THE Lord Cooke is responsible for me if I say the name of deemsters were deriv’d from the Saxon word dema, which in yt language signifieth a judge ; and in old English to deem is to judge. Trevisa, in his translation of Policronicon, saith yt Abbot Moses was prayed to come and deem a brother had trespassed ; he, taking up a pannier full of gravel, said, these are my sins yt run after me, and shall I go deem other men’s sins and take no heed of my own. Of deem cometh the word doom, the day of doom importing the day of judgment. King Alfred, saith the same Trevisa, made judges and dooms-men, etc.

But I am not yet satisfied yt ye name and office of ye deemsters came from the Saxons, but that they were in Man long before their arrival into England. For I believe the office of a deemster was practised here in this Island by the Druids, who were there 137 years before the incarnation of our Bd Sr

If Hector Boetius may be credited, and Cæsar and many others affirm, yt they executed judgment and judicature in what place soever they were deciding controversies, for bounds of land and in cases of murther, etc., as I before showed at large ; and here, no question, they left ye name of deemster, who executed the same office ; and in England, though we still retain many Saxon words, yet a deemster is not now understood by us.

These deemsters in the Isle of Man are but 2 in number, and but seldom sit both together upon any cause whatsoever, for their power is distinct, dividing the Island between them into 2 parts, as it were by a line crossing the Island from east to west to Peeltown, in the west side of the Island, from Douglas Town in the east ; ye one deemster having jurisdiction in the north part, the other in the south part of the Island, the Island being long, and in the midst very narrow. The deemsters are chosen out of the natives of the Island, but not by the natives themselves, as the Lord Cook and John Speed seem to insinuate ; they have ever been elected by the kings and lords of the Island. And yt only durante bene placito nostro, although they are seldom or never put out or removed, but do enjoy the same during their lives. The lord maketh chief of ye deemsters of the most sufficient, judicious, and of men of ye ~eatest understandings, yt best know ye laws and customs of ye Island, for he ought to be perfect and speak the Manks language, whereby he may be able to give yt charge to the juries in the courts of ye, sheedings, to pronounce sentence of life and death at their head courts, to give the oath to the crowner and moors, and to understand ye plaintif and defendants pleading before him, etc., and for this cause there were never any deemsters chosen but such as were of ye Manks breed only, and those of the best and ye most antient families, as I noted before in the Christians and Caniials.

The deemsters’ power is wheresoever his person is upon any emergent occasion, his token upon a slate is as powerful to suffion any delinquent to appear as yt of ye governor’s, which ill some cases (as well as ye governor) he may do either walking or riding, and his acts in this kind is as effectual as if they had been done in court. Their office is to hear and determine difficult cases ill controversies yt come before them or either of them (or to ye hearing whereof they are called by the governor), between party and party, at ye common law, each of the deemsters having power to call the keys of the Island to assist him if the difficulty of the case do require it. From the sentence of theft, comonly, there is no appeal (since the 20th year of King Edward the First’), of which I shaß have occasion to speak hereafter. Moreover, they are (amongst the chiefest) to be present at a king’s or lord’s instalment or first admittance ; besides, no new law can be established, or received for law, but by the assent of ye deemsters and ye 24 keys of ye Island. No man hath power to imprison for debt, but as the deemster shall order by law of process ; but the lords of his houshold causes, or misdemeanour in ye castles or for-tresses are exempted ; for all faults there committed are punished by the constable of ye castle, and are not to be brought before the deemster. This which followeth is taken out of Mr. Chaloner’s Description of the Isle of Man,2 and Mr Robt. Tinsley, the Lord Fairfax his attorney-general for the Island.

The deemsters are justices of the peace in the Island whithersoever they come, as if they see, or be informed, of any force or battery to be committed by any manner of person, they may take recognisance for ye peace in the lord’s name, and certifie them into the controuler’s or clerks of the Rolls’ office, or if yt be denied, yt sufficient bale or sureties for the peace be not tendered unto them, they may commit the delinquent to the crowner of the sheeding, where they then are at the instant, and he is to bring in the party to the next gaol, or if he be near any of the garison places of Castle Russin, Castle Peel, or Douglas Fort, he or they may send such delinquent to the constable thereof, to be committed till the governor have opportunity, or give further or other order in ye business. The deemsters may do in any other lawful acts by their places, as, namely, they put out juries ex officio, for furnishing the lord’s tenants with servants, every man according to his holding ; ye sons or servants of the tenants of lesser rents are to serve the tenants of greater rents in cases of ~xtremity, if vagrant servants cannot be had ; and some officers, as the deemsters, the moors, and coroners, are to have their choice of servants. The parsons also of parishes, and vicars of 3ds of tythes of such parishes as are to have the like, which is called their bridge and staff. The deemsters, for a debt for corn, upon the plaintiff’s oath gives his token for execution without hearing of the ,natter. Also, if one beast do kill another, he puts out a jury presently to try the matter, and as he finds by verdict of yt jury he gives his execution for the delivery of the living beast for the dead, or damages, as he shall find cause ; but many times such matters be referred to the cothon law.

What fees and perquisites belong to the deemster’s office you may there collect. There also you shall find yt the deemsters attend the governor at ye sheeding courts ; the deemster gives the charge at the court, after ye jury, after ye gaol delivery, have given up their verdict ; and he pro-nounceth judgment of life or death. They sit in the courts of the bishops and abbeys of the Isle.


1 Anno 1291.

2 [Chaloner’s Treatise of the Isle of Man, Manx Society, Vol. X. p. 47.— Editor.]


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