The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was celebrated on the Island on Friday 6 July. In spite of the weather, the whole day was a huge success.
The Jubilee Princess procession opened the proceedings and, because of the rain, some changes to the plans had to be made. Everyone had hoped for a warm, sunny and dry day. It was not to be! Crowds gathered in the Village Hall to enjoy the fun and games, the maypole dancing, and the splendid celebration cake competition. The decorated hat competition added to the fun and there were delicious refreshments.
With his usual aplomb, Captain of the Parish, Mr Edgar Cowin, chaired the evening concert, which opened with the talented Manx Music Group from Ballaugh School, directed by Miss Caitlin Bennett. The School’s Drama Group, directed by Mrs Jan Bale, then took to the stage with an excellent adaptation of a Manx story ‘The Manx Cat and the Governor’s Lady’.
Ballaugh Brownies and Guides entertained us next with ‘A Russian Fairy Tale’. Though not intrinsically a comic tale, Elaine Fenton’s production was highly original and was greatly enjoyed by the audience.
A surprise item was magician Liam Moorhouse, whose skills and wit appealed to all ages.
A feature of the Jubilee Year was ‘Sing’, composed by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Gary Barlow. Fenella Bazin conducted the newly-formed Songalong Choir, which featured some fantastic singers from Ballaugh School, with some parents as well. They made a splendid sound!
Recitation featured too. Edgar Cowin gave an amusing poem about an earlier Jubilee, and Simon Graley treated us to ‘Tales of the North’ (England, that is, not the Isle of Man!).
More youthful talent followed with Doona Lambden and Bridget Bale. Doona’s own song was a great hit with the audience. We shall look forward to hearing more!
Andrew Williamson’s solo slot opened with Gill’s arrangement of ‘I‘m happy as a king’, which was followed by Michael Head’s ‘Lone Dog’, finishing with enthusiastic audience participation in the Flanders and Swann song ‘The Hippopotamus Song’.
The evening closed with an Edwardian miscellany, a piece describing a visitor’s experiences on visiting the Island. Carl Reber’s ‘Descriptive Selection for the Piano’ begins and ends with the sea journey, and includes several popular songs of the day, including ‘Ellan Vannin’. Illustrated with slides, the audience sang lustily.
Ed: I’ve included this article in its unedited state as an excellent example of the complexity of research and how the story can unfold. The Internet has meant that research that would have been very difficult or impossible in the past can now be followed through. Although the emails show how immediate responses can be, the footwork still has to be tackled.
Sometime during the summer of 2009 I happened to photograph a gravestone that caught my eye in the graveyard at Ballaugh Old Church. The stone was inscribed with the name Lieut. Mark Ecken R.N. In October 2009 I chose to put that photograph onto a website called Flickr URL: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ballaugh/4061695284/. This was listed with a ‘tag’ for the surname on the gravestone.
In February 2010, as a result of an internet search on the surname Ecken, I was contacted by e-mail by Jillian Ryder in Australia. She was researching the Pinkerton family for a friend, and had come across a Mark Ecken, as the husband of an Elizabeth Pinkerton. Mark Ecken and Elizabeth Pinkerton had married in Glasgow, Scotland in 1819. Elizabeth Pinkerton had emigrated to Australia from Glasgow in 1839. Jillian had not known what had happened to Mark Ecken, and was not aware of a connection to the Isle of Man.
MEMORIAL INSCRIPTION AND CHURCH RECORDS
‘In memory of / Lieut. MARK ECKEN R.N. / who departed this mortal life / on the 13th day of September / 1826 aged 41 years. / Also CATHARINE GEORGINA his daughter who departed this life / on the 21st day of January / 1827 aged 18 months’
This adds a daughter to the family tree. I looked for her baptism, and also any possible siblings. I found Catharine Georgina as might be expected in the summer of 1825:-
‘Catharine Georgiana daughter of Mark & Elizabeth Ickan privately bapt 22nd July.’
Note the spelling of Georgina, was this an error? Also note the variant spelling of the surname. The clerk was presumably unfamiliar with the ‘alien’ surname.
The Ballaugh burial records show:
1826 Mark Ecken Lieut R N Sep 21st 1827 An Infant Daughter of Mrs Aiken Jan 26th
So far that has given us Ecken, Ickan and Aiken as variant spellings!
Luckily Mark Ecken left a will:
ECKEN, Mark Warcup 1826 Bal E 2 0106426
On Microfilm GL743 (damaged) at the Manx Museum Library, Douglas, Isle of Man
In the name of God Amen I Mark Warcup Ecken more commonly known by the name of Mark Eiken, a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy at present residing in the Parish of Ballaugh in the Isle of Mann [this is the old spelling] being weak in body but of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding do make publick & declare this my last will & testament in manner and form [the?] following Item [or is it Heir?] – I leave and bequeath unto my beloved wife Elizabeth Ecken after the payment of all just debts the whole of my estate real & personal of every denomination or kind whatsoever and lastly I nominate constitute & appoint my sd [said] Wife whole & sole Executrix of all the rest residue & remaining of my Power Chattles & effects and Guardian of my three children Margaret Pinkerton – Mary Harriet & Catharine Georgiana Ecken [the capital E has been gone over again and looks like an I perhaps] In witness whereof I have herewith subscribed my name this 7th Septr 1826.
Signed Published & declared / Mark W. Ecken /
before us who have herewith subscribed our names as witnesses in the judence[?] of the Testation & of each other, Wm. Mitford/J C Bluett/Advocate Jurate}/[etc.] hath given pledges – Thomas Kewish and John Frowd both of Ballaugh…
Notes: I’ve not come across any Mitford’s on the Island before.
J C Bluett was, or later became, the High Bailiff.
Thomas Kewish is listed as ‘Gentry’ in Slater’s Directory of 1846.
The name Frowd has popped up before in my research, but I haven’t as yet tracked down who that family was – it is not a Manx name.
The name that kept coming up on internet searches was the unlikely sounding Dodo Ecken. He had links to the Royal Navy and Woolwich, and was a surgeon. Could there be a connection?
Who was Elizabeth Pinkerton?
