of its stones. As often the case, the earth mound does not give the lines of the building. The west end is entirely gone.’ He was apparently able, however, to make some examination of the mutilated remains, clearing the foundations of the E., N. and S. walls, and noted that some floor pavement and an indication of the altar remained.
In 1935, a further clearance of the site, together with the erection of a post and wire fence around the actual keeill remains, was carried out by the Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Mr. G. J. H. Neely (30th Rept. Manx Museum Trustees, 1935, p.16). The Inspector also reported at this time (Manx Register of Ancient Monuments) ‘that the interior of the keeill showed signs of former excavation – though no record of such has been traced’. The owner of the site was then stated to be Owen Williams, of Bala, North Wales, and the occupier, J. Shimmin.
J. R. Bruce wrote of his findings when he visited the site himself in the early 1960’s, he described the appearance of the keeill to date from the ‘clearing and partial reconstruction’ in 1935, when stones and floor material were used to rebuild the walls and to replace the stones that had been ‘robbed’. In 2016 it is hard to see any stonewor whatseoever, but in the 1960’s, between one and three courses were visible, internally faced with rough blocks of granite and quartzite.
Above the layers of stone, earth had been piled which raised the total height of the walls to between 3 and 4.5ft. above the floor level. No stones were visible in the west end, Bruce thought that an opening to the north of the mid point in the west wall may have been the position of the original doorway but no door jambs remained, he found the building to measure 18 by 9ft. internally.
The altar foundations that had been mentioned by Kermode in 1917 were no longer visible and no trace of the burial ground was visible, the farmer had never ploughed up any graves in the area.
So there you are, fascinating stuff. If you visited this pretty little keeill today above the river and read the newspaper article from 1877, you would think you were looking at the same scene but actually in the intervening years an awful lot of changes have taken place.
However, despite these, Renshent still remains ‘exceedingly beautiful and interesting’, just as the committee found it almost 140 years ago.
Keeill Pharick a Dromma, dedicated to St Patrick, was a pleasantly easy keeill to find. It sits just off the Stockfield Road with beautiful views down to the sea and across to Cronk y Voddy.
Rather than the more familiar keeill we’re used to seeing made up of visible stone walls, this looks to be a very large grass covered mound with a smaller central mound surrounded by an embankment. To the untrained eye (us!), there were very few features and we needed to do further research to understand the site.
This is where the Manx Archaeological Survey becomes invaluable.
When the keeill was surveyed around 1910, they found an almost circular mound with a diameter of about 20 yards, rising to a height of between 4ft. 6ins. and 5ft. 6ins. The foundations of the keeill were under the mound and level with the ground outside, the building measured 18ft. by 9ft. 6ins and was built from undressed and irregularly shaped stones and pieces of quartz with a large stone in the doorway, making a rather high step in to the interior. There may have been a step down on the inside too, as at Cabbal Druiaght and Keeill Vreeshey but this is now lost.
There was no trace of a window as the wall height was below that level, the doorway was 19 inches wide and sat in the middle of the west wall with a jamb still remaining in position, a couple of larger flag stones extended outside from the doorway.
The west wall was constructed from a facing 12 inches deep which was packed with soil and small stones and stood at a height of between 19 and 30 inches, only the inner face remained of the north wall and was 36 inches at the highest point. The foundations of the south wall were 30 inches wide and between 18 and 27 inches high with a facing inside and out and packed out with earth. The lower levels were faced with the usual skirting of stones set on edge and many of these still remained in place on the south and west walls.
The remains of the altar were found against the east wall, it measured 4ft. long and 23 inches wide with a projecting stone at the north end which suggested that there had been a 6 inch high step in front. The stones still in place can be seen in the plan of the keeill above, taken from the survey.
Three lintel graves were found around 12 inches below the floor of the keeill, the damp soil had preserved a portion of the interned skeleton although nothing was found with the body that placed it from a certain time period and of course, there were none of the modern methods of testing that would have been used in the 21st century.
Interestingly, in the middle of the keeill was found layers of bright red clay and wood ashes about 2 inches thick above the level of the floor, Kermode suggested these may have been caused by the burning of the thatched roof of the building or, in a slightly less interesting scenario, from the burning of gorse and briars inside the keeill when the roadway was altered. Across the west wall on top of the ruined surface appeared some walling showing the building may have been put to temporary use as a sheepfold over the years.
