Kirk Braddan 1876-1976 Part 2

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The Baldwin church within the parish (note 1) is also built on an ancient site, that of a Celtic Keeill dedicated to St Abban which is dated within the same period as that at the parish church; only a few hundred yards away up the hillside is the site of one of the district moot hills where Tynwald Courts were held in the Middle ages. These Courts usually dealt with local matters of jurisdiction under the civil law and were subservient to the national Tynwald held annually at St Johns for the promulgation of the laws; and in the Tynwald Hill there is incorporated earth from Braddan as from all the other 17 parishes of the Island. One Tynwald Court is recorded as having been held at the Keeill Abban site in 1429. St Luke's Church, Baldwin, was consecrated in 1836, when there was a large population in this part of the parish, and its centenary celebrations took place in 1936. It has a stone with an incised cross belonging to the original keeill built into its east gable. It was used as a day school until 1871, as were several chapels of ease in the Island.

It was not only civil courts that were held in the parish of Braddan; at the estate now known as Farmhill, formerly an amalgamation of two old estates, Ballakilley and Ballaquirk through family marriages, the ecclesiastical Bishop's Barony Courts were held.

These Courts were first established by Bishop Simon, who in 1231 procured from Pope Gregory IX a Bull granting to him and his successors a yearly revenue from certain Church properties in the island. These properties have ever since been known as the Bishop's Barony. Besides acquiring the revenue, he created laws which ensured that the revenue would be duly and regularly collected, and established the Barony Courts to enforce the laws. An extract from the terms of the Papal grant reads:

"We take under our protection and that of the Blessed Peter the Cathedral Church of St Germain of Sodor in the isle called Eubonia, now Manniae, granting the third part of all Tithes of all Churches established in the isle, and the Lands of St Braddan and of Kirkby and Kyrkemaruna, at Colusshill and the Land of St Columbkil called Herbre."

The tenants of these Bishop's Barony lands held their estates under the Bishop — that is, from the Church — and not under the Lord of Man, so they were not affected by the Act of Settlement made in 1704 when tenants of the Lord of Man agreed to give him double rent. The Barony Courts seem to have worked smoothly and efficiently, as might have been expected of an institution established by this businesslike Bishop. He appointed two Sergeants, one for the north and the other for the south of the island, and these men collected the Tithes in both money and kind, the latter form being known as "customs".

Records in the Manx Museum show that some of the "customs" were "A firlet of barley and one of rye, a mutton or a lamb, a goose, a hen, 24 cartloads of turf, and four boon days of personal labour". Tenants had to deliver their own "customs", and apparently the Sergeants spent quite a lot of time chasing some tenants to get delivery, but they all paid up in the end, at the Barony Court if not before. Two of these Courts were held annually, in May and October at Bishopscourt, Peel, Braddan, the Nunnery, Kirk Arbory and Castle Rushen, and the Braddan ones were held at the estate now called Farmhill. It was the rule that a court dinner be served to the tenants attending, and it was convenient to have this at a farm as most of them would come on horseback and their horses or ponies had also to be put up and fed while the Court was in session.

At least 100 people would attend a normal Court, so they were memorable occasions for the Bishop's tenants. Most of the offences dealt with related to the keeping of law and order, and here are a few of them:

"Will Kermott and Will Gycke for hunting and killing hares upon Sunday morning before prayers. One day in the Ecclesiastical Prison a peece, and not to do the like again".
"Pat Cottier for wishing God's curse upon a man's soul in ye hearing of John Kay, one of ye Chapter Quest. Remitted upon some reasons being given to the Court".
"John Corlett for keeping swine who have rooted ye Churchyard. Hath promised reformation for the future".

These Courts continued to be held up to the early 19th century, and besides their official business they provided a grand social occasion for the tenants. After the court dinner there would be a Giense for singing, dancing and story-telling, and the whole affair must have been much more paternal and enjoyable than are the civil Courts of today.

Bishop Simon was a great man for law and order, and he issued a number of synodal decrees regarding the conduct of Church affairs. One promulgated at Braddan in 1229 has survived, and part of it regarding the prompt visiting of the sick reads:

"We direct that all chaplains be prompt when called to visit the sick, lest by their negligence it should happen that any die without receiving the Sacraments of the Church. And when they go to them wearing a surplice let them carry the Body of the Lord reverently in a pyx set aside for this, covered with a white linen or silk cloth, a small bell leading the way in the village of the church or in places near the church.

