Civic Visit to Lonan, July 2022

On 21st July, a fine a sunny day, His Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, Lieutenant General Sir John Lorimer KCB, DSO, MBE. accompanied by Lady Lorimer MBE. paid an official visit to Lonan. In May 2016 the local authorities of Laxey Village Commissioners, Lonan Parish Commissioners and Maughold Parish Commissioners merged to become Garff Commissioners.

At the Captains’ Lunch held on 22nd April 2022 the guest speaker was His Excellency who told the Captains that he looked forward to the civic visits to the parishes, towns and villages. It was decided in relation to Garff that he would visit Lonan coupled with Laxey that lies within it. Maughold would be visited on another occasion.

The visit commenced at St Adamnans Church then on to Baljean Farm, a buffet lunch in the Laxey Working Men’s Institute, the former Washing Floors, a trip on the Great Laxey Mines Railway and on the Snaefell Mountain Railway.


The tour started at the former parish church of Lonan, St Adamnan’s located off the old packhorse road from Groudle to Baldrine. The church was dedicated to St Adamnan the Abbot of Iona 679-704. An Act of Tynwald was passed in 1733 to build a larger replacement parish church in a more central position in the parish but this didn’t happen until a hundred years later. The old church fell into disrepair but during the time that Canon John Quine was Vicar of Lonan one end of it was restored to become a usable chapel of ease to the new parish church. Within the grounds were a number of fifth century Celtic Crosses. In 1968 the Friends of St Adamnan’s was established to help maintain the building which is a Registered Building. The Rev Dudley showed the party around the church and the collection of ancient crosses.

All the photographs taken on the trip were by Sue Jones.

The group on the visit, left to right:

Peter Geddes MBE (Manx Mines Research Group), Rev. Jo Dudley (Priest in charge of Laxey and Lonan), Captain of the Parish of Lonan Stephen Carter, Barbara Clague (Friends of St Adamnan’s), Linda Jackson (FSA), His Excellency, Lady Lorimer, Christine Carter BEM (the Captain’s wife), Stan Ryzak (Chairman of Garff Commissioners), Marinda Faragher (Vice-Chairman), Brenda Kennish ,wife of Peter Kennish (member Garff Commissioners) , Tim Kenyon (Garff Commissioners), Martin Royle (Deputy Clerk Garff Commissioners).


Baljean farm is located just up behind Laxey Village on the Baldhoon Road.

The entrance is opposite the Laxey Allotments. The holding was purchased in 1947 by Edwards Parsons and has been farmed by the same family ever since. It is now in the hands of the third generation of the same family. At the time of purchase from the previous owner, Mr. W.S. Gibb the farm extended to about 400 acres. Prior to their purchase, Mr and Mrs Edward Parsons lived in the former Snaefell Mines Captain's house and farmed the fields there along the road from Agneash to the Snaefell mines. Baljean is now run by their grandson Ean Parsons and his wife. Nephew Finn Partington works alongside them full time. Now the area farmed is about 900 acres in total of which about 500 acres are in grass land. Ean explained to His Excellency the extent of the land and how in addition to the large flock of sheep (back in 1955 Ean's grandfather was described in the local press as the Island's largest sheep farmer) and in addition to the sheep he also has 220 beef cattle which he fattens up. He is not a milk producer. Baljean has a link with the Great Laxey Wheel which was designed by Robert Casement the mines engineer. The axel was cast in Liverpool in a large foundry but the rim and other ironwork were cast locally by Gelling's Foundry of Douglas. The spokes and other timberwork were manufactured out of seasoned Hornbeam, Greenheart and Pitch Pine. An undercover workshop was needed in which to plane, shape and fashion the timber. The first floor of the long barn at Baljean provided the facilities needed and that is where they were manufactured before being transported to the site of the wheel for erection.

This photograph was taken outside the farm house and shows (l to r) Ean Parsons, Jo Parsons his wife, Lady Lorimer, His Excellency and Finn Partington, a nephew and full time farm worker.


After lunch the party proceeded to the former 'washing floors' of the Laxey Mines. Here the stone hewn out of the rock face under the surface was brought to be crushed then the ore separated from the non-productive stone which became waste and was piled up on the opposite side of the road to Ramsey. The great mountain of waste was referred to as 'the deads'.

Originally the rock/ore was brought from inside the mine to the washing floors in ore waggons which were pulled by ponies. In 1877 the mine became more mechanised when two steam locomotives were commissioned from Stephen Lewin of Poole in Dorset. They had to be especially designed to fit into the adit of the mine and travel along the internal passages in order to be filled with what had been mined. They were delivered by steamer from Swansea in April 1877 and cost £628-5-0. On account of their size they were named 'Ant' and 'Bee'. The mines finally closed in 1929 and any saleable equipment was sold off.

Interest in the old mines in the early 1970's saw the formation of the Manx Mines Research Group how carefully explored and recorded underground as well as some of the remaining surface buildings. They discovered six or the old ore waggons still within the mine.

Following the formation of the Laxey and Lonan Heritage Trust there was a renewed interest in the in the mines and everything to do with them.