The enclosure was found to be greatly reduced in size and only extended to about 20 yards outside the foot of the embankment, a number of lintel graves were found, both in the field and under the road, suggest that the original size must have been over 70 yards in diameter. A number of quartz pebbles were found in the keeill.
Kermode and his team set large white boulders under the sod immediately above each of the hidden corners, so as to mark the position. And so the keeill was covered back over.
I found this description of the Keeill taken from the Mona’s Herald of 1877 in the Newspapers and Periodicals section of the iMuseum (www.imuseum.im), if only there was a photo with it!:
Once again, we have to be grateful to Kermode and his team in explaining these mysteries in the landscape.
The remains of Keeill Lingan sits in a beautiful setting in the grounds of the newly built Ballingan House just before Ballacotch Lane in Marown. From the name of the farm ‘Ballingan’, it is thought that the keeill may have been dedicated to either St. Fingan, Finnian, Lingan or Ninnian.
This area of the Island has a number of Celtic Christian sites in close proximity to each other; the keeill at Ballaquinnea is just a few fields away down the Glen Darragh Road and the church of St. Runius nearby is also thought to have been built on an ancient chapel site. There were two further keeills to the west at Ballachrink but sadly these were ploughed in to the ground over one hundred years ago although we did visit their locations out of curiosity. Of course we don’t know that these chapels were all in use at the same time.
Near to Keeill Lingan are the remains of a Norse farmstead (visible on the 1869 O.S. above) thought to have been built on a stone circle site and used from the time of the Iron Age or even earlier and is known as the ‘Braaid Circle’, this is a beautiful and interesting site. The Braaid Circle has public access from a footpath opposite a layby on the road from the Braaid to the Cooill and is well worth a visit.
Also in the locality is ‘St. Patrick’s Chair’, a number of standing stones that show simple Christian crosses carved in to them although the stones themselves are thought to pre-date Christianity from possibly prehistoric times. It is not known what the stones were used for, whether marking burial sites or a meeting place, there is local legend that Saint Patrick himself sat there but this is thought to be unlikely, in fact it can’t be proven that Patrick himself even visited the Island. This site has public access from a footpath on the road from The Garth to St. Runius.
There is a lot to be seen in this area not far out from the busy roads of Douglas but for me, the most lovely site is Keeill Lingan itself.
What an absolute pleasure it was to wend our way down the field to this little early medieval chapel on a sunny day in March. Sitting in a valley with a bank surrounding it, the whole area is fenced off from the rest of the field and is thought to be built on a Bronze Age site. As we entered the enclosure we could feel the peace of this place, it felt a real privilege to be there. The keeill is mentioned by J. Oliver in his ‘Antiquitates Manniae’ (1860-62) who called it ‘one of the best specimens existing of our insular keeills’:
‘The annexed view of the ruins of St. Lingan’s Treen Keeill and enclosure, Marown, will give the reader a correct idea of one of these old places of worship. It is situated on the Ballingan estate adjoining Ballaquinney, about a mile and a quarter from the Peel Road, and is one of the best specimens existing of our insular keeills. The enclosure in which stands the keeill is one hundred and eight feet long by sixty-three feet broad, ovicular in form, and in an excellent state of preservation. This is the necropolis of the church. In the south east part lies St. Lingan’s. The portion of the walls remaining measure four feet high by three feet thick, but the masonry is of a much superior description than is usual in keeills of the sod and stone formation. In the west end there has once been a window, but it is now entirely destroyed by visitors using it as a short cut into the church. The doom-way is in the south east angle, and formed by two inclining monolithic jambs supported by rubble stonework, so regular as to have the appearance of ashlar masonry.
In the north-east angle of the church, deeply embedded in the ground, lies the font. It measures one foot eleven inches long, by ten and a half inches broad. The interior walling of the west end is concave, and gives it the appearance of a couched semi-circular absis. It is, however, nothing more than irregular masonry producing this effect. The gentleman*[J. J. Carran, Esq.] who owns the property, with a laudable motive, has planted the enclosure with trees to protect it from injury. An example we should wish to see more followed.’
Keeil Lingan was also visited by ‘The Archaeological Commission’ in 1877 who called it ‘one of the best specimens’ and found it ‘in an excellent state of preservation’, they also mentioned the font lying inside the keeill.
