Each month, James Franklin, Online & Educational Resources Officer at Culture Vannin and co-author of ‘A Guide to the Folklore of the Isle of Man,’ looks at a particular place in the Island and gives a guide to some of its folklore.

Laa Pherick (St Patrick’s Day) has just passed and this would once have been an extremely important day in the Isle of Man and is recalled in folklore all over the Island, including at Peel Hill.

The top of the hill lies in the parish of Patrick and at its foot is St Patrick’s Isle, both of which are named after the saint and for good reason.

St Patrick arrived from Ireland, riding on his snow-white horse over the waves. Seeing his approach, Manannan threw down his cloak of mist and the saint became so disorientated that he lost his way as a sea-beast closed in to devour him.

Just in time, Patrick heard a curlew calling, a goat bleating and a cock crowing, all revealing to him where the Island was.

Leaping through the mist, his horse sprung up the side of Peel Hill. At the top, he cursed the sea-beast, which turned to stone below him in the sea, where it is still to be seen, with its ridged back in the waves.

Patrick watched the mist lift to reveal a great army in Peel Castle with their spears glinting in the sun. But Patrick recognised them as phantoms of Manannan’s conjuring.

He cast out Manannan and his followers, who rushed off in the form of three legs, to an island off the Manx coast which then plunged beneath the waves. Thus St Patrick won the Isle of Man to Christianity.

Where the hoof of his horse first struck land, a well formed, with holy water springing forth with the power to cure the faithful.

Our last tale saw Patrick win the castle from Manannan, but another has him take it from a giant who terrorised the Isle of Man, carelessly throwing rocks around, some of which are still visible on the hillside over Lhergydhoo bearing his finger marks – hence their name, ‘Meir ny Foawr’ (Giant’s Fingers).

Either way, the tales show the saint helped the Manx, ridding us of terrorising giants, heathen magicians (as the tale speaks of Manannan) and, of course, snakes.

One tale even claims he will return again in the future, to rid us of mud.

He’ll have a mighty task on his hands with that one!

Another tale, unique to the parish of Patrick, is that of the saint quelling a storm from Horse Rock (at the Breakwater edge of St Patrick’s Isle).

It was in thanks and recognition of this that Peel fishermen would put up a prayer to the saint when setting out to sea in their boats.

However, Manx hearts are hard to turn and here we catch a glimpse of a much older faith. Because it was this same prayer, apparently to a Christian saint, that was still remembered into the 20th century as being dedicated to Manannan!

The landscape of faith and folklore is wonderfully complex in the Isle of Man, and places like Peel Hill are a very good place to explore it!