Douglas Borough Cemetery
There are eight gravestones in the cemetery, designed by Archibald Knox, of which six are in fairly good order, one is almost illegible and another one, where an adjacent headstone has fallen and badly damaged the grave surround However, this last one was repaired and regilded by T E Cubbon Ltd, in 2021.
Seven of the gravestones are dated between 1914 (for J M Nicholson’s death in 1913) and 1930 and the one for Richard Lace is dated 1945. Although Archibald Knox died in 1933 this latter example is the same design (with a few additions) as Knox’s own gravestone.
Below are details of the eight gravestones and the stories of the deceased, where known.
John Miller Nicholson (died 24th March 1913)
John Miller Nicholson, born on 29th January 1840, was the son of William Nicholson, a house painter and decorator, who lived un Church Street, Douglas.
He became the foremost artist on the Isle of Man. He was an excellent draughtsman and spent much time sketching, painting and photographing people and places of the Isle of Man.
After a trip to Italy he became much more impressionistic in style and no doubt he would have ranked among the great Victorian painters of his time if he had not been averse to public acclaim, and if he had had a more commercial attitude.
So there are parallels to the above in Knox’s life, which is not surprising given the fact that Nicholson gave freely of his time at the Douglas School of Art and was a huge influence on Knox.
The Archibald Knox Forum website (under Miscellaneous) has the full text of Archibald Knox’s paper about J M Nicholson and here is the end of that paper to show the debt that Knox owed to the great artist who was totally self-taught.
“I visited him in his workroom often, when I was young; later, less often and I saw him only in my holidays; I had not been long at work when I discussed with him the wisdom of the method of work into which I had been directed; the solitary lesson was for me the beginning of an independence in art matters that interested him throughout our long friendship; I saw him last before I set out for America; talked as always of art; I was still independent; colour of the imagination was grey; unattainable in the paint box equally with the gold in which he strove to contain his intention; form of the imagination, form of its colour, simpler and directly a subject of art more than Turner or the moderns had made it; his sympathy and encouragement seemed to have followed me all the days of my life.”
If you wish to find out more about John Miller Nicholson there are books and internet articles about him.
The Manx Museum has a major collection of his work, St Thomas’s Church, Douglas houses the murals he designed and examples of his illustrations can be seen in A W Moore’s The Manx Note Book 1885-87.
The grave and headstone designed by Knox has wonderful Celtic motifs on the front and sides plus typical Knox cut-aways on the base and grave surround.
The central part of the gravestone was originally picked out in gold, as were the Celtic motifs on both sides of the headstone. One of the photographs below shows the Celtic motif on the back of the headstone and this was also picked out in gold originally.
Space was left for other members of Nicholson’s family to be shown on this magnificent headstone and they are: Wife - Ann Jane, Daughter – Florence, Son – Frank and Daughter-in-Law – Levinia Florence Erato
The image on the left shows details of the beautiful Knox design at the centre of the headstone.
Originally the pattern was picked out by the addition of gold colouring between the strands, or what looks like owls eyes at the top.
This has all but worn away but small particles of it can still be seen on the headstone today.
The image above shows a close up of the inscription.
The image on the right shows the rear of the headstone with beautiful Knox motif and cutaways.
Charles Michael Parkinson (died 14th January 1919)
“Charlie” Parkinson was one-time Sgt. Major of the Volunteers, having been one of the original members of the Corps., before that he had been in charge of one section called the Sandsiders and later he became Cadet Captain.
His death, like many that winter, was very sudden and was brought about by the influenza pandemic which hit the Island, and the rest of the world from January 1918 to December 1920. Also known as Spanish flu it was responsible for the infection of 500 million people and the deaths of 50 to 100 million people (3 to 5% of the world’s population).
A report entitled “Mortality Record” in the Isle of Man Times for Saturday 25th January 1919 give an insight into this terrible time in history:
The mortality returns for last week were heavy, reaching at one period seven deaths in thirty-six hours. On Sunday there were no less than six interments in the Borough Cemetery, among them being two sisters, aged 22 and 17 years, who had fallen victims to the plague. Miss Christian K. Gelling, who lived at 16, Allen Street., died on Wednesday, and her sister, Miss Ruby Gelling, a few hours later, while other inmates of the house are also ill.
Among the victims on Sunday was Mrs Gell, widow of the late Robt. Gell, builder, of Douglas, and sister of Councillor Quirk. She died on Sunday morning, just before the funeral of her son-in-law, Mr Charles Parkinson.
