From Manx Soc vol. 19

[Note that this dates from 1870's and Wm Harrison was very confused re epochs of Druids, Stonehenge etc.]


" Here's Tynwald Hill, that famous antique spot,
Where promulgated are the island's laws
Revered by Manxmen, 'twill ne'er be forgot ;
For on this mound did freedom plead their cause—
Here the officials in due order meet,
According to his rank each takes th' appointed seat."

" As old as the Tynwald."
" As round as the Tynwald."

Old Manx Sayings.


SITUATED in what may be termed the centre of the Isle of Man is the Vale of St. John, and at the intersection of the old road leading from Castletown (the ancient metropolis of the island) to the north, with that from Douglas to Peel, stands the village of St. John's, rendered memorable as the spot where the Tynwald Mount, the forum judiciale, the " Hill of Justice," is placed. On the south side of the valley, Slieauwhallin rises precipitately 978 feet, running up at an angle of 45° on its northern aspect, down whose side in former days, as it is stated, unfortunate culprits were hurled. On the east, at some distance, the magnificent two-headed Grebah rises to a height of 1478 feet, while a little nearer is Cronk-e-Creeny, from whose summit are seen the lovely valley with the chapel of St. John's and the Tynwald Mount, and in the distance the lofty hills overlooking Peel and the sea. It is distant from Douglas 8 miles, and from Peel 2¾ miles. Various conjectures as to the origin of the Tynwald Mound and others of a similar character have been made by different writers, some carrying their origin to the time of Moses, who received the laws from God from the summit of Mount Sinai, and thus delivered them to the assembled multitude, the custom being followed by numerous eastern tribes, and still continued in many districts by their chiefs or rulers in addressing their followers or giving judicial judgments. Others ascribe them to the venerable Druids, who were wont to give the law in the face of the open day from similar eminences. There is little doubt these ancient lawgivers found a refuge in the Isle of Man after their expulsion from Gaul, having to this day left traces of their habitation in the names of places in the island. The character of the Druid has been thus ably drawn by Mr. Robertson in his Tour through the Isle of Man in 1791

" The Druids were the most venerable of human characters. As priests, they were deemed sacred ; as legislators, politic ; and as philosophers, enlightened and humane while the nation cheerfully paid them the veneration due to the ministers of God, and the magistrates of the people.

" Their government was truly patriarchal. They were the sacred fathers of the country. Amid their umbrageous oaks they sacrificed at the altar ; and from the throne of justice gave laws to the nation. To render their civil character more venerable, they concealed from the vulgar several of their rites and ceremonies ; and from this mysterious policy some writers have presumed to condemn their worship as barbarous and inhuman. But their doctrines were pure and sublime; combining the unity of God, the immortality of the soul, and a just distribution of future rewards and punishments. They were also scientific observers of nature, and teachers of moral philosophy. Their precepts were never committed to writing, but delivered in verse to their pupils, who, by the intense study of many years, imprinted them on the memory. Residing in woods and caves, they were distinguished by the austerity and simplicity of their manners ; and thus, by their knowledge, wisdom, and virtue, obtaining a sovereign influence over the minds of the people. They decided all public and private controversies. The impious were awed at their frown, and the virtuous rejoiced in their smiles; while from their judgment there was no appeal. No laws were instituted by the princes or assemblies without their advice and approbation; no person was punished with bonds or death without their passing sentence; no plunder taken in war was used by the captor until the Druids determined what part they should seclude for themselves. Their power, as it sprung from virtue and genius, was not hereditary, but conferred on those whose merit might sanction the choice.

" Such were the priests and rulers of the ancient Britons, who, in the first century, fled from the ferocious sword of Roman conquest to Anglesey, where they were soon followed by the satellites of despotism. In this isle, after nobly opposing these foes of liberty, they were defeated, their venerable king Caractacus carried in chains to Rome ; and the whole race almost exterminated by the insatiate sword of the polished Romans.

" The few who survived the general slaughter escaped to the Isle of Man, where they were generously received by their brethren, and, amid the wild solitudes of this country, found a happy asylum. Here they planted new groves, increased their temples, and for some ages governed the people by their mild laws and venerable institutions, till about the close of the fourth century, when the light of Christianity broke on this island, and then the Druids, who had ever contemned the idolatry of the neighbouring nations, gradually embraced a system of religion which, in purity and sublimity, resembled, yet infinitely surpassed, their own."

The Druids gave their laws in the open air, generally surrounded by groves of trees, and met once a year to judge the people. They worshipped God in the West as Abraham did in the East, and built altars in the open ground, thus continuing the mode of worship from the time of the Eastern Patriarchs.

They met to discuss their affairs in the open day; and the ancient Bards of Britain held their assemblies in the open air, in "the face of the sun and in the eye of the light." These gorsedds or places of poetry, from whence the Welsh Triads were delivered, were environed with circles of stones, and, from the triads themselves, bear internal evidence of belonging to a very early period. Some of them are supposed to be genuine memorials of the era of the Druids. The Rev. J. Williams ab Ithel has given a specimen in his Brut y Tywysogion or the Chronicle of the Princes, 1860, and in his paper on Druidic Stones in the Archaeologia Cambrensis, 1850, is a description of the ancient gorsedd as given in the Jolo MSS., as follows :— "It is an institutional usage to form a conventional circle of stones on the summit of some conspicuous ground, so as to enclose any requisite area of green-sward, the stones being so placed as to allow sufficient space for a man to stand between each two of them, except that the two stones of the circle which most directly confront the eastern sun should be sufficiently apart to allow at least ample space for three men between them, thus affording an easy ingress into the circle. This large space is called the entrance or portal ; in front of which, at the distance of either three fathoms or of three times three fathoms, a stone called a station stone should be so placed as to indicate the eastern cardinal point ; to the north of which another stone should be placed, so as to face the eye of the rising sun at the longest summer's day; and to the south of it an additional one pointing to the position of the rising sun at the shortest winter's day. These three are called station stones ; but in the centre of the circle a stone larger than the others should be so placed that diverging lines drawn from its middle to the three station stones may point severally and directly to the three particular positions of the rising sun which they indicate."

The Welsh conquered the Isle of Man from the Scots early in the sixth century, having been led by Maelgwyn (A.D. 525), a relative of the renowned King Arthur, and one of his Knights of the Round Table; they held it for about four centuries, and engrafted many of their customs on the country. The last king of this line was Anarawd ap Roderic, who died A.D. 913. After the Welsh line of kings had so long held dominion over the island, the Norwegians, through their Vikings and Orreys, took possession, and ruled over it for some three centuries and a half, and during that time were mainly instrumental in settling the forms of government and enacting laws and regulations, which must have been formed on a firm basis, for they have been perpetuated to the present day. This has frequently been commented on by many writers, and excites the surprise of thousands of strangers who annually visit the Isle, and observe the proceedings on the Tynwald Hill.

Here, in the midst of the British dominions, are found the last remains of the old Scandinavian Thing, which was held in the open air, and is memorable in Manx history as being the place where the Manx Parliament assemble for the promulgation of their laws down to the present day, and "whose origin is lost in the mists of remote antiquity, but whose establishment is usually ascribed to the Danish King Orrey (or Erik), who settled in the Island in the beginning of the tenth century." On his landing at the Lhane River in the north of the island, accompanied by a large fleet, he was at once received by the Manx and invested with supreme authority.

To him is ascribed the origin of the House of Keys, the division of the island into six sheadings, and the meeting in Tynwald (Thing-völlr), a court which, according to old Scandinavian custom, possesses both the judicial and the legislative power. Thingvalla, situated on a sterile plain of eight miles broad in Iceland, was some 800 years ago the place which the founders of the Icelandic constitution chose for the meetings of their Thing, or parliament, held in the open air, which, from its isolated situation and difficult access, must have rendered it peculiarly secure from interruption. In 1261 the island became an appanage of the Norwegian Crown, and the Thing has ceased to be applied to the uses of its early days. Lord Dufferin, in his Letters from High Latitudes, gives a description of the place, accompanied by some excellent views of the locality.