Seeing just the foundations of these small buildings, it can be difficult to visualise them as once sacred spaces and to imagine the culdees or hermits preaching from them over 1000 years ago, a life that would very likely have been isolated and hard. Most of the chapels are so old that they predate modern folklore and because of this it can be hard to make a personal connection with them, certainly at the start I found this to be the case.
Keeill Lingan was surveyed for the First Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey around 1908, they found it sitting in an almost rectangular enclosure with the usual bank outside just about traceable three feet from the walls. The keeill was measured at 13ft. by 9ft. 6ins with the doorway sitting in an unusual position at the east end of the south wall. The threshold is crossed by a step that is 9 inches high. The walls were faced with unhewn stone against a bank of earth and stones and stood around 4ft. high from the floor level, the same height that Oliver had found at the time of his visit.
There was no trace of an altar or a paved floor by the early twentieth century or at least no paving was visible through the grass. The enclosure measured 90ft. north and south by 70ft. east and west and was found to be artificially raised to a level, the surrounding embankment was made of earth and stones. From a drawing made for ‘Archaeologia Cambrensis’ in 1866, we can see how the keeill and enclosure looked 150 years ago:
A hollowed stone called a ‘font’ but thought to be too shallow to have been used as one, was found inside the keeill.
From graves that they found under the keeill and below the foundations and also from the remains of cinerary urns, they were able to ascertain that the site had been a Bronze Age cemetery before it was converted to a Christian use as has been found to be the case at many of the sites. It seems that the Celtic Christians were reluctant to turn their back on the sacred sites and burial grounds of their ancestors and built their churches on top of these sites, giving a tradition of worship in the same spot for possibly thousands of years.
The keeill and enclosure are in the care of the Manx Museum and National Trust and were fenced in 1939 which has much to do with its excellent condition, they are also doing a great job at cutting the grass down which was good to see.
From reading the survey and looking at the site in 2016, I think it stands in pretty much the same state as it was 100 years ago which is great to find. The font was still in the keeill in 1953 when it was mentioned in a description of a visit to the keeill by the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, however, we didn’t see it at the time of our visit, it may well now be in the care of the Manx Museum as many are.
This was a place steeped in history and felt particularly special, it is definitely one of the ‘thin places’. If I had to pick a personal favourite out of all the keeills we have visited, it would be this one.
Keeill Lingan was a place for reflection. And cake.
Please be aware that these sites are, unless noted as being otherwise, on private land and can only be accessed with permission from the landowner.
Camlork sits just past the Strang crossroads on the way out to Mount Rule, the keeill is in a field on the right hand side of the road. When Camlork Keeill was surveyed for the Fifth Report of the Manx Archeological Survey in 1918 it found that this keeill had ‘fairly good foundations with a height of from one to four feet’. However, when Nicola and I visited in February 2016, we were surprised to find the remains of the keeill to be little more than loose stones on an area of raised ground.
The enclosure of the burial ground was cut through by the construction of the current road many years ago. It is thought that the keeill at Camlork was built upon an earlier Bronze Age site as an urn from a burial of that date has been found in this location, this has been found at a number of the Manx keeill sites.
When my work colleague was growing up there forty years ago, the keeill at Camlork still had an obvious structure but since then it has been slowly eroded by animals grazing in the field and walking over the stones. The owner of the land lived abroad for a long time and the farm has been tenanted out for half a century. For the past decade or so, it has been owned by a local developer although the land has continued to be rented.
I found mention of a partial destruction of the keeill in ‘Folklore of the Isle of Man’ (. W. Moore, 1891) when, in a chapter on superstitions, he mentions that:
Some years ago a farmer began levelling the keeill on Camlork farm, but he at once “took a pain in his arm, and had to stop work some days.” Afterwards he continued his task, assisted by his wife and daughter, the consequence was the two latter died soon after, and the man became insane, and expired after living in that state for some time.
When Camlork Keeill was surveyed around 1918, Kermode and his team found the keeill measuring 19 ft. by 11 ft. with walls that were faced inside and out with large stones of local rock with a few pieces of quartz, the space between stones was filled with earth and rubble. The wall had a broad base at 4 ft. 6 ins. tapering to 3 ft. 6 ins. at the height of the remaining foundations, possibly because the ground was boggy. The doorway was in the west wall with the passage being paved with slabs, the jamb stones for an opening still in position in the south wall were still in place.
