[From Leech's Guide, 1861]



THE Isle of Man is now and ever has been governed by its own laws, made and enacted by the three estates, viz.—The Queen as Lady of the Manor, the Governor and Council, and the twenty-four Keys; the latter being elected by their own body as vacancies by death or removal occur.

These estates are called a Tynwald Court when assembled, and on the triple concurrence the law is established, but is without force until sanctioned by the Royal assent, and proclaimed from Tynwald Hill.

The Council consists of the Governor, Bishop, the two Deemsters, the Clerk of the Rolls, the Attorney-General, the Receiver-General, the Water Bailiff, the Archdeacon, and the Vicar-General.

Prior to the year 1846 there were two Vicars-General. The offices of Receiver-General and Water Bailiff are at present held by one person.

Anciently the Abbot of Rushen and the Archdeacon’s official had seats in the Council.

The Governor or Lieutenant-Governor is chief both in civil and military power, and has by law authority to call a Tynwald Court as often as he finds necessary, at which the Council and Keys, according to their oaths, are bound to attend.

The following clause occurs in the Governor’s oath

"You shall truly and uprightly deal between our Sovereign Lady the Queen and her people, and as indifferently between party and party, as this staff now standeth, as far as in you lieth."

The Deemsters are the first magistrates, the supreme judges in all civil courts, whether for life or property. The office is of the highest antiquity. It is uncertain whether their name is derived from to deem or to doom. Formerly, before the laws were written, in all new and emergent cases they were called in to declare what the law was, and the laws so declared were named Breast-laws.

The following oath is administered to a Deemster on his appointment :—" By this book, and by the holy contents thereof, and by the wonderful works that God hath miraculously wrought in heaven above and in the earth beneath, in six days and seven nights, I, (A. B.) do swear that I will, without respect of favour or friendship, love or gain, consanguinity or affinity, envy or malice, execute the laws of this Isle justly betwixt our Sovereign lady the Queen and her subjects within this Isle, and betwixt party and party as indifferently as the herring back-bone doth lie in the midst of the fish. So help me God and by the contents of this book."

Four baronies formerly existed in the Island, for which courts were held, viz, the Bishop’s Barony, the Abbot’s or Abbey Barony, the Barony of Bangor and Sabal, and the Barony of St. Trinion.

The Bishop and the Archdeacon were members of the Court of General Gaol delivery till the year 1845; before that time it was retained as an ancient usage that the Bishop, or some priest appointed by him, should sit with the Governor in the trial of capital cases till sentence was to be pronounced, the Deemster asking the jury, instead of guilty or not guilty, "Vod fir-charree soie ?" which means literally, "May the man of the chancel, or he that ministers at the altar, continue to sit P"

Tue following is a catalogue of the Governors and Lieutenant-Governors of the Isle of Man since the accession of the house of Stanley :—


1407 Michael Blundell, Lieut.
1417 John Letherland, Lieut.
1418 John Fasakerly, Lieut.
1422 John Walton, Lieutenant
1428 Henry Byron, Lieutenant,
no records till
1496 Peter Dutton, Lieutenant
1497 Henry Radcliffe, Abbot of Rushen, Deputy
1503 Randolph Rushton, Capt.
1508 Sir John Ireland, Knt. Lt.
1516 John Ireland, Lieut.
1517 Randolph Rushton, Capt.
1519 Thomas Danisport, Capt.
1526 Richard Holt, Lieut.
1529 John Fleming, Captain
1530 Thomas Sherburn, Lieut.
1532 Henry Bradley, Deputy Lt.
1533 henry Stanley, Captain
1535 George Stanley, Capt.
1537 Thomas Stanley, Rut. Lt.
1537 George Stanley, Capt.
1540 Thomas Tyldesley, Deputy
1544 William Stanley, Deputy
1532 Henry Stanley, Capt.
1561 Sir Richard Sherburne, Lt.
1562 Thomas Stanley, Knt. Lt.
1566 Richard Ashton, Captain
1567 Thomas Stanley, Knt. Lt.
1569 Edward Tarbock, Capt.
1575 John hianmer, Captain
1580 Richard Sherburn, Capt.
1591 Richard Anderton, Lieut.
Cuth. Gerrard, Capt. ~ Thomas Mortimer, Dep.
1593 The Hon. William Stanley, Cap. afterwards Earl Derby
1594 Randolph Stanley, Capt.
(Sir Thomas Gerrard, Knt.) Capt. Peter Legh, apt 1596 appointed Governor by Qn Elizabeth, in the absence of Thomas Gerrard
1597 Thomas Gerrard, Kt. Cap. Robert Mollineux, Deputy Cuth. Gerrard, Capt.
1609 Robert Mollinex, Deputy
1600 Robert Mollineux, Capt.
1609 J.Ireland & J. Birchall, Governors conjointly