Of all the Scandinavian annual assemblies on Thing Hill, the Tynwald in Man is the only one still in use. This remarkable fact particularly struck Mr. Worsaae, who was sent over from Copenhagen in 1846 by his late majesty Christian VIII. of Denmark, to inquire respecting the monuments and memorials of the Danes and Norwegians which might be still extant in Scotland and the British Islands. He remarks, in his Account of the Danes and Norwegians in England, etc., London, 1852, p. 294— "The enduring influence of the Norwegian dominion in the Sudreyjar is best established by the fact, that since the battle of Largs, the Isle of Man, through all the vicissitudes of fate, and after passing by sale into the possession of the English Crown, has uninterruptedly retained its peculiar position as a kingdom, having its own originally Norwegian or Scandinavian constitution, and its annual assemblies on the identical Thing-hill, Tynwald, from which, about a thousand years ago, the Norwegians governed the Sudreyjar." And again, at p. 296, he says" It is, indeed, highly remarkable, that the last remains of the old Scandinavian Thing, which, for the protection of public liberty, was held in the open air, in the presence of the assembled people, and conducted by the people's chiefs and representatives, are to be met with, not in the North itself, but in a little island far towards the west, and in the midst of the British kingdom. The history of the Manx Thing court remarkably illustrates that spirit of freedom and that political ability which animated the men who in ancient times emigrated from Norway and the rest of the Scandinavian North." The word Tinwald, yet retained in many parts of Scotland, signifies Vallis Negotii, and is applied to those artificial mounds which were, in ancient times, assigned to the inhabitants for holding their Comitia. Tingwall in Shetland, and Dingwall in Ross-shire, with Tinwald in Dumfriesshire, have the same meaning as Tynwald in Man. Grose says the Mount of Urr in Galloway greatly resembles the Tynwald in the Isle of Man, and was appropriated to the same uses.1

In the " Chronicon Manniae et Insularum," taken from the MS. in the British Museum, and published in Oliver's Monumenta, vol. i. p. 176, Manx Society, we find it recorded in the struggle for supremacy between Olave the Black and his brother Reginald, who had usurped the throne, that " On the fourteenth day of the month of February (1229), to wit, the festival of St. Valentine the Martyr, King Olave came to the place called Tyngvalla (Tynwald) with his forces, and there halted a while. His brother Reginald advanced to the same place, and formed his men for the onset. When Olave had arrived, he attacked with such impetuosity that he scattered them like a flock of sheep." Reginald, with many others, fell in the conflict, and his body was conveyed by the monks of Rushen to the abbey of St. Mary in Furness for interment. Thus recorded by a modern poet

" This was the site of a great battlefield,
'Twixt the two sons of Goddard, king of Man
The contest for the crown, and which should wield
Sole sovereign sway over the island clan.
On Valentine's famed day the fray began
Olave was victor, Reginald was slain ;
Towards the coast his routed forces ran ;
Thousands of slaughtered warriors strewed the plain ;
The vanquished Tyrant's corpse in Furness Abbey's lain"

Also, at p. 179 of the same, we find that " Harald, the son of Olave, left Loglen, his kinsman, in charge of Mann, during his absence in the Isles, 1237, and sent over the three sons of Nel — Dufgal, Thorkel, and Molmore — with his friend Joseph, to Mann, where they landed at St. Patrick's Isle. On the twenty-fifth day of the month of October, which was three days after the arrival of Nel's sons, a meeting of all the people of Mann was held at Tynwald. At this assembly the three sons of Nel appeared, with all the partizans they could procure from every part of the Isles. Loglen, the before-mentioned keeper of Mann, came likewise with his friends to the place of convention; he provided for his safety, however, as he distrusted the sons of Nel, on account of an enmity between them. After much altercation and recrimination, the litigants found it impossible to compromise their differences, and the two factions rushing out of the assembly commenced hostilities. At last victory declared for Loglen and his party, and there fell in this place the aforesaid Joseph, King Harald's friend, the two sons of Nel, Dugal and Mormore, and the remainder fled. After this the convention of the people dissolved, and every one returned to his home."

Kistvaen near St John's Tynwald Mount

Numerous remains have at various times been found in the neighbouring fields surrounding the Tynwald Hill, supposed to have been those slain in these various conflicts ; and about 1847, in widening the road at the west end of the Tynwald Mount, a fine quadrangular stone cyst was discovered. The tomb consists of four upright stones, with a large cap-stone overhanging; the floor was paved with small pebbles, but nothing was found therein but a little black mould. About fifty yards to the westward of this tumulus another was found, containing a battle-axe, stirrup, and beads of various colours, shapes, and sizes; these latter were placed by the late Professor Edward Forbes in Jermyn Street Geological Museum, London. A list of these beads, with a representation of them, as well as of the kistvaen by the roadside, is to be found in Antiquitates Manniae, vol. xv. p. 103, Manx Society, 1868, in a paper on " The Stone Monuments in the Isle of Man," by the Rev. E. L. Barnwell. That these are Scandinavian there is little doubt, and belonging to some one of importance, probably the remains of some of the chiefs who fell in the above-recited battles. [fpc nonsense — the cist is 1000 years or more older]

Tynwald drawn by Capt Grose 1774

Plan of Tynwald, 1774

The Rev. James Douglas, F.A.S., in his Nenia Britannica; or a Sepulchral History of Great Britain, 1793, in making his remarks on this structure, was furnished with a drawing of the Tynwald Hill, and plan of the ground and chapel at St. John's, by Captain Grose, made during his visit to the Island in 1774, with a view at that time to make use of it in a treatise on Stonehenge, and which he considered as a key to that ancient structure, which has so often excited the curiosity and abilities of many learned men. It gives some peculiar features which had entirely passed away when the ground was re-enclosed upon building the new chapel in 1849, and which are well worthy of notice. It will be observed, from the copy of that drawing here given, there were upright stone jambs at the entrance to the mound, upon which Mr. Douglas remarks — "The artificial mount in the Isle of Man, on which the kings of this island were formerly inaugurated, the tradition of which custom is preserved at this day, and confirmed by the present custom of promulgating all new laws from it for the government of the island, and which are called the 'Acts of Tynwald,' this ancient place of inauguration is surrounded by a ditch, A A, within which, at the end facing the steps, is a small church, B, where, previous to the publication of any new law, the chief magistrates attend divine service. The entrance into this area was through some upright stone jambs, with transverse imposts,"somewhat like those of Stonehenge, and the ascent of steps formed in the Ting. Most of these imposts are now down. There is no history or tradition of its erection, and it may be hence considered of the most ancient date.

" This engraving was made to produce a discrimination between sepulchral and judicial erections ; the unhewn upright stones with transoms near it, the encircling ditch, and several other peculiarities, evincing the great conformity of this ancient remain with various others in this kingdom deemed sepulchral, will probably prove an acceptable addition to the interest which the antiquary may have in his inquiries into their history; and as the history of our celebrated British monument on Salisbury Plain is, notwithstanding the labours of many learned and ingenious men, still involved in darkness, this specimen of an undoubted place of inauguration may be submitted to the judgment of the reader as retaining some affinity, from the imposts and transverses of those of Stonehenge. The tradition of the place, the known use of these erections by the northern writers, customs and names of places derived from the old British word Ting in this country, seem to point to their remote antiquity ; and when analogy, the strong concurrence, is produced when the indubitable record is wanting, it should seem surprising that the human mind will not rest satisfied with such an arbitration.

" By comparing the trilithons of the Tynwald with those of Stonehenge, their magnitude and shape should seem to prove a contemporary date, or a similarity of custom, preserved perhaps by a similar people in posterior times.

" If the Isle of Man may be considered as a resort of the Britons under the conduct of their chief leaders or Druids, on their expulsion by the Romans; and if, by combining the known antiquity of the Ting with the nature of this event, and with the natural supposition of this sequestered island, so well adapted for the preservation of such ancient remains, it will be a probable inference for comparing it with the venerable structure of Stonehenge. We may thus be enabled to clear the way, through groundless conjecture and speculation, for the admission of a natural interpretation, and approach the fact by idealities that are generally acknowledged. That both religious and judicial ceremonies may have been used at these places seems possible, from the ancient church within the area of the Tynwald, consecrated, in all probability, on the Pagan spot, to Christian worship."