She married Mark Ecken in Glasgow in 1819. They had three daughters. One died in the Isle of Man aged 18 months. The other two emigrated to Australia from Greenock, Glasgow with their mother, and their Uncle and Aunt etc in 1839. She had a brother James Pinkerton. James Pinkerton was married to Margaret Unknown. Their daughter married a Kissack. There were four other children. They all emigrated from Greenock, Glasgow to Port Philip, Australia in 1839. Two of James Pinkerton’s sisters also emigrated together with three nieces (of James and Margaret) and one sister-in-law (of James and Margaret).
Hi David…I’m researching the Ecken/Pinkerton families for a friend. There was a wife and two daughters of Mark Ecken RN came to Australia in 1839 on the ”Superb” from Glasgow, they settled in Victoria with Mrs Ecken’s brother James Pinkerton and family. I believe your headstone photo may be her husband’s. This is the second time the Isle of Man has come up in this research, in 1841 Census 3 girls named Chmil (Chmel) from Liverpool were staying there. Two of these girls and their Aunt all married Pinkertons. Still haven’t worked out what the connection to your Island is….thanks for the photo, a fabulous find.
Best wishes, Jillian Ryder, Australia
The Chmel girls’ mother was named Kitchen…is that a local name for you? Adelbert Chmel was a wine and spirits merchant in Liverpool, we think he may have been from Prague. Also the Aunt Chmel married Mark Ecken Pinkerton. Do you have the full transcription for the stone as part of it is hidden by a bush? Thanks for the Cannel suggestion, I’ll have a look at that.
Hi David, that would be wonderful. I may have another connection….James Pinkerton of Victoria died at the home of his son in law, a Mr KISSACK. Now I know you have a few of those, are any local to the town where Mark Ecken is buried?
Hi David, Jillian Ryder has helped me in finding ancestors in Liverpool which led also to the Isle of Man. She said I would be very interested in the photos etc. on your facebook page and I would welcome the chance to learn more about the community you live in. Jillian has sent me the information on Lt.Ecken’s grave site and the other messages you sent her and I would like to view the photos she says you have posted.
We are both quite excited about this – what a wonderful tool the internet can be; I am a novice who wants to learn more
Mark Ecken married Elizabeth Pinkerton 18 Jan 1819 Glasgow. James Pinkerton married Margaret Gardiner 24 Dec 1816 Glasgow. Louise Silberberg Cook is the lady I’m researching for. We love dead people, too.
Yes I did get your email and sent a reply, let me know if it’s gone astray. Mark’s daughters here were Margaret who died a spinster at age 55, and Mary Harriet who married her first cousin William Pinkerton. Were there such things as rates/tithes books or post office directories or anything like that in your parish?
Dodo Ecken (Research by Jillian and David)
Dodo Ecken married Mary Loney 25 Apr 1772 at St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich, witnesses Jam Carter, T Barker, ? Barker, Thomas Sparshott, Mary MacPherson.
Mark Warclap Echen born 30 Oct 1784 Baptised 12 Dec 1784 St Mary Magdalene Woolwich , of Dodo and Mary.
Dodo was a surgeon with the Royal Artillery, and Mark Warcup (see below), was Commissary of stores to the Royal Engineer. At that time the Artillery and the Engineers were housed together at Woolwich so the men were connected through the army.
Where does the name Warcup come from? (Jillian’s research)
Mark Warcup married Frances Loney (the sister of Dodo’s wife?) on 24 Jan 1766 St Mary Magdalene Woolwich, Frances listed as a minor, witnesses Mary Loney and Mulford Young. This would suggest that Mary and Frances were sisters, which would mean Mark Warcup and Dodo Ecken were brothers in law, and Mark Warcup an Uncle to Lieut. Mark Warcup Ecken..
SUMMARY MARK WARCUP ECKEN
Born 30 Oct 1784
Baptised 12 Dec 1784 St Mary Magdalene, Woolwich
c1810 Glasgow Mark Ecken was a Lieutenant with the Impress Service.
1819 Glasgow Mark Ecken married Elizabeth Pinkerton.
Children: Margaret Ecken.
c1824 Mary Harriet, m.Wm Pinkerton, Melbourne 1848, d.1900
Manx Newspapers search re September 1826: The Manx Sun 16.09.1826
‘We regret to note the extent and fatality which dysenteries and cholera morhus are making among the poor of this island. As they are complaints very readily checked by the early adoption of medicine we consider it as a strong inducement to some public measure, by which the poor should be provided with medical advice and medicine, gratis.’ ‘Dreadful Storm: During the past week the weather has been in a very unsettled state.’ Many ships were wrecked with considerable loss of life. No Ecken obituary.
FINALLY: WHAT WAS HIS CONNECTION WITH THE ISLE OF MAN?
Had Mark been pensioned off? Did he retire to the Isle of Man, because of the cheaper cost of living? Was there a family connection? There is no obvious connection with the Island. The surname Loney (his Mother’s maiden name) resembles Looney, which is a well known surname, but that seems to be a coincidence.
Loney family: (research by Jillian and David)
A John F. Loney (John on birth records) with the Royal Navy, Master of the Trincomalee (North America and West Indies 17.09.1747, could be the girls’ father. If so, this is Mark Ecken’s grandfather, and might be worth a look as it would give him a link to the Navy.
From the records at the National Archives, mostly from the Navy Board, I was able to determine that the Shipwright known as John Loney Junior is Mary’s father. Captain John F Loney RN is probably a relative. John Senior was a Shipwright in Portsmouth, John Junior was a Shipwright’s assistant for a time. They were building ships for the Navy. John Junior was appointed Master Boatbuilder at Woolwich in 1764. And, if you’re interested, his will is online dated 14th November 1778. Would certainly help to verify the story.
Conclusions (by David): It isn’t clear why Mark Ecken and his family were on the Isle of Man. There is no indication that they were living permanently on the Island, no address mentioned in the Will, in the burial records, or on the headstone. If it is true that a Pinkerton (his wife’s family name) married a Kissack, and I have not been able to find this marriage in Ballaugh or Jurby – or further afield via the internet, then perhaps they had simply been simply visiting their Kissack relatives, when Mark, and in due course, his infant daughter were struck down by some illness. So if there are any ‘Kissack’ experts out there who know the answer please let me know!