The Governor is Chancellor in this court, assisted by the Deemsters, and such of his Council as he may think proper to summon. It has a mixed jurisdiction in matters of law and equity, and is more frequently resorted to in the latter than the former capacity. This court is said to have its origin in the power of granting arrests of the person and effects, which in civil cases belonged to the governor alone. Causes commenced in this manner were termed common actions, which brought the suitors into the court of chancery, and the causes so brought were, as the parties chose, or the governor ordered, either retained to be determined, or transmitted to some other jurisdiction. Suits are likewise instituted before the governor, as chancellor, where full redress cannot be obtained by the other courts.


The Governor presides in this court, with such of the council as he thinks groper to summon. It takes cognizance of all disputes or offences relating to the Queen’s revenue, rights, or prerogatives; and prosecutions are here carried on for the recovery of penalties incurred by frauds upon the customs. It also exercises a criminal jurisdiction over misdemeanors, and all species of wrongs, which have incurred a fine to the Queen; like the Court of Chancery, it proceeds without a jury, unless the governor thinks fit to summon one, and their proceedings are registered in the Liber Scaccarii. From these courts there is an appeal to the Queen in Council.


These courts are commonly termed "before the governor and all the chief officers and deemsters," and are held at different places for different sheadings. These may be considered as courts of common pleas ; here are tried all actions, personal or real, by a jury of six of the sheading in which the lands lie, in case of real actions. An appeal lies from this court to the House of Keys.


These sit more frequently, and are more generally resorted to than any of the others. They are divided into two districts, north and south, in each of which one deemster alone presides, and has power to decide all causes in a summary way without the intervention of a jury, according to the traditional and unwritten laws of the land, termed breast laws. These courts are held once a week, or oftener if required. In all civil and criminal matters their power is great; in civil cases an appeal lies to the governor and council, who are termed the Staff of Government. The deemsters, who have each a salary of £800 per annum, were always considered officers of great dignity; they were not only the chief judges of the Isle, but were also the lord’s privy councillors, and their influence over the people resembled in some degree the civil authority of the ancient Druids. They were esteemed the venerable oracles of justice, and in their bosoms resided the laws, which only on important occasions were divulged to the people.

The court of the WATER BAILIFF, who is also styled. admiral, takes cognizance of all causes of action or misdemeanors below high water-mark, and of all maritime affairs, by a special jury of merchants or seafaring men. An appeal can be made to the staff of government from his verdict.

The MAGISTRATES’ Court is held once a month in each of the towns, with the exception of Douglas, where it is conducted fortnightly, for the trial of offences, breaches of the peace, and misdemeanors. The magistrates are appointed by the issuing of a commission of the peace, in a similar manner to those under the municipal reform bill in England, but their powers are regulated by a recent act of Tynwald. The members of the council and the four high bailiffs are also ex officio magistrates, and their clerks are members of the bar, appointed by the Crown.,

The HIGH BAILIFFS’ Courts are held weekly in each of the four towns for the recovery of debts under 40s. Manx. The appointment is vested in the Governor, at whose pleasure he holds office. He is chief magistrate and superintendent of police in his district, and is empowered to attest deeds and take affidavits.


Are consistory courts, held alternately by the Bishop and Archdeacon, or their official the Vicar-General. These courts have more extensive powers than the English spiritual courts. They not only determine the validity of wills, &c. but sustain all causes respecting them, and all suits against executors, &c. An appeal lies from the Consistorial Court to York.

