[From Manx Soc Vol 17]



IT is not my intention to occupy the reader's time unnecessarily with any lengthened observations on the early history of the Isle of Man-much of it being hidden in impenetrable obscurity, and so, mixed up with fictions, that it is impossible to separate the real from the imaginary. One fiction, not the least amusing and extravagant, is that of "Loch Neagh," related in " Kennedy's Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts," and points to the origin of the Isle of Man, as follows--

" This beautiful sheet of water [Loch Neagh, Antrim, Ireland] issuing from a spring well, which only waited an opportunity of being left un covered, to send forth a mighty flood. The inhabitants of the neighbourhood, aware of the danger, kept it securely covered, till at last one luckless gossip walked off with her pitcher, " forgetting to replace the smooth round flag, and in consequence the water burst forth in such a volume that the poor woman was drowned before she reached home. Incredulous readers, objecting to this mode of lake-making, have only a choice between it and another theory somewhat less probable. Fion Mac Cuil having routed a Scotch giant with red hair, was pursuing him eastwards, but the canny Scotch monster was rather more fleet of foot than his Irish rival, and was outrunning him. Fion, fearing that he might reach the sea and swim across to Britain before he could overtake him, stopped, and thrusting his gigantic hands into the earth, tore up the rocks and clay, and heaved them after Albanach. As Fion miscalculated height and distance' the mighty mass which had fitted the whole bed of the present lake [Neagh] launched from his hands, flew past the giant at a considerable height above his head, and did not lose its impetus till it came over the mid sea. There dropping, according to the laws of gravitation, it formed an island afterwards called Man, from its Danaan patron, Mananan, son of Lir."

The Lake of Neagh is not very different in size to the Isle of Man. General historical research is not especially required, nor does it afford any particular proofs, in support of the following observations upon the dependent and independent currency of the island.

Some time back, and indeed in more modern times (as may be seen in Willis's Current Notes, published from 1851 to 1857, as well as interspersed over many volumes of that very valuable serial Notes and Queries), long, animated, and not unfrequently angry controversies were carried on, and tedious essays written, on the ancient device, banner, or shield, adopted by the chief or authorities of this island at different periods of its history; the whole evidence amounting to little more than the following simple facts..-That at the earliest recorded period the device was a ship with its sails clewed, as here represented, which was copied from the seals appended to a charter of Harald, king of Man, A.D. 1245-6 (Cott. MSS.), unaccompanied by either crown, crest, or motto. The ship varies some little on the different seals: in one, there is less cordage and it is more simple in its arrangement, and no sails to be clewed up. In this sketch the ship is enclosed in or emblazoned on a shield, but there is no authority for this addition on the original seals from which it has been copied; it must therefore be looked upon more as a device or banner of some island chieftain or king, than as a heraldic shield or emblazonry of arms. In support of this opinion, it is well known that Norwegian kings and chieftains, as well as others possessing islands, in early ages, and who had to depend much on their small ships, bore a rude representation of their favourite vessel on their flags or banners; and this, in all probability long before they had any idea of heraldic emblazonry. William Camden the historian gives the ship, and describes the sails as " hoised" (hoisted) ; but his account is so

arms: furled sail

very meagre, that he, although Clarencieux King of Arms, took but little notice of the subject beyond recording the simple statements as popularly spoken of previously to his time. The motto, " Rex Manniae Insularum" was not necessarily a portion, or originally an accompaniment, of the above-named device (ship), but was added at a considerably later period. So much then, for the ship device, which never had any other meaning than a king or chieftain's flag or banner.

Subsequently (perhaps ages after) there is a heraldic shield described as-" Gules, three armed legs flexed proper, argent: conjoined in fess at the upper part of the thigh, fleshed in triangle, garnished and spurred, topaz." Formerly (but subsequently to the origin of the ship device) the king of, or more correctly speaking in Man, wrote himself " Rex Manniae Insularum." But at what particular time the ship device fell into disuse, and the triune took its place as the generally received arms or emblazonry of the island, is very uncertain. All that is known is simply, at or about the period when the King of Scotland (Alexander the Third), that is in the thirteenth century, conquered the Isle of Man along with other islands, the triune is supposed to have made its appearance at the island, and even then, in all probability it might have been used more as a device for a banner, than any other object.