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The move from the Old Church at the Cronk to the new church in the early part of the 19th century produced major and obvious changes to the parishioners. Some, however, are less obvious to modern historians but must have caused considerable comment at the time.
Anyone familiar with the Old Church today will have noticed that the hymns are played on a small harmonium, an instrument that was relatively affordable, produced an organ-like sound, had a pump operated by the keyboard player, and that took up very little space. It was also portable and eminently suitable for use in Sunday Schools. Developed in France during the early 19th century (which explains why the organ stops are in French), it was originally intended for domestic use.
When the move was made to the outskirts of the village, Robert Taubman, who had been the organist, took over the role at the New Church. According to Miss Beatrice Kneen, writing in the Antiquarian Proceedings of 1926, the whole Taubman family was musical, and said to be the proud owners of the first piano in the parish. Robert had originally played the bass fiddle and afterwards the ‘seraphine’, a name often used to describe the new-fangled harmonium. It is this reference to the ‘bass fiddle’ which gives us a valuable clue to what sort of music would have been used every Sunday.
The move coincided with big changes in worship. Up to the 1830s, music was provided by local musicians, who would play for local dances and socials, perhaps join in with performances with choral societies, then with the church band on Sundays. There was no set instrumental combination for the band, which could include fiddles, cellos, flutes, clarinets (usually known as ‘clarionets’) and serpents, found in both military and church bands.
A serpent player (Photograph by Fenella Bazin)
Followers of the Oxford Movement advocated a return to what they believed was more appropriate, drawing their inspiration from medieval times. Followers encouraged the introduction of robed choirs, separated from the congregations by rood screens. St Olave’s Church in Ramsey is a good example of this style. Hymn-books were gradually introduced, standardizing (and eventually impoverishing) the repertoire, which began to conform to national standards, rather than developing local idioms. Nowadays, for instance, we nearly all sing the words of ‘While shepherds watched their flocks’ to the tune ‘Winchester Old’, dating back to the 1590s. The Methodists tend to opt for ‘Lydia’, a much livelier tune. But at one time, hundreds of different melodies would have been found right across the British Isles. Some have survived and are being revived. We have several versions here on the Island. Did you know that the tune of ‘Ilkley Moor’ was originally composed by Thomas Clark of Canterbury for the hymn?
So the music used in the Old Church would have been much more local, accompanied latterly by the harmonium but before that by musicians like Robert Taubman playing instruments such as the bass fiddle, probably a type of cello. In the south of the Island, the tradition lasted well into the 20th century, with Tom Taggart playing his bass fiddle at Kerrowkeil Chapel, and commemorated by Cecil McFee in a splendid poem.
Hymns would be ‘raised’ by the parish clerk, whose appointment depended on him having a good singing voice. He would ‘line out’ the hymn, echoed by the congregation, line by line, so that every hymn would take twice the time to sing. They tended to be sung much slower too, so a hymn might take five minutes or more to complete. Probably because of this, some singers started to add twiddly bits to the tune, adding their own variations and changing the character of the melody. This tradition still survives today in the Isle of Lewis, where singers produce an extraordinary effect when singing metrical psalms in Gaelic. Although hymn-raising is no longer heard in church, it survives in cruinnaght and eisteddfod competitions.
There were choirs, though not robed and not always well behaved. Thomas Hardy described his early memories of such a choir in his novel Under the Greenwood Tree, which deals with this exact period of transition, from instrumental accompaniment to the introduction of harmoniums, played, in his story, by the splendidly named Miss Fancy Day. The singers would be called on for special services, particularly at Christmas. Anthems would often be composed by the choirmaster. Many remained in local use only, but others were published and became popular with a wider public. We have a wealth of these in the Island. Peripatetic singing masters would visit a parish to train a choir, staying anything from a few weeks or months, or even years. Master William Shepherd was a Cumbrian choirmaster who had a huge influence on Manx choirs in the early 1800s, leaving behind him a treasury of manuscript books, now brought to life again by musicologists and performed by choirs such as we have in Ballaugh.
The style is generally known as ‘West Gallery’, as that is where the choir would have sung from. The congregation might well have turned round to watch them during the anthem, bringing down on their heads the wrath of the clergy, and probably giving rise to the term ‘facing the music’.
A modern ‘West Gallery’ choir, singing in Malew Church
Most of the music manuscript books in the Island have been found in the south, round the Castletown and Colby areas, mainly as a result of Shepherd’s work. It is believed, however, that he also trained choirs in the northern parishes, and I am longing for someone to find traces of his work. The books were handwritten, the lines ruled with a five-pointed pen, with the music copied out by the choirmaster on the right-hand page. The left-hand page was left blank for the owner to add the words. Sometimes these were dutifully completed, other times left blank, perhaps because of semi-literacy or because the singer had memorized the words. As paper was quite expensive, people often used spaces left in the manuscripts. Some of the examples from Colby contain sketches of people of boats, or have personal comments, or school exercises.
There are now scores of choirs in the UK, North America and Australia performing this music, and many enthusiasts searching through archives and church cupboards. Some exciting items have been unearthed, including several here on the Island. John Wesley would have heard West Gallery music when he came here at the end of the 18th century, and wrote in his diary that he was greatly impressed with the singing of Manx congregations, noting that he ‘was agreeably surprised’. He had not heard better singing at Bristol or Lincoln. ‘Both men and women have admirable voices; and they sing with good judgement. Who would have expected this in the Isle of Man?’
His comments show that there was a good standard of music making here, comparable with that in major cities in England. So it is not surprising to find that the surviving manuscripts show that we also had a wide variety and high standard of repertoire available to the church choirs. With the disintegration of the tradition in parish churches in the mid-nineteenth century, musicians either moved into Methodist churches, or decamped to the local pub, where the singing continued. South Yorkshire is still a centre for this tradition, where it can be heard in the weeks leading up to Christmas, attracting large crowds, singing carols specific to local areas. They live up their titles too; ‘Hail, smiling morn’, ‘Drop hark’, and ‘Sweet chiming bells’ are all joyous songs that deserve to be better known.