The superior court of criminal judicature is the


In this the Governor and his assessors preside; and all capital offences are tried here. The prosecutions in this court are carried on by presentments or indictments, and for frauds upon the customs by information. No culprit can be tried in this court but by a jury of twelve, and in which the attorney-general conducts the prosecution. Upon conviction the deemster pronounces sentence, and the governor respites execution until the sentiments of the Queen are known. This court is held twice a year at Castle Rushen, and its proceedings, since 1680, have been enrolled in the Liber Placitorum.

There are several juries in the Island, viz, the Great Inquest, which consists of twelve in each sheading, returned by the coroner, to make presentments particularly enumerated in the statute book.

The Setting Quests consist of four of the Queen’s tenants; their office is, when any lands fall to the Queen, to discover a proper person to whom they may be set, and compel him to become a tenant thereof; serving as a homage jury in the sheading, or manorial courts, where the same business is transacted as in the courts of copy-holders in England, and in a somewhat similar way.

There are also Trespass Juries, and Juries of Enquiry; consisting each of four men, occasionally summoned by the deemsters, on any trespass or damage committed, in order to discover the offenders if possible. The statute book also contains provisions for some other juries, for placing servants to work, and for the protection of game. The form of proceeding in the courts are mentioned as not more orderly or exact than their constitution. The process of appearance was formerly a summons from the magistrates, by the initials of his name inscribed on a bit of slate or a stone, but now it is in writing. Decrees and judgments were formerly given orally, at another by a written document; the execution of them was by the moar in the court of common law; by the coroners for the other superior courts ; and executed by the sumner for the ecclesiastical courts.

In each sheading there is a coroner, whose duty it is to serve summonses, return juries, levy fines and executions, collect certain of the lower dues arising on casualties; and for these and similar purposes is required to take inquests, and attend most of the juries and inquests empannelled by the deemsters of Superior courts, and may convene and swear others, some permanent, some occasional. The serjeants in the several baronies are civil officers, in the nature of moars and coroners. In each parish is a deputy or assistant to the coroner, termed a lockman.

The Sumner-General is an officer of very ancient appointment, invested with considerable additional powers, and is a kind of general executor to all aliens dying in the Island. He can take an inventory and valuation of their effects to pay burial expences, and to distribute the residue amongst the creditors.

In each parish are also persons called moars, who collect the crown rents and fines, and act as servants to some of the courts; each has a deputy termed a sumner.


The following is the national melody of the Island. The words to which it is adapted were written on a tradition that a farmer of the name of Mollacharane, who resided at Andreas, found immense riches buried in a glen, and was the first Manxman who had ever given a marriage portion to his daughter. Previously, instead of the lady having a dowry, it was the custom for her lover to treat for her with her father, and to pay him to the best of his ability for the honour of obtaining her hand. Mollacharane, it would appear, was of a very generous turn of mind, and having got his wealth so easily, thought it desirable to introduce a more liberal system of negociating matrimonial affairs, the former mode being open to the very serious objection, that the highest bidder won the prize :—

Oh! Mollacharane, where got you such wealth ?
When I left you alone in the glen:
That mark’d out the spot where the treasure I’d find
That was buried so deep in the glen.

"By neither, I swear, ‘twas a fairy so kind
"Which guided my steps in the glen!
"That mark’d out the spot where the treasure I’d find
"That was buried so deep in the glen."

From its nie I’d suppose it was rather a sprite
Full of malice you met in the glen;
You have portioned your daughters, hence love’s taken flight
From hill, valley, shore, mountain, and glen.

Bright eyes and kind hearts have no longer effect,
Since you barter’d with wealth of the glen;
The first question now ask’d is "Vel tocher mi ech ?
"Er son nish ta sheen poosey son shen."

Hence rosy love flies, and pale avarice reigns,
And Hymen is sought through the glen;
Whilst each portionless damsel in anguish exclaims
When she thinks on the wealth of the glen.

Oh ! Mollacharane, had the earth open’d wide
And swallowed you up in the glen,
Ere Damon led you that vile treasure descry’d
That was buried so deep in the glen.

We subjoin also the words in the Manx Language of the original song of "MOLLACHARANE."

O, Vollecharane, craad hooar oo dthy stoyr,
My lomarkyn daag oo mee;
Icagh dooar nice sv churragh eh dowin, dowin dthy liooar,
As my lomarkyn daag oo mee.