The floor had pavement that was fairly complete and a section of the altar remained which appeared to have measured 5ft. by 2ft.
Outside of the walls, the usual bank made from earth and small stones was about 4ft. wide although this wasn’t visible at the east end, it almost looked to be part of the building itself in places. Andrew Johnson (archaeologist, MNH), in his talk on Keeills, mentioned that a number of the keeills have been found to have strengthened walls. Andrew thinks it may have been to make the stone and earth walls strong enough to take the weight of a thatched roof. The survey team found a number of large stones, one locally known as a ‘christening stone’ and one with a Latin cross cut in to it, thought to be cut in more recent times. A friend has since told me that the stone with the Latin cross is still able to be found at the site but we didn’t notice it on the day. This beautifully drawn plan shown below was drawn by an architect, Joseph E. Teare in 1915 (p.1623 (XA.BN.1.M), it shows the situation of the keeill in relation to the road and also the angle it was built on.
There is also the site of a holy well nearby known as Chibbyr Kelliagh but it is thought that this is no longer in existence.
Reading the information from the survey, it takes a good bit of imagination to make much out of what is remaining in 2016. Bearing in mind that some keeills are fenced off and looked after under the guardianship of the Manx Museum and National Trust, I asked Andrew Johnson, the archeologist of Manx National Heritage, about how some ancient monuments have come under their control. Andy explained that when ancient monument legislation was first created on the Island in the early twentieth century, a lot of energy went in to protecting some of the really obvious sites. Some sites were given to the Manx Museum and National Trust, others were bought by them and some were protected by ‘guardianship’ through agreement between the owners and the MM&NT, in recent years it has been more common to ‘list’ a site as an ancient monument. The Manx Museum and National Trust inspect and maintain monuments under their guardianship or ownership and this includes many of the well looked after and fenced off keeills such as Cabbal Druiaght at Glenlough. I was interested to see in the Manx Museum and National Trust Act of 1959 (from the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Laws database) that:
11. (I) If the Trust is of opinion that any ancient monument is in danger of destruction or removal or damage from neglect or injudicious treatment, and that the preservation of the monument is of national importance, the Trust may make an order (in this Act referred to as a preservation order”) placing the monument under the protection of the Trust.
The Trust do a wonderful job of maintaining so many ancient monuments with limited budget and staffing and it comes as no surprise that one has slipped through the net over the years, especially one that was owned by someone living on the other side of the world, an unusual situation. In the private papers of P. M. C. Kermode, I found a summary of the Fifth Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey written around 1918 (uncatalogued but in MS8979 box 2 of 2) which gave an insight in to the excavation and also showed that they realised the importance of fencing off Camlork although sadly this never happened:
This is the best known keeill in the parish, and next to Knock Rule, the best preserved… When helping Mr Kermode on this occasion, I happened to pick up from within the keeill a flint scraper which is in the museum. Eight or ten shore pebbles were met with. An enthusiastic worker with us at this keeill was Lord Raglan.
Lord Raglan was the Lieutenant Governor of the Island from 1902 to 1919 and was an enthusiastic supporter of Kermode and the archaeological survey. The summary of the Camlork Keeill ends with this recommendation, sadly not followed up:
The only two keeills in this parish work protecting by rails are this one at Camlork and the one at Knoc Rule. No delays should come in the way of their adequate preservation.
Unfortunately it is probably too late to protect Camlork Keeill now and we have to be very grateful to P. M. C. Kermode and his team who completed the archeological surveys in the early days of the Trust, that because of their hard work, we can understand what was once there. We may have ‘lost’ Camlork but it is hopefully not too late to fence Knock Rule Keeill and protect that for future generations!
Thanks to Sam Hudson for the photos of Camlork Keeill in more detail and in better weather!
There is an access agreement in place and you are able to park in the farm lane at the Glen Lough campsite, you’ll find the keeill over the hedge in the trees in the left. Cabbal Druiaght is also one of the best preserved of the keeills, a hidden gem.
