Bi-centenary of the First Visit of John Wesley to the Isle of Man

John Wesley

John Wesley first visited the Isle of Man in 1777. He came to encourage and inspire his friend the Rev John Crook who had arrived in the island in 1775.

John Crook was not the first Methodist preacher to visit the Isle of Man though he appears to have been the first effectively to maintain his stand and devotedly to proclaim his Gospel.

Methodism had been introduced in 1744 by John Meriton, but he made no move to evangelise the Isle of Man.  In 1758 John Murlin, known as “The Weeping Prophet of Methodism” arrived from Whitehaven.

Intending to sail to Liverpool, he was deceived by a rascally captain and carried to the Isle of Man. He stayed in Ramsey for a week and spent the time preaching and by all accounts had a mixed reception.

Hooligans (sometimes encouraged by the Local Parson) pelted him with rotten eggs, sods and stones until a sympathizer gave him the use of his barn.

Rev John Crook established quarters at Peel and a Peel Society was formed numbering about nine.

Their first meeting place was a very unusual one, it being a small summer house situated at the bottom of a garden in Mount Morrison overlooking Peer Bay.

This little building was about eight feet square which had a thatched roof and a cellar. John Crook had described the island as being “a nest of smugglers” and it is said that the summer house had been used for a different purpose than religion, it being a lookout used by the smugglers to see if there were any revenue cutters in the vicinity. For the use of this the smugglers left a gift of a barrel of rum in the cellar.

There was strong opposition led by the Bishop to the Methodists but many, especially of the humbler folk, were attracted despite this opposition.

The visit of John Wesley in 1777 was therefore opportune and heartening and greatly encouraged his Manx followers. Although nearly 74 years of age his courage was undoubted and his authority clear and large crowd came to hear him whatever he preached throughout the island.

At Castletown, he preached near the ancient Castle. In his diary he recorded that all the inhabitants came to hear him and that although “2 or 3 gay young women showed they knew nothing about religion; all the rest were deeply serious”.

Wesley visited the Isle of Man again in 1781 and by that time the number of Methodists had greatly increased and the opposition to them had reduced.

Since then Methodism has had a strong following with churches and chapels in all parts of the island. The most recent church was built on the Douglas Promenade on the site of a previous church and this was opened in 1976.

John and Charles Wesley