WAS IT just the Celts, or did keeills spread across mainland Britain? Certainly the Isle of Man (diocese of Sodor & Man) is rich in these ancient spiritual places, where missionary monks built their cells, probably using mud and wattle initially, and then more enduring earth and stone. These recluses, says the Revd Mary Railton-Crowder, the first stipendiary woman priest to be appointed in the diocese, “became known as Culdees (from ‘Cele De’ — Servant of God), and that may be where the term Keeill comes from”.
Christians on the island have just had their second “Praying the Keeills Week”, led by the Bishop, the Rt Revd Graeme Knowles. It has included daily guided prayer walks “through beautiful countryside and along spectacular coastal paths to some of the island’s most ancient and remote keeill sites”. Mrs Railton-Crowder herself presided at a eucharist in strong wind and torrential rain at a precarious cliff-top site (above), but she says the wild weather simply added to the spiritual experience. It gave a whole new significance to the words of the blessing: “May the wind be ever at your back . . . and the rain fall softly on your face. . .”