Keeills and Cake; Camlork Keeill, Braddan.

Keeills and Cake; Camlork Keeill, Braddan.

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.



Keeills and Cake; Cabbal Druiaght, Marown.

Keeills and Cake; Cabbal Druiaght, Marown.

Keeill number two.

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, 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.

keeill cabbal druiacht
The enclosure.
Looking from the doorway across to the altar stones.
Inside the keeill itself, the altar stones are visible.
The large stones to the side of the entrance way.
Looking over the hedge to where the keeill hides away from the busy campsite.

Find out more about keeills.


Keeills and Cake; Keeill Pherick, Marown.

Keeills and Cake; Keeill Pherick, Marown.

Keeill number one.

With kind permission from Mrs Osborne.

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.

1869 O.S. map showing the proximity of Cabbal Druiaght to Keeill Pherick, Ballafreer.


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.ballafreer3


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.

(Esther Nelson)




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.

More information on our visits to the Manx keeills in 2016.

Keeills and Cake, an introduction.

Keeills and Cake, an introduction.

Exploring the Manx countryside in 2016 to find the thirty five keeills that still exist.

Firstly, an introduction to ourselves.

We are Katie and Nicola, two friends living on the Isle of Man who have always loved exploring the Manx countryside (usually with a flask of tea, a lump of cake and my two year old).  Although we have visited these small Celtic chapels occasionally over the years, it was not until we went to a talk in 2015 by Andrew Johnson (the archaeologist for Manx National Heritage) that we understood what fascinating buildings they are.


What is a Keeill?

Not much is known about the arrival of Christianity on the Island but it is thought that it arrived with Irish missionaries around 500AD when the pagan Celts were gradually converted to Christianity.  The earliest keeills are thought to date from this time.  Keeills are often spoken about as being ‘thin places’, places where the gap between earth and heaven is especially fragile, having visited 32 of them at the time of writing this, I can say that certainly some of them have a very distinctive feeling of peace and are wonderful places for reflection. About fifty of the known keeill sits have recorded names, the most popular dedications being the eight keeills dedicated to the Virgin Mary (Keeill Woirrey), six to St. Patrick (Keeill Pherick) and three to St. Matthew (Keeill Vael).  Most names were taken from the 1869 O.S. map and only a two or three were recorded earlier than this (‘Manx Church Origins’,Dugdale 1998).

I have taken the information below directly from an introduction to Andrew Johnson’s talk; ‘Manx Keeills: A Reassessment of the Physical Remains of Medieval Chapels on the Isle of Man’:

In all around 174 of these ancient chapel sites have been recorded across the island, although the remains of only 35 can be identified today, generally from the stone bases of their four walls with a gap for the doorway surviving within small enclosures which served as burial grounds.

The chapels themselves would have measured, on average, just 16ft by 10ft and often carved stones bearing crosses or other religious symbols have been found close by.

Their locations include the remote clifftop Lag-ny-Keeilley (‘chapel in the hollow’) near Eary Cushlin in Patrick, Keeill Woirrey (‘St Mary’s chapel’) high on the slopes of North Barrule above the Corany Valley in Maughold, Cabbal Pherrick (‘St Patrick’s chapel’) in the secluded, wooded glade next to the Spooyt Vane (‘White Waterspout’) waterfall in Michael, and no fewer than three sets of foundations in the churchyard at Maughold itself (with possibly two more lying under the present church).

The latter site is thought to have been the main monastery in the island in the early Christian era, though St Patrick’s Isle at Peel must also have been a monastic site as it has an Irish-style round refuge tower later adapted as part of the medieval castle.

Although we cannot be certain when Christianity arrived in the Isle of Man, it was probably by AD500 and during the period when the Celtic monks sometimes known as Culdees – from the Irish Gaelic Celi De, meaning ‘Companions of God’ and often written as ‘Kelidei’ in Scottish Latin sources – were setting off in their hide-covered currachs and coracles from monastic centres in Brittany, Ireland, Wales and Scotland in search of remote locations where they could feel closer to God through nature and by living a simple life without luxury and temptation.