"To remote places the Lord's Body is not to be carried except by the Chaplain of the church wearing a closed cape. And when they reach the sick, let them admonish them in a wholesome way, and induce them to make a true confession and penitence and make their Wills in proper form. Nor should they give communion to any unless a wax candle be lighted."

He also instructs chaplains to preach on the Scriptures, to explain the articles of the Creed, and to teach all children the Apostles' Creed, the Our Father and the Hail Mary.

The Reformation was a very slow process in this island, and many of the people continued quietly to practise the customs of the Old Faith even after the adoption of the Anglican religious formula and authority in 1610, with little interference by the clergy so long as tithes were paid and church attendance was reasonably good, though now and then a particularly insistent Bishop made a visitation and urged the clergy to be more strict. But Manx people generally — and many of the clergy were Manxmen — are apt to be tolerant regarding formal religion and to allow to every person the same independence they claim as their own right. This attitude is often exemplified in Manx religious history, and one of Braddan's most famous sons, Thomas Edward Brown, has expressed it in his poem Old John:

On Sunday morning early to the "class",
Then Matins, as it's called in ritual puff
Correct, then Evensong — but let that pass;
Our curate frowns. Nor then had you enough;
But, with your waistcoat pocket full of snuff,
You scorned the flesh, suppressed the stomach's clamour,
And went where you could get "the rael stuff",
Absolved from grammar,
And who shall blame you, John?

As early Celtic Christianity in Mannin merged slowly, through men like Columb Killey into later Roman practice, so this in turn merged into the acceptance of the Anglican form of worship, and when Methodism came to the Island the people long continued to attend and take part in both forms of service, often attending the parish church in the morning and the Methodist chapel in the evening. The ecumenical movement in has flourished in the island because its principles are natural to the Manx people, and as long ago as the early years of this century another well loved Manx poet, Josephine Kermode ("Cushag"), herself the daughter of a Manx clergyman, could write in good faith about "Old Mananan on the hill and the peace of Columkill". For it is not the forms of religion which matter most to the Gael, but the whole shining spiritual world that is but the veil of Almighty God who is the desire of all men's souls.

Before the parish boundary was altered, the Nunnery of St Bridget was within the parish of Braddan, and in relation to this, again, there are many historical and traditional associations, and an ancient well and chapel restored in the last century by the late Leigh Goldie-Taubman, owner of the estate. But the Nunnery chapel was not served by the parish priest; there was a resident family chaplain. A little further south, however, there was another chapel of ease belonging to Kirk Braddan, the Oakhill Chapel, a small building erected for the convenience of Port Soderick people mainly, and consecrated by Bishop Powys in 1856.(note 2)

Before the erection of this building, services were held by the Rev William Drury in the barn of Oakhill house, which the owner had fitted with reading desk and seating.

Bishop Powys it was who started the open-air services for which Kirk Braddan later became famous, and which are still carried on. At that time tourism was increasing rapidly in Douglas and most of the visitors were North of England people who had the habit of church-going. Kirk Braddan was just a pleasant Sunday morning excursion from Douglas, and on June 29th 1856 while the Bishop was conducting Morning Prayer in the church he was told that there were far more people in the Churchyard than inside and he was requested to come out to preach his sermon. He complied with the request, though it was something unique for a Bishop to preach in the open air, and from then on the Vicar, the Rev William Drury, continued the practice during the summer season.

These services were continued by his successors and attracted more people each year until, in 1913 the churchyard was overflowing in all directions and they were moved to the old fortification above the new church, where they are still held in summertime. Great crowds gather for them Sunday after Sunday, numbering some thousands of people, and they all show reverence and take part in the services. (note 3)

A centenary service to commemorate the open-air services was held in 1956, and the service sheet printed for the occasion stated that 35,000 people had been present at one service.

The Rev. William Drury, the first "Open-air Services Vicar", was a Manx Gaelic scholar and preached regularly in the Gaelic as was the practice of most Manx clergymen at that time; this brought him in contact with a very interesting Royal personage who was doing a lot of research into the Celtic languages — no less a person than Prince Lucien Bonaparte, nephew of the Emperor Napoleon, who visited him at Braddan and became a friend and collaborator in philological studies.

Although Lucien Bonaparte was a nephew of the famous Napoleon and a cousin of Napoleon III, he had himself no imperial ambitions, in fact he had what amounted to a horror of politics, for his father had been embroiled in political troubles all his life, and this had meant continuous stresses and strains in his family circle. Prince Louis-Lucien, to give him his full French title, was brought up in England, and the contrast between the quiet English country life of that time and the continual turmoil of European. politics was probably a factor in his anxiety to avoid personal involvement.