Before proceeding further, it may be as well to observe that I have used the word triune to express the figure of the three limbs joined together, as represented on the arms and coins of the island, as the most appropriate term; the word trinacria, which has also been sometimes used, is not applicable to this device, deriving its origin from the triangular piece of land the Island of Sicily, for instance; and from that circumstance its ancient name was recorded, and is frequently to be found in old writers under the term of Trinacria. The Isle of Man, not having the slightest similitude to a triangle in its form, can have no claim whatever to such a title, any more than the joined limbs of the device, which, though triangularly disposed at the points, do not form a triangle as a whole. A bent knee described as a straight leg would not be more absurd.

Mr. Oswald, in his " Vestigia Insulae Manniae Antiquiora," uses the words trie cassyn, which he states to be derived from the Celto-British tongue, and further explains, that the word cass signifies a foot, whilst cassyn signifies feet, and that a word known as cassiterides was applied to a number of islands near the British coast, the literal meaning of which is numerous or many feet, indicating the plural number. Now all this search into the Celto-British language, for a term applicable to this emblem is peculiarly unfortunate, as well as self-condemnatory; for if cass means a foot, and cassyn feet, what is to become of the limbs, and what portion of the term applies to the junction ? The emblem is not of a foot, or of three feet, but three limbs, not simply legs, and those conjoined as one at the centre. Then again, in anatomical language, as the leg begins at the knee and extends to the foot, this term is not in accordance with the emblem. If Mr. Oswald had foregone these conclusions, and maintained that the symbol was derived from the ancient tripod or three-legged stool, he would have been much nearer the truth, as the three legs are in that case undoubtedly joined together by the seat, which however forms no part of this emblem.

Another term, triquetra, has also been used in describing this emblem, and is as unfortunate as the others, the literal meaning being three-cornered; in fact a triangle (which the emblem is not), although the limbs are disposed at obtuse angles. Taking all these terms into consideration, I think it will be difficult to find any one so applicable or so near the truth as that of triune, or three joined in one,-a simple but expressive word, which includes, and means all that is wished to be expressed. I shall therefore adopt this term in the following pages as the most appropriate.

No one disputes the great antiquity of the symbol. I have before me a great number of Greco-Sicilian coins, on all of which the triune is displayed in great variety of form and accompaniments, two or three varieties of which, will be found on the first photograph plate in connection with this essay. (Vide Figs. 1, 2, 3, 1.) In some of the sketches before me the triune fills the entire field of the coin (as in Figs. 2 and 3), their centres varying considerably; but the human face predominating. To some of these heads are attached wings, horns, snakes, and sometimes wings and snakes combined; other triunes have the umbilicus, and others the female organs of generation at their centres. In one instance the head has a covering not unlike a Scotch cap. Then, between the legs, ears of corn, stars &c., are frequently found, and in some, wings are attached to the feet. There are also some where the triune is small, accompanied by a much larger figure (as in Fig. 1, photo. plate 1). The human figure is there throwing a disc, and the triune is very small. Often the zodiacal signs, sometimes more than one, are on the same coin. In a few, Greek mottos are found, chiefly on the same side as the triune ; but more frequently on the obverse of the coin. There is no doubt but that the Greeks and Phoenicians, as well as Hindoos, were all well acquainted with this symbol in some form or other, and also perhaps the Celtic races ; but in no place does the triune ever show itself encased in armour, or wearing spurs, until it is introduced as an emblem in connection with the Isle of Man, and in its earliest application to that island, it is not armed.

The encasing of the limbs in armour owes its origin no doubt to the fanciful idea of the Herald King at Arms of that period; and the spurs were suggested probably by the wheat ears or stars, &c., placed near the heels of the figure on ancient coins. This emblem was adopted by the Sicilians, with a much greater show of propriety than could be attained by applying it to the Isle of Man, that is, if the shape of the respective islands had anything to do with the question; Sicily being decidedly of a triangular form, which is not the case with the Isle of Man, it being long and narrow; but,, as regards geographical position, it is somewhat similarly situated. One fanciful writer states (and the reader is left to make his own estimate of the remarks).