O, Vollecharane, craad hooar oo dthy stock,
My lornarkyu daag oo mec
Nagh dooar inca sy churragh cli eddyr daa vlock,
As my lomarkyn daig oo mae.

O, Vollecharane, craad hooar oo ny tayd,
My lomarkyn daag oo mee;
Nagh dooar any sy churragh eh eddyr daa foyd,
As my lomarkyn daag oo mae.

She dna flyr oashyr as un flyr vrasg,
My lomarkyc daag oo mee;
Yea Mollacharane ayns ny shey blianey jeg,
As my lomarkyn daag on moe.

Va caraanyn dhoo er, as oashyryn bunnee,
My lomarkyn daag oo mee;
As piyr jeh’u un chullyr, son y chieil je doouee,
As my lomarkyn daag oo mee.

Va caraaue dhoo er, as caraane vana,
My lomarkya daag oo mee;
As piyr jeh’u un chullyr cc Doolish je sam,
As my lomarkyn daag oo mee.

O Ycshig, 0 Yeshig, taa mae goail nairey,
My lomarkyn daag oo mee;
Dy vail oo goll gys y chieile lesh dthy charaanyn graaney,
As my lomarkyn daag oo mee.

O inneen my chree cha ilsias dthyt goail nairey,
My lomnrkyn daag oo mee;
Son ta Ayns kionc y coayr ny ver orts gayrey,
As my lomarkyn daag oo mee.

My haght filley moilaght er Moilacharane,
My lomarkyn daag oo mee;
Son v’ch yn chied dooinnay hug togher da mien,
As my lomarkyn daag oo mee.



The publisher of this work has been favoured with the following exquisite translation into Manx by the Rev. R. E. HARRISON, of Jurby, of Mr. MARTIN TurrEn’s celebrated Hymn for all Nations.

Glorious God ! on thee we call,
Father, Friend, and Judge of all;
Holy Saviour, heavenly King,
Homage to Thy throne we bring
In the wonders all around
Ever is Thy Spirit found;
And of each good thing we see
All the good is born of Thee
Thine the bounteous skill that lurks
Everywhere in Nature’s works—
Thine is Art, with all its worth,
Thine each masterpiece on earth
Yea—and foremost in the van,
Springs from Thee the Mind of Man;
Onits light, for this is Thine,
Shed abroad the love divine!
Lo, our God! Thy children here
From all realms are gathered near,
Wisely gathered, gathering still,—
For "peace on earth, tow’rds men good will !"
May we, with fraternal mind,
Bless our brothers of mankind!
May we, through redeeming love,
Be the blest of God above

0 Yee gloyroil, Hood’s ta shin gcam,
Nyn Mriw, nyu Ayr, as Charrey traa nyu Verne,
Haualtagh casherick, Rca dy flaunys,
Ec dty stoyl-reeoil ta shin coyrt ammys.
Ayns dy chooilley yindys ta shin fakin,
Ta dty Spyrryd eisht ry akin,
Dy Chooilley nhee mie ta shin cur-my-ncr,
T’ad ooffley gioot voish lane dty phooar.
Voyd’s ta cheet stoamid as aalid yu croo,
Voyd’s ta dy chooilley schleiy as ard obbyr, smoo ny sloo,
Croo Oo dooinney ayns dty yailoo as dty chaslys hene,
As heid Oo ayns e stroanyn canal yn yea veayn.
Lash cheeayl as tushtey croo Oo (loomney,
As hug Oo da yn reiltys harrish fei-ny cruinney,
Oh ! soiljee e aigney lesh dty ghraih aa ghrayse,
Dy vod eh ayns traa conic jannoo aarloo son yn vaase.
Cur-my-ncr 0 Yee! dty chloan ayns shoh,
Er nyn jaglym veih scihllyn shcnn as nba,
Er nyn jaglym cooidjagh son oyryn mie,
Son bishaghey fud sheclnaue shea as graih.
Giall fly vod shinyn lash aigney creestee,
Oltaghey eheelnaue voish dagh rheam as ree,
Giall ny vod shinyn liorish fuffi Chreest kionnit,
Ve marish Jee er son fly bragh bannit.




Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001