When this was attempted by his relatives he found a more remote refuge in this island, for he was a scholar and not a statesman, dreading his annual duty visit to the Empress Eugenie because "her talk was all politic, all politic". In 1848, however, he was elected deputy for Corsica, and later for the Seine. He sat in the right of the Legislative Assembly, but had no part in the coup d'etat of his cousin on December 2nd, 1851 by which he became Napoleon III. In fact, so anxious was Prince Lucien to avoid involvement that he came to the Island in that very year to pursue his philological studies, and very few people knew his whereabouts.

Philology was his favourite study, and he was particularly interested in the Basque and Celtic languages. He published two books on the Basque language and folklore, and the Cymmrodorian Society published in its journal a long article by him in English entitled "Observations of the Pronunciation of the Sassarese dialect of Sardinia" which dealt with various points of resemblance to the Celtic languages. It is in this article that we find the only published results of his inquiries into Manx Gaelic and its connection with survivals of Celtic dialects in Europe.

The Bonaparte family was of Italian origin, the name being originally spelt Buonaparti, and Prince Lucien's father had a Papal title. His interest in old Italian dialects was therefore not unnatural, and it brought him to a realisation of early Celtic influence in Italy and other European countries, and of ancient Celtic colonies in Europe. On finding Celtic influence recognisable in various European dialects, Prince Lucien decided to learn something of the living Celtic languages in the countries where they were still common speech.

He had already visited and stayed for some time in Wales, Ireland and the Scottish Highlands when he came to Mannin and on a fine summer morning in 1851 presented himself to Parson Drury at Old Braddan Vicarage (note 4), having been told in Douglas that the Vicar of Braddan preached regularly in Manx Gaelic and that the greater proportion of his congregation was Manx-speaking. He found in the Rev. William Drury a scholar and philologist most congenial, and the two struck up a friendship which lasted until the old Vicar's death. He paid several visits to the Island, and Mr Drury was his guest in London on other occasions.

Whenever they got together they continued happily to discuss the beauties and characteristics of the Celtic languages and the evidence of their European relations. They also corresponded, and a letter from Prince Lucien to the Vicar of Braddan is preserved in the library of the Manx Museum. He used to go about the countryside talking with Manx speakers, who seem to have understood his pronunciation quite well, and he acquired a Manx Bible and other books. After his death the Bible came up for sale at Sotheby's and was bought by the late Mr G. W. Wood. As part of his collection it also is now in the Museum library.

Some well known Manx people have been closely connected with Kirk Braddan, and probably the most generally familiar of these is the Rev T. E. Brown. He was brought up in Braddan Vicarage, and one of his best loved poems bears that title. As a boy he is said to have been "a great lad for the boats", and in all probability the chief character of his dialect poems, the story-teller Tom Baynes, is based on some of the Douglas fishermen with whom he was intimate. He does not seem to have had much interest in Manx Gaelic, although he must have had some knowledge of it; the general trend of education and literary ambition at that period was almost exclusively towards English and success with the English critics, and Manx Gaelic would be thought of by a young man of the clerical class as a specialist's subject. The Anglo-Manx dialect could be treated as just another dialect of English without reference to the real Gaelic from which it was in fact an ephemeral transition speech.

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1. The Baldwin area was transferred from the ecclesiastical parish of Braddan to the ecclesiastical parish of Marown in 1978, following the recommendations of a Needs and Resources Commission on the pastoral organisation of the diocese in 1977. At the same time the Vicar of Braddan also became vicar of Santon, the Commission having recommended that the two parishes be held in plurality; this arrangement ceased in 1987, however, as the then Vicar found the responsibility too great. From 1987 Santon has been held in plurality with the parish of Arbory; in 2005 the parish of Castletown was added to the plurality. (KFWG) (back)

2. Oakhill Chapel was closed in 1978 and sold (see Braddan Parish (Oakhill Chapel) Act 1978). (KFWG) (back)

3. Regular open-air services were discontinued in 1987, but occasional services are still sometimes held. (KFWG) (back)

4. This was the second of three vicarages. The original parsonage house was near the Old Church, in a damp and uncomfortable position, such that the Vicar refused to live there. In 1742 that house was exchanged for a new site provided by Captain Edward Fletcher (see Act of 1742, Statutes of the Isle of Man vol.1 p.248), where the house now called the Old Vicarage was erected (it is about half a mile up Vicarage Road from the church). This was sold in 1965, when the present vicarage was erected on land adjoining the New Church (originally forming part of the field used for the open-air services, which had been purchased in 1927). (KFWG) (back)