" That whilst England, Scotland, and Ireland were belligerent nations, the very existence of Mona, or Man, as an independent state, entirely depended on its armed neutrality, and the alternate protection which it might be able to claim from one or two neighbouring nations against the third. The legs armed," he adds, " denote self defence. The spurs denote speed; and in whatever position the legs are placed, two of them fall into the attitude of kneeling or supplication; whilst the third, being upwards and flexed backwards, appears to be spurning or kicking against an assailant, at the same. time the other two are more in the position of imploring protection. The meaning of which is simply, that if England seeks to oppress, Ireland and Scotland would be sought for protection, or vice versa."

The Island of Sicily, being almost a perfect triangle, was, from its three pointed promontories - Lilybeaum, Pachimus, and Pelorus (now the capes St. Vito, Passaro, and Faro),-anciently called Trinacria. Each point directed to a different foreign state: thus, St. Vito points to Sardinia, Faro to Naples (now Italy), and Passaro to Malta and other Mediterranean powers. The long, narrow, and rather oval form of the Isle of Man, could have no reference, by that shape, to the Trinaeria; though its geographical position in respect to England, Ireland, and Scotland, might be somewhat similar. I think there are some very strong reasons for supposing the triune to have been an astronomical emblem, long before it was either a Christian, or a heraldic emblazonry; and as I believe I was the first to suggest the idea that it was, in connection with the Isle of Man, first a Christian symbol, and subsequently heraldic, it is only right that I should give my reasons for thinking so. On many of the Sicilian coins the triune is accompanied by stars, signs of the zodiac, &c., so placed as to give a sort of record explanatory of seasons and of great religious events, mixed up with astronomical signs and appearances-some, not inaptly, representing the birth of our Saviour and the doctrine of the Trinity. Indeed, a more correct symbol of the Trinity cannot easily be found than the triune. On one of the Sicilian coins, supposed to be struck sometime after the probable persecution of the Magi by Herod, to commemorate the event of the birth

Scilian Coin

of our Saviour, is the sign of Capricorn; and above which, on a somewhat similar coin, there is a star over Capricorn, and underneath is written AROYYTANON. On this coin the triune is representative of the three Magi who worshipped at the birthplace of our Saviour; and (as Mr. T. R Brown, in Willis's Current Notes, states) the corn-like ears are here put for the Spica Virginis (arranged as a stem of trefoil), and these are equivalent to the cornucopia, borne by the woman called EYeHNIA:~; the Capricorn denoting the month of our Saviour's birth.

It would be a tedious, indeed almost an endless, task to trace out, along with the triune, on many of the Greco-Sicilian coins, the many symbols in reference to the dawn of Christianity. But, putting aside all these very ancient proofs, let me come to the subject in connection with the Isle of Man itself. In doing so, I wish to impress upon the reader's mind, one point which I consider of the greatest importance-and that, is, that the earliest known figures of the triune of this island, were not armour-cased. However daring this assertion may be thought, it is an indisputable fact: in proof of which, we refer to the earliest representation of this emblem known in the Isle of Man, namely, that on the Maughold cross or pillar, near Maughold Church. There is not a doubt but that this pillar has claims to antiquity, but I very much question if it can be considered as of the early part of the thirteenth century, as stated by some writers. Indeed, in the absence of any date, it is difficult, if not impossible, to decide on its period from legendary tradition only. We must look to the fact as pourtrayed in the style of its architecture, for the true solution of its age. Now, as the Decorated English style was only introduced at the conclusion of the fourteenth century-and probably much later than that into the Isle of Man-and as this pillar is undoubtedly of the Decorated English style, it follows, as a matter of course, that its age cannot be dated back farther than the early part of the fifteenth century. There are many examples of church fonts, and religious, as well as market crosses in England, of that date, of a similar style. Of fonts, I could quote many such as Finchingfield, Penton, Kingsworthy (Hampshire), Abbots Langley, Ware, Rolvenden (Kent), and several others. Of crosses: Putley, Cricklade, St. Donats (Wales), and others, confirmative of the style and-period.