Both Nicola and I had passed by this keeill on a number of occasions, it is just tucked in at the entrance to a busy farm and campsite in Glen Vine and I wonder how many people pass by it each year and don’t even know it’s there. Although it is right next to the farm lane, it is surprisingly secluded and hidden away. Cabbal Druiaght has no known dedication to any Saint, however, I found this information in ‘Manx Place Names’ (J. J. Kneen, 1925):
‘As it stands, the name means ‘the druids’ chapel,’and in that case it is probably a modern name : If an old name the second element may be a metathetic form of Duthracht [ ] the name of an Irish saint. The Martyrology of Donegal says : ‘Duthracht of Liathdruim, son of Trichim, of Sabhall, who is of the race of Fiatach Finn. monarch of Erin.’
The Keeill is in good order and is one of the most complete examples remaining, it has been fenced by and is in the protection of the Manx Museum and this has obviously kept it from damage over recent times. In an article from the Ramsey Courier entitled ‘Braddan and Marown Antiquarian Excursions’ from 1959 (found in the Newspapers section at www.imuseum.im), it mentions that the Keeill still contains the roughly shaped font and holy-water stoup. We couldn’t see anything that looked like a font, however, the grass is quite high and it may well be in the undergrowth or overturned.
Cabbal Druiacht was surveyed by The Manx Archeological Survey for their first report in 1908/09. Their job was to ‘to make inquiry as to the number and position of all the historic and pre-historic remains in the Isle of Man, to conduct a careful and systematic examination of such remains, and to draw up a full and particular Report thereon’. A number of the keeills have deteriorated since that time and often the survey is invaluable in explaining what was once there, we have a lot to be grateful to P. M. C. Kermode for as a nation.
At the time of the survey, the keeill was found to measure 13ft. 6in. by 8ft. 6in. with the doorway sitting in the middle of the west wall and measuring 17in. wide and 12in. outside, there were two steps in to the entrance of the keeill. A number of the jambs remained for the door and of a window in the south end, although the sill of the window hadn’t survived. There were also about 230 of the white shore pebbles that are familiar to these sacred sites found inside the building.
The base of the altar was still in situ and measured 4ft. by 2ft. 6in. with a height of about 10in., the upright stones were still visible forming pillars at the corners of a centre formed of slabs, these are still obvious in 2016. At the foot of the altar a step was formed with a long narrow stone together with an inner one set on edge. Above the altar they found traces of a window at the same level as the one in the south wall, the light would have been very effective in these small dark buildings.
The walls at the time were between 2 and 3ft., I would think they would be around 2ft. high at the time of our visit. They were built from ‘unhewn stone’and three large foundation stones made from granite crossed the full length of the gable in the east wall. A single stone almost 5ft. long and 8in. wide stood on edge all the way from the door to the north west corner and all the walls were surrounded by a bank about 3ft. wide at the base. A number of areas of floor paving remained and formed a path from the door to the altar, wonderful to see that existing so late on, it wasn’t visible at the time of our visit but most likely they were still there beneath the undergrowth. Unfortunately, over time a thorn tree had pushed forward the south west corner and caused damage.
The enclosure was roughly circular and measured about 27 yards across with the keeill sitting in the north east part. The site of the keeill had been artificially raised and was surrounded by the remains of a bank of earth and stone between 8 to 10ft. wide., lintel graves had at one time been found about 15 yards from the north west corner of the keeill which indicates the original size of the cemetery had been much larger.
Next time you’re driving from Union Mills to Glen Vine, stop in at this sacred place, you’re able to park in the drive way and you’ll find it on the left. It is definitely worth a visit.
There are eight known keeill sites in the Parish of Marown which is the first parish to have been surveyed by the Manx Archaeological Survey team around 1908/09. Out of the eight, only five have visible remains in 2016 and one of these is Keeill Pherick at Ballafreer which is believed to date from the seventh century and is dedicated to St. Patrick. Keeill Pherick sits nearby to three other keeills; Cabbal Druiaght at Glenlough, Keeill Vreeshey at Eyreton and Camlork Keeill, two of which have public access agreements.