The Rev. Mr. Douglas, in comparing the Tynwald mound with the magnificent erection of Stonehenge, which is unrivalled in its way in Europe, so perfect in all its parts, and so architecturally true in all its details, that it must have been built at a very early period by men well skilled in such erections, coming most probably from the East, where art had flourished, says the Tynwald mound can only be a humble imitation. [fpc — Stonehence dates c.2500 bc or earlier! — has no connections with druids except in modern imagination]

The island, it has been said, was early renowned as the seat of learning. "The Scotch King Finnan succeeded his father Josina, B.C. 134. In his character of legislator he is recorded to have ordained that the King should make no important determinations without the consent of the people ; and, in that of founder, to have first established the Druids in the Isle of Man." (Anderson's Royal Genealogies.) It is also recorded of him, that, "finding many learned clerks in Scotland, he showed them great respect, and in testimony of his love and good-will to them, gave a spacious island (since called Man), lying in the ocean between Britain and Ireland, to be possessed by those learned men who were called Druids. All the noblemen's sons were sent to this island to be instructed by those Druids ; and this was the only seminary of learning for the Scots nation for many years." This can scarcely be correct, for the Druids were in Anglesey and the Isle of Man long before the time of Finnan, but he may have been the means of giving encouragement to them.

Pomponius Mela informs us that the Britons had also Druidesses, who were great pretenders to divination and miracles, and were called the Senae, or venerable women. After being driven out of Anglesey, they established themselves in an island in the British Sea, the community consisting of nine of these venerable vestals, who pretended that they could raise storms and tempests by their incantations, and could foretell future events. The Nunnery near Douglas (now the property and residence of J. S. Goldie Taubman, Esq., Speaker of the House of Keys) might have been their abode prior to its occupation by St. Bridget. It is curious that the north suburb of Douglas was formerly called Sena, derived probably from them, and retaining their name after so long a lapse of time. [fpc nonsense!]

The Isle of Man has been supposed by some writers to be one of the far-famed " Fortunate Islands," of which there were said to be two, the " Elysian Fields " of the ancient poets, where those who had led virtuous lives in this world were permitted to enjoy everlasting happiness. Be that as it may, as also whether the Tynwald Mound at St. John's, the Cronk-y-Keillown, i.e. St. John's Church Hill, was the supreme place of Druidical administration for the promulgation of laws, and the chapel, such as it might be, for their worship, must remain a matter of speculation for the antiquary ; a much more important fact remains to be recorded, which has perpetuated its use until the present day.

The Druids kept their laws concealed from the people, and the Deemsters of Man, their successors, kept them locked up in their breasts until called upon to divulge them as occasion required, whence many of the earlier laws were called breast-laws, because only committed to the memory of the Deemster, who followed in the footsteps of the arch-Druid of old, and it is to be hoped has continued to merit the character given of him by Mr. Robertson, as has been previously stated.

For their being first committed to writing we are indebted to Sir John Stanley, knight, king and lord of the island, who, on his first visit to the island in 1417, assembled the worthiest of the land to meet his Deemsters at the Tynwald Hill, St. John's, and say what was the law and the constitution of old time ; and, when so written, promulgated the same to the people from the Tynwald Hill. After this they continued to be committed to writing, and were again comparatively of little service to the people, being locked up in the Rolls Office in Castle Rushen, until a few acts were first printed by Briscoe in 1783, a period of near 400 years after being first committed to writing, when, in 1805, the earliest ordinances, and some of the most important acts prior to the revestment in 1765, were printed in the Commissioners' Report of that year. It is from that source we here give how the lord should be governed on his Tynwald day.

Ancient Sword of State
Ancient Sword of State

" Our doughtfull and gratious Lord, — this is the constitution of old time, the which we have given in our days, how yee should be governed on your Tynwald Day. First, you shall come thither in your royal array, as a king ought to do, by the prerogatives and royalties of the land of Mann. And upon the Hill of Tynwald sitt in a chaire covered with a royall cloath and cushions, and your visage into the east, and your sword before you, holden with the point upward; your barrons in the third degree sitting beside you, and your beneficed men and your Deemsters before you sitting; and your clarke, your knights, esquires and yeomen, about you in the third degree ; and the worthiest men in your land to be called in before your Deemsters, if you will aske anything of them, and to hear the government of your land, and your will; and the commons to stand without the circle of the hill, with three clearkes in their surplices. And your Deemster shall make call in the Coroner of Glanfaba ; and he shall call in all the coroners of Man, and their yards in their hands, with their weapons upon them, either sword or axe. And the moares, that is to witt of every sheading. Then the chief coroner, that is the Coroner of Glanfaba, shall make a ffence, upon paine of life and lyme, that noe man make any disturbance or stirr in the time of Tinwald, or any murmur or rising in the king's presence, upon paine of hanging and drawing. And then shall lett your barrons and all other know you to be their king and lord, and what time you were here you received the land as heyre apparent in your father's days ; and all your barrons of Man, with your worthiest men and commons, did you faith and fealtie. And inasmuch as you are, by the grace of God, now king and lord of Man, yee will now that your commons come unto you, and show their charters how they hould of you. And your barrons that made no faith nor fealtie unto you, that they make now."

Ancient Sword of State - the Cross
The Cross

Ancient Sword of State - the Rest
The Rest

Ancient Sword of State

And in the Appendix C, No. 10, " The bishop was present at the first court or Tynwald that is mentioned in the statute-book, and which was held upon the Hill of Reneweling (Cronk urleigh), before our doughtful lord, Sir John Stanley, King of Man and the Isles, on the Tuesday next after the Feast of St. Bartholomew, in the year 1422."

It is necessary to make a few remarks on some portion of the ceremonies of the Tynwald installation of King Stanley in 1422, which has been already given as standing at the commencement of the statute-book. It has been noticed there are some differences in the copies in the Rolls Office in Castle Rushen and those in the Sloane MS. in the British Museum. These latter are supposed to be the earliest, but the originals, which would have the signatures of the Deemsters and others, are not to be met with.

With respect to the title of king, which the rulers of this island formerly enjoyed, some writers have questioned its validity; but there appears ample evidence to warrant its use. The Isle of Man has so often been the battle-field for its possession in early days, that its sovereigns are found at one time to be independent, and at another doing homage to Denmark, Norway, Scotland, or England, whichever might be paramount at the time, but never losing the attributes of a king in Man.

Besides many other earlier kings of Man who are recorded by the chroniclers, we find that Macon, King of Man in 960, was one of the kings that rowed in King Edgar's boat on the Dee, sitting at the third oar, thereby having precedency over the other kings, and showing the importance that kings of Man were held in at that time, Edgar himself presiding at the helm as king paramount over all, as he claimed.

At the time of the Conquest, 1066, Godred, the son of Sytric, then reigned in Man; and after that a long succession of kings of the Norwegian and Scottish line, to whom they were expected to do homage. About the year 1205, the usurper Reginald agreed to do homage to King John of England for the Isle of Man ; and in the letters-patent of that monarch, in the sixth year of his reign, to Reginald, he is styled Lord of Man only; but this surrender was as invalid as that of Reginald's of his dominions to Pope Honorius in 1219, in which he is styled " Reginald, King of the Isle of Man." Also, in a roll, 4 Hen. III. (1220), he is again styled " Rex de Man;" and again, in the letter of Pope Honorius to Reginald (A.D. 1223), he is styled "Reginaldo Regi Insularum illustri " In the 12th Hen. III. Olave had safe-conduct to come into England, under the style of " Olave Rex Manniae et Insularum ;" and again, in 19 Hen. III. (1235), dated at Windsor, April 13th, we find it stated that "we have taken under our safe and sure conduct our beloved friend, Olave, King of Mann and the Islands, whilst coming into England to confer with us, and whilst tarrying there, and in departing thence."

We also find another protection from the same monarch, dated May 24, 1236, "of all the lands and possessions of Olave, King of Mann and the Islands, on his going over to Norway." Also, in a charter of Harold, A.D. 1246, he is styled "King of Mann and the Islands;" and in letters of safe-conduct, granted 34 Henry III. (1250), to pass over into England, he is styled "The illustrious King of Mann." Many other instances might be given from MSS. in the Cottonian Collection, some of which are printed in Oliver's Monumenta, Manx Society.