maughold pillarSince the above was written, after consulting some eminent architectural authorities, I am now enabled to state, that from the characteristics shown on this Maughold pillar, it cannot be of an earlier date than the first quarter of the fifteenth century, or late Decorated period. The woodcuts in different parts of this volume show three views of it, from photographs taken with great care on the spot ; they are admirable and correct copies, and may be fully relied upon. This 'was rendered the more necessary, as no published delineation of this pillar previously ,even, is sufficiently correct to enable any one to form a just opinion upon it. That it was a religious cross for wayfaring pilgrims, and placed within the precincts of the sanctuary, and near the church, is about as much as is certain about it, with the addition, that it is not nearly so old as is generally supposed by some insular historians and antiquarians. The shape of the shields is another proof of the late decorative period, being in the early period purely triangular.

On this pillar, however, we find the triune, along with other ecclesiastical emblems, which some writers have endeavoured to explain, by trying, to reconcile, them with the traditions of the island, at the expense, I believe, of their real meaning. Thus it is stated by Robertson (" Tour through the Isle of Man," &c., published in the year 1794) as follows:" About the close of the fifth century St. Maughold, who had " formerly been a captain of Irish banditti, was cast upon this " island in a little leathern boat, his hands and his feet laden with " fetters. Such an object naturally awoke the attention of the " bishop of the isle, who received him with admiration and pity, " particularly when the saint informed him that this severity, and danger he voluntarily suffered as a penance for his former wickedness. To this mountainous solitude, still distinguished by his name, he retired; when his penitence, austerity, and piety obtained for him such veneration that, after the death of the bishop, he succeeded him, by the unanimous consent of the Manx nation. In 498 his pious celebrity was not confined to the island: it soon reached his native country; and St. Bridget, one of the tutelary saints of Ireland, and foundress of Douglas nunnery, visited him in his mountainous retirement, and there received from him the veil of virginity."

On the strength of this legend is endeavoured to be explained the various emblems sculptured on this ancient relic or Pillar. The legend in itself is such a mixture of absurdity that any attempt to explain the emblems, with the view of reconciling them with the legend must be equally absurd. For instance, the boat part of the tale is only another variation of the boat of St. Columba of another legend; then again, no bishop nor any other holy person is ever canonised until after his death. With regard to St. Bridget, her taking the veil simply means being made an abbess, and in that case would be kneeling before, not inclosed by the arms of the bishop. In applying this description of the cross to the legend, Robertson states-" Under the capital on one side is sculptured a venerable figure of St. Maughold conferring the veil on St. Bridget, whom the sculptor. has represented as a majestic yet beautiful virgin. The opposite side has a representation of our Saviour expiring on the cross, and under it, the arms of the island. On the third side is a figure of St. Bridget in a supplicating posture; her eyes seem fixed on heaven, and her countenance indicates humility, mingled with devotional rapture. The fourth side is totally "defaced." But be adds naively-" But most probably it represented St. Maughold's arrival on the island, or some other part of his history." It appears strange, how he could observe all these niceties in so dilapidated a sculpture, and totally defaced.

