[From Ellan Vannin, 1895]
FOR about a thousand years of the Christian era, we have but little that is authentic for Manx history. Much related is simply fabulous ; much is without adequate evidence. Under the former may be classed the mists of Manninan Mac Lear," the miracles of St. Patrick in the Island, the adventures of St Maughold in his coracle from Ireland to Maughold Head, and some other marvels of the same class. Considerable confusion as to alleged facts has been caused by the confounding of the two Monas, the Welsh Anglesey and the Manx Man. In a communication to a Welsh friend of mine, Professor Rhys writes that " Manxmen seem to have forgotten that there was a Welsh Mona as well as a Manx Mona," and that they have "confounded the history of the Welsh island with the Manx island." He adds, "This, I am told, is the explanation of the assertion that a dynasty of Welsh princes ruled over Man. The conquest of Man by, Edwin rests, I believe, on two passages in Bede's Hist. Eccles., ch. v. and ix, where he mentions, among the Englishman's conquests, Menavias Insulas. This has easily been supposed to mean Anglesey and Man, but I am by no means sure that Man is included." Adequate historic evidence seems to require the exclusion of much that some have held to be true in relation to the Druids and their connection with Man. In a pamphlet by the Rev., T. Talbot, of Douglas, the point is dealt with in the light of the knowledge of an expert in Manx history, and their presence in Man he regards as without evidence. What has often been assumed as true of St. Patrick in Man, seems to belong to the same category of things doubtful. In his autobiography, published by the Religious Tract Society in its Christian Classic Series, and under the editorship of the Rev. C. H. H. Wright, D.D., St. Patrick never mentions the Island, and in the record of his life leaves no room for a Manx mission and episcopate. The question has been ably argued in the negative in a pamphlet by the Rev. W. T. Hobson, M.A., of Douglas; but further remarks must be reserved for a later chapter. Edwin of Northumbria ruled from Edinburgh, south and west, over a large strip of England as well as Anglesey, but there is no proof of sway over Man.
The list of the Bishops of Man falls under the same remarks as to want of evidence; and the line of Welsh rulers ; and things alleged of the earlier of the ages deemed Scandinavian. The list of the early Bishops did not appear in print until about 1671. The monks of Rushen, in their Chronicle, say nothing of the Druids, nothing of King Orry and his dynasty, and nothing of Bishops until the time of Godred Crovan, in and after 1077, when they mention Roolwer as Bishop. And that chronicle is taken to date from about 1250, its record beginning at 1065, and is the earliest reliable account of the Island. The earliest history is in 1482 ; it contains the oldest map of the Island, with the outlines of the ancient lakes*. " The supposed original Chronicle of the Isle of Man," professing to go on to the time of the Revestment in 1765, is not of much help in the history. The parish registers give no light . with the exception of Ballaugh in 1598, they are not earlier than the seventeenth century, the period of Chaloner's history, Bishop Wilson's coming a little later, and beginning its account at the Norwegian conquest, with no notice of a Bishop until 1151. Thus blank are the days of old.
The dearth of historic material may be explained in part. It is not entirely peculiar to Man. The early light on British history comes from its place in the empire of Imperial Rome. It was the same with other nations, the Huns, the Goths, the Vandals, Lombards, and Franks; their early history is not from themselves, but from the annals of the great empire. Manxland was not within that empire. Tacitus relates that Agricola, with his forces, reached the Grampian range of Caledonia, but the little Island not far away on his left, was outside of his sphere. When Ireland had the fame of Christian culture, and Scotland had its Iona, the Manx Mona from its obscurity was not seen. Few wrote history in those ages. The monk Gildas, as a writer of British history, seems to stand alone, between 449 and 607, and he writes chiefly about Kent and the Saxon invaders. Writing itself was rare. The laws of Saxon England were in writing until about 600; those of Man, not until 1422; and, in the Manx language, no Book until 1709.
There were also special causes for the dearth in Man. The successive transfers of the Island would imperil historic documents, and the various invasions - Mary, daughter of Reginald, in her escape, might remove some of the Manx records; and yet more, the Countess of Derby, when she left amid the troubles of the Commonwealth. Sacheverell states, in his history, that some of the early Christian records of Man might be destroyed in the Papal ages to avoid the comparison of more modern corruptions of the truth with the earlier purity; just as the early annals of Iona were destroyed under a decree of the Popish Synod of Argyle.
The historic light reaches Man just as the Scandinavian comes to plunder the " little nation," which even in the time of Bede was not supposed to number more than three hundred families.
*Radcliffe is I think confused - the first map showing these lakes was Speed's map of 1610.