Douglas Circuit, Isle of Man
Transcription of Article in the Christian Messenger by Rev. Aaron Smith
DURING this year Primitive Methodism in the Isle of Man celebrates its centenary. It was in the early days of January, 1823, the Rev. John Butcher landed at Derbyhaven as the first pioneer of our Church in Manxland, having been sent by the Bolton Circuit on the strength of having sixpence balance in hand at the December quarterly meeting. The resolution on the Bolton Circuit minute book runs:—“That Brother J. Butcher go to the island for three months, and that a preacher be sent at the end of three months to discipline the circuit.” Courage and caution were yoke-mates in those early days.
An initiative with such intensity of faith behind it was bound to go far in influence and in achievement, and in a few months the greater part of the island had been covered by the unremitting labours of Butcher and his fellow-workers. The intention had been that Butcher should land at Douglas, and it was due to a storm that Derbyhaven, in the south of the island, was the first place at which the boat touched. Carried forward by the momentum of his own faith and that of the circuit which had commissioned him, he was soon in Douglas, in those days a town of eight thousand inhabitants. He preached in the market-place and occasionally on the beach somewhere near the site of our Loch Parade Church, which stands out prominently in all pictures of Douglas Bay. Butcher was joined by his son, and later by Thomas Sharman, and in addition to evangelism and advance, much time was given to discipline and consolidation.
A site was secured in Wellington Street (formerly known as Factory Lane), and in 1824 a chapel was erected at a cost of £935, Bourne Hall (adjoining) being built in 1890 during the ministry of Rev. William Welford. Few more thrilIing stories of the grace of God can be told than might be heard in a gathering of the ministers stationed in Douglas up to the end of the last century. Men such as Samuel Atterby, Thomas Jobling, Jonathan Clewer, Samuel Smith , Thomas Markwell, W. Harris and many others were the instruments and witnesses of great exploits for God in Douglas and other parts of the island. While the Rev. John Sadler was superintendent, Wellington Street was sold and arrangements were made for a new church. In 1900 the splendid premises in Bucks Road were opened, the well-equipped schoolroom being built in 1911, the total commitment being nearly £10,000. The present debt is £2,000. Here we have been served by a worthy band of workers. Men such as E. Shimmin, W. Sansbury, J. Shimmin, F. Clucas, J. Clucas, J. Quiggin, Alderman John Kelly, and others are gratefully remembered, while in devoted service we still have the families of these, together with the Quirks, T.C. Kermode, J.H. Shillicorn, (circuit steward), W.G. Qualtrough and a host of associates.
In the seventies some of the younger spirits of Wellington Street felt that an advance ought to be made, and in 1878 land was bought and Loch Parade Church was built. It was a daring undertaking, as the site itself cost £700, and was sometimes covered by the high tides, but under the leadership of Mr. Proctor, Alderman T. King, who was the first Mayor in the island, and who drew the plans and acted as clerk of the works, free of cost, and Mr. Kinley, a strong society was built up. Loch Parade, being chiefly composed of young people, was heavily hit during the war, but under the careful guidance and earnest work of the junior ministers and the leaders, it is gradually coming back again to strength. Men like Septimus Kelly, J.Duggan, E. Christian, the Collisters, Quines, Roystons, Quirks, and many who might be named, are giving valuable service. The remaining debt of £600 is being tackled, along with other enterprises, to make Loch Parade a worthy centre of Primitive Methodism. Our oldest local preacher, Mr. W.H. Bell, at eighty-five years of age, is still a regular worshipper at Loch Parade. It would be difficult for visitors to come from the mainland to Douglas and not find a Primitive Methodist place of worship, for, unlike many of our seaside resorts, we have in Buck’s Road and Loch Parade two churches in the best known and most frequented parts of the town.
Quine’s Hill is our oldest building, being erected in 1824. Butcher, on the voyage to the island, had made the acquaintance of a man who owned some land, and who, on learning the nature of his mission, offered a piece of land for a chapel, and the offer was accepted and the chapel was built. Not only in the town, but in the country, we have well placed premises and visitors, in their walks and drives and motor tours, pass close by many of them. Among the first to be identified with the cause at Quine’s Hill was Mr. Cormode, grandfather of the well-known and much revered Tom Cormode, who was Member of the House of Keys, and of Alfred, who resides at Cuchan, and Edward, who still holds the fort, supported by a splendid family and a small band of workers.
