Keeill number five.
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.