Some of the members of Ballaugh Quire, in a photograph which was featured in the 20th anniversary of the West Gallery Music Association’s publication ‘Let our joys be known’. Some 30 choirs from as far afield as Cornwall and Northumberland meet regularly or occasionally to explore the music enjoyed by church musicians in the days before the Oxford Movement introduced Victorian anthems and surplices. Over nearly 30 years, Ballaugh Quire has performed items, some written by Manx composers. Most of this energetic and heartfelt music had been forgotten for 200 years but is now being restored to regular use.
An informal but informed account, as far as very limited printed records and memories will allow, of the Dollagh Green in earlier days.
In 1376 spelled Dufloch, in 1648, Dowloch, and in 1793, Dollagh, as the name suggests it was part of the big black lakes which made a large part of the lowlands of the north of the Island. How these lakes were formed should be asked of a geologist, but it seems that after the great ice Age, as the glacier coming down from then north melted, it left a silt of gravel, sand and clay. As the climate got milder, sub-arctic grass began to grow which, with other debris, eventually turned into peat and formed the bogs of the curragh in which, not far from the Dollagh Green, the bones of the Great Elk were found. Much of this has now been drained into the Killane River after being dug and dried out, leaving land fit for cultivation, such as now forms the Dollagh Moar Quarterland. The Dollagh green itself has only an inch or two of topsoil, over a bed of shale and slate.
Although it is hardly mentioned in print, the Dollagh Green was an important part of the original Ballaugh which centred around the Old Church St Mary de Ballaugh at the Cronk,, and the old school near the dwelling called Ballacoraige, once a farmhouse. In Miss Ann Harrison’s account of Ballaugh’s ecclesiastical history written in 1982, she mentioned that Rector Stowell, then living in the Old Rectory, noted in his visiting list of 1814, ‘Old Ballacoilley at the Dolee’, confirming the village name fore the Green, on which was held the Fair celebrating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary on August 15th, but changed to August 26th after the adoption of the Gregorian calendar, in Manx ‘Laa’l Moirrey Toshee’.
On it, too, flax was dried after being steeped, perhaps in water from the Ballaugh River, on the western side of the Green. Flax was a crop cultivated extensively in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a cottage industry, not only grown locally, but spun and woven in cottages, where the ‘web’ or ‘check’ was made into women’s dresses, ‘linsey’ aprons and linings, and into men’s shirts. The coarser weaves, called ‘barragh’, provided bed-linen. Even today hand-woven sheets are probably still in use, as it was very strong and long-lasting. It was also material from which sails were made for the herring fishing fleet, and even twisted for rope. Most farms had a ‘dub’ at the roadside for steeping flax, and it was left in wills by the pound.
The fields around the Dollagh Green and elsewhere must have looked so colourful with the clear blue of the flax flowers (Linum unitatissimum), scattered with red poppies (Papaver Rhoes) and the yellow of corn marigold (Chrysanthemum segetum). Even as late as the 1980s the odd flax flower could be seen growing in a neglected field near the Curragh.
Beside the Green runs the Ballaugh River, rather a grand name for it now, as it is really no more than a stream but, in the past, when it filled the pool at Ballaugh Shore, where fishing boats used to berth, it must have been deeper and faster flowing, having been used in water-mills on its way down the Glen. Nor, perhaps, did it dry up for three or four months during the summer, as it does now, much to the detriment of the sewage farm downstream from the Green. Before this time, access to Ballacoilley farm was by ford and by a slab of slate acting as a bridge for those on foot. The sturdy Manx ponies, before the coming of cars and lorries, pulled wheel-less sledge carts along the lanes. Later, a conventional bridge was built, with wooden rails up which, on each side, grew an old-style rose and the climbing white variety, possible the Trailing Rose, Roas arvensis. On the banks grew wild cherry trees (Prunus avium), brambles, gorse and all manner of vegetation, preventing the banks from subsiding as they have done since 1990. Every year, mallard ducks came up-river to nest and rear their young, either on the banks or, for two or three years, in the corner between the porch and the wall of Dollafg Cottage, and on two other occasions, under a bush right beside the main road. The bed of the river is lined with flat stones, possibly part of the detritus washed down from the hills or left behind by the glacier.
Between the river and the Cronk road was the parish pinfold, 26 feet almost 8 metres) square , with a drystone wall over 6 feet (2 metres) high and about 15 inches (38 cms) thick. Every parish on the Island had at least one pinfold, kept by the Moar (or key-holder), a coroner, or some other worthy person, and maintained in good repair by members of the treens under the direction of the Captain of the Parish. Strays of all kinds were kept in the pinfold until claimed by the owner, when a charge was levied, the first recorded being a penny for each foot! By the nineteenth century this had risen to 9d (just over 3p) for sheep, 1/6d (7½p) for a horse and 2/6d (12½p) for cattle. Peter Clague’s paper on pinfold given in the December 1940 edition of The Journal of the Manx Museum, Vol. 4, No. 63, gives full details of other Island pinfolds.
The need for pinfolds declined in the early 20th century as farmers built higher walls and fences and presumably when communication by telephone made reporting of strays feasible. In any case, by mid-century all that remained of the Dollagh pinfold were twoo sides of the wall showing how beautifully built they were of dry stone construction with no cement, giving nesting places in the crevices to pied wagtails which ran up and down on the top of the wall. Below, on the east side, one of the occupants of the cottages had planted a bed of flowers, with roses climbing up the wall, a beautiful addition to the Green seen from the road. In one corner of the pinfold, near the river, stood a ‘tholtan’ called Barney’s house. It is not recorded who he was, but he was possibly on the of the Moars, or keeper of the keys of the pinfold.
Close to the pinfold, and partially dismantled by him, lived Douglas Burgess, in a cottage at one time roofed with corrugated iron and rented by a series of families, but possible owned by Burgess’ sister Freda. Before her death, he lived with her and her friends, Nell Edwards, in the big farm, Ballacoilley, between the river and the ‘brooghs’ behind. In ‘Dougie’s’ time, the river regularly flooded and entered his cottage by what was then the front door, soaking the several layers of carpets which covered the floor of his living-room, all of which had to be sent to the dry-cleaners afterwards. When he had some renovations done, he blocked it up and had a new front door, or rather side door, made next to the garage he had built inside the wall. To give access to further extensions at the back of the cottage in the 1990s, he demolished more of the pinfold wall adjoining Barney’s house. He was popular with Ballaugh Commissioners because he cut the grass on the rest of the Green between his cottage nad the road, although behind it, and the bordering the river, it was allowed to remain as meadowland, where poppies and ox-eye daisies grew.