Midway between Douglas and Peel, although not on the main route, is the village of East Foxdale, one time flourishing in consequence of profitable lead mines, but now much depleted in population through the failure of the mining industry. The present building was erected in 1862, but there still stands, though partly in ruins, an old, barn-like place, which was known as Renshent, and where, in the early ‘thirties some brave souls witnessed and worked for God. During most of our history here the name of Shimmin has figured prominently, and Mr. James Shimmin, although eighty years of age, still takes an occasional appointment, while his nephew, Joseph, and the brothers Creer, give time and service to the cause.
One of the villages captured in the first onset of Primitive Methodism was Santon, and in one section of the parish, known as Newtown, we have a beautiful chapel by the roadside, built in 1827. The work at Newtown, as in so many Manx villages, has had a varied career, in part due to emigration necessitated by lack of settled employment and suitable openings for young people. Useful and lasting work, however, has been done by Mr. T.C. Kinnish, one-time Member of the House of Keys, the Moores, Mr. Hogg and others. After years of little apparent success, there are here encouraging signs of improvement.
The society at Strang was formed about 1825, and in 1827 land was obtained and a chapel built. While the building is small great work has been done, and the Kellys and Kayes have rendered service which is far-reaching in its influence. Some years ago there was talk of closing down at Strang, but Mr. J.J. Kelly, of Douglas, made himself responsible for keeping it open, and for about eight years he has travelled from Douglas most Sundays and often during the week, and assisted by a few workers such as J. Scarffe and H. Yetman; a useful witness for the Kingdom has been given, the P.S.A. being quite a feature in the life of the village.
At Braaid we have, again, a well placed building, in a very scattered constituency. As evidence of the earnest and devoted work of the past, when the chapel was recently renovated, at a cost of over £40, circulars were sent out to old scholars, many of whom had left the island, and in response, by small sums mostly, the whole of the amount was raised, many of the donations bring accompanied by a letter expressing gratitude to God for childhood days in the Sunday School at Braaid. Here the Cretneys, Kermodes, and Faraghers have been pillars of strength.
Concerning our society at Cuchan, the Rev. W. Curry, in his informing booklet, “A Kingdom Won,” says: “Our people had worshipped for many years in a cottage, as those who owned the land refused either to give or sell. On the death of one of these landlords, the Rev. W. Harris and Mr. W. Kelly went to the heir, a young man, and more favourable to us, and asked for a piece of land. Without demur, he promised to sell, and the day following the site was staked out. ‘What have we to pay?’ enquired Mr. Kelly. ‘Is £100 too much?’ was the answer. ‘Yes, it is too much, but we will give you £90 on condition that you give us £10 towards our building.’ The bargain was concluded at once, and it was well that it was, for unfortunately the owner was drowned in Douglas Bay soon after, leaving an infant as heir. The young men of Loch Parade came to the help of the little community; the required money was borrowed from the High Bailiff of Douglas, an ardent Anglican, who remarked, ‘That is the way, when God builds a church, the devil builds a chapel.’ ” In the near future we are hoping to add to our premises at Cuchan in the interests of the young life. In addition to Mr. alfrted Cormode, Mr. Mylechrest, Miss Quine and Mr. Killip manifest staunch loyalty, while we are fortunate in having with us the Rev. E. and Mrs. Quine and Mrs. Dinning (widow of the late Rev. W. Dinning).
Marathon Road (Douglas) is our latest venture, carried through under the care and guidance of the Rev. Fred Henshall. For some years a little company had held services in a room adjoining Victoria College. Notice was given to leave, as the Harris estate was being sold. An offer was made to our people and was bravely accepted by them. The College was made into two dwelling houses, while additions were made for the development of our own special work. The Church Extension Fund is giving practical help, and although the burden will be heavy for a few years, the courageous act of Mr. Henshall and the officials is being fully justified, and will be a growingly fruitful part of our work. In Mr. Isaac Quirk, Mr. Philip Kelly, Mr. Edwin Gorry, and Mr. G.H. Wilkes and thers, we have some of the hard workers of the circuit.
At every church on the circuit we have capital women workers, and these have recently formed a branch of the Women’s Missionary Federation. At Bucks Road, Mrs. Hampton, at eighty-five years of age, is an ardent missionary collector, and in forty years has been able to give in over £250, while at Loch Parade Mrs. Royston, daughter of Mr. Proctor, is a splendid leader of a splendid band of women.
We have three hundred and seventy members and two ministers, and six hundred and forty scholars. The schools are fairly well staffed, and in general our prospects are hopeful.
Christian Messenger 1923/48