Presbyterianism in Douglas, Isle of Man
I was working on my family tree and I googled the names of my great-great-great grandparents: “James Porter”, “Mary Murray”, and I came up with an online biography of their nephew and therefore a distant cousin of mine, Thomas Murray – or to give him his full title Rev. Thomas Murray, LL.D. His main claim to fame seemed to have been that he was an early acquaintance of Thomas Carlyle, the historian, and the biography I discovered quoted copiously from their letters. But the biography was over a 100 years old and I decided that, with all the resources now available, it was worth digging into Thomas Murray’s history a bit more for myself.
I found that in one of his letters to Carlyle Thomas Murray described a fortnight he had spent in the Isle of Man. He had preached in the Presbyterian Church there and had been invited by the congregation to become their minister. He declined to do so on the terms offered and his terms proved unacceptable to the congregation there – so nothing came of it. This was in 1821.
Curiosity led me on to find out a little more about Presbyterianism in Douglas and it wasn’t difficult because there was online a little booklet describing the first hundred years of Presbyterianism in Douglas, 1825-1925. There was no mention of the Presbyterian congregation that had invited Thomas Murray to be their minister in 1821. The official line was that Presbyterianism started there in 1825. Pushing on with research I found a whole neglected chapter on Presbyterianism in Douglas. And that’s the material contained in the latest article added to this web-site: The Presbyterian Church in Douglas, Isle of Man – A Neglected Chapter.
It is not altogether inappropriate that it appears on this web-site. The congregation was known as the Scots Church; its first ministers were Scottish, and, although we do not know its ethnic make-up, we have reason to think the congregation was composed of predominantly Scottish people, employed on the Island. The Isle of Man after all is closer to Scotland than to Ireland, Wales or England. Moreover, for some years, the Duke of Atholl was Lord of Mann and even when he gave up these rights, he retained other rights which made the Atholls influential people in the Island. Under their patronage, Scots gained places of responsibility and influence there – which helps to explain why so many Scottish people settled there.
If there is one thing that this “neglected chapter” of Presbyterian history teaches us it is that wherever Scottish people went they took Presbyterianism with them and looked for the foundation of a Presbyterian Church.
We hope that general readers will find this new article interesting and that researchers will find it useful.