manx celtic music and dance

QUAYLE, Edward

A leading exponent and collector of Country Church Music in the Isle of Man

Born 1828

Died February 2nd 1889

Father: William Quayle (1794-1879)

Mother: Jane Clucas (1791-1879)

Married: Elizabeth Watterson born 1833 died 1929

Issue: John Edward Quayle 1869-1957

Edward Quayle was born at Kerrowmoar, in the Parish of Malew, during an era that witnessed the flowering of country church music and Methodism in the Isle of Man. The farm was situated barely two miles north of Grenaby village, below the wild country on the southern slopes of South Barrule, with long views towards Castletown and the sea.

The youngest of four siblings - three elder brothers and a sister - he probably received his earliest musical training from the hands of his father, local musicians or even from one of the itinerant music teachers active on the Island, some of whom gave instruction in musical theory and in the performance of Sacred music. He may also have attended some of the sacred concerts in Castletown, where ‘oratorios’, compiled from selections from the oratorios of Handel and Haydn, and other sacred works by such composers as Leach, Kent and Arne, were popular.

The 1841 census confirms that the Quayle household consisted of Edward’s father, William, described as a farmer, his mother, Jane, described as a farmer’s wife, his brothers, Thomas, a joiner, and Richard, and his sister Mariah. The eldest brother, John, also a farmer, was living next door in the house of Isabella Quayle. By the time of the 1851 census, Edward’s father was described as ‘Freeholder of Kerrowmoar 40 acres’; Edward’s brothers, Thomas and Richard, appear to have left home by this time.

Edward Quayle’s everyday language was probably Manx, but he was almost certainly literate in written and spoken English, as is testified by the accuracy and neatness of his music-writing in the copies he made of well-known anthems, the texts of which were in English.

The 1861 census describes Edward as ‘unmarried’, and a shoemaker, in other words, a skilled artisan as well as a farmer, and still living at Kerrowmoar with his parents, his unmarried sister, Mariah, who was described as a ‘general servant’, and two farm labourers. By the time of the 1871 census, though, things had changed considerably, as Edward, described as a farmer, his new wife, Elizabeth, and their one year old son John Edward, are living at Ballarobin, a nearby farm (now demolished), with his wife’s family, the Wattersons. Ballarobin, a relatively prosperous and largely self-sufficient farm, also supported ‘one man and two boys’ as farm hands, in addition to two teenage ‘boy servants’. Young John Edward attended the Grenaby Schoolhouse, almost certainly had his earliest musical instruction and violin lessons from his father, and played in the church band of Kerrowkeil Primitive Methodist chapel, ‘under South Barrule’, where the family worshipped, which was built on Ballarobin land given to the Trustees by the Quayle family, a common practice at this period.

Edward Quayle’s parents, William and Jane both died in 1879, and by 1880, the family had moved to Castletown, and lived at number 53 Queen Street, next door to the shop and house of the well-known Stowell family. The move to the Island’s former capital coincided with Edward Quayle’s decision to retire from the land, and was probably made all the more urgent in order to ensure his son would receive a good education at the Old Grammar School there. This is confirmed by the 1881 census which records Edward Quayle as a ‘Shoemaker and retired farmer’.

Edward Quayle died in 1889, and by 1891, his widow, Elizabeth, and son, John Edward, described as a ‘Government Clerk’, had moved to number 7, Queen Street. Edward left the sum of £10 to his son in his Will, and the residue of his estate, estimated at £1,200, to his widow. Sadly, Edward Quayle did not live long enough to witness even the earliest flowering of his son’s musical prowess, but as a life-long practical musician, he would have been immensely proud of his son’s academic success, and his achievements as a violinist, organist, pianist and conductor.

Although it cannot be ascertained with accuracy when Edward Quayle began his collection of hymns and anthems, it is clear from the changes in his musical handwriting style that the music was copied with great care and accuracy over a long period of time. West Gallery Music, or perhaps more appropriately, Country Church Music or Country Psalmody was a distinct genre. Although in England, church bands often played in galleries above the west door of the church, hence the term ‘West Gallery Music’, the term ‘West Gallery’ did not necessarily mean very much when applied to the small country chapels which more usually had ‘singing seats’ or ‘singing pews’ rather than galleries. There is evidence that church musicians played in churches and chapels such as St. Runius in Marown, and the old churches in Lezayre and Maughold, and there are records of church or choir-bands performing in the galleries at St Paul’s Church, Ramsey and in the nearby Waterloo Road Methodist Church. There is no firm evidence, however, that the galleries in Manx churches were used exclusively for musicians.