Now taking these four sides into consideration as above

The first is the supposed figure of St. Maughold conferring, it is said, the veil on St. Bridget, for which I consider there is no authority. Indeed Feltham, and others have adopted the idea that the two figures are the Virgin and Child, as the smaller figure is in the arms of the larger; and this is quite as probable, if not more so, and renders the remaining sculptures of the pillar more easily reconcilable to each other. I may also add, that from the dilapidated condition it has been in for very many years past, it is impossible to say whether these figures were intended for males or females. Beneath these figures is the shamrock flower, surrounded by the ring or circle, representative of eternity, and surmounted by a cross. What design crowned the apex of the arch over the figures on this side, it is impossible now to say. The opposite side to the last, represents the crucifixion of our Saviour. The triune beneath is an emblem (not a shield of arms), as the shield-like appearance is simply the architectural arrangement of the four equal sides; and it would be absurd to call the rose, chalice, and gridiron on the three other shields, coats or shields of arms. The third side is a kneeling figure, described as St. Bridget, merely to agree with the legend; but with far more propriety, ought to be considered as Mary kneeling at the foot of the cross of her Son. Above this figure is the trefoil, and below it an unmistakable gridiron, which, so far as my reading informs me, is said to represent only or be the emblem of St. Lawrence; and this new saint's emblem is presented to the Manx historians for further explanation, along with these additional facts, that the book and crosier, or the crowned figure, all emblems of St. Bridget, are not to be found on this pillar at all. Again, the oak leaf is the emblem of St. Boniface, and this occurs twice on this relic. The trefoil is the emblem of St. Patrick; the chalice, St. Richard; the Virgin and Child are equally the emblems of St. Bernard and St. Ursula. On the fourth side is represented (according, to Oswald, in his "Vestigia," published in 1860) the trefoil in the middle, below the chalice, and above the Rose of Sharon, and this so late as 1860, whilst Mr. Robertson, in 1794, more than half a century previously, declared it to be so totally defaced that no solution could be given. Mr. Oswald of course has now to explain how this restoration has taken place, and when, so as to enable him to give the explanation above.

In Townley's " Journal kept in the Isle of Man," printed in 1791, is the following statement (vol. ii. p. 173): " There is a fine Danish cross (cut upon a remarkably large stone) resting, upon the ground, just before the church gates. Near to it, a very handsome upright cross; but that may, with great certainty, be denominated a Christian monument: for, on one side (under the chapiter), is the figure of our blessed Saviour on the cross; under it, the arms of the Isle of Man; upon the opposite side the figures of St. Maughold and St. Bridget, the female saint, in the act of his conferring the veil upon the virgin; under those figures a very large rose ; on a third side the figure of a female saint, I suppose the same in a devotional posture; the fourth side was so defaced or mutilated, that I could not make out what had been intended there." And this so early as 1791.

But what concerns the subject under consideration, in connection with this relic, is, that the Triune is not eased in armour; and it is that circumstance alone, which induces me to conclude that what is understood to be spurs was, in fact, originally stars; and in further confirmation of this view, we may note their large size in proportion to the foot,- in fact, measuring from point to point of the star on the Maughold pillar, we have a length equal to the length from the knee to the foot, pretty conclusive evidence that the stars were not intended for spurs,-as well as their position being different to that of ancient spurs, and nearer to the ancle. The clothing of the limbs is also very simple-short trunks occupying the junction, whilst the rest of the limbs seem to be either naked, or fitted with close pantaloons. If naked, the centre garment is in the eastern style, to which is added a species of ancle boot, all proving that spurs are quite out of place on the emblem. That the spurs took the place of stars when the triune became a heraldic emblazonry, suggested most probably by their position in. respect to the feet, I consider the most likely explanation. The progress of the emblem on the Maughold pillar is from right to left. It is also progressing similarly on another unarmed triune, next found on the island; that is, on the penny of John Murrey, in 1668, as well as on the coin issue of 1709. Afterwards, for some time, the progression of the triune was in the contrary direction.

The idea that the triune was an emblem of the three seasons (originally only two)-the fourth, or autumn, not being then acknowledged-is worthy of some consideration, as the triune might probably have appeared in some form or other long before the Christian era ; and the very fact of the birth of the year being on the 25th of December, the day of the birth of our Saviour also, might have been the reason of its adoption as a Christian emblem. The three stars are said to represent those in the belt of Orion-Magalat, Galgalat, and Seraim, called by others the Magi. There cannot, I believe, exist a reasonable doubt, from these remarks, but that the triune was a representation at this period, of the Trinity, long before it was emblazoned as a heraldic device; notwithstanding it appeared long before even the Christian era, as an astronomical emblem of the seasons.