Sir John Stanley, the second King of Man of the house of Stanley, on his assembling his barons and keys in 1417, was informed by his deemsters, how, as a king, he ought to be governed on a Tynwald day, as we find recorded in one of the oldest records in the island, an extract from which has been previously given.

Thomas, the second Earl of Derby and fifth King of Man of the house of Stanley, came to the throne in 1504, and during the reign of Edward IV. he dropped the title of king, and made use of that of Lord of Man and the Isles, saying that to be a great lord is more honourable than a petty king; but this change of title did not, of course, derogate from the sovereign rights, or affect the relationship between them and their subjects.

In the case of the daughters of Ferdinando, the eighth Lord of Man, as heirs-general, and William, the sixth Earl of Derby, as brother and heir-male of the deceased Ferdinand, as to the right to the island, 1595, it was decided by the Lord-Keeper Egerton and the rest of the judges, " that the Isle of Man was an ancient kingdom of itselfe, and no part of the kingdom of England." James, Earl of Derby, was styled " King of the Isle of Man," in 1716, in an appeal case heard before a committee of the Privy Council in London.

In the sale of the island with its royalties to the British Crown by the Duke of Atholl in 1765, the negotiations for which were not finally concluded until 1828, the sovereignty of the island was one consideration; and although they had for a long series of years been content with the title of lords, the sovereignty, however, was not diminished by the change of name ; for the Isle of Man is traceable as a kingdom into times — probably centuries, but certainly many years, prior to the Conquest. This was fully discussed and allowed when the Duke of Atholl's Isle of Man case came to be heard before the Privy Council.

The learned Mr. Selden, in his Titles of Honor, 1631, remarks: — " The like were those kings of the Isle of Man, who were subject first to the kings of Norway, then to the Crown of England (under King John and Henrie the Third), and afterward to the kings of Scotland, and since againe to the Crown of England. They both stiled themselves kings in their seals inscribed with Rex Manniae et Insularum., and were so titled by their superior lords, as we see in that of our Henrie the Third's testifying that he had received the homage of King Reynold. Sciatis (saith he), quod dilectus et fidelis noster Reginaldus Rex de Man venit ad fidem et servitium nostrum et nobis homagium fecit. But they were also in the later times titled the Lords of Man, or Domini Manniae, by which title the dignitie was not so restrained, that therefore the name of king was taken from them. For our stories tell us expressly that the Lords of Man had withall the name of king, and might use also a crown of gold. So saies Thomas of Walsingham, where he relates that William Montague, Earle of Salisburie, under Richard II, sold the isle to Sir William Scrop. Willielmus Scrop (so are his words) emit de domino Willielmo de Monte-acuto, Comite de Sarum., Insulam Euboniae (which is the old name of the isle), cum corona. Nempe hominus huies Insulae Rex vocatur, cui etiam fas est corona aurea coronari. And another to the same purpose in the publique librarie at Oxford. Est ampe jus illius Insulae, ut quisquis illius sit Dominus Rex vocatur, cui edam fas est corona regia coronari." Lord Coke also mentions the Isle of Man as an ancient kingdom; that it is a kingdom in reality as well as in denomination. The Chronicle of Man gives a list of kings prior to the Conquest. It may also be here remarked that the Parliament of England, having established a republican form of government, invested Lord Fairfax in 1649 with the Isle of Man, " in as large and beneficiall a manner, to all intents and purposes whatsoever, as the sayd James, Earle of Derby, had or might have enjoyed the same;" thus continuing the monarchical form in the island, by which it had ever been governed.

It is given in "the constitution of old time," that the king upon a Tynwald day should " sitt in a chaire covered with a royall cloath and cushions." This is done at the present day; two chairs covered with scarlet cloth are placed in the tent for the use of the Governor and Bishop.

Also, "Your sword before you, holden with the point upward." The sword of state is still borne before the Governor on his attendance at St. John's on the promulgation of the laws. In the Rolls Office is still preserved the old Sword of State which was borne before Sir John Stanley, the King, at his first Tynwald in 1422. It has lately been sent to London to be cleaned, by order of Henry Brougham Loch, Esq., the Lieutenant-Governor, it having become foul by misusage. It is a curious and beautiful specimen, and evidently of ancient date. On showing it to the authorities in the British Museum, they thought it might belong to the thirteenth century, but were of opinion that it belonged to the twelfth. It is exactly similar to that on King John's tomb. Near the rest on each side are the arms of Man, with armour on the three legs, and in the centre of this is a curious triangle. There appears to be no record of this sword in Castle Rushen ; if there ever was, it has most probably shared the fate of the earlier records. A photograph has been made of it by Mr. Dean of Douglas, along with a foot-rule to show the lengths, which is here submitted. In its present state it is three feet six inches and one eighth in length, but the point having been at some time broken off by improper usage, it was no doubt some four or five inches longer originally. A somewhat similar sword is now preserved in the British Museum, — the sword of Hugh Lupus, Earl of Chester, who died in the year 1101 ; it is three feet eleven inches and one eighth in length, and the blade tapers gradually until it ends in a sharp point. This was probably the case with this sword of state when it was first fabricated. Enlarged photographs of the guard and boss of this sword are also here given, which more distinctly show its present appearance.

A second sword of state is also kept in the Rolls Office, which was brought to the island by James Murray, 2d Duke of Atholl, who became Lord of Man in 1736. It is an Andrea Ferrara of the best workmanship of the sixteenth century, and has the arms of Man, over which the Duke of Atholl had his arms also engraved. Andrea Ferrara was of a family of armourers in Italy, and was born about 1555 ; his swords were highly prized for their excellent temper.

" Your barrons in the third degree sitting beside you." The Bishop was a baron in right of his territorial possessions in the Isle, as were the Abbot of Rushen, the Abbots of Bangor, Sabal, and St. Trinions ; also the Abbot of Furness, the Prior of Whithorn in Galloway, and the Prior of St. Bead in Copeland (the Society of St. Bees was possessed of some valuable property in the parish of Kirk Maughold). The Prioress of Douglas was a baroness in right of her lands ; she held Courts in her own name, and possessed temporal authority equal to a baron. The barons were all summoned occasionally to the Tynwald Hill, to do homage and fealty to the Lord Superior for their landed possessions in the island. It was the Bishop's duty to hold the stirrup of the King's saddle as oft as his Majesty mounted his horse when attending the Tynwald courts, and the other barons had similarly menial offices assigned them. If any one refused to attend, he forfeited his temporalities.

" If any of your barrons be out of the land, they shall have the space of fourty days. After that they are called in to come show whereby they hould and clayme lands and tenements, within your land of Man ; and to make faith and fealtie, if wind and weather served them, or els to cease their temporalities into your hands." — Mill's Statute Laws, p. 6. Douglas, 1821.

The originals of two of Sir John Stanley's earliest documents are preserved in Castle Rushen ; an exact facsimile of that of 18th January 1417 is given in Mr. Mackenzie's Stanley Legislation of Man, Manx Society, vol. iii., 1860. Many copies of the first ordinance and the laws are to be met with in MS., made for the use of officials and others, as also a copy in the Sloane MS. 4149, p. 331, in the British Museum, on which Mr. Mackenzie in his above work remarks, " It was on the 9th of October that a copy of the earliest Manx laws was shown to me in the British Museum. On examination I observed that the text was different from all the copies in Castle Rushen, that it was evidently a more ancient text, and that most of its various readings seemed by internal evidence to be better than those in the printed copies. Mr. Sim, the officer in charge of the MS. department of the British Museum, wrote me subsequently," I cannot glean any information respecting the MS. from which the copy was made. It is not an official document, as no signatures are attached. The volume contains a great many state and other papers, chiefly in the handwriting of Ralph Starkey, who died in Bloomsbury, October 1628. The statutes are in his hand, but whence copied there is no note to show." " The inferences from a careful comparison of the printed and MS. texts are the following : — The differences are numerous and important. Not a few of them must have resulted from intentional alterations of the original text. The MS. was written by a scribe who did not understand Manx affairs, and his errors seem those of ignorance and carelessness. The printed text seems to have alterations resulting from design." After carefully collating the MS. with Mills' printed text, Mr. Sim writes as follows : — "I think the Manx Society ought to reprint the statistics in the orthography furnished by the manuscripts, because I consider the printed text is a garbled one, and not a genuine copy from any MS. authority. I think it has been modernised, and I am not sure that the transcriber could not decipher many readings in the original."

