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Cabbal Pherick is an early Christian keeill and burial site.

The keeill stands in a small clearing in the woodland to the east of the path. It is rectangular, with a narrow doorway in the western wall. The walls are almost 1m thick, faced inside and out in stone, with an earth and rubble core. The walls probably narrowed towards the eaves, where they were capped with a thatched roof. Excavations in the early 1900s showed that the interior was paved using flat stone slabs, with a large altar, constructed of upright slabs, placed against the east wall/ This investigation also showed the presence of a window in the east end, although little evidence of this now survives. Today, only the trace of a raised area against the eat wall marks where the altar once stood.

The keeill lies within an irregular enclosure defined by a low earthen bank, and the land falls steeply on the east side to the stream below. There was no evidence of burials, but a grave marker carved with a simple cross was found inside the keeill. This can now be seen in Michael Parish Church. Antiquarian references also mention a spring to the west of the keeill, which in more recent times was used for baptisms and considered as a holy well associated with the usual superstitions and spiritual beliefs; little trace of this can now be seen.

A small rectangular building which may have been a priest's dwelling or cell is built onto the outside of the enclosure on the south-west side. Excavation revealed traces of a hearth, and a quern stone was found amongst rubble inside the keeill.

As a Lag ny Keilley, the location of this chapel seems isolated today, but it is close to a track which once served as a droving or packhorse road from Ballacarnane.

Like other keeill sites, it is difficult to accurately date the construction and use of Spooyt Vane keeill. Dedications to St. Patrick were popular in the 12th century, 700 years after the saint lived, so are not an accurate indicator; it is possible that the keeill was re-dedicated at this time but there is no indication of an earlier structure. It is equally possible that the site began as a place of burial and only later acquired a chapel.

The proximity to the Spooyt Vane waterfall may be important. From Britain and Ireland we know that such locations were revered in prehistoric religious practices. These places may have retained their prehistoric significance with the coming of Christianity, but without conclusive dating evidence it is difficult to be sure.


Text from 'A Guide to the Archaeological Sites of the Isle of Man' by Andrew Johnson and Allison Fox.

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