On Saturday, the four-year-old child of Mr Jas. Kinley, Hatfield Grove, Douglas, a Naval Reserve man, who was home on leave, died from influenza. On the following day his wife died, while Kinley himself, while being removed to the hospital in the ambulance on Tuesday, died before he reached that institution. Three young children are as a consequence left orphans. Mr Kinley's eldest son is serving in the army in France.
There were four deaths in Douglas on Monday due to influenza, and since the epidemic commenced over thirty deaths were recorded up to last Saturday. This is a very large percentage in an Island where the average death rate is about 14 per 1,000 of the population. The returns for the current week are not yet made up, but we are given to understand that no improvement is expected.”
On the day of Mr Parkinson’s funeral the weather was bad but there was a very good attendance. His body was conveyed at 2pm from his residence in Stanley Terrace on an A.S.C. wagon to St Thomas’s Church where Rev. R B Jolly officiated. The Town Band were present as were a large number of Volunteers and boy cadets.
The burial took place at Douglas Borough Cemetery and the firing party at the graveside was provided by the Sandsiders.
The headstone has beautifully gold highlighted Knox motifs which have inevitable worn over the past 99 years.
Unfortunately, and I believe very recently, an adjacent grave stone has fallen and badly damaged the front surround of the grave plot.
The first two photographs below show the deterioration over the past 40 to 50 years.
The main erosion has been on the gold lettering and the Celtic motifs near the base of the headstone. However, the words are still legible.
The elongated Celtic wheel cross is the same as on the John Collister grave (see below) but on the Parkinson it is picked out in gold and looks as though a wreath is around the wheel. There are also gold Celtic motifs near the bottom of the cross.
The other photographs below show more detail on the gravestone and the damage caused by the falling of an adjacent headstone.
These two photographs show the damage caused by the adjacent gravestone having fallen over onto the Parkinson grave surround.
John Collister (died 22nd October 1925)
John Collister was a cabinet maker who lived at 32 Finch Road, Douglas and he died in his 84th year.
The funeral took place on Monday 26th October, leaving the above address at 11.30am.
The oblong green headstone is decorated with beautiful Knox lettering, Celtic motifs and down each side there is an elongated Celtic wheel cross.
John’s wife died less than 4 weeks later in her 79th year, and she was buried on 19th November 1925.
This gravestone has taken the longest to research because records have the name as Jane Ashburner.
The headstone is very difficult to read but it is the grave of Annie James-Ashburner (nee Oldham) and her husband Wilson James-Ashburner, who was Archibald Knox’s very good friend.
It is ironic that this appears to be the least successful of Knox’s gravestones as the lettering is very difficult to read.
Annie Oldham was born in 1865 and married Wilson James-Ashburner at Braddan church on 27th December 1886.
No record of her death has been found in local newspapers as yet.
The headstone wording is as follows (as far as is decipherable)
In memory of
Born October 07th(?) 1865
Died April 20th 1921(?)
Wife of Wilson James-Ashburner
and of Wilson James-Ashburner
Born March 3rd 1860
Died Nov 17th 1935
of Sunnyside Onchan
The Isle of Man Examiner carried the following article on Friday 22nd November 1935:
Mr Wilson James-Ashburner, of "Sunnyside," Victoria Road, Douglas, died at his home on Saturday at the age of 75 years. An engineer by profession. Mr James-Ashburner came from Altrincham, and had resided in the Island for about fifty years. A member of the Manx Automobile Club, he was a keen motorist, and at the time of his death owned a car which had been running since 1908 and which was one of the first vehicles to be registered in the Island. An enthusiastic angler, he was a former member of the Isle of Man Fisheries' Board, and was also one of the oldest members of the Elian Vannin Club. Mr James-Ashburner was a widower, and leaves a son, Mr Wilson James-Ashburner jnr. and a daughter. Miss James-Ashburner who resided with her father. The funeral took place on Tuesday afternoon, the interment being in the Borough Cemetery. The service was conducted by the Rev. W. H. Karran. and the principal mourners were Mr Wilson James-Ashburner, jnr. (son). Mrs Wilson James-Ashburner (daughter-in-law), and Mr Murray Button (cousin).
Jane Christian Callister (died 24th April 1925)
Mrs Callister, dearly loved wife of William Callister, died aged 67 at 6 Avondale Road, Onchan. William was the ex-schoolmaster of Onchan.
The funeral was held on Sunday 26th April with the procession leaving the Onchan address at 2.30pm.
