[From King Orry to Queen Victoria, 1899]




ON Good Friday, A.D. 1014, there was fought in Ireland the great Battle of Clontarf, between the Irish, under their celebrated King, Brian Boroimhe—or, as he is better known at the present day, Brian Boru—and the different clans and tribes of Norsemen who at this time had made a firm settlement at Dublin, and were ruled by Sittric, King of the Danes of Dublin.

Sittric, hearing he was going to be attacked by Brian Boru (who, the Irish tell us, was a giant), sent round the war-arrow among all his allies of the various isles, and among the rest to the Isle of Man. This war-arrow was simply a piece of wood, in the form of an arrow-head, which the various Scandinavian nations used, much to the same purpose as the Scottish clans did the fiery cross, to alarm and call to arms their allies, by sending swift messengers with it to the various chiefs, who each, on receiving the summons, immediately despatched it on to the next Viking, and, after mustering his own forces, proceeded with all haste to join the fight, wherever it might be.

By means of this war-arrow, King Sittric collected at Clontarf as large an army as Brian Boru; and a fierce and bloody battle ensued, of a somewhat similar nature to the celebrated one between the Kilkenny cats. An ancient historian states that the soldiers fought, man to man, with the greatest determination and animosity. The victors of one rank fell victims to the next in front. The commanders on both sides performed prodigies of valour, but nearly all were slain. The son of the King of the Danes, named Brodar, engaged in single combat with the giant, Brian Boru. Both fell in the deadly strife. Only a very few of the Manx army survived to return to their homes.

Twenty years later, 1030 A.D., Snibue, King of Man and the Isles, was killed in battle, unsuccessfully defending his territories against the incursions of the celebrated Trofine, Earl of Orkney.

The next King of Man, Harold I., a son of Snibue, after trying in vain to drive out the Lieutenants of the Earl of Orkney, died 1040 A.D. in Ireland, a fugitive from his native country. He was succeeded by Godred III., who did vassalage to the Earl of Orkney, and became firmly established on the throne Df Man after the death of Earl Trofine, 1064 A.D.

We have now arrived at an important epoch, not )flly in the history of Man, but of England also. Elarold, the last of the Saxon Kings, was on the

English throne, and Fingal II. on that of Man and the Isles.

In the ever - memorable year io66 A.D., Tosti Godwinson, the brother of Harold, King of England, having rebelled against his brother, at the instigation of William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy, so well known as William the Conqueror, invited the assistance of Harold Hardraade, King of Norway, and Godred Crovan or Godfrey IV., King of Man, who had just succeeded to the throne on the death of his father, Fingal II., and, accompanied by his allies and their armies, invaded his brother’s dominions.

At Stamford Bridge the English army, under Harold the Saxon, signally defeated the allied invaders, in a pitched battle, in which both Harold Hardraade, King of Norway, and Tosti Godwinson were slain; but the Manx King managed to make a good retreat, and reached his island home with the remnant of his forces and fleet. The King of England was unable to follow the Manxmen, being compelled to hurry southward to protect his country from the more formidable and successful Norman invaders, under the conquering William.

When Godred Crovan returned to the island after the defeat at Stamford Bridge, the inhabitants opposed him. He landed his force near Ramsey during the night, and placed 300 men in an ambush. As soon as the sun rose, the inhabitants attacked the troops he was landing from his ships in the bay on the south side of the harbour, with great ferocity; but when the 300 men appeared from their ambush and attacked them in the rear, his opponents attempted to fly. The tide being up, they could not recross the river Sulby, which flows into the harbour, and seeing their dilemma they threw down their arms and yielded, petitioning only for their lives.

After his victory Godred, who had a number of Norsemen and others in his army, gave them the choice of either taking land on the Island of Man, or taking the portable property of the vanquished. They chose the latter, took what plunder they could get in three days, and sailed away to their own homes.

Godred marched the rest of his army to the south of the island, and granted the people all their lands back again upon the condition that ‘none of them or their descendants should ever presume to claim them as their inheritance, but hold them in perpetuity under the King.’ It was thus that the land was ever after held under the King or Lord of the island; but this law was afterwards modified in 1703 A.D. by the Manx Magna Charta and Act of Settlement, obtained by Bishop Wilson from the Lord and House of Keys.

