Keeill number three.

With kind permission of Mr. Frank Cain.

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.


Detail from 1869 O.S.



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!

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Thanks to Sam Hudson for the photos of Camlork Keeill in more detail and in better weather!

What are keeills?

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.



3 thoughts on “Keeills and Cake; Camlork Keeill, Braddan.

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