[From Manx Soc, vol 12]
A COMPARISON of the Title-page, which professes to be an Abstract of the Laws, &c., of the Isle of Man, by Deemster Parr, with the contents of the present Volume, which has in it no part of the Deemsters work beyond the two Dedications, will, I fear, give cause to the reader to accuse me of bringing out the volume under false pretences. The Council of the Manx Society have, however, in their Report of May, 1867, made for me a very appropriate excuse, namely :" This volume consists chiefly of preliminary matter which the Editor considered a necessary introduction to the body of his work." This is so; and I trust that the reader may form the like opinion of the necessity of introducing the "preliminary matter," and that such matter may prove both useful and interesting.
This volume is made up almost entirely of Notes on "The supposed true Chronicle of the Isle of Man, copied out of the original,"being a very brief account of the Kings and Lords of the Island: the portion thereof which brought the history to the Authors time was introduced by him into his work, and it must therefore be considered a part of it.
In drawing up the Notes on the Chronicle my idea has mainly been, to set forth a more extended account of the various Sovereigns who actually reigned in the Island, and of the titles by which they claimed or exercised the Sovereignty ;copies of the Grants and Acts of Parliament (where obtainable) being given in extenso.* I have endeavoured to state fully the questions which arose as to the succession, and as to the powers of the Lords to alienate their possessions in the Island. Such questions are not without interest in an historical point of view, but they have also important bearings in relation to the tenure of land, and the rights of the people. Much of the information which I have given can be obtained in other books, but I think that in no one work is the subject of the Sovereignty of the Island considered in the same manner, or is the information brought together in the same compendious form.
"Parrs Abstract," (as the work is generally designated,) though never printed, has always been considered a work of authority on the various subjects treated of at the time when it was written. It does not profess to be an Abstract of the Laws generally. In the Dedication to Governor Heywood, the learned Author states his work to be not "a succinct module of the whole Laws and Constitutions of this Isle, but as a titith thereof, giving only an abridgment or compendium of such Laws and Acts as are of use ;" and in his Dedication to the Earl of Derby, he describes the work as "only an abridgment of the established and practical Laws." To the present time it is the standard authority as to the Common Law. In a pamphlet written by James Clarke, Esq., formerly Attorney-General of the Island, and published in 1817," A view of the principal Courts of the Isle of Man,"the author is referred to as "that great and learned man, Deemster Parr," whose work "was written in 1678 for Governor Heywood, and is addressed to him by the title of the Right Worshipful Robert Heywood, Esq., Governor of the Isle of Man. It abounds with great learning, and cannot be too closely studied by the members of the Law. The style is clear and comprehensive, and places the author very high as a writer on Jurisprudence." In the Introduction to the "Advocates Note Book," by J. C. Bluett, Esq., Advocate, published in 1847, the work is thus referred to :"From 1696 to 1713, John Parr, Esq. held the office of Deemster, and during that period compiled An Abstract of the Laws, Customs, and Ordinances of the Isle of Man. This work was never printed, and only a very small number of manuscript copies have been made from it, although it contains much valuable information as to the state of the law in his day."
Both Mr. Clarke and Mr. Bluett must be somewhat wrong in their dates. There is evidence in the Rolls Office that the author began the study of the Law in 1671, when he became clerk to Richard Tyldesley, Esq., Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls, he was at this time about 20 years of age, and he would hardly have ventured in the short space of seven years to have dedicated a Treatise on the Law to the Governor of the Island, a treatise especially "undertaken" (as the author states,) "to serve" the Governor, and to give him "enlightening in the State and Government of this poor Commonwealth." The Governor was appointed to his office in 1678, and from the tenor of the Dedication to him it is manifest that the work was written subsequently. The author was appointed Deemster in 1693, before which time the work was written, for Governor Heywood died in 1690. No reference is made in the Abstract to the Statutes passed after that year, except that appended to the matter under the title "Extortion," is a Note referring to the Usury Act of 1691, a Note probably made in the copy presented to the Earl of Derby, who was present at the promulgation of the Usury Act, and the copy was presented to him when he was in the Island.
Some account of the author will be given in a subsequent volume.
The originals of many of the documents given in the Notes are in Latin. I have considered that as the works brought out by the Manx Society are intended for popular rather than merely professional use, translations of the documents would be more generally acceptable.
Throughout his work the author refers by number to "Customary Laws." They were a brief compilation designated "The antient Customary Laws of the Isle of Man," and were arranged under 39 heads; by whom they were collected or drawn up is not now known, but they were evidently considered as of authority in the authors days. They exist only in manuscript. A copy will be inserted in an Appendix. [FPC - this was never done]
Castletown, Isle of Man,
10th June, 1867.
* I regret that I have been unable to obtain a copy of the Act of Parliament by which the Island, in 1649, was conferred on Lord Fairfax. (See p. 85.)