It is not a pleasant duty to strip a long-cherished legend of its interest; but in this case, I believe the common-sense view to be, that Alexander the Third of Scotland, who was equally renowned for his warlike exploits as for his piety, zeal, equity, and justice, and having adopted the Christian faith, pushed his conquests far and wide, not merely for the purpose of acquisition only, but to extend the doctrines of the Christian religion. With this view he conquered the western islands-the Isle of Man along with the rest-by landing near to Maughold Head, probably not so named at that time. By some historians the scene of conquest is fixed at Ronaldsway, near Derbyhaven; Ronaldsway being given as Ramsway by some writers. Now it is not improbable but this statement might be erroneous, and the landing might have been near the bay of Ramsay, in the north part of the island, and the battle somewhere in the vicinity of Maughold, either on the shore, or near the headland, by far the most convenient landing place for a naval expedition from the North Channel or Scottish coast. The patron saint of Alexander might have been, but more likely was not, St. Maughold; yet his banner was the triune or emblem of Christianity or Trinity. After the conquest a memorial cross or pillar was erected on the nearest headland (probably not the present cross), and a church with a sanctuary founded. Whether this memorial church and sanctuary, were ever dedicated to St. Maughold there is no proof, except the fact, that at the present time both cross and church bear his name. This cross or pillar might not have been erected at the exact spot of Alexander's landing, but on the most prominent headland near; the real spot, however, is not known. Whether the present cross is the original one, is at least doubtful, but it is of considerable antiquity, and worthy of closer inspection.

Another view of the triune, as hinted at by English historians, that Anlaf (sometimes written Onlaf) was King of Ireland, Northumberland, and Multarum Insularum (many isles) in the tenth century, and, therefore, King of Man, which Nicolson takes to be " The firmest ground whereon the Manx tripos can stand." This view is not very clear, nor yet probable.

I am aware that my view of the original triune connected with the Isle of Man having stars, and not spurs, is not generally admitted; still, the civilian clothing of the limbs would render spurs quite inappropriate.

1 have now to advance another view of this emblem, which has lately occurred to my mind, and which in my opinion bears upon it a considerable amount of plausibility. I do not absolutely insist on its adoption ; but, as it opens a curious field of inquiry, I venture to state it in such terms that I hope the reader will fully understand my meaning. In early British history we are not unfrequently told that land was divided into quarterlands, or quatrelands ; in fact, that it was one of the earliest known modes of land-division. The shape or extent of land contained in this term is not as yet clearly defined; some consider the extent as one hundred, whilst others contend it meant one hundred and twenty, or sixty, or even more acres. The shape of this portion of land is, perhaps, equally unsettled; still the term given to it (quarterland or quatreland) gives an idea that it was a parallelogram, that is having four sides. Taking this idea as a base, I am inclined to consider this parallelogram as a rhombus, that is having all its sides and each pair of its opposite angles equal, familiarly known as diamond-shaped (as in this figure). Admitting this then, to be


the form of the original parallelogran, which I hope to prove, whether it contained one hundred or one hundred and twenty acres, or double or treble that amount, this rhombus form could be divided into two triangles. Cutting it across at its obtuse points it forms an equilateral triangle (as in this figure) ; but

cutting across its acute angles, it forms an obtuse-angled triangle (as in this figure). In either section the triangle, whether obtuse

or of an equilateral character, is half a quarterland; so that we may infer from this, that geometrical measurement of land must have been known much earlier than is generally admitted.

Based upon this view, we come to another division of land, for ecclesiastical purposes, which occurred subsequently. We are told by Manx historians that three quarterlands make a treen. Now, if three quarterlands are properly placed together, they form a perfect hexagon (as in this figure), familiarly known as the

figure of a section of the cell in the honeycomb of the bee; this hexagon being an ecclesiastical division, or treen, having a centre on which a small cell or church was built. According to this view, a treen contained from three hundred to three hundred and sixty (or more) acres of land. Thus, all the available land of the island might, and probably was, measured off into these hexagons or treens; and may reasonably account for the great number of treen churches or keeils; said by some authorities to be not less than from five hundred to six hundred. Supposing the latter number, and the least amount of acres per treen to be three hundred and sixty, it would perhaps represent as much available land as was in cultivation at that period in the island. Subsequent discoveries may probably show a number of these treen churches so very near to each other, that it may not be altogether impossible hereafter to find out by their distances the size of the quarterland; thus, by the measurement of one of the sides of the parallelogram (which would be about half the distance to the next treen church) some approximation to correctness may be attained. It is however stated by Dr. Oliver, that in one place there are two churches, supposed to be treen churches, within a few feet of each other; but is it certain that these two are of the same character ? Might not one have been erected long after the other, the founder choosing the same locality ? or, might not one, be a correction of a previous error as to site, chosen by the earlier founder ? I should imagine the original term was quatreland (or four-sided), not quarterland (rather reading one-fourth)-a view which has led some old writers to state that four quarterlands form a treen ; but the word treen at once disproves this idea.