Consequently a group of volunteers started to clear the route of the small railway from the washing floors , under the road and MER lines out towards the adit opposite the new Laxey Fire Station.

New replica locos were made by Great Northern Steam Ltd of Darlington. The Ant was delivered on 7th April 2004 and The Bee on 12th August. A specially designed 10 seater carriage arrived in July 2004 and a second one with glazed windows in August 2007.

Here the party were met by volunteers from the railway charity: (l to r) Edith Quaggan (director), Colvin Quaggan (director and driver of the battery electric loco 'Wasp' which was built in 1973 by Clayton Equipment Ltd), His Excellency, Lady Lorimer, Ian Smith (engine driver), Andrew Scarffe (director). They then went for a return trip on the railway.


After their ride on the Great Laxey Mines Railway the party looked at Lady Evelyn the huge water wheel that sits on the washing floor although it was not originally part of that area. There had in fact been three wheels within the washing floor area to operate machinery of different types . There was a large stone wheel case running parallel with the river and this is where the Lady Evelyn was more recently constructed after the debris was cleared from the base and part of the walls repaired.

This was in fact the water wheel from the Snaefell Mine located in the valley below the Mountain Road. It had a diameter of 50'-6" and was manufactured in 1865 by Messrs L & G Howell of the Hawarden Ironworks, Flintshire. It was the fourth largest water wheel on the Island. When the Snaefell Mine closed in 1908 the wheel was redundant and in 1910 it was taken apart and shipped to Blisland in Cornwall where it was re-erected and used in connection with a china clay works to pump water out of the clay pit by operating a plunger pump. It was there that it gained the name of Gawn's Wheel. Later it was modified to be connected to a generator which in turn electrically operated a submersible pump. The china clay works closed in

1950 and again the wheel became redundant. In 1971 it was acquired by The Cornish Wheel Preservation Society who took it apart and placed it in storage. In 1969 that group had merged with the Cornish Engine Society. Two years previous the Trevithick Society which had been formed with the aim of encouraging an interest in Cornwall's Industrial Heritage, handed over various engines and other property that it owned to the National Trust. The combined engine and waterwheel societies then assumed the role and title of the Trevithick Society.

In 1976 the wheel went on loan to the Llywernog Silver Mine near to Aberystwyth in Wales which had been a lead/silver mine rather like Laxey.

The mine had a 50 foot water wheel but due to cheap imports of lead from South Africa and elsewhere the mine became uneconomic and closed in 1910.

The wheel eventually rotted and in 1953 the remains were blown up in order to obtain the scrap metal. The intention in 1976 had been to erect the Snaefell wheel in the place of the 50 foot wheel but it never happened.

In the early years of the present century Peter Geddes lobbied and eventually managed to persuade the various parties that the wheel belonged back in the Isle of Man. On Sunday 21st September 2003 the wheel returned to the Island. It took three years to reconstruct the wheel using new wooden spokes and several of the original castings had to recast due to corrosion.

The wheel was officially opened on 20th August 2006 and named Lady Evelyn after Evelyn Jones who had supported the Manx Mines and Research Group throughout the rebuilding process.

On the visit His Excellency was invited to turn the valve to permit the water to flow through the pipeline which takes in water from the river higher up the valley and set the wheel in motion.


Something of a surprise then when the official party met up with three miniature Shetland ponies on the washing floors. They were from Tiny Hooves Therapy a group set up and operating from The Clarum Farm, Ballaragh in the Parish of Lonan. The group was only set up in April 2022 and the name registered in August. It operates in a similar way to which dogs are used in old people's homes for therapy by stroking.

The owners have eleven miniature Shetland ponies including stallions and it is their intention to breed from them. In the summer of 2022, they appeared at the two agricultural shows and have been to local schools. The therapy provided is intended to help with mental and physical disabilities, autism, ADHD, PTSD, substance abuse, dementia and Asperger's. In the photograph with their backs to the camera are Lucilla Broad with her partner in the venture Jane Brew; next to them is Captain of the Parish of Lonan, Stephen Carter ; Lady Lorimer ; His Excellency and Tim Kenyon a Garff Commissioner for Lonan Ward. Not in the picture but present and helping with the ponies was Kiera Cosgrove.


Finally the official party boarded a car of the Snaefell Mountain Railway and travelled as far as The Bungalow and then returned to Laxey Station from whence the His Excellency and Lady Lorimer departed. En route during the electric tram ride a commentary was given by Andrew Scarffe the great authority on Laxey, Laxey Wheel, Laxey Mines, Snaefell Mines, Manx Electric Railway and the Snaefell Mountain Railway ; Peter Geddes of the Manx Mines Research Group; and Marinda Fargher, a member of Garff Commissioners for the Maughold Ward and also a Blue Badge Guide of some years standing. Also during the journey, Chairman of the Commissioners, Stan Ryzac, presented His Excellency with a signed copy of Andrew Scarffe's book 'The Snaefell Mine Disaster' on behalf of the board. In the picture His Excellency is seen looking through it, watched by Lady Lorimer, Captain of the Parish Stephen Carter and his wife Christine.