A copy of the MS. Indenture of 1532 made by the late Mr. James Burman, Secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor in 1858, confirms Mr. Sim, as it abounds with variations from the printed text. Also, among other variations, it may be mentioned that the British Museum copy states that along with " the comones to stand without in a circle in the folde," are " the three reliques of Man, there to be before you in yor presence, and three clarkes bearing them in there surplesses."

What these three relics were it is now impossible to say, as no record appears to have been kept of them. Waldron mentions, in his History of the Isle of Man, that some work men found in Castle Rushen, while digging a vault for the Earl of Derby's wine-cellar, at some considerable depth from the surface, " a pair of shoes made of brass," of great length and bigness. These may have been a part of these relics, for, singularly enough, we find it recorded in Mr. George Petrie's work on The Round Towers of Ireland (Dublin, 1845, p. 341), that he had one of these brass shoes in his cabinet, which formerly used to be carried about in a district to administer oaths to all. In one of the Rolls, 32 Henry VIII., preserved in the Augmentation Office, Carleton Ride, London, giving an estimate of the value of the property of Rushen Abbey prior to its dissolution, amongst the " jocalia," the two following items, which may have been two of these reliques, viz., "One hand and one bysshope hede ;" perhaps these, with the brass shoe, may have been " the three reliques of Man." However that may be, they have long since ceased to form any part of the ceremony.2

It was ordained, that even the sanctuary should afford no protection in certain cases ; for, upon Sir John Stanley, at his castle of Rushen, asking his Deemsters and the twenty-four keys the laws of Man oil various points, they gave it, " If any man-slayer have taken sanctuary, and within three days after the sanctuary taken the coroner cometh to him, and he acknowledgeth not what he hath done, the coroner shall, by the law of the land, take him out of the sanctuary ; and if he will not acknowledge his fault, the coroner ought to make three proffers : First, whether he will forswear the king and his kingdome, or he will put himself under the coroner's yard — viz., obey and come to jayle, and abide the law and grace, or he will abide within sanctuary during the space aforesaid. And if he choose to forsweare the king and his kingdome, and takes unto a harbour, the coroner ought to sett him in the king's highway, and cutt him across. And if he houlds not the king's highway, and if the coroner find him without it, he may arrest him by the king's yard, ' and bring him to the kings jayle, whether he will or not ; and whosoever disturbs the coroner in executing his office, forfeits life and lymne. And if his enemie say he took him before the coroner, he ought to prove that by two witnesses." (Mill's Statute Laws, p. 16. Douglas, 1821.) According to Deemster Parr, this statute was revised in 1417, but was not proclaimed at the Tynwald Hill till 1422.

One of the important changes effected at this Tynwald was the alteration in the law of sanctuary, the principal places being under the wing of the ecclesiastical authorities, the barons of the isle, and were zealously guarded by them. Any offender against the king's laws had only to flee to the territories of these barons, and he was safe from the lord's jurisdiction, until this celebrated meeting, when Sir John Stanley substituted a legal sanctuary under the Deemsters, holding courts according to the law of the land.

" Tradition tells us those condemned to die
Might a remission of their sentence gain,
If through the crowd of people they could fly,
On the lake side, and Tynwald stone attain.
Many have run the race for life in vain."

The early records of the Isle of Man have suffered from one cause or another. We find from the Chronicles of Man, one of the earliest, already quoted, that in A.D. 1228 King Olave came to the Tyngvalla, the Tynwald, and there fought a battle with his brother Reginald. Thus showing the establishment of such a court long prior to what is now to be found in the records of the island, which commence only in 1417.

Reginald IV. was slain by the knight Ivar in a meadow in Rushen on the 6th May 1249, and left a daughter named Mary, who, to escape the troubles in Man which followed the death of her father, was secretly conveyed by her friends to England, with all the public deeds and charters of the island.

It has also been stated that the most ancient records were removed in 1292 to Drontheim in Norway, by Maude, a princess of the ancient race, where they were afterwards said to have been destroyed by fire. In the Lansdowne MSS. (Oliver's Monumenta, vol. i. p. 84) we find it stated that the sister of the last King Orry, upon his being vanquished by Alexander, King of Scotland, fled into England, carrying with her the charters of the Isle of Man, and was honourably received by King Edward the Third, and by him given in marriage to Sir William Montague, upon whom, in 1334, he bestowed the Isle of Man.

Waldron, in his Description of the Isle of Man (Manx Society, vol. xi. p. 3), speaking of the records, says, " A few years since " (prior to 1726) " Mr. Stevenson, an eminent, worthy, and learned merchant of Dublin, offered the then Bishop of Drontheim a considerable sum of money for the purchase of them (those removed in 1292), designing to restore and present them to the island, but the bishop would not part with them on any terms." Seacome states that the few records which remained in the island at the commencement of the civil wars were carried away by Charlotte, Countess of Derby. Rolt, in his History of the Isle of Man, 1773, states, that after the capture of the Countess of Derby, "her house was plundered of its goods and plate." In the Royalist Composition Papers, 1st series, 19-357, there appears, among numerous other articles enumerated, " one greate cheste filled with old deedes and writings." What has become of these? On the death of James the tenth earl, in 1735-36, when the Duke of Atholl succeeded to the lordship of Man, the family papers were scattered, some of them were purloined, and many never came into the possession of the eleventh earl. (Stanley Papers, vol. ii. ccxli. Chetham Society, 1867.)

All these old charters might never have been returned to the island, so that whether burnt or lost remains a matter of considerable doubt. The earliest record now in the Rolls Office, Castle Rushen, is that of 1417 (Henry V.), printed in the Commissioners' Report, 1805, and in Oliver's Monumenta, vol. iii. pp. 10-12, Manx Society, 1862 ; as well as the facsimile in Mr. Mackenzie's book already alluded to.

Thus it may be observed that old documents have their vicissitudes like old families, and on some unlooked-for day may turn up from some long-forgotten chest, and once more throw light on many a doubtful matter of history. The spirit of inquiry at the present day is bringing forward many a parchment and letter that has lain mouldering in the archives of old families, who are now evincing a laudable anxiety to bring them to light and place their contents before the public.

The Lord had the power of ordering Tynwald courts to be held at what place he wished, or wherever most convenient to the people. In 1429 it met at a place situated near the site of an ancient church called Keeill Abbane, now St. Luke's in Baldwin, where the remains of a similar mound to that at St. John's were, until of late years, to be seen. In 1430, as will be seen by Mill's Statutes, p. 12, "a Court of all the commons of Mann was holden at the Castle of Rushen, betwixt the gates, by Henry Byron, Lieutenant of Mann;" and in 1577, on the 13th day of July, the Tynwald Court was held at St. John's, where it has continued annually to be held on the 5th of July, a period of three hundred years.

Tynwald Courts were always held on the 24th June, until the alteration of the calendar enacted by statute in January 1753, and since that time on the 5th July, and if that day is Sunday, on the 6th.

On the 12th June 1610 it was enacted, " That after Midsomer day next noe Tinwald shall be holden in this Isle upon the Lord's day; but as oft as the Feast of St. John Baptist shall fall upon the Sabbath, the Tinwald and the Faire then shall be kept upon the day next following." — (Mill's Statute Laws, p. 81.) By this it would appear that up to this time the assembling of the Legislature on St. John the Baptist's day, for the promulgation of the Laws and other purposes, had been held on the Sabbath whenever it fell upon that day, so tenacious were the Manx in following out the ancient custom derived from their former Scandinavian rulers, thus verifying one of their sayings, "Mannagh vow cliaghtey, cliaghtey nee cliaghtey coe" — " If custom is not indulged with custom, custom will weep." Occasionally these Courts are held at St. John's at other times, when any particular law has to be promulgated. In early times they were held " twise in the yeare, for the amending of the countrey, and the Lord his profit."