Godred Crovan, soon after settling down on his throne, collected a new fleet and army, and brought under his subjection the Isles of the Hebrides, over which he placed his son Logman as Lieutenant, and afterwards turned his arms against Ireland, at that time, as usual, divided into many petty and hostile factions and principalities.

Godred not only reduced Dublin, but carried his gallant Manxmen victorious through the greater part of Leinster, which he laid under tribute.

This great warrior died 1095 A.D., after a reign of thirty-six years, at the Island of Islay, on his way to resist an invasion of his northern insular territories by Magnus Barefoot, King of Norway, to whom he had refused to do the customary homage and vassalage. He left three sons, Logman, Harold, and Olave.

With the loss of their great King, the Manx seem to have lost for a time some of their spirit and pluck. Not only the lesser isles but Man itself speedily became an easy prey to Magnus Barefoot, who came to the island with 160 ships.

Now occurs a peculiarly interesting historical record. In the Norwegian annals of Magnus Bare foot we have the earliest known mention of the Highland dress or kilt, which seems to have been the ordinary costume of the Manx and other islanders of that period. It was from his adopting it himself that King Magnus obtained the sobriquet of ‘Bare foot.’ ‘They went on the streets,’ says Saone Struleson, the Icelandic historian, ‘with bare legs, whence Magnus was called by his men Barfod or Barbeen—Barefoot or Barelegs.’ This proves the great antiquity of the kilt.

After his conquest of Man, Magnus placed over it a Norwegian Jarl or Earl, named Octtar or Ottar, as Governor. This man displeased the inhabitants of the southern part of the island, who rebelled and elected MacManus as their leader, under whom they marched northwards.

A battle was fought between the forces of Ottar and MacManus at Santroust, in the parish of Jurby. The fight was long and severe, with heavy losses on both sides. The followers of MacManus were driving their opponents from the field, when the women of the north, rushing into the thickest of the fight, rallied their husbands, sons, and brothers, rendering such timely and effectual assistance as totally changed the issue of the day, but not before both the leaders were killed.

As a reward for the bravery of the northern Manx Amazons, it was afterwards enacted by the House of Keys, in Tynwald Court assembled, ‘That of all goods immoveable, not having any life, the wives shall have the half in the Northern Sheadings; whereas in the Southern Sheadings the wives shall only be entitled to one-third.’ This law is still in force, though somewhat modified, and although it is sometimes abused in a few cases of fraudulent bank ruptcy, it works well, and has been the means of saving many families from utter ruin. This law entails the necessity of the husband’s and wife’s signature being both attached to any transfer, sale, or mortgage of land in the Isle of Man.

So many men on both sides were slain in the battle of Santroust, that there were not enough left to till the land, and the inhabitants were nearly falling victims to a famine. Magnus Barefoot hearing of this, returned himself to Man in or about 1098 A.D., hut was killed in 1103 A.D., on the coast of Ireland, when engaged upon one of his warlike expeditions.

On the death of Magnus, the old line of the Manx Kings was once more restored, and Logman, a son of Godred Crovan, was crowned King of Man and the Isles.

This Logman reigned seven years, and seems to have been a prototype of King John of England. His cruelties (among which the putting out of his brother Harold’s eyes is the most notable) were such that he was compelled by his indignant subjects to abdicate his throne, and he joined the Crusaders to Palestine, from whence he never returned.

On hearing of the death of their absent King Logman, the notables of the island sent an embassy to Murecard O’Brien, King of Ireland, asking him to send them a ‘diligent and desirable man’ to rule them, till Olaf or Olave, the third son of their great King, Godred Crovan, became of full age.

The Irish King sent one Dopnald, the son of Tade, who made himself so obnoxious to the Manx people, that after putting up with his rule for three years they rose up in arms and banished him back to Ireland, from whence he never returned.

Olave, 1102 A.D., a good prince, was slain with a battle-axe by his nephew Reginald, near Ramsey, previous to a general battle.

Godred, 1143 A.D., Olave’s son, who avenged his father’s fate by the death of Reginald, was afterwards elected King of Leinster on account of his virtues.

Summerted, 1158 A.D., a Thane of Argyle, and brother-in-law to Godred, conquered and usurped the crown, as did Reginald also after him; but Godred subdued him, and died King of Man, 1187 A.D.

Olave, son of Godred, was dethroned and banished by Reginald, his bastard elder brother, but was restored after many hardships. Reginald invaded his kingdom, and was slain in battle near Tynwald Hill.