In reference to these treen or keeil chapels or churches, although I have visited a few of them, I do not consider it my province to inquire into their history. Suffice it to say, they are all small, of an oblong square, and having conveniences for baptism, and in some cases burial-grounds attached to them. It is easy to conceive, that religious services were furnished by the monks from the larger religious establishments of the island in the itinerant fashion: perhaps one monk serving three or more treens, so as to distribute his help and advice to the widely scattered population, withholding the welcome tidings of salvation from none.

My principal object, however, is to direct the reader to a circumstance in this treen division of land which I believe touches on the subject of the triune itself; and which I also believe, adds another link to the chain of connection between the triune, and its being considered as a Christian or religious emblem. By observing the hexagon figure previously given, you will perceive three treens of land joined together, and each being of the rhomboid shape, the lines where the three join each other (and which in the figure are marked stronger and thicker than the rest), form the exact figure of the triune, except that the limbs are not flexed. Then, by placing a small church (marked in centre of the figure), we see how equally the claims of each quarterland are balanced, as respects church discipline, the lines meeting in the very middle of the square building; and by observing the joining lines only of themselves (which are thick) a perfect triune is the result. I only give this view for what it is worth ; but at all events it is a singular coincidence, and not without interest.

Cregeen, in his Manx Dictionary, says that " treen is a township which divides the tithes into three." In this definition I believe there is an error. It should be, I imagine, a treen is a division of lands consisting of three quarter, or quatrelands, forming a township or parish, to facilitate the collection of tithes.

These treen churches are attributed to St. German, and an old ballad runs thus-

For each four quarterlands a chapel he made,
For the people to meet in and pray;
He built German Kirk in the castle of Peel,
Which remaineth unto this day.

But an old ballad is not always handed down correctly. The oldest authorities give three not four quarterlands to a treen; and the word itself suggests three as the proper number. .

In Johnstone's Jurisprudence of the Isle of Man (edit. 1811, p. 36) it is stated-

"Manks name quarterland is derived from the act of quartering land or allotting the principal lands to the lord's tenants." Whereas the name appears to be derived from the rent originally paid to the superior-" Nothing is more perplexing in Highland charters and rentals than the various denominations of land which we meet with; for instance, we have pennylands and their fractional parts quarterlands, and others of still less value called marklands. (Collectanea de Rebus Albanius, Vol. I., chap. iii., p. 179.) These denominations appear to have been first applied by the Scandinavians, during their occupation of the Western Isles, and Man."

I introduce this extract, but still I consider Johnstone's definition of quarterland as not conclusive, and leave the reader to decide; wishing him to bear in mind, that according to the statements of Mr. Johnstone, the quarterland is but a fractional part of the pennyland, or, in plain terms, a fourth, or farthingland. Now, can it for one moment be supposed that a measure of cultivated land, which the earliest and best authorities fix as equal to one hundred and twenty acres, was ever, since the era of civilization, rented at one farthing. There is yet another absurdity. He states-" Quarterlands and others of still less value (that is less than farthinglands) called marklands." Now the Scotch mark was, from earliest times, valued at 13½d., and weighed 4dwts. 8grs. in silver; and the Scotch noble or halfmark was valued at 6¾ d., weighing 2dwts. 4grs. Then, again, the ancient English mark was about twelve times the value of the Scotch mark, or 13s. 4d. The later English mark was half the value of the ancient mark, viz., 6s. 8d. So it will be perceived that instead of a markland being less than the quarterland (farthingland), it is infinitely larger, and the Scotch mark being the one most likely to be connected with the question; as the Scotch were in early possession of the Isle of Man, it would be only just to consider the subject under discussion as in reference to the Scotch mark, which would be 51 times greater in extent than the quarterland. The early English mark would, however, be 640 times the extent, and the later English mark 320 times as much as the quarterland. But the Scotch mark value is sufficiently contrasting to show the error of Mr. Johnstone's views, without referring to the English marks.

