The Calvary Glen in Onchan, with one entrance on Summerhill and one on the promenade, used to be a magnificent sight, especially in the evening when it was illuminated, and it could be seen from as far away as Douglas Head.
It was created in the early 1960s by Father McGrath of St Anthony's Church, Onchan. He wanted to create a 'Way of the Cross" similar to the one at Lourdes in France and he would often look out from his Church to a little rocky glen, disused, overgrown and ugly, through which a tiny rill ran all the way down to the sea. A kind benefactor succeeded in buying the glen for the princely sum of £40 and the Calvary Glen was soon to become a reality.
It was graded seawards by a series of steps with winding paths, ferny knolls and rustic bridges. Natural vegetation lent to its variety and beauty with a clear stream cascading over the rocks in a series of miniature waterfalls.
The Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross were of cast iron and painted in an imitation stone colour. The figures were in full relief and were cast by the same company in France, which had cast the stations for Lourdes. The figures were 3 feet 9 inches high and each was set in its own stone niche, fitting perfectly into the steep slopes of the precipitous sides of the glen. Five of the stations were placed on either side of a stone pathway linking up the stations with one another and beginning "The Way of the Cross" as it wound its way up from the promenade entrance to the height above. The remainder of the stations were placed at intervals along paths winding around the face of the hillside overlooking the promenade. The paths, which climbed steeply, led to the imposing and impressive Calvary group with a great wooden cross of Burma teak. The shaft was 25 feet in height, 1 foot 7 inches wide and 7 inches thick. The Cross was set in a stone altar, which required 50 tons of stone in its building. The figures of the crucified Christ, Our Lady at the front and of St John were each 6 feet high.
Each of the stations was floodlit at night when it was a positively spectacular sight to behold by anyone looking up from the promenade.
These statues have since been removed to the site of the new St Anthony's Church, which was built with money provided by Mr Albert Gubay.
The glen, which had fallen into a state of disrepair, is now in private hands and is currently being renovated.
[Source: Manx Glens - A stroll through history]
[Acknowledgement: Suzanne Cubbon]