[From Manx Soc vols 25+28 - Blundell's History]




CONCERNING ye Courts of Justice kept in ye Isle of Man ; they have diverse, wch may all be reduced into three heads, for either they are their customary courts, common law courts, or spiritual courts. Their customary courts, which are commonly called the sheeding courts, are of ye nature of o’ court leets in England. Their common law courts are of ye nature of Or court barons. Concerning those of spirituall courts, I shall speak of ym in ye 3d booke of this history ; neither shall I much insist on either of ye two later, only, in generall, I shall give you an acct. of their names and number, omitting to set downe pticularly wth wch formalityes they are observed, how, and by whome ordered, their judgmts and sentences executed, etc., for this belongeth to ye practicall part of their legall proceedings, wch is no part of my undrtaking, and besides, is already exactly set forth in Mr Chaloner’s (late published) description of ye Isle of Man.

The principall court of all ye Island (in my opinion) is yt ~ they call a Tinwald, of ~ I shall have occasion to speak more at large in the chapter subsequent (ch. xxiv.)

The next is w" their tearmes wth they call their sheeding courts, of ~ I have spoken in ye chapter p"sedent.

The third is yt which they call their head court, w± is their court of gaol delivery, wch is always kept in yt Island twice in ye year, vizt. on ye Munday immediately following

after ye sheeding courts are ended ; this court doth in nothing differ from 0r assizes, except in two particulars.

The first is yt here (from all antiquity), some of ye clergy must be p’~sent and assist at this court (ye byshop of the Island was used to sit there in former time), and ye evidence given against a delinquent was taken by spirituall officers, and by them certifyed to ye ten~porall court, by and upon ye oaths of 12 jurors, and of ye chapter quests and side men of the several parishes ; and after this ye jury of life and death at ye court of gaol delivery, passeth upon ye party as upon other felons. Yet, notwthstanding, these spirituall assistants must not bee present w11 any sentence of death is pronounced.

( And this I found in their customary lawes), for wn ye jury of life and death are ready to give their verdict, they, comeing againe before ye court, ye deemster asketh ym if ye 1 may sitt there or not whilest they deliver their verdict ; if any of ye prisoners at ye barr be by them found guilty, as yt by ye law they are to dye, ye jury saith ye bald-pates may not sitt, then all those of ye clergy (who have been all ye time before in court) must depart ye court whilst ye verdict is delivered, and judgmt pronounced by ye deemster.

The second pticular is yt (in this Island) no malefactor ~guilty of having killed other men) shall have ye previledge of clergy, or benefitt to plead chance medly, for here he is not allowed his booke, soe as if he be found guilty, he cannot be saved but by ye lord of the Island’s grace.

Now, concerning ye putting to death of malefactors and condemned psons, I finde by their customary lawes this amongst ye rest, noe execution of any malefactor shall be done in ye Passion weeke, yt is between Palme Sunday and Easter weeke and day ; a pious practised custome, herein, in part, imitating ye primitive times, for Theodotius ye Elder, amino

1 The words in the original, well are here translated bald-pates, are more

properly the men of the chancel.

389, forbad ye examination of all criminall causes in ye Lent, and pticularly any executions of death, because it was a time to free soules from punishmt~ by devotion, yt ye people might attend more seriously to their devotion.

Now, besides these three courts before mentioned, they have another, wch they call the excheq’ ; another called ye chancery court, of both wch I had occasion to mention before ; they have, besides all these, another court, wch they call a court of debet, wch is a court for assessing and mittigating of all fines of all ye courts, both spirituall and temporafl, for ye whole year ; for those few, M~ Chaloner, ubi supra.

Here they have no use of subpenas ; nor of any writs of wch nature soever, to suffion ye adverse party in any of their courts (either customary or common law) ; a token (as they tearme it) serves ye turne, either from ye governor (in cases of ye chancery), or from either of ye deemsters (in cases of ye common law), wch is thus procured : The plaintiff cometh to ye controwler and entreth his complaint, and thereof taketh a coppy and sheweth it to ye governor or deemster, either of ym taketh up a piece of blue slate (wch there are obvious enough, even everywhere, in any part of ye Island), and upon yt slate he scrapeth or maketh wch marke he pleaseth, and this stone, soe marked, is called a token, wch being given to ye plaintiff, he delivereth it to ye coroner of ye place where ye defendant dwelleth or resideth, wch ye defendant haveing reed, he is bound both to appeare, answer, and to pro-duce witnesses, etc.

I doe not finde any of ye lord’s officers can give a token, but only ye governor or deemster; notwtitstanding ye receiver-generall, whn ye moores have been negligent, and are not committed for not gathering of ye lord’s rents, his token to ye constable of a castle doth commd a soldier to fetch in ye tenant who is behind in paying of his rent. Notwthstanding, if ye defendant (to whome ye token was shewed) doe not appear, he may have ye first and second attach,nt, and after yt a soldier bringeth him to ye governor (whome to resist is forfeture of body and goods, if he be a native and not a stranger).

But their customary law permitteth ym yt jf it soe fall out yt if any man have cause of complaint against another, and doe finde his adversary prsent in ye court (whilst the court is sitting), he may take his adversary by ye arme and bring him before ye governor, and set his foott upon ye adversarye’s foott, and he may then there implead him, although he had never before suthoned or cited him wth ye formality of ye token aforesaid.

This setting of ye plaintiff’s foott upon ye defendant’s foott, whence it had its first beginning I know not ; but I finde it in another case to have been a very ancient ceremony practised in ye Isle of Man, but very superstitiously ; for both Ranolfe’ of Chester, and Caxton in his description of England, have written yt in ye Island of Man, offtentimes in ye day-time, ye Islanders did see men yt had been deade, either without ye head, or the body entire, and wt manner of death they died ; but aliens (strangers) to see this sight were to get their foott upon ye foott of a Manksman, or otherwise they could not see the sights yt ye natives then did see.

Albert Magus hath such another idle way to uncFstand ye chirping of birds, wch I thinke not fitt to write, but he saith to make another to understand ym you must kiss ye party, and he shall understand them as well as you.

‘ Policron. 1. 1, C. 44, ch. 6.


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