The Rev. Dr. Kelly, in his Manx Dictionary (Manx Society, vol. xiii.), makes some interesting remarks on Keeihll Abbane and the neighbourhood. He says, " Baaltinn, pronounced Boltinn, the name of a district (now called Baldwin) in the parish of Kirk Braddan. It consists of a projection of the mountain Carraghan, the sides whereof are enclosed by two rivers, which meet at a place called the Aah-mod or Dog's Ford. This river is afterwards called White River, and falls into another called the Black River, below the junction of which is the town of Douglas, deriving its name from the union of the Doo (black) and the Glass (grey) rivers. In the centre of Baaltinn is a small village called Aal-caer, or Baal's town. Adjoining to Aal-caer are the ruins of an old temple called Kil-Ammon (Cella Ammonis).-(About 18 x 12 feet: on the site of these ruins the Chapel of St. Luke was built, A.D. 1836.) Near to this was an ancient Tynwald or Tinn-vaal, i.e. the altar or fire of Baal, where all new laws were promulgated, and the seats of the twenty-four Keys or Parliament of the island are still pointed out. Here was a pillar with an inscription, as I have been often told, but it was carried off and broken to mend a neighbouring stone wall. This Tinn-Vaal was coeval with another on Crone-Urley, in the north side of the island, as at that time the island was under two governments, and the distinctions of North-side and South-side still remain. There is an opinion in this part of the country that the church commonly called Kil Ammon should be named Kil Abban, or the Abbot's Church; and that it was either built at the introduction of Christianity into the island, on the ruins of Baal's temple, or that the Pagan Kil Ammon was then converted into the Christian Kil Abban. It is certain, however, that at a very early period the village of Aalcaer received the name of Balla Chreest — Christ's town — but has not retained it in use, though it is so called in the Records. The highroad to Kil Ammon is called the Raad Jiarg (red road). About a mile to the south of this Tinn-Vaal is Balla-vriw, the Judge's town, which, as well as part of Aalcaer, is the property of the family of Kelly, who most probably were Judges or Druids of that religious and judicial institution. The adjoining town or balla is called Baal-ny-moddey, the town of Dogs ; and higher up the valley another town is called Aah Whuallian, or the Whelps-ford. I mention these names, as the modern believers in the god Belus are of opinion that these dogs in their respective stations were the guards of the sacred Tinn-vaal, Baal-tinn, or fire of Baal."

The Tynwald Hill, called also Cronk-y-Keeillown 3 (i.e. St. John's Church Hill), is a mound of earth similar to an ancient barrow or tumulus, but whether ever used for that purpose is unknown, as it has never been examined, nor is it likely that permission would be granted by the Manx authorities, fearing to offend the just prejudices of the people in guarding what they consider their Hill of Liberty, which has passed unscathed through so many centuries.

It is traditionally said to have been originally brought from soil collected from each of the seventeen parishes of the island ; but this is a matter of great doubt, as no authentic record of such a fact is to be met with. The mound rises about twelve feet high, by four stages or circular platforms, sloping outwards, the dimensions of which are as follow: —



Feet. In.


at foot of the lowest mound .

256 0

top „ " .

240 0

foot „ second „ .

162 0

third .

102 0


top ,,

60 0

of the outside wall enclosing the Tynwald .

412 0

Diameter of the top mound to outside of tent-stones .

16 9

Width of the avenue to outside of each wall .

48 0

Width of the lowest terrace, 12 feet; the second, 9 feet; and the third, 6 feet.


The whole is covered with a short turf, neatly kept. The approach to the top is by a flight of twenty-one steps cut in the turf, directly facing the chapel, to which there is a spacious road of approach from the foot of the mound, of 366 feet in length. It is now walled in, and has several entrances, one of which, the entrance to the chapel, is by a lych-gate, although there is no burial-ground attached to the chapel. The plan of the ground, which is given herewith, will show the relative positions of the Chapel and Tynwald Hill (see Frontispiece).

A correspondent in Notes and Queries (J. Beale, Feb. 1871) considers the dimensions of this hill as symbolical. Taking the circumference of the lowest mound at the square as 240 feet, he says : " Taking 12 the height, 4 the number of terraces, 3 the height of each ascent, 8, 6, 4, 6, the respective widths of the terraces; 8 + 4 the first and third = 6 + 6 the second and fourth-are all factors of 240, the circumference, which is in proportion to 360, the great circle, as 2 is to 3 ; that as 360: 240 : : 3 : 2 ; — so the height 12 x 2 ÷3 = 8, the first width ; and the height 9 x 2 ÷ 3 = 6, the second width ; and the height 6 x 2 ÷ 3 = 4, the third width ; and the height 3 x 2 = 6 the fourth width. That there are four ascents, because four units compose the square, four weeks the month, four seasons the year, four quarters the circle, and four = E. N. W. S. That three feet is their equal ascent, because three units compose the equilateral triangle, three sides = any triangle, three = trinity generally. That the product of the triangle and square, 3 x 4 =12, the duodecimal number, and the first two digits 1, 2, which, added to the digits 3, 4 =10, the decimal number ; and by simple addition the digits (1, 2, 3, 4), 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, (0), result. That the ascent is by steps on the eastern side, because the sun rises in the east; that the height is 12, because there are twelve signs in the zodiac, twelve divisions of the great circle, twelve months in the year, and that, as the sun in his zenith always indicates noon-day or twelve, so the summit of the hill is duodecimal or twelve; that the sum of the units of the triangle and square, 3 + 4 = 7, the days of the week, and the extraordinary septiliteral number ; that the sides of the simplest right-angled triangle are 3, 4, 5 =12, the sum, and = 60, the product. Of such general application are astronomical, geographical, and temporal computations. [fpc the 'Manx' equivalent of Great Pyramid numerology!]

"All the preceding and other lessons are contained, and may be read in and learned from the construction of Tynwald Hill, when perused by any one capable of reading that symbolical hill aright.

" Thus this mount or hill is evidently a very symbolical book for the initiated to read, and for inquirers to decipher. And as the sun, in running his circuit, illuminates the face and rules or governs the order of nature, so the promulgation of laws, by ascending to the summit, of the mount, tends to the enlightenment and good government of society, which would be otherwise chaotic and uncivilised, were it not for the influence of an enlightening ruler or an enlightened law-giver."

The following is given as the order of procession of the authorities attending the Tynwald Court from the chapel to the hill. It is from a manuscript copy used by the Governor on the 5th July 1770, a few years after the island was vested in the English Government. It differs in some respect from that followed at the present day: —


Six Constables with their staffs, two and two.
The Clergy, three and three.
The Vicars-General.
The Archdeacon.
The Gentlemen of the House of Keys, three and three.
The Water Bailiff.
The Deemsters.
The Clerk of the Rolls and Attorney-General.
The Receiver-General.
The Lord Bishop.
The Sword of State. His Excellency the Governor.
Gentlemen attending the Governor.
The Guard.

Mr. Feltham, who made his tour through the island in 1797-8, gives the following account of the forms observed on a Tynwald day: — " Agreeable to ancient custom, every parish sent four horsemen, properly accoutred, and the captain of every parish presided over those of his own district. About eleven o'clock the cavalcade arrived at St. John's, where the Duke of Atholl was received by the Clergy and Keys, and saluted by the Fencibles. He then went in state to the chapel, where an excellent sermon was preached by the Rev. Mr. Corlett, the worthy and learned vicar of Kirk-German.

"After service followed the procession of state. The Fencibles were drawn up in two lines, from the chapel door to the Tynwald Hill; and the procession passed betwixt the two lines in the following order

" 1. The Clergy, two and two, the juniors first.
2. The Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man.
3. The Vicars-General.
4. The Two Deemsters.
5. Major Taubman, sword-bearer.
6. His Grace the Duke of Atholl.
7. The Lieutenant-Governor.
8. The Clerk of the Rolls.
9. The Twenty-four Keys, two and two.
10. The Captains of the different parishes.

" As soon as His Grace had ascended the hill, he was seated under the canopy, in his chair of state. The Deemsters then proceed in the customary business of the day." — Feltham's Tour, 1798, p. 144.

The Fencibles mentioned by Mr. Feltham were one portion of the military musters of Manxmen, who, under various denominations, both horse and foot, were ever ready at the call of the governor, or captains of parishes, to assemble for the defence of their country. In the early part of the present century, when England was threatened with invasion, a call was made upon the inhabitants of the island by Governor Shaw, and if we may judge by the return made from the town of Peel, the muster must have been very considerable.