It is said that St. Patrick visited the Island on his journey to Ireland and the tradition is that he visited Marown and Ballafreer itself. There is good reason to believe that he may well have spent time on the Isle of Man in his journey of spreading the news of Christianity as the connection is mentioned in many ancient documents and much folk lore still exists to support it on the Island. I found this piece of folklore in the excellent book, ‘Island Heritage. Dealing with some phases of Manx history’, William Cubbon (1952):
Not far from the ancient Keeill Pherick, believed by Kermode to be of the seventh century, is a huge flat-surfaced stone called Lhiabbee Pherick, or ‘ Saint Patrick’s Bed.’ It is the Kewley family tradition that Saint Patrick, being sorry that he had shown his passion, repented. That night, therefore, he passed his time recumbent on this slab, with another stone for his pillow. This ‘pillow,’ a white quartz boulder, is still near by.
I found out from Sam Hudson, who is wealth of knowledge on these ‘minor’ but fascinating antiquities, that not only was Lhiabbee Pherick still there but he had some photos he had taken that I could share with you, thanks Sam. I have since visited it myself and have been left wondering who carved the words in to the stone and whether it was to attract visitors or to preserve the folklore for the future. The third photo is taken from the imuseum.
‘Chibbyr Pherick’, sits close by ‘St. Patrick’s Bed’ and it was the custom at Ballafreer to cleanse the butter with the water from this well which is looking a little neglected in 2016.
We visited this keeill in February when the daffodils were just shoots and we agreed that we would have to come back when they were in flower as it would be so beautiful.
This keeill was in a rather lovely setting, in a little close between two fields and entered by an iron gate. The keeill sits at the far end of a little orchard with fruit trees (according to a friend who grew up nearby as a child and played there and enjoyed the plums!).
Mr Thomas Clucas, a member of the well known Clucas family of Ballafreer who were renowned bonesetters and who farmed Ballafreer for many years, sadly took his own life in 1890 and the family took the decision to bury him next to the Keeill. In those days he wasn’t able to be buried in consecrated ground and I can imagine that to the family this was the next best thing. His parents also seem to be buried there as they are named on the gravestone but I haven’t been able to find out more about that, perhaps they loved this beautiful little chapel too.
As Nicola and I sat and enjoyed the peaceful surroundings and William, my two year old, clambered around the trees, we both thought how Mr Thomas Clucas got the best deal, the setting at Ballafreer is a tremendous place to spend the rest of your days, far nicer than your standard church yard.
However, because of this burial, the family decided not to allow the keeill to be part of the archaeological surveys that took place at the start of the 20th Century and this has meant there isn’t much information about the structure of the keeill itself other than what Kermode could see from its outside appearance:
KEEILL PHERICK. — The Ordnance Sheet, XIII, 2, (1333), shows the position of Keeill Pherick on Ballafreer, some 260 ft. above sea level. We were denied permission to examine it by removing the growth and accumulated rubbish, and were, therefore, unable to take accurate measurements, or to ascertain the nature of the building, or whether it had remains of pavement or altar, or traces of any windows. So far as could be judged as it lay hidden under the sod, it appeared to measure about 15 ft. 3 in. by 8 ft. 10 in., and to have the doorway in the west gable. Inside was a large stone with shallow basin, said to be a font.
The keeill is in a small plantation called the ” Orchard,” a part of the present hedge of which is evidently that of the original embankment of the cemetery. In former times, until about 50 years ago, the vicar of Marown read prayers in the chapel on Ascension day. Vicar Duggan, 1840 to 1862, appears to have been the last to have done so. In connection with it, a story is told of S. Patrick, that when the saint was passing through the field, his foot was torn by a briar, whereupon he declared that the field should never yield fruit to deprive men of their senses ; and for this reason, we were told, it is always kept under pasture. Y. L. M., III, p. 433.
It was good to see that the hollowed out stone that is mentioned above is still sitting in the keeill itself in 2016. This is an interesting site that has been protected by its location. There are some that say that the rough and ready methods of excavation employed by Kermode and his team did much damage to the keeill foundations so it could be that the owner at the time did the keeill a favour by not allowing it to be disturbed.
Truly a hidden place and a special one at that.
And there, where lowing kine now meekly browse O’er that old pasturage, St. Patrick stray’d. With pious mission charg’d to Trolaby — Sweet Ballafreer ! ev’n to thy hallow’d shades St. Patrick came. Alas ! that even saint Walks not this world unpierced of its thorns ! That brambles should deform a saintly toe ! Yea, even Patrick’s toe an envious thorn Pierced most malignantly, and drew the blood The gen’rous blood, from Patrick’s honest heart.