No notable King was on the Manx throne till it was occupied by Olaf or Olave III., surnamed ‘the Black’ King of Man.

‘Olaf the Black’ was a worthy descendant of Hacon, the sea-prince, and, like him, was a British Admiral. Henry III. of England, in 1236 A.D., granted King Olaf an annual sum in silver coin of 40 marks, 100 quarters of corn, and wine, for defending a part of the English coasts with his fleet, which by all accounts was a very powerful one.

Olaf died at Peel Castle in 1237 A.D., and was succeeded by a weak Prince, Reginald III., who not only bought the protection of King John of England, but submitted to hold his crown under the See of Rome, paying twelve marks annually to the Abbey of Furness.

There is a curious document extant, evidently a safety pass from Henry II., King of England, dated Windsor, April 13, 1233 A.D., wherein it is written:

‘We have taken under our safe and sure conduct our beloved friend Olave, King of Man and the Islands, whilst coming into England to confer with us, and whilst tarrying here and departing thence.’

Reginald was the first King of Man that ever became subject to the Pope, and is justly execrated by all true Manxmen to this day on that account. The surrender was executed at the house of the Knights Templar in London.

Both John and Henry III. espoused the cause of Reginald.

It is related of Olaf the Black that he once sent his shoes to the King of Dublin, with a command that he should carry them on his shoulders through his palace, and go to church on Christmas Day, in the presence of his ambassadors. So great was the terror of his name that, fearing to give offence to the mighty Manx sea-king, and lay his dominions open to be ravaged by Olaf, the King of Dublin, named Murtough the Peaceful, said, ‘He would eat the shoes in question rather than afford a pretext to the Manx people to destroy one province of Ireland.’

Olaf the Black gave the Abbey of Rushen, at Ballasalla, to Evan, Abbot of Furness, to serve as a nursery to the Manx Church, and thus laid the foundation of the seat of learning for which the island has ever since been famous. It was from this circumstance that the Abbots of Furness always held the appointment of the Abbots of Rushen, and possessed so large an influence in the election of the Bishops.

Olaf also divided the tithes into three parts. To the Bishop he gave one-third for his maintenance, to the Abbey of Rushen one-third for the education and relief of the poor, and the remaining third to the parochial clergy for their subsistence.

In 1250 A.D., John, King of England, took a fancy to the Isle of Man, and wanted to add it to his English territories. He landed at Ronaldsway, not far from Castle Rushen, on the Southern coast, and proclaimed himself King.

The Manx people were perfectly indignant at him and his proceedings. They rose in one body, and, attacking John’s encampment, totally defeated him, compelling him to beat a hasty retreat to his ships and leave the island. From this time the power of the Norwegian Kings began to decline.

In 1263 A.D., Hacon Hakonson, King of Norway, surnamed Hakory the Aged, attempted an invasion of Scotland, and was defeated on October 3, at Largs, by Alexander III., King of Scotland, with such immense loss of both men and ships that the Norwegian power in the Isles was for ever broken. In this battle the Scots lost 5,000 and the Norwegians 16,000 men.

Magnus IV., then King of Man, on hearing of the terrible defeat of his Norwegian patron, immediately hastened to Dumfries, where he did homage to the conqueror, Alexander, who granted him a charter, by which he held the Isle of Man from the crown of Scotland.

Magnus IV. was the ninth and last ruler of Man of the race of Godred Crovan. He died at Castle Rushen, 1265 A.D., and was buried in the Abbey Church of Rushen, at Ballasalla, which church he had just completed, and caused to be dedicated to St. Mary. This family had for nearly two centuries ruled in Man, with the title of King, though, in effect, they were merely lieutenants of the crown of Norway.

It is a curious fact in the history of monastic establishments, and is mentioned by Holinshed in his ‘Chronicles,’ that most of them were founded in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and owe their origin in a great measure to the general belief prevailing at that time throughout Christendom that the world would come to an end and be destroyed at the termination of the prophetic period of 1260 years from the birth of Christ.

Many of the large secular properties that were given up by their owners to the Church, for the erection and endowment of monastic and other religious establishments, were meant as offerings to secure, if possible, the favour of Heaven in such an emergency.

Between 1100 and 1250 A.D., no less than fifteen hundred of these establishments were erected in England alone, and a proportionate number in Scotland. Hence the magnificent donations that were made at this period by the Kings of Norway and Man to the monastery of Rushen.


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