On the south-east of the Green stood a row of cottages, probably all single-storeyed and thatch-roofed, though a third, (now called Ballacoilley Cottage, in 1837 was called ‘Jinny’s House’ and probably pre-dating the other two) was replaced by a two-storey building in which a large family of Callisters was brought up, the last remaining of whom, Clara, died in 1970 in Cronk Ruagh Hospital. In her day, the front door was at what is now the back, facing southeast, with a gate opening to the main Cronk road. To the right of the door, where sewage works were built, probably on the site of the old earth closet, a water closet was installed. A stone wall divided her small front garden from the field the Corletts owned, and up it she grew roses, and under her windows agapanthas flourished. Indoors there was running water to her kitchen sink, with a window overlooking the Green, and her tiny back garden with a foot-high fence enclosing her cottage flowers. On the Green beyond grew gorse bushes on which she dried her washing. The Callister family were devoted to Ballaugh Church, the ‘new’ church, Johnny the father (1850-1925) being sexton with his wife Jinny and daughter Clara its regular cleaners. Jinny, like most old ladies of her generation, wore voluminous clothes and a sunbonnet and was very superstitious. When cleaning the church with Clara, she adopted the brass ‘chandeliers’, which she pulled down with her walking stick to a height convenient foro her to fill the several oil lamps and polish each lamp glass and their flame-coloured globes. She then pushed the ‘chandeliers’ back to their correct height.
Clara, like so many Manx people, was musical and a valued member of the church choir and for her long service, claimed a certain seat on which no-one else was allowed to sit.
Immediately after Clara’s death, her nephew and executor, Mr Ellis, put the house up for sale and it was snapped up by Roxana Mcgregor of Ballacoilley, for the manager of her property at Druidale, at a price of £4,000. She made alterations to the interior to provide a modern kitchen and changed the front to the back, bringing the ‘loo’ indoors. Soon after the improvements were finished, the manager left and from then on she rented the house to a series of unusual tenants, until she left Ballaugh to live in Foxdale, when she sold it to an elegant ‘comeover’, an artist and interior decorator, who transformed the inside of the house to a very upmarket Homes and Gardens property with dark-green walls and ceiling, white woodwork, a four-poster bed and other antique furniture. Here she lived as a semi-recluse except for her weekly visits to the One-Stop shop, always immaculately dressed, in furs in winter, with a bun-on-the-top-of-the-head hairstyle, not a hair out of place, and with diamonds in her rings and brooches. She worked in her studio, facing the Green upstairs, and professed not to hear the doorbell so that she could only be contacted by phone. What used to be Clara’s front gate was blocked, built up with stone and with a pointed top, so that it was nicknamed ‘The R.I.P. House’.
Before many years, she sold it and it reverted to its old way of life – being let for short periods to a miscellany of tenants, after the owners had re-decorated to their own sophisticated taste, they being the originators and owners of the Mitzi Bell empire. However, after only a year, it again changed hands, and was completely redecorated – bright red ceiling this time – not occupied by the owner, but again rented. The stories of the occupiers since Clara’s death would fill a book on their own – all so varied and intriguing.
The Manx House Dr Catriona Mackie, Centre for Manx Studies, 27th April, 2010
With the increasing prosperity of the Island in the 19th and early-20th centuries, many settlements in the upland areas were abandoned. At the same time, some of the small houses in the lowland areas were replaced or changed beyond recognition. It is these ruined buildings that Catriona has been studying, in parallel with her work on the black houses of the Outer Hebrides.
We were guided through a variety of building materials and styles, mostly dependent on the locality. Because of the need to use cheap and accessible materials, much has disappeared with time. Thatch and timber have rotted away and leaving only traces that archaeologists can identify. Other small houses were simply coated with clay, which had to be renewed on a regular basis. However, stone survives and we were treated to a series of pictures of chimneys and ovens, giving a vivid insight into the way people survived in the past.
Talks such as these give us new ways of looking at buildings when we are out and about in the countryside. FB
Manx Gardens past and present, Valerie Cottle, 31st August, 2010
Everyone familiar with Larch Garrad’s book on The Manx Garden will be aware of the comparative richness of historic and modern gardens on the Island. In spite of the title of the 1st edition being nominated as the oddest book title of the year by The Sunday Times many years ago (the writer believed we are simply a bare rock somewhere in the British Isles), there’s a great deal of interest to be found in private gardens, many of which are never open for public viewing.
The first part of the talk concentrated on vanished gardens: those of Ronaldsway House, Bishopscourt and the Nunnery. The slides burst into colour when we reached gardens of the present day. Valerie’s photographs are a treat in themselves, but it was her commentary on the development of the gardens that was illuminating, and an inspiration for those of us who try to aspire to these standards. FB
Peel and the great war, 1914-1918 Pat Skillicorn 19th October, 2010
Pat began by talking about her family connections with the Ballaugh and Michael area. She showed us a Ballaugh school photograph from sometime in the early 1920’s. In it is shown the teacher, Miss Gawne who died in 1975. Pat wondered if anyone remembered her? Also shown in the photograph was Pat’s mother, Millicent Skillicorn, who at one time lived at Dove’s Hill. (The story of Pat’s family is contained in her wonderful book Wave to your Daddy – see page 111 for the photograph). Pat is still interested to hear any family stories anyone may have about Millicent and her brother Clifford who worked for the Wade family up Ballaugh Glen and Harry, who apparently disappeared after an incident involving a widow and a bicycle? Pat moved on to talk about the Great War using various types of source material. The letters of Catherine Isobel Craine from Ballacoraige Cottage to her family in Liverpool ‘provides an insight into the thoughts of a woman who, unlike us, did not know what was going to happen next’. The Peel City Guardian was another source of information. In it were reports of the public’s attitudes and fears, British patriotism, reports of spies, including a suspicious looking duck, escaped internees, and U-boat activity off the Isle of Man.
