Anyone who delves into Manx history will, at some time, have come across reports of ancient sites and historical buildings destroyed through the purposeful and deliberate actions of some people. Today there is a phrase for this – it is known as ‘cultural destruction’. Actions of cultural destruction have robbed us collectively of parts of our national heritage and identity. On a very personal and deeper level, this generation, some before us, and all those yet to come, are denied the opportunity of a tangible experience which connects us through time with our Ancestors.
To see the extent of the changed landscape, just take a look at the first Ordnance Survey maps of the Island done in the late 1860s and early 1870s (links below) and you will get a good idea of the treasures no longer with us. A couple of examples now follow:
One of my passions is the wells on the Island and probably the most well-known and respected for its healing properties, was Chibbyr Unjin (Ash Tree Well) in Malew, which was destroyed in 1899 by a tenant farmer because he was fed up of people visiting it. This well had been serving the people of the Island for centuries. And only last week I was reading about another tenant farmer who, in 1912 at Ballakilley, removed ‘every trace of the keeill and its burial-ground…to make room for a farm building’. This particular keeill contained ‘the most extensive remains of any church building of this early period to be found on the Isle of Man’.
Now let’s take a coin, flip it and see its other side and the opposite of cultural destruction…
In 1970 something wonderful happened…a small parcel of land was donated to the Manx Museum & National Trust (now Manx National Heritage) for the Manx nation. It sits on the top of a hill with magnificent views of land and coast and on it is a Neolithic passage grave with 6 pairs of burial chambers arranged in a circle. It is an amazing structure with evidence of occupation from the Neolithic to Medieval period and is around 1,000 years older than the Pyramids of Giza. It is Meayll Circle atop Meayll Hill.
In 1970 ownership of Meayll Circle was transferred to the Manx Museum & National Trust through the generosity of Mr Joseph Maddrell of Ballahane and his wife Phyllis Margaret to safeguard it for future generations.
At that time the Manx Museum & National Trust had a policy of not installing plaques at sites showing benefactors’ details and though the Maddrell family has requested it since, at the last request the refusal was upheld. When I read this I thought it was a shame as I am sure people would like to know and offer a thank you whilst they are actually at the site. Saying that perhaps policy has now changed as I did notice at the Braaid that both notices there state ‘this site was purchased by the Friends of Manx National Heritage‘ so perhaps the Maddrell family will be successful with a fresh request? I do hope so!
For now though these are the words the family are hoping to have on a plaque someday…
“In memory of Joseph Maddrell of Ballahane, farmer of this Parish of Rushen and his wife Phyllis Margaret (nee Woodworth), who transferred ownership of Meayll Circle and the Neolithic stone circle thereon to the Manx Museum and National Trust for safeguard for future generations.”
To Mr & Mrs Joseph Maddrell and all those unnamed benefactors who signed over land and/or responsibility of ancient monuments and important landscape features to the nation’s caretakers Manx National Heritage, THANK YOU – GURA MIE EU.
(all text by Bernadette Weyde except the quotation for the plaque which is by the Maddrell family; photograph of Mr & Mrs Maddrell used with permission of the Maddrell family).
Link 1 to first Ordnance Survey maps of the Isle of Man online (free).
Link 2 to second Ordnance Survey maps of the Isle of Man online (free).