Mona’s Herald newspaper of 29th April wrote as follows:
The "deceased lady was a native of Peel, but came to Onchan as a bride more than 40 years ago, and with the exception of the last two years, the whole of her married life was spent in the one house. During her early married life, she officiated, as was the custom with schoolmaster's wives in those days, as sewing mistress in the Village school, and many a matron in the Onchan district to-day can testify to the skill and patience with which she discharged her duties. The late Mrs Callister was of a genial disposition, and so long as health permitted, entered into the social life of the district with zest, and by the kindliness and real charity of her nature endeared herself to a large circle of friends.
The interment took place on Sunday, the near relatives attending the funeral being Messrs W. Callister (husband), Harry Callister (son), J. Cubbon (brother), Mrs Crellin (sister), Miss Cubbon (niece), Mr William Crellin and Mr A. Fletcher (nephews), Messrs Jno. Callister. E. Callister, A. Knox, Wm. Knox and W. Bentley. Among the members of the public present were Messrs G. F. Clucas, S.H.K., Wm. F. Cowell, H.K., G. A. Thomason, F. Newton, W. A. Craine, R. S. Cowin, A. Nivison, J. Corrin, S. Skillicorn, W. D. Cowin, H. Gell, T. R. Lewin, H. J. O'Neill, J. H. Skillicorn, J. T. Skillicorn, G. Poland, R. J. Shimmin, J. Shimmin, R. J. Wilkinson. Capt. Cannell, and many others.
The grave is in a poor state and seems very uncared for, even though the plaque says perpetual care.
Richard Lace (died 28th November 1945)
Richard Lace was described as Manxland’s “grand old man” in the Isle of Man Examiner on 30th November 1925. The article went on to say much about this very gifted man who died at the age of 90:
Manxland's grand old man, Mr. Richard Lace, F.R.G.S., of Park View, Castletown Road, Douglas, died on Wednesday, aged 90.
A man of great accomplishments, Mr. Lace, who was 35 years parish clerk of Santon, was a storehouse of Manx Knowledge.
A schoolmaster by profession, being headmaster of St. Michael's, Wigan, and St. Catherine's, Wigan, Michael and Santon Schools, he was possessor of many honours in music, botany, mining, geology, chemistry, and drawing.
He was the first Manxman to be admitted life Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He was a life member of the British Association, life Fellow of the Society of Science, Literature and Art, life member of the Geographical Society (Wales), a life member of the Manx Geographical Society, and a life Governor of Noble's Hospital.
Mr. Lace was the composer of several hymn tunes, and as an organist for over 66 years officiated in many churches on the mainland and on the Island.
He was a former president of the National Union of Teachers and a keen member of the Antiquarian Society.
Mr. Lace's many scientific and antiquarian discoveries have been valuable contributions to the Island's historical story and his great love of all things Manx made him a worthy ambassador on his travels.
Mr. Lace, who retired three years ago from his parish clerkship, was thanked by the Governor for his splendid services as war-time food and clothing executive officer, having regard to the fact that he was then nearly 87 years old.
Mr. Lace leaves a, son, Captain Douglas Lace, now in Nigeria, and a daughter who lives in Ramsey.
The achievements of Richard Lace are listed on his headstone which is itself remarkable for being a copy of Archibald Knox’s own headstone.
Obviously Knox could not have carried out the lettering but everything is in the style of Knox. Perhaps Mr Lace had asked for a copy of the headstone from T Quayle during Knox’s lifetime? There are a few additions to the motifs but it seems that this great Manxman wanted to be associated with another great Manxman whose work he admired.
Katherine Douglas (died 26th December 1930)
Katherine Douglas was the wife of Robert F Douglas and they lived at “The Elms” Brunswick Road, Douglas. She was interred on 29th December 1930.
Her husband Robert, whose plaque is also on the headstone, died on 21st April 1941 at the age of 83.
Mona’s Herald ran the following article the day after his death:
Mr. Robert Fargher Douglas . J.P. for half a century one of the leading builders and contractors of Douglas, died at his home. "The Elms,'' Brunswick Road, about two o'clock yesterday afternoon, after an illness which had lasted several weeks, at the age of 83 years. Mr Douglas was the eldest son of the late Mr John Douglas, builder, of Woodbourne Square, his mother being a daughter of the late Mr Robert Fargher, founder of "Mona' s Herald." He was educated at Thomas Street Wesleyan Day School and the Douglas Grammar School. As a youth, he began to learn the printing trade with his grandfather, but after a short time gave up printing and entered his father's business as a joiner. After a few years he worked for a year or two with a leading firm of contractors in Liverpool; then again joined his father and his brother. Mr Joseph E. Douglas. In building a large number of houses in the South end of the Mersey city. On their return to the Island Mr John Douglas and his two sons were associated in the building of most of the houses in Woodbourne Square and the larger houses in Sydney Street. Over fifty years ago he began business as a builder and contractor in Brunswick Road, and continued with conspicuous success down to his retirement some twenty years ago, Many of the residential houses in Selborne Drive. Albany Road, Eleanora Drive and the Cronkbourne Road district were built by him. The finest example of his craftsmanship is the Isle of Man Bank head office on Prospect Hill, which was begun and completed in the early years of the present century. He also built St. Mary's Roman Catholic school, Thomas Street Sunday-school and the I.O.M. Children's Homes, an institution in which he was deeply interested, and of which he was the honorary treasurer for many years down to two years ago. The fine oak interior fittings of the Tynwald Court were made in his workshop.
