St. Machan (pronounced Mat-shan) is the patron saint of Sodor.
The chief missionary work in Sodor was done by men of “The Iona School”, who arrived at different times during the 6th Century. Most Saints settled in more populated areas in the South. St. Machan was, however, of a more solitary turn of mind. He landed at Arlesburgh and after spending a few months in Arlesdale, chose a cave on a mountain in the north. He stayed there for the rest of his life and established a great reputation for wisdom and sanctity.
People came to him from far and near. He baptised his converts in the lake which now bears his name - the Looey Machan -, and the mountain on which he lived came to be known as Culdee Fell - the Hill of the Holy Man.
A persistent legend tells of a Viking Warband which landed at Harwick and pressed on up the valley in search of plunder. St. Machan saw them from his mountain, and went to meet them. He was quite alone but so utterly fearless that they stopped. He spoke to such good purpose that their leaders were converted and baptised there and then in the lake. There is some doubt about this legend. St. Machan arrived in the middle of the 6th Century, and Viking raids did not begin until the 8th; but the islands were continually being harried, and the raiders met by St. Machan need not have been Norsemen.
Be that as it may, Sudrians cherish this legend and have adopted St. Machan as their patron Saint. His cave became a place of pilgrimage and a rallying point in times of stress. For instance, while in Man the church was wiped out during the Norse invasions, the Faith was never quite extinguished in Sodor. The church survived in remote places with St. Machan’s cave as its focal point.
Again, during the Great Rebellion when Oliver Cromwell’s troops overran the south, loyal Sudrians, led by Bishop Lancelot Qualtrough, retired to the hills. St. Machan’s Cave became their pro-Cathedral and the Roundheads were kept at bay. During the war, a flood was let loose from Looey Machan and swept a Roundhead army into the sea. Sudrians attributed this to divine intervention from St. Machan, claiming he "always looks after his own".
A church dedicated to him was built at the foot of the mountain in the 11th century, the village of Kirk Machan eventually grew around it. Another church dedicated to him was built at Kirkleas in the 6th century, though it was destroyed by Viking raids in the 9th century. The famed heroine Lady Sigrid of Arlesdale built a strong stone church on the site in the early 12th century in thanksgiving for her victory against the Normans, and it stands to this day. His cave is considered a National Monument and is part of a National Park under the auspices of The Sodor Island Trust. Religious services are still occasionally held there.
- St. Machan's Day is April 30th.
- There was a real St. Machan.