[From King Orry to Queen Victoria, 1899]



SO long as the Kings of Man could write ‘Rex Manniae et Insularem’ after their names the arms were the ship with furled sail; but when the Scots, under their King Alexander, took possession of the Western Islands and also of Man, the three legs were substituted.

With the toe of one leg they spurn at Ireland,
with the spur of another they kick at Scotland, and
with the third leg they kneel to England.

The legs are all cased in armour, denoting self-defence; the spurs denote speed; while in whatever position they are placed, one of them falls into the attitude of supplication.

The meaning of the symbol is, that if England should have thought of oppressing the island, Ireland and Scotland would have been asked for help; and if either of these two, or both of them combined, should assail the Manx nation, England would be called upon to help and defend them.

The motto is an iambic dimeter—’ Quocunque Jeceris Stabit’ (‘Whichever way you may throw it, it will stand’). Whether this be taken in English or Latin, it very ingeniously agrees, both in sense and style, with the attitude of the legs. The position of the legs cannot be changed in the plain so as to alter their attitude to the three surrounding countries of England, Scotland, and Ireland; and no transposition of the words of the Latin motto will change its sense and meaning.

The occult moral of this emblem presents the instructive parable of 'A brave man struggling with fate.’ The character is constituted by the conjunction of humility, energy, and fortitude. His attitude is that of supplication; but, at the same time, that of activity. He is only on one knee. With one limb he implores assistance; with the other two he serves himself. With the sense of dependence on strength superior to his own, he combines the most strenuous exertion of his own energies; to the modesty of supplication he conjoins the discretion of armour and the activity of the spurs. Whatever lot Providence may apportion to such a man, whatever it will cost him, he will stand.

‘Reader, thou’st seen a falling cat
Light always on its legs so pat;
A shuttlecock will still descend,
Meeting the ground on nether end:
The persevering Manxman thus,
A shuttlecock or pauvre puss,
However thro’ the world he’s tost—
However disappointed, crosst,
Reverses, losses, fortune’s frown,
No chance or change will keep him down.
Upset him any way you will,
Upon his legs you find him still;
For ever active, brisk and spunky,
Stabit Jeceris Quocunque.’
[see ManxSoc 16]

The insignia of the Island of Sicily, in the Mediterranean, is also three legs, similarly joined together at the thighs, but the legs are bare and naked.

The origin of the very quaint device of the Manx three legs goes back to very old times—times when the Manx people believe that the island was only inhabited by fairies, and everything was carried on in quite a fairylike and supernatural manner, without any aid from mortal men.

Tradition says that the island was enchanted and ruled by a fairy enchanter, who was very jealous at the bare idea of mortals coming to its shores, and so to prevent anyof the sea-rovers from seeing the land when passing in their ships, he caused a blue mist or fog to envelop and hang over it, and thus kept the island out of the sight of all mariners who frequented those seas.

This enchanter had also the power of making one little fairy-man appear like a whole army of big men, and of so frightening away the crews of any vessels that might penetrate the mist and attempt to invade his domains.

One day, however, it so happened that some fishermen were driven by stress of weather through the mist, and, much to their surprise, discovered land where they least expected to find it; but when they did see it, it was so enshrouded in vapour and mist they could hardly discern anything distinctly. They Succeeded, after great difficulty, in getting their small vessel safely on to the beach and landing.

Once on shore, they prepared to make a fire to warm themselves and cook some food. Amid their preparations, they were frightened and astonished on hearing fearful noises, but could not distinguish whence they proceeded. Directly one of the men struck a light with his tinder-box, the fog began to break, and as the fire burned up, so did the clouds and mist commence to roll along and ascend up the sides of what they could now perceive was a mountain. The rolling mist was followed by a curious object that looked like three legs of men, joined together at the thighs, the knees and feet sticking out like the spokes of a wheel. This wonderful object, slowly revolving, followed after the cloud as it rolled up the mountainside, and disappearing, was never seen again from that time to this.

The light of the fire evidently broke the spell of the enchanter’s power, and though the island is often remarked to have a belt of fog and mist hanging about its shores, neither mist nor fog has ever returned so dense again.

An Irishwoman, on first beholding the device of the three legs on the paddle-box of one of the Isle of Man Packet Company’s steamers, on the occasion of her arrival in Liverpool, and being told what they were, exclaimed: ‘It must be a moighty quare counthry that his ligs for its arums.’

To within a few years the Manx copper coinage bore the Queen’s head on one side and the three legs and motto on the reverse. They have entirely disappeared from circulation, having been gradually absorbed by visitors to Mona’s Isle, who have taken them away as curios and mementoes of their visit.

The first Manx penny and halfpenny with the three legs on one side and the crest of the Derby family— the eagle and child—on the reverse were coined in 1709 A.D. by the Earl of that date.

The last coinage of Manx pence was in 1839 A.D., with Queen Victoria’s head on one side and the three legs on the reverse. Thirteen Manx pence were equivalent to the English shilling.


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