Food shortages and the rising price of bread brought political activity and reform when the government were forced to subsidise bread. When they tried to withdraw the subsidy, the people responded with a strike, organised by the Workers Union. Lord Raglan was shocked by the response but had to give in and continue the subsidy. Unfortunately, the subsidy would have to be paid for and the Keys were forced to introduce income tax for the first time. Pat went on to talk about how the end of the war was reported and concluded by talking about the impact on the Manx population as shown by the 120 men form the west who never returned home. Sarah Christian
Under the Spotlight: Ballaugh as seen through the archives Wendy Thirkettle, 16th November, 2010
Few listeners could have realised just how much Ballaugh-based material is sitting in the MNH archives. Wendy Thirkettle, MNH archivist, offered a glimpse of the rich sources, ranging from parish registers, through correspondence and diaries, photographs, reminiscences and the Folk-Life Survey. Some of the material, such as extracts from Mrs Dobbie’s work, will be familiar to readers of the Newsletter, but Wendy gave us tantalising glimpses of other sources. Catherine Craine’s diary mentioned in last month’s talk) was written during the first weeks of the First World War and described the levels of patriotism that peaked during a concert in the newly-built Hall. It was startling to realise that volunteers were at the Front within 10 days.
Letters are another good source of information. The Stowell/Gill collection comprise eleven boxes of letters, sermons and poetry, papers that were generated by the family members of Revd Hugh Stowell,a 19th-century Rector of Ballaugh. Envelopes were a late introduction. In the 1830s it was still common practice to fold and seal the letter itself. We were shown an example of such a letter, written by Elizabeth Gill, the Rector’s daughter. As an economy measure, she had first used the notepaper conventionally, then turning the paper 90 degrees to continue across her original text. It is remarkably difficult to read, though no doubt familiarity would have made it easier.
By next Spring, much of this information will be available in digital form in the new iMuseum. While this will simplify some aspects of research, it will perhaps remove the serendipitous discoveries. FB
On behalf of members of the Trust, Chairman Ffynlo Craine gave our warmest thanks to all the speakers in this year’s programme.
A.W. Moore, Dr Robert Fyson 12 January, 2011
Following the publication of his very readable book, The Anglo-Manxman: A life of A. W. Moore, Robert Fyson treated us to a review of some of the events of the man who brought so much of Manx history, folklore and music to the Manx readership in the late-19th and early-20th centuries. As is so often the case, the public image of A. W. Moore is of a revered figure, an elder statesman, dignified and in formal attire, and Speaker of the House of Keys.
There was much more to him, however. A keen sportsman, particularly fond of cycling, he enjoyed exploring the Island, as well as much further afield. He regularly visited London, and spent many holidays on the Continent. He was also a businessman, but is best remembered now for his meticulous research which resulted in the two-volume History of the Isle of Man, The vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect (co-authored with Sophia Morrison and Edmund Goodwin), Manx Worthies, Folklore of the Isle of Man, and many others books. And all this achieved in a life of only 57 years.
A. W. Moore was one of the outstanding Manxmen of the late 1800s. Robert Fyson’s book is a fitting account of an important figure in the Manx cultural revival.
AGM and Memories of Manx Radio Charles Webster and Roger Watterson
15 March, 2011
The story of Manx Radio has been well documented. Broadcasting began in June 1964, long before commercial radio became part of everyday life in Britain.. The programmes came from a caravan parked on a hilltop in Onchan, near to the capital Douglas. The single cramped studio was linked to the transmitting mast which was just outside the door. Being situated on a headland and exposed to high winds the station was prone in those days to needles skidding off records and the occasional bout of staff sickness from the rocking motion!
Both the speakers have had long associations with the station, and their reminiscences gave a glimpse into the extraordinary circumstances that the producers and presenters could encounter. We were treated to often hilarious tales of the unexpected, including long treks in wintry conditions to repair the transmitter on the top of Snaefell. A truly memorable evening!
Church Recording on the Isle of Man, including Ballaugh Parish Church Pat McClure 12 April, 2011
For the past 10 years, a close-knit band of volunteers has been steadily working to record the contents of some of the Manx churches. So far, these have included St Thomas’s, St. Sanctain’s Santan, the Royal Chapel of St. John’s, St. Mary’s, Ballure in Ramsey and St. Bridget’s Chapel at The Nunnery. The audience listened attentively as Pat described the painstaking work compiling records of memorials, metalwork, stonework, woodwork, textiles, paintings, library, windows and miscellaneous items within churches. She explained how members of the group have worked together using their individual life talents that have proved useful n this highly-detailed work. On the Isle of Man copies of Church Records are given to the church concerned, to Manx National Heritage, which acts as the local National Monument Records Centre and Diocesan Registry, to the Victoria and Albert Museum, and to the Council for the Care of Churches. Manx National Heritage owns the copyright for Manx Records, which can be accessed in the library at the Manx Museum under access number MS 11165.
On the the completion of the present work in Douglas, the group will be moving north to Ballaugh, where they will spend time in both churches. There are occasionally finds of unexpected treasures. In Ballure Chapel, a small cupboard in the organ case revealed a manuscript containing hymns and other liturgical music that had been sung by the choir at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Some exquisite needlecraft has also been identified.
The work is discovering and recording some of the previously unknown treasures of our Manx churches. We await the results from Ballaugh with great interest!
Laxey Mine Railway, Andrew Scarffe 10 May, 2011
On the 10th May, 23 of our number enjoyed a talk and slide show given by Mr Andrew Scarffe, an enthusiastic member of Laxey and Lonan Heritage Trust and keen gricer (railway enthusiast). He is also author of books ‘The Great Laxey Mine’ and more recently ‘The Story of Laxey Flour’.
Firstly, Andrew gave us some background on the Heritage Trust and the work they have done in restoring the Lady Evelyn wheel, opening their shop premises, developing the Laxey Mines Trail and new projects such as the restoration of the Working men’s club and conservation of Manx Electric railway rail vans in conjunction with the Isle of Man Post Office.
Andrew went on to give some background on the Laxey mine (mining started in Laxey in 1780) and the geology of the Glen Mooar valley. He had a great command of the facts and figures. For example, at one time the mine produced 11,000 tonnes of zinc,which was 50% of British output. The Dumbell’s shaft at 2,100 feet in depth is deeper than Snaefell is high.