Performances will have been enthusiastic and lusty - as early as 1781, John Wesley, when visiting the Island, noted that ‘both men and women have admirable voices’ - but could be rough-and ready and ill-disciplined, as James Cowin describes in his Reminiscences of Notable Douglas Citizens (1902):

Unless they were strong in the singing pews, they had no chance, for ‘Cannan the milk-man’ and ‘Christian the nailer’ caught hold and ran off with the hymn and tune, leaving the singers to bring up the rear.

The musicians were either self-taught or instructed by other experienced local instrumentalists. Thomas Hardy in Under the Greenwood Tree, paints a colourful picture of country church music, where the Mellstock choir and band of musicians were drawn from all walks of life, and included a Mr Robert Penny, boot and shoemaker. In Far From the Madding Crowd, Hardy describes the ‘hideous clang of music from a drum, tambourine, clarionet, serpent, hautboy, tenor viol (probably a ‘cello), and double bass’. A typical church-band might include violins, a ‘cello or bass, a flute, clarinet or oboe and a bassoon, trombone or serpent. Indeed, the Quayle family possessed a serpent for many years, which was eventually donated to the Manx Museum by John Edward Quayle.

A glimpse into the lives of Manx country musicians through the study of such valuable Manx sources as John Sayle’s Serpent Book (1837), and the Colby music books, confirms that church bands played both sacred and secular pieces for various occasions. Dr John Clague’s Manx Reminiscences (1911), Canon John Quine’s novel, Captain of the Parish (1897) and the dialect poems of T. E. Brown also contain characterful and often whimsical thumb-nail sketches of country musicians and singers in the Island during the nineteenth century.

A fascinating primary source of information is the diary of Thomas Taggart (1847-1933), tailor, crofter and musician of Ballarobin, who played the ‘cello –nicknamed ‘Herself’ – who was head of the choir at Kerrowkeil chapel and whose remarkable reminiscences of his daily life and musical activities for just the year 1877 have survived. Taggart describes, often in great detail, the musical life of Grenaby and the Malew district, the chapel, the singers, the musicians and their repertoire. For example, he writes charmingly about the preparations both musical and otherwise for the Methodist Tea Festival at Grenaby on February 22nd, and notes that the musicians accompanying the choir included, in addition to himself on the ‘cello, his brother, Ceasar on the cornet, and two clarinet players, one of whom was one E. Quayle. Edward ‘Ned’ Quayle also supplied the music for the anthem Behold the Great Messiah Comes for the Tea Festival concert, and is referred to elsewhere in the diary has having played the ‘bass fiddle’ with Taggart at Ballamodha chapel, ‘and the fiddle before Tom Taggart at  Kerrowkeil chapel’.

This, then, was the musical environment from which Edward Quayle’s 378 page collection of hymns, anthems and chants sprung. Many of the anthems are substantial pieces with sophisticated musical structures which include challenging florid vocal solos, duets and trios, accompanied recitative, ‘symphonies’ or brief instrumental interludes, and four-part choruses featuring simple contrapuntal and imitative elements, sometimes known as ‘fugueing’. Some pieces may have been composed by local musicians, but most were adapted and copied from existing pieces or collections, and range stylistically from the age of Purcell and Handel to the mid-Victorian age of glees and sentimental homophonic hymns.


The foremost authority on Manx music of the period, and the importance of the Edward Quayle collection, is Dr Fenella Bazin, whose books and published papers on the subject I have liberally drawn on in preparing this modest appreciation of the life of Edward Quayle. The following has been especially useful and informative:

Dr Fenella Bazin, The Promised Land, published by the Centre for Manx Studies, 2000.

Dr Fenella Bazin, The Role and Status of Musicians in the Isle of Man 1800-60, in the proceedings of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Vol. X No. 3, April 1993 – March 1995.

Dr Fenella Bazin, The West Gallery Tradition in the Isle of Man, in The Gallery Tradition, Aspects of Georgian Psalmody, ed. Christopher Turner, Papers from the International Conference organised by The Colchester Institute, August 1995.

I am enormously grateful to my colleague Stephen Miller (Vienna) for drawing my attention to the diary of Thomas Taggart, and for generously allowing me to draw on information contained in his ‘HAD SPELL OF FIDDING TIL TEA’, THOMAS TAGGART AND HIS MUSICAL ACTIVITIES IN 1877 (2011).

J E Quayle, Manx Music, in the proceedings of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 1937, Vol. 4 No. 2, p 240-50.

Hugh Davidson, ‘John Edward Quayle’, ‘Big Dad’, from Pieces of Eight, the unpublished Memories of Eight Manx People.

Maurice Powell, ‘John Edward Quayle’, Supplement to New Manx Worthies, Culture Vannin, 2013.

by Maurice Powell 2016