The return made by Thomas Clarke, Esq., high bailiff, is taken from the original documents in the possession of Robert J. Moore, Esq., the present high bailiff of that town, which gives the names of those persons willing to serve his Majesty. — The proclamation runs as follows : —


Whereas, by the ancient law of this island, still in force, the Governor or Lieutenant-Governor for the time being is impowered in the case of any actual invasion to call out all men from the age of sixteen to sixty to defend their country But under the present circumstances, as without some previous arrangement, and the men beforehand properly armed, such assembling of them would be of very little use in case of any danger; the Lieutenant-Governor is therefore pleased hereby to direct and require, That all the high bailiffs of the towns and captains of parishes do forthwith take lists of all the able men, exclusive of the enrolled volunteers, within their respective towns and parishes, who are willing to be armed with pikes, which shall be provided for them, and hold themselves in readiness, in case of any actual invasion, to assemble with them under their own proper town or parish officers for the honor of the king and defence of their country as they shall be ordered by the proper authority. And that they do transmit such lists to his Honor at Castle Rushen on or before Tuesday next, the 13th instant.

Given at Castle Rushen this 7th December 1803.



In consequence of the Honorable Governor Shaw's Proclamation of the 7th of this month, we, whose names are hereunto subscribed, do hereby voluntarily engage to serve his Majesty by arming with pikes (when furnished with them), and will at all times hold ourselves in readiness to assemble together in case of an actual invasion, for the honor of our king and defence of this island.

PEEL TOWN, Deer. 12, 1803.

To this were affixed the signatures and marks of two hundred and twenty names, to which was added the following : " The muster-roll, which I ordered last Friday, on Saturday amounted to 341. THOS. CLARKE, High Bailiff."

The oaths administered to the chief officers in the island, being somewhat remarkable, are here given.

The Oath administered to the Governor prior to the Revestment in 1765.

Your allegiance to the King's Majesty of Great Britain reserved, —

You shall bear true faith and fidelity to his Grace James Duke of Atholl, Lord of Mann and the Isles, and his heirs, during your life.

You shall not reveale the secretts of this isle, nor houses or garrisons therein, to any foreigner or stranger.

You shall truly and uprightly deale between the lord and his people, and as indifferently betwixt party and party as this staff now standeth, so far as in you lyeth.

You shall take the advice and consent of the rest of the lord's councill of the said isle, or so many of them as shall be present within the isle, in all matters that concern the state and government of the said isle and houses.

These, and all other things appertaining to the governor of this isle, his office and place, you shall, according to the purport and extent of your commission and the laws of the said isle, do and perform, so far as in you lyeth.

So God you help, and by the contents of this Book.

The Oath of the Lieutenant-Governor since the Revestment in 1765, taken by Alexander Shaw, Esq., at Castle Rushen, the 7th day of January 1791.

I, Alexander Shaw, Esquire, do swear, that I will truly and uprightly deal between our sovereign lord the King and his subjects within this isle, and as indifferently between party and party, as this staff now standeth, so far as in me lyeth ; and when I think it necessary, will call together the Council of this isle, or so many of them as shall be present within the same, and advise with them in any matter that may concern the state and government thereof ; and that I will do and perform, as far as in me lyeth, these and all other things appertaining to the government of this isle, and the post and office of Governor-in-Chief and Captain-General, according to the purport and extent of my commission.

So God me help, and by the contents of this Book.

The Lieutenant-Governor's staff of office is a wand of full six feet long. This was formerly kept in the old chapel at St. John's, and was carried by him in the procession to the Tynwald Hill, but for many years this has been discontinued. The staff is now in the writer's possession.

The Oath administered to the Deemster since the Revestment in 1765.

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 backbone doth lie in the midst of the fish. 4

So help me God, and by the contents of this Book.

The oath prior to the revestment was similar, reserving allegiance to the King's Majesty, and to "bear true faith and fidelity to his Grace James Duke of Atholl, and his heirs, in whom is the title of inheritance of this isle and houses thereof." The oath of the High Bailiffs is the same.

The Oath administered to the Members of the House of Keys.

You shall be aiding and assisting to the Deemster of this isle in all doubtful matters; her Majesty's council, your fellows', and your own, you shall not reveal ; you shall use your best endeavours to maintain the ancient laws and customs of this isle. You shall justly and truly deliver your opinion, and do right in all matters which shall be put unto you, without favour or affection, affinity or consanguinity, love or fear, reward or gain, or for any hope thereof ; but in all things you shall deal uprightly and justly, and do wrong to no man.

So help you God, and by the contents of this Book.

The manner of conducting a Tynwald at the present day is : — On the 5th of July, the feast of St. John the Baptist, the various members having been previously noticed by precept from the Lieutenant-Governor, a tent is erected on the summit of the mound, and preparations made for the reception of his Excellency and the officers of state according to ancient custom. The chapel, and steps leading to the summit of the Tynwald Hill, are strewn with rushes, being a custom in lieu of rent-charge from the small estate of Cronk-y-Keillown, in the neighbourhood. The military stationed in the island are drawn up on each side of the path leading from the west door of the chapel to the foot of the steps of the mound. On the arrival of the Governor at St. John's, he is met by the Lord Bishop, his Council, Keys, Clergy, and chief officers of the island, who proceed to their respective seats in the chapel, where morning prayers are read by one of the government chaplains.

The clergy, though forming no part of the Legislature, are summoned.

Form of Summons to the Clergy to attend a Tynwald Court.
Copied from the original.

Episcopal Registry, 26th June 1851.

REV. SIR — His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor has requested the Right Honourable and Right Reverend the Lord Bishop to cause the usual directions to be given for the attendance of the clergy at the annual Tynwald Court, to be holden at St. John's Chapel on Saturday the 5th July, at eleven o'clock forenoon : You will therefore, as usual, appear on the occasion in your canonicals. — I am, Rev. Sir, yours truly, JOSEPH BROWN, E. R.

To the Rev. the Clergy of the Diocese of Sodor and Man.

Addressed to —

The Rev. the Vicar and Curate of German, the Chaplain of St. John's, the Vicar and Curates of Patrick, the Vicar of St. Ann, the Chaplain of St. Mark's, the Dean and Curate of the College, the Chaplain and Curate of Castletown, the Vicar and Curate of Malew, the Vicar of Arbory, and the Vicar and Curate of Rushen, the last of whom will please return these to the E. R.

Summons. — Take care to forward this carefully and speedily, and as above directed, and the clergy are requested to note therein the times of receipt and despatch.

A similar summons is sent to the northern division of the island.

It appears the clergy were originally summoned to be present at Tynwald in their capacity as pastors of the people, in order to inform them what was the law of the land, and not in any way as being connected with the Legislature.

During the sitting of the Legislature in the chapel, it may be stated that the Lieutenant-Governor and Council occupy during prayers the seats appropriated for them in the chancel, the Keys those situated in the centre of the chapel ; and when assembled as a Tynwald Court, the Governor and Council sit in chairs placed forward in the chancel, before whom the sword of state is placed on a table, the Keys retaining their seats in the centre of the chapel. When the latter body have to consult on business connected with their house, they retire to the south transept, where several of the seats have been previously removed for that purpose, and where they always sign the attestation as to the promulgation of the laws passed. The clergy occupy seats in the north transept.

After prayers they at once proceed to the Tynwald Hill in the following order

Captains of Parishes.
The High Bailiffs.
The Clergy.
The Members of the House of Keys.
The Vicar-General.
The Archdeacon.
The Water-Bailiff.
Clerk of the Rolls.
The two Deemsters.
The Attorney-General.
The Lord Bishop.
Sword of State.
His Excellency the Governor.

On arriving at the summit of the hill, the Governor and Bishop take their seats, surrounded by the Council and Keys, the commons being assembled on the outside.

The Tynwald Court is fenced, prior to the commencement of proceedings, by the Lieutenant-Governor calling upon the Coroner of Glenfaba, the senior coroner of the island, and whose power extends over the whole of it, to "fence the court." The form was anciently as follows, and continues much the same at the present day : " I do fence the King of Man, and his offices, that no manner of men do brawl or quarrel, nor molest the audience, lying, leaning, or sitting, and to show their accord, and answer when they are called, by license of the King of Man and his officers.