According to Feltham (page 47, edit. 1798) the quarterlands amounted to about 760 or 253 treens of land. Now, allowing 120 acres to a quarterland, or 360 to a treen, the number of acres would amount to upwards of 91,000 acres, which probably represented as much titheable land, as the island at that period had in it. Then, supposing one-third of the island to be waste or uncultivated, we may add from 45,000 to 50,000 acres, making the total acreage about 140,000, which would pretty nearly represent the superficial extent of the island. The number of treen churches would not be more than has been supposed by some writers ; and, according to the above statement, would be about 250 or 260.

Having now exhausted this part of the subject, the next point to which I wish to direct attention is the motto accompanying the triune. This motto was first written QVOCVNQVE GESSERIS STABIT, but in more modern times; QUOCUNQUE JECERIS STABIT, or JECERIS STABIT; the literal translation of which is, Whichever way you throw, it will stand. It cannot be said but that it agrees admirably with the device, as the position of the limbs cannot be changed so as to alter their relative position to each other; and so no transposition of the words of the motto can change its meaning. By some authorities this motto and its emblem, have been treated seriously as being typical of humility, energy, and fortitude; for whilst there appears to be an act of supplication, it expresses at the same time great activity and energy of purpose. Others again, are not wanting who treat the subject in a vein of sarcasm and ridicule; for instance, a local poet thus treats it :

Reader, thou'st seen a falling cat
Light always on its legs so pat;
A shuttlecock will still descend,
Meeting the ground with nether end:
The persevering Manx man thus
A shuttlecock or pauvre puss,
However thro' the world he's tost,
However disappointed, crost,
Reverses, losses, Fortune's frown,
No chance nor change can keep him down:
Upset him any way you will,
Upon his legs you find him still;
For ever active, brisk, and spunky,
" Stabit, Jeceris, Quoeunque.

Or, as another states

With spurs and bright cuishes to make them look neat,
He rigd'd out the legs, then, to make them complete,
He surrounded the whole with four Roman feet:
They were Quocunque Jeceris Stabit.

Another facetious writer, speaking of the triune and its motto, in connection with its reverse (the Stanley crest and its motto, SANS CHANGER) on the Manx coinage, says:

" The Manx money now current are pence and half-pence, but of a base or mixed metal; the impression and inscription are the same on both, viz., on one side three legs, commonly called the 'Three Legs of Man,' with the motto, 'Quocunque Jeceris Stabit,' which " the natives foolishly apply to the posture of the feet being opposite to each word, but the true meaning to me of which seems to be, ' Carry me where you will, it won't go (or pass.') On the other side is the cap of maintenance, with an eagle and child (the Stanley or Derby crest), and the motto 'Sans Changer.' which motto Manxmen would transfer from the original meaning (which was to express the unshaken loyalty of the house of Stanley) to imply their own unsteadfastness. But if it is taken in the latter sense, I think it would imply the intrinsic worthlessness of their coin, for which there is no change to be got."

The motto has no particular claims to antiquity, when compared with the triune round which it is placed; and its earliest adoption cannot be farther back than the period when the triune was changed from an emblem of Christianity to that of a heraldic emblazonry. The other motto (on the reverse of Manx Coinage), "SANS CHANGER," is no doubt quite as old-perhaps much older. Ruding remarks that if these two mottos are read together, first obverse then reverse, they would convey an idea rather ludicrous than otherwise. It may be so, but I do not see it.

I should not have occupied so much of the reader's time on the triune, crest, and mottos except from the fact of their being always in connection with the coinage of the island, at all periods of its history, since there was any coinage in use for it especially. I trust, too, that I have not extended these remarks further than was necessary as introductory.



Back index next


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