Describing the acquisition of the Ant and the Bee, and the restoration of parts of the railway, Andrew entertained us with the epic tale illustrated with appropriate images. He described the story of the project including; fund raising, sponsorship, sourcing, restoring and later repairing the engines, gaining planning permission, health and safety issues, negotiation with government bodies and the commissioners, recruitment of volunteers and obtaining insurance. The audience were flabbergasted at the sheer hard work and dedication of these enthusiasts.
Andrew invited us all down to Laxey during the summer to have a ride on the railway and help keep this wonderful attraction open.
The Anglo-Manxman: a life of A W Moore Robert Fyson
A. W. Moore remains, a century after his death, the outstanding historian of the Island. His History of the Isle of Man (1900) in two volumes is still the standard work to which all subsequent historians must refer, a monument of late Victorian scholarship. Elected to the House of Keys in 1885, Moore became Speaker in 1898, and in the early years of the 20th century led the Keys’ struggle for constitutional reform in the face of the intransigent diehard Governor, Lord Raglan.
This new biography of Bishop Barrow shows that he was the Isle of Man’s first great social reformer and even today, over 400 years later, young people in the Island and in the Vale of Clwyd in Wales still benefit from the education charities he endowed. He survived the tumultuous times of the English Civil War, was appointed both Bishop and Governor of the Isle of Man soon after the execution of William Christian. He re-ordered the Island’s laws, strengthened the quality and welfare of the clergy, improved communications and the regulation of commerce, provided elementary education for every child, and endowed grammar and academic schools.
ISBN 978-0-9562064-6-6 136pages (Manx Heritage Foundation, 2010)
Ree ny Marrey: Songs of the Isle of Man Fenella Bazin
Traditional songs with words in English and Manx, simply arranged for piano. Chosen and arranged by Fenella Bazin with new illustrations by Juan Moore.
ISBN 978-0-9562064-0-4 100 pages (Manx Heritage Foundation, first published 1994, revised edition, 2009)
Thomas Cubbin and the Wreck of the Serica Valerie Cottle
High on the south wall of Old Kirk Braddan is a memorial tablet recounting the death of young children in a shipwreck on the shores of Madagascar in 1868. Valerie Cottle takes this as the starting point for her book. It includes Cubbin’s own account of this disastrous voyage, with its heartbreaking outcome, and subsequent adventures. An exciting read!
ISBN 978-0-956 2064-9-7 136 pages (Manx Heritage Foundation, 2011)
The Manx Wildlife Trust is a charity set up in 1973 with the aim of making the Island richer in wildlife. One of the ways in which it achieves this is through the management of its nature reserves.
There are presently 20 sites, covering 255 acres, which vary in size from just under an acre, to almost 70 acres. A variety of habitats are represented including sand-dune, wetland, moorland, woodland and wildflower rich meadows. The sites are scattered around the Island, although almost half are within three miles of Ballaugh. Four sites actually lie within the parish of Ballaugh and perhaps the best well-known of these is Close Sartfield.
Close Sartfield was acquired by the Trust in 1987. Most of the fields had been farmed up until the early 1980s but then received no management for three or four years. In this short time, scrub, mainly willow and gorse, had invaded many of the fields to varying degrees. Most of the fields were quite species poor. Work began on clearing scrub and returning some of the fields to open meadows whilst others were left to develop into curragh and woodland. Once the site had been fenced, grazing was introduced and the combination of a late summer cut for hay, followed by winter grazing with sheep, soon created flower rich meadows. This management regime continues to this day and Close Sartfield is well known for its wonderful display of orchids in June.
One of the biggest projects was the conversion of 5 acres of gorse into 5 acres of wildflower meadow. I am reliably informed that by 1989 the gorse was about 7ft high and occupied around 75% of the field. The gorse was flailed and the field rotovated and then over 100 round bales were brought to the field and unrolled. The bales were of green hay, the vegetation having been cut on the donor fields and baled almost immediately. The idea was that as the hay dried on our field, seeds would fall to the ground and provide wildflowers. The hay was turned on a number of occasions and then re-baled and the bales carted off site. This was a fairly new idea at the time and had only ever been tried on small experimental plots so everyone was quite surprised when it actually worked and worked so well. Very soon we had over 100 flowering plants including 6 species of orchid.
A boardwalk was constructed along the edge of one of the main orchid meadows which allows people who have difficulty walking or who are in wheelchairs the opportunity to see the wildflowers. Wheelchair access is possible down to a hide with views over a recently reinstated bog and up to the Ballaugh hills. Public access is permitted all year round from the car park to the hide. A path is created around the site in June and this is maintained until the hay is cut. There is an interpretation board on site and a leaflet giving further details about Close Sartfield is available from the Trust shop in Peel.
Adder's tongue fern
Close Umpson is the smallest of the Ballaugh sites at just under 2 acres and was purchased in 1995. The main interest at this site is a small fern called adder’s-tongue (see above) which appears in early spring but is soon hidden as other plants get going. Management of this site is fairly limited because it is so wet and inaccessible and this is one reason why the site is not open to the public.
Glen Dhoo will be known to many readers lying as it does up Ballaugh Glen. The site covers just over 24 acres some of which is tree covered but the majority is open upland meadows. However, most of these meadows have been encroached upon by bracken and gorse to varying degrees.
It is thought the tholtan was occupied until the late nineteenth century and the maps from this time show that most of the fields were arable. Since the Trust took over management the boundary of the reserve has been made stockproof and internal fencing has created two grazing blocks. The aim is to return the majority of the meadows to grassland by cutting the gorse down and grubbing out the roots: spraying and cutting bracken and using livestock to trample regrowth as well as graze.
Glen Dhoo has occupied a lot of time and effort but great progress has been made and the variety of wildflowers to be seen has increased greatly since management began.
The fourth site is Goshen, which at 42 acres is the second largest site managed by the Trust. The reserve is comprised of ten wildflower meadows and two areas of curragh/developing woodland. Seven of the meadows are managed by a late cut in the summer for hay, followed by autumn/winter grazing with sheep. They have a profusion of wildflowers in the summer including many orchids. Two of the meadows are cut for hay but are not grazed as this was the management already in place when the meadows were purchased. Management of the remaining meadow is undertaken by wallabies! Goshen is not open to the public.