" I do draw witness to the whole audience that the court is fenced." This is repeated thrice.

It was given for law at a Tynwald held at Castle Rushen in 1422, before Sir John Stanley, that after fence was made, " whosoever comes with force and arms against the Lieu tenant's commandments, especially to the Tynwald, where they should have right and reason peaceably, and makes murmur and rising in his presence, he is a traitor by our law." The Triads or Welsh laws had a similar regulation, whereby naked arms must not be presented against such conventions, nor within their limits during the assembly.

After the Court is fenced, the Coroner of Glenfaba gives in his wand 5 of office, when the Lieutenant-Governor appoints his successor, upon taking the usual oath upon his knees, administered by the senior Deemster ; the other five coroners in succession doing the same. They only retain office for one year, and remain out of office one year, when other persons are appointed in their places for the year following; their office is that of a sheriff.

The laws are engrossed upon skins of parchment, which, after the signatures of the insular authorities (placed in the manner as given in the form of promulgation), are sent to London for the assent of her Majesty the Queen in Council, which is attached to it in the following manner

At the Court at Balmoral, the 27th day of August 1860. Present —

The Queen's Most Excellent Majesty. His Royal Highness the Prince Consort. Lord John Russell. Mr. Secretary Herbert.

Whereas there was this day read at the Board a Report of a Committee of the Lords of Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, dated the 25th of August 1860, in the words following (viz.) : —

Your Majesty having been, pleased, by your Order in Council of the 1st August 1860, to refer unto this Committee a letter from one of your Majesty's Under-Secretaries of State, transmitting an Act of Tynwald passed in the Isle of Man on the 5th July 1860, intituled " An Act for disafforesting and allotting the uninclosed portion of the Forest in the Isle of Man:" The Lords of the Committee, in obedience to your Majesty's said Order of Reference, have this day taken the said Act into consideration, and do agree humbly to report, as their opinion, to your Majesty, that it may be advisable for your Majesty to approve of and ratify the said Act.

Her Majesty having taken the said Report into consideration, was pleased, by and with the advice of her Privy Council, to approve thereof, and to order, as it is hereby ordered, that the said Act (which is hereunto annexed) be, as it is hereby confirmed, finally enacted, and ratified accordingly ; and the Right Honourable Sir George Lewis, Bart., one of Her Majesty's principal Secretaries of State, is to take the necessary measures herein accordingly.


At a Tynwald Court, holden at Saint John's Chapel, the 13th day of November 1860

The before-written Act of Tynwald, intituled, " An Act for disafforesting and allotting the uninclosed portion of the Forest in the Isle of Man," having received the Royal assent at the Court at Balmoral, the 27th day of August 1860, present the Queen's Most Excellent Majesty in Council, the said Act was this day promulgated and published on the Tynwald Hill, according to the ancient form and custom within the said isle. — As witness our subscriptions : —

FRANCIS PIGOTT, Lieut.-Governor.
HORACE, Sodor and Mann.
M. H. QUAYLE, Clerk of the Rolls.
W. W. CHRISTIAN, Water Bailiff.
T. AR. CORLETT, Vicar-Genl.

W. L. Drinkwater. John Cls. Stephen.


Edwd. M. Gawne.
George Goldie.
J. M. Jeffcott.
William Harrison.
Ridgway Harrison.
E. C. Farrant.
F. Matthews.
W. Farrant.
Richd. Quirk.
Jno. Gell.
P. T. Cuninghame.
J. S. Goldie Taubman.
W. F. Moore.
J. G. Bennett.
Alexr. Spittall.
Edwrd. Faulder.
Robert J. Moore.

After these proceedings, the laws that have received the sanction of the Manx Legislature and her Majesty the Queen, are read by the first Deemster, by reciting the title and heading of the various clauses in English, and by the Coroner of Glenfaba in Manx. When this business is concluded, the parties return to the Chapel, where the Governor, Council, and Keys sign the Acts, attesting the promulgation (the laws having been previously signed by the consenting parties, of whom, by the Constitution, thirteen at least of the Keys must have signified their assent), and then transact any other business that may be brought before them; after this the laws become valid as "Acts of Tynwald," for they cannot be enforced until they have been thus proclaimed from the Tynwald Hill.

Until the year 1865 the laws were read in extenso in English and Manx, which rendered the proceedings at times rather lengthy and tiresome. In that year a short Act of Tynwald was passed, providing for the above change.

It was formerly customary at the Tynwald Courts held at St. John's to have a sermon preached to the authorities there assembled, but this has for many years been omitted, the morning prayers for the day alone being read by the Government Chaplain. Some of these sermons have been printed, — those of Bishop Wilson in 1725 and 1728, and on the 24th June 1736, and printed in his Life and Works, 1781, Sermon No. xlix.6 One by the Rev. Hugh Stowell, Vicar of Lonan, on 5th July 1813, and published by the express command of John, Duke of Atholl, Governor. The last sermon preached before the Legislature was on the occasion of the opening of the present new chapel, on the 8th March 1849, by the Lord Bishop, late Lord Auckland, which will be recited in the account given of that building hereafter.

It may be here stated that a Fair has been held at St. John's from time immemorial on the annual meeting of the Legislature on Midsummer Day, and is now held on the 5th July, when the Tynwald Court assemble there.

From the foregoing account it will be seen that the gradual development of a system of government, which, taking its rise in patriarchal times, brought to Europe by those early sages and law-makers the Druids, who so long resided in the island and became the instructors of princes, was continued by the Welsh rulers, who for three centuries held dominion over the country, and had similar customs derived from the same source, and, when their Scandinavian conquerors took possession, stereotyped, as may be said, their name upon the assembly, the Thing-võllr or Tynwald. After them, under various rulers, who alternately took possession of the island, the system was continued until the time of Sir John Stanley, King and Lord of Man in 1417, who in his wisdom embodied the breast laws, with the aid of his Deemsters and Keys, into a written code, and cited his Church Barons to come in and do fealty unto him, thus striking a fatal blow at the power of the priests, who up to this time had exercised so great a sway in temporal matters ; but he continued the mode of imparting the laws to the people, " in the face of the sun, and in the eye of the light." Upon the island becoming revested to the Crown of England in 1765, the same custom was wisely conceded, modified according to the growing intelligence of the age, thus perpetuating the oldest system of government in Europe.

Various eminent lawyers and writers have borne testimony to the excellency of the Manx legislative code; and the Rev. Mr. Ward, in his Ancient Records of the Isle of Man, 1837, says, " As 'no people are more blessed, so none are more happy and content than the Manx, under their venerable laws, and simple, primitive, I had almost said patriarchal, constitution."

May the reformed House of Keys ever continue to aid the Deemsters and Council honestly to advise the Governor to administer the law to the people of the Isle of Man, be tween party and party, " as indifferently as the herring backbone doth lie in the midst of the fish."


1 The western islands had a sheriff of the isles under the Norwegian dynasty; but when the lands were parcelled out afterwards by the Lords of the Isles, the descendants of Somerlade, among barons of different ranks, each of these barons, assisted by the chief man in the community, held his court on the top of a hill, called Cnoc an eric — that is, the Hill of Pleas — where public business was transacted. — Macqueen's Diss. on the Gov. of the West. Isles, 1774.

2 Dr. Clay, in his work on the Currency of the Isle of Man, printed in the Manx Society's 17th volume, considers Waldron's theory of these brass shoes a wild invention of his. It is very evident the learned Doctor is not as conversant with this subject as he professes to be with coins and medals ; indeed it may be stated he is lamentably deficient in information connected with the author or his subject he so often misquotes, and upon whom he vainly attempts to cast ridicule.

3 Cregeen, in his Manx Dictionary, 1835, says, "No doubt but the latter part of this word is a corruption of Ean or Yuan = John."

4 This, as Bishop Wilson remarks in his History of the Isle of Man, was " that his daily food " (for in former days no doubt it was so) " might put him in mind of the obligation he lay under to give impartial judgment."

5 The rod or wand of office, or, as it is sometimes called, the yard, is no w generally formed of a piece of cane, decorated with scarlet or blue ribbon.

6 For this see Appendix, No. II.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2002