There is also an introduction to Keeills from Professor C J S Marstander who wrote the classic paper on Keeills and Treens in the 1930’s:

Keeills is the standing term for the primitive chapels which once were scattered all over Man to a number of more than 200. The survey goes to show that about 160 such treen-chapels are known at present in the Isle. Even if no keeill now remains intact and as a rule only the foundations are left, one is able to form an idea of their original appearance. They were built of unhewn stones, slabs, earth and rubble, in ancient times, with no other kind of agglutinate than earth or clay, later, shell mortar or cement. The size varies vary considerably. The Ballachrink-keeill in Marown measures only 10′ x 6′ inside. Otherwise they may attain 23′ x 13′ (Keeill Vian, Lonan), even 57′ x 18′ (St; Patrick’s Chapel, Patrick’s Isle), and 75′ x 24′ (St. Trinian’s, Marown). The walls vary in thickness from 2′ 4″ to 4′ 8″ and are, on the outside, protected by an embankment of earth and stones, in height 2′-5′, in depth 4′-10′. The shape is rectangular with no division between nave and chancel. The door which is narrow and tapering towards the top, is usually situated in the western gable. The window—as a rule only one—is built at a height of 2′-3′ above the floor. The altar is invariably placed against the eastern wall, attaining a height of about 2′. Usually the keeill was built upon a natural or artificial elevation in the terrain and had attached to it a burial ground, surrounded by a mound, which in height could reach 5′-6′. The whole plan of the keeill recalls, on a small scale, a rath or a liss, upon which it was certainly modelled.

Andrew Johnson mentioned in his talk, that in the early 18th century, rural architecture in the Island, especially in the north, was very basic and rudimentary.  Many houses were made from turf and had very small windows, if any.  Often the doorways were filled with ‘gorse’ rather than an actual door.

Over 1000 years earlier, from surveys of the remains of the chapels, we can see that many of the buildings had attempts at useable windows and actual doors set in to hollowed out socket stones.  This makes the keeills effectively more advanced architecturally than buildings that were being lived in 1000 years later, this idea which Andrew Johnson had put forward in his talk, made them far more curious places to me.

I found an interesting description of one in the south of the Island in ‘Vestigia Insulae Manniae Antiquiora’ (Oswald, 1860)

On the south aspect of the same range of the Cronk-ny-Eyrey-Lhaa, a mile west from Culby there was a similar ruin, called Keeil-pherik. It stood in the immediate vicinity of the circle of stones described at page 63, as remains of the heathen age. Outside of the entrance to this small chapel, on the south, two conical pillars about four feet high stood, as if pillars of a porch. They were six or eight inches in diameter, and worn quite smooth and round by attrition of some sort, as if from the handling of devotees or visitors.

From sections of windows that have been found at the sites, it would seem that some of these chapels had beautiful painstakingly carved windows, one was found with an opening carved in the shape of a cross.  Many windows were situated in the wall to the side of the altar where the casting of light in the shape of a cross would have been very powerful.

Not such unsophisticated structures after all.


Andrew used some examples of vernacular architecture to show what elements of a keeill may have looked like when they were in use, obviously there is no known roof structure but it is assumed it was probably thatch.  One of the buildings that was used as an example in the talk was a building from Leodest, Andreas (photo taken from the iMuseum):


We realised that these mysterious and often lonely places could lead us to areas of the Island that we would never see otherwise and we made the decision to attempt to visit the remaining keeills ourselves over 2016.  Andrew kindly gave us a list of the keeills with map references and we started our research.

The majority of the keeills were surveyed by Mr P.M.C. Kermode and his team in a large archaeological survey that spanned many years at the start of the 20th century.  Philip Moore Callow Kermode was a Manx antiquarian and historian who become the first director of the Manx Museum in 1922 and who had carried out an important study of Manx crosses towards the end of the 19th century.  The concept of the Manx Archaeological Survey was to carry out analysis of all the antiquarian sites on the Island, starting with the keeills as he felt they were ‘extremely vulnerable to progress’.  Many of the southern keeills were not surveyed until later and were published in the Sixth Report of the Manx Archaeological Survey in 1966.  Unfortunately, after the keeills, the survey ran out of steam and was never completed.  Although many lament the damage done to the keeills due to the rough and ready archaeological methods used at the time, if it wasn’t for the archaeological survey we would have no records of the keeills that have since been damaged or lost.  Evidence found at the time can also be re-evaluated using the advancement in knowledge and technology in the 21st century and for this, amongst many other things, we have to be grateful to Mr P. M. C. Kermode and his team of enthusiastic volunteers (photo from

pmc kermode.jpg

Although originally we were only doing this for our own interest, we decided to start this blog after a number of friends suggested that it would be a good idea to share our experiences to document the keeills as they are in 2016.  We’ve also added information on the keeills themselves that we’ve found, mainly from the Manx Archaeological Surveys, Kermode’s List of Manx Antiquities, the wonderful Manx Notebook site, the iMuseum Newspapers and Periodicals, visits from the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society and various books, just to give a bit more information.  I have also started going through the private papers of P. M. C. Kermode (which are currently uncatalogued) at the Manx Museum Library, in the hope of finding ‘new’ information and also solving some of the mysteries I have come across in the archaeological reports.