By far the best way to see the reserves and learn about the work required to maintain them is to become a practical volunteer. Almost all the work on the reserves is undertaken by me and a fantastic band of volunteers (see Midweek Muckers) who come out every week throughout the year. For further information on becoming a volunteer please contact the Trust Office – 844432.
Part of my job as Reserves Officer is to write management plans for the reserves, outlining the interest of the site and how it will be managed. I am always very keen to learn about the past management of our sites and especially interested in any old photographs. If you think you may have some useful insights then please contact me at the Trust Office.
The Manx Wildlife Trust has Reserves right across the Island. There are important areas in Ballaugh, including Close Sartfield, Goshen and Close Humpson. Every week, in all weathers right through the year, members of a committed body of volunteers launch themselves enthusiastically into a wide range of jobs: cutting back undergrowth, cleaning out ditches and maintaining hedges. Tricia Sayle, Reserves Manager, brings us a report.
Following the success of many Christmas parties I decided to organise a summer party for the volunteers. Everyone was really keen on the idea, especially when I suggested that if we had enough people we could have cricket match and so it was that Saturday 6th August saw the first Midweek Muckers’ Midsummer Merriment.
The preceding Thursday and Friday saw feverish activity as the cricket pitch, boules green and croquet lawn were prepared.
Saturday dawned cloudy and rather damp but the weather came good just as the guests started to arrive and after a little warm-up on the croquet lawn the cricket match got underway.
There was an international flavour to proceedings with visitors from Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Ireland and even Bulgaria! Teams were selected as the Wallabies, captained by Rob Kennan, and the Harriers, captained by Tony Kennan. Both teams had an even mix of those who were cricket devotees and those who hadn’t a clue what was going on.
The Wallabies went in to bat first and scored a very respectable 79 runs. With hunger pangs developing it was decided that the Harriers would go in to bat before tea as we might run out of light. The Wallabies proved marginally better at fielding that they did at batting but despite this the Harriers clearly had some hidden talent amongst their ranks and scored 80 runs with the last pair at the wicket. Surprisingly, neither side managed to lose the ball in the undergrowth!
After a fantastic ‘tea’ the trophy was awarded to the captain of the Harriers. Tony took the trophy home but, as it was a dressed up Mucker’s plastic tea cup, it had to be back by Thursday! The evening drew to a close as the stragglers inaccurately threw boules as the light failed.
Plans are already underway for next year’s party. It’s just a shame we have to wait a whole year!
The village hall was the brainchild of Rector Thomas Redfearn Kneale. Ramsey-born, Revd Kneale (1858-1935) graduated from Cambridge with a mathematics degree. After a short spell teaching in Epsom, he married in Birmingham in 1884, and returned to the Island as Headmaster of Ramsey Grammar School. His church career took him to St Jude’s and Rushen, before settling in Ballaugh in 1897. With a talent for games and music, he was a physically powerful man with a strong personality.
The hall was packed to Celebrate a Century on the evening of Saturday 25 September to mark the 100th birthday of the Village Hall. Plans had been afoot for months. An early decision by the Heritage Trust Committee was that the evening would reflect the abundant talent from the parish and should cover a wide age range. The result was a splendid array of acts.
Chairman was Edgar Cowin, CP. Ballaugh
First on were the Brownies and Guides, who were also celebrating a a century of guiding,. They were joined by the Sunday School choir and, under the able direction of Mrs Elaine Fenton, they provided an entertaining start to the evening. Recitations have always been an important element in a Manx evening. Mrs Win Callister and Edgar Cowin performed popular Manx dialect poems, including extracts from T. E. Brown. Punctuating theevening were extracts from Joy Ling’s newly-published book about the early days of the Hall. Read by the Rector, we learned that the weather could be just as bad a hundred years ago as it is now, and that the Hall was described as the finest in the Island.
Representing the Village School was the talented Manx Music Group, directed by Dr Chloe Woolley, Manx Music Specialist with the Manx Heritage Foundation. These young musicians meet once a week after school. Their instrumental and vocal arrangements were excellent, particularly as we learned that some of the members had only joined the group a couple of weeks before the beginning of term.
Philip Colvin, a former pupil of the school and Principal Euphonium of Ramsey Town Band, performed popular items from 20th-century stage musicals, and amazed the audience with the beautiful sound that a skilled player can produce from an instrument not usually recognised as a soloist. Ballaugh Quire, conducted by Fenella Bazin, took to the stage with three items from their repertoire: ‘Sing Alleluia to the Lord’ by Norman L. Warren, ‘All in the April Evening’ by Katherine Tynan/Hugh S. Roberton and T. H. Ingham’s ‘Watchman’. Mrs Marilyn Cannell’s entertaining version of ‘As I was going’ was received with great enjoyment. The choir then rounded off the evening’s concert with the ‘Manx Vesper Hymn’, a long-time favourite with the singers, and were then joined by the whole audience in a rousing chorus of ‘Ellan Vannin’.
A delicious and abundant traditional Manx Tay was then served by the hard-working team under the leadership of committee member Sarah Christian. Sandwiches, scones, bun-loaf and delicious cakes were produced from the tiny kitchen as if by magic.
Warmest thanks to all concerned in making the evening such a success. It was a memorable celebration of the centenary of the Village Hall.
Eighteen men are listed on the War Memorial at Ballaugh Church; there is another memorial near Ballaugh Bridge, but this has no names on it. Who were these men? Where and when did they die and what was their connection to Ballaugh?
The aim of this piece is to inform, particularly the children of the village. Every year we remember the fallen, but can imagining their lives help us to get a better understanding of the impact that the 1914-18 war had on a little village like Ballaugh? Click on this link to read about these men who gave their lives a century ago: OUR BALLAUGH BOYS IN THE GREAT WAR.
This information might help relatives of these men who are looking into their family history:
John James Boyde
Robert Alfred Boyde
Robert Nelson Boyde
Charles Alfred Cannell
Charles Henry Lace Clague
Charles Henry Cleator
John James Corkish
Thomas Sayle Corlett
Thomas Patrick Finn
George William Kermode
Harold Robertson Kissack
William Alfred Kneale
Robert Vondy Wade