Mr Douglas was Diocesan Surveyor and a Government valuer for many years. He became a director of the Isle of Man Bank. Ltd. In May 1924. and continued in that office until November, 1938. when he relinquished it at his own request. He was one of the Trustees of the Manx Museum from its inception, being the nominee of the Trustees of the Nicholson collection of pictures. A devoted member of Braddan Parish Church for many years, he served in the capacity of churchwarden for several terms. He was also a member of the Committee of the House of Industry, who availed themselves of his large experience in their work of reconstruction of that institution. He was appointed to the Commission of Peace in 1919.
His wife, formerly Miss Katherine Quine. predeceased him several years ago. The beautiful choir stalls in Kirk Braddan were presented by him, and he also endowed a bed in Noble's Hospital, to her memory. Prior to, and in his last illness, he was devotedly attended by his sister-in-law, Mrs Howland, M.E.A. By all who knew him. Mr Douglas was esteemed for his fine character, sterling and generous spirit and by none more than those who had been employed by him. He was of a retiring disposition, a man who eschewed the limelight, and although he declined public office, on numerous occasions his advice was frequently sought by the Government, local authorities and other public bodies. Apart from business affairs, he was a keen gardener. and was a recognised expert on plant life and flowers, his gardens at his home being a veritable Eden. He had no children, but is survived by four brothers and one sister — Messrs. Joseph Douglas. Frank Douglas (Ballaragh. Lonan). Herbert Douglas, and Frederick A. Douglas, and Miss Emily Douglas. The funeral takes place on Thursday.
Peter Milne (died 31st December 1919)
Peter Milne died at home “The Waverley” Queen’s Promenade, Douglas aged 65 and he was interred on Saturday 3rd January 1920.
Isle of Man Examiner 3rd January 1920 wrote the following:
Douglas lost a very estimable citizen by the death of Mr Peter Milne, of “The Waverley”, Queen's Promenade, which took place early on the closing day of 1919. Mr Milne was a victim of cancer, the modern scourge. Up to last Spring he enjoyed excellent health, though an affection of the throat which seized upon him in February occasioned him some concern. Eventually the seizure took a malignant turn, and though there were occasional rallies, the disease on the whole gained ground. About three weeks ago Mr Milne's condition grew so bad that he was confined to the house. Fortunately he suffered little pain, and death when it came was easy. In June, 1916, Mr Milne was co-opted a member of the Douglas Town Council in respect of Athol Ward. He discharged the duties associated with membership in the conscientious fashion which was characteristic of the man. He had the confidence and respect of his fellow members of the Council, and indeed of all people with whom he came into contact. In everything he undertook he acted uprightly and with a full regard to the Golden Rule. Last November he was appointed chairman of the Sanitary Committee of the Council, and he also served on the Promenades and Stores committees. He was one of the founders of the Douglas Boarding-House & Lodging-House Keepers' Association, and for several years was president of the body. Personally he was most pleasant. Genial and kindhearted, his manner was a benediction, and he never tired of trying to make the lot of his fellows a happy one. He was a native of the Southern part of Scotland, and settled in Douglas over thirty years ago. His first venture was “The Waverley” Boarding-house on the Loch Promenade, where by his industry and courtesy he established a big connection. This connection followed him and increased substantially when he removed to “The Waverley”, Queen's Promenade. Indeed at the time of his death he conducted one of the biggest businesses in his own particular line in Douglas. He leaves a widow and four daughters. One of the daughters is the wife of Mr Thomas Woolcock, now of California; another is married to Mr A. A. Barron, borough surveyor of Minehead (formerly borough assistant surveyor of Douglas) while the remaining two are unmarried and reside at “The Waverley”.
This and the next five images showing details of the headstone, the Knox motifs and the name showing that the stonemason was Thomas Quayle.