This is not academic research, we do not pretend to be experts on anything or know much at all about these wonderful places, we are doing this out of curiosity, a love for the Manx countryside, an interest in our Celtic past and for a challenge!

keeill ingan

At least 174 sites of keeills have been recorded on the Isle of Man but only 35 can be identified today.  Many of the buildings were raised to the ground to save ploughing around them as farming intensified, some were demolished as the stones were valuable building materials and were used in nearby buildings, one was destroyed to stop people visiting the keeill and nearby holy well and one keeill was allegedly demolished as Catholics met in it and the landowner didnt like Catholics (not recently)!  Many are long gone but it is surprising the large number that have survived over 1000 years but have been destroyed in recent memory.  Below is an extract from ‘A Second Manx Scrapbook’ by W. Gill (1932), that laments the loss of the keeills and mentions a few that were lost not too long ago;

PROGRESSIVE and energetic Manx farmers have done much to hasten the disappearance of fairy hillocks, earthworks of defence and of assembly, stone circles, avenues and alignments, cairns, monoliths, sculptured and inscribed crosses, sacred wells and ancient chapels. Road-makers and menders have lent a hand with the larger stones. It is sad to think that the memory of such conscientious levellers has perished more swiftly than that of most of the anachronisms they abolished ; for men who spent so much pains in improving their farms by clearing away these obstacles to agriculture deserved some permanent memorial of their names. ” James Clague of Ballanorris,” for example, ” removed from a small eminence on the farm the foundations of a small building known as an old chapel, and at the same time removed a dilapidated stone fence enclosing the above, in the interior of which were stone-lined graves containing human remains. The field is well-known as `the Keeilley.’ ” ” On a slight eminence in a field situated on the margin of Poyll Vaaish, Mr. William Taggart, tenant of Poyll Vaaish farm . . . turned up and rooted out the foundation stones of a building pretty well-known as an old chapel, and surrounding same many stone-lined graves containing human remains were also discovered. No remains can now be seen, but the eminence on which it stood is discernible from other parts of the field.” ” In the field immediately North of Rhyn farmhouse traces of a small quadrangular building and an irregular enclosure can be seen. Mr. Thos. Kewley, on becoming proprietor about ten years ago . . . removed the walls of what was pretty generally known as an old Chapel. He states that the ruin was then several feet high and enclosed by a rude fence, the track of which is still visible, forming a small mound.” No burials were discovered here, but ” about 2 chains East a stone cist containing human remains ” was removed.

Messrs. Clague, Taggart and Kewley are but mild types of many hundreds of Manxmen who preceded them, and of not a few since. Some must have done worse. The major antiquities are now protected by the Ancient Monuments Trustees, but only a right understanding can save the remnants of the lesser ones.

There were many superstitions associated with these places and it was often the superstitions that protected them, there are some wonderful stories about the terrible things that happened to people who removed stones or damaged them, so many stories they deserve a post of their own!  Bishop Wilson (1798-1655) wrote:

“They have generally hated sacrileges to such a degree that they do not think a man can wish a greater curse to a family than in these words :–Clogh ny killagh ayns corneil dty hie mooar, i.e., “May a stone of the church be found in the corner of thy dwelling-house.” (‘Folklore of the Isle of Man’, Moore, 1891)

As the power of religion and superstitious folklore waned, so the number of keeills diminished.

The majority of keeills are on private land and for most we have had to find the land owners and ask their permission which has been quite a task, many people have helped us with this information and we are grateful to both them and to the landowners for allowing us to enjoy the monuments in their care.  We have also had lots of advice from Frank Cowin, Dr Andrew Foxon, Dave Martin, Andrew Johnson and the patient staff at the Manx Museum Library and I’m very grateful to them all.  I would also like to thank Bernadette Wyde ( and Sam Hudson for passing on any references and information on keeills that they have come across.


For some keeills there is plenty to write about, others not so much, they are all so very different!  If you have any information we can add then please let us know by either commenting on the posts or emailing myself (Katie) at  As we came to the end of the list of keeills with probable remains, we extended our visits to ‘sites’ of keeills.  Although not expecting to find visible remains, we figure that visiting places you’ve never been before (especially ones with a story), is never going to be a disappointment.  To our surprise, we have found remains at a few of these sites.  I will be writing these up as posts, even a couple without remains – if there’s enough information on them to tell an interesting story of the land.

The following posts will hopefully be a documentation of the remaining keeills as they exist in 2016.  We start with our first visit which was to Keeill Pherick at Ballafreer.

Peace of God and peace of man,
Peace of God on Columb Killey,
On each window and each door,
On every hole admitting moonlight,
On the four corners of the house,
On the place of my rest,
And the peace of God on myself.

Manx charm (‘Manx Church Origins’ 1998, Dugdale).


There is an annual event ‘Praying the Keeills’ that explores many of the Manx keeills each May.  You can find more information at

(Writing mainly by Katie, photos by Nic)