[from History of IoM, 1900]

[note that Moore wrote this in 1900 drawing on the best sources of the period but much more has been learnt since these times and the reader is referred to the numerous more recent books on the Viking Age e.g. that by Foote & Wilson ]



IN this chapter we propose to inquire into the social and political conditions in Man during the Scandinavian period. On this subject our insular records afford us no information. But, inasmuch as Iceland was largely colonised from the Sudreys, more than half the names of its first colonists recorded in the Landnâmabóc,1 the Doomsday Book of Iceland, being those of Northmen who had been settled in the western isles, we may reasonably take the conditions of early Icelandic society, respecting which we have ample means of knowledge, as representing, with substantial correctness, those which prevailed in Man at the beginning of the period of Scandinavian rule.

The first settlers in Iceland, at the end of the ninth century, had hardly passed beyond the limits of the patriarchal state. Every father of a family was priest and king in his own house. The sexes, however, seem to have been very nearly on equal terms. The customary law allowed couples to separate at the will of either party, if good reasons could be shown for the change, and, in marriage contracts, the rights of brides were amply provided for. As patriarchs, then, the new settlers came, each head of a house with his kith and kin, with his freed men and thralls. He brought with him the holy pillars of his high seat, the props of his tribunal, and the ornaments of his drinking-hall. The actions of such men were regulated by certain fixed principles, of which we will enumerate the most important The first was that the father had a right of property

in his children. He might rear them or not at his will. Consequently only the strong were, as a rule, spared, while the weak were left to die by exposure. When the sons left the paternal roof they were emancipated, and when the daughters were married they were also free, but the marriage itself was a matter of sale and barter in deed as well as in name. Thus, in the same way as Odin was supreme in Asgard as the great father of gods and men, every father of the race that revered Odin was also sovereign and supreme in his own house. The second was that any appeal to arms was an appeal to Odin, the God of battles. Victory was indeed the sign of a rightful cause, and he that won the day enjoyed the rights he had thereby acquired, but he that lost it, if he fell bravely and like a man, if he truly believed his quarrel just, went by the very manner of his death straight into the halls of Odin. To die in bed was considered a disgrace.2 In private war, too, an appeal to arms was similarly regarded. Hence arose the right of duel-of wager of battle, as the old English law called it. Among the Northmen this right of appeal to arms underlay all their early legislation, which aimed rather at regulating and guiding it than at attempting to check it. The third principle was that every man was bound to avenge all wrongs to his blood relations to the utmost of his power. Hence arose the constant blood-feuds between families of which we hear so much in the Sagas. The obligation of revenge, however, was modified by the permission to accept compensation in goods or money for injuries of all kinds, even including the slaughter of one's kinsfolk. It rested with the father of the family either to take a life for a life, or to forego his vengeance on condition of receiving pecuniary satisfaction from the offender. Out of this view arose arbitrary tariffs for wounds or loss of life, which were gradually developed until every injury to life or limb had its proportionate price, according to the rank which the injured person bore in the social scale. They had also the following general rules of conduct: To do what lay before them openly and like men; to hold their own and seek fame without respect of persons; to be free and daring in all their deeds; robbery and piracy in a good straightforward, wholesale way were honoured and respected; but to steal, to creep to a man's abode secretly at dead of night, and spoil his goods, was looked upon as infamy of the worst kind. To be stern to their foes, but to fulfil all duties even to them; to utter nothing against any man that they would not dare to tell him to his face ; to turn no man from their door who sought food or shelter. Such were the Northmen as we find them depicted in their own Sagas.

We may now briefly describe the houses they inhabited, their dress, occupations, and their legal system. Each prominent man, or chief, lived on his own estate with his family, followers, and servants. The collection of buildings which they occupied was called brier, or byr,3 which included the farm buildings as well as the dwelling-house. These buildings were all detached from each other, even the different parts of the dwelling-house itself being built under separate roofs, the kitchen under one, the dining-hall under another, and so forth. These buildings, which varied in number according to the wealth of the owner, 4 seem to have been arranged so as to form a quadrangle. Their beds were placed round the wall and consisted of straw, the covering being the clothes worn during the day time. The smoke from the open hearths escaped through the ljõri, which was a louvre, or opening, in the roof. This also served for admitting the light, for, except in the best houses, where there were light-holes covered with a membrane, there were no windows.

The usual dress materials were linen, wool, silk, and ' furs. Grey váðmal, a woollen stuff, was the usual colour for everyday wear of freemen, while the slaves wore a coarse white dress of the same. Trousers were worn at a very early period. They were kept in their place by a belt round the waist and had the socks knitted on to them. A serk, or shirt, made of linen, put on by means of an opening for the head, was worn next the body. Over it was the kyrtill, kirtle or tunic, made of wool. Then came the coat of mail, over which the hjüp, a short kirtle without sleeves, was sometimes worn. Finally, over the shoulders there was a cloak, something like the Roman toga. Their shoes were like the Manx carranes and were made fast with thongs. Magnus,5 at the end of the eleventh century, adopted the Irish and Scottish custom of having bare legs and kilt, and was consequently nicknamed " barefoot." This fashion was, however, obsolete in Scandinavia a hundred years later, though it is probable that it continued in Man till the English conquest. The Norsemen seem to have usually shaved all the hair on their faces, except the upper lip. 6

The women's dress 7 was in several respects similar to that of the men. Their kirtle was longer and more ample and was confined by a girdle, often of silver, from which hung a pocket, a knife (sometimes adorned with silver or gold), a pair of scissors, and, in the case of the matrons, a bunch of keys. In materials and colours there was no difference between the kirtles worn by men and women. A special kind of kirtle (called námkyrtill) was sometimes worn by the women, consisting of a skirt and tightly-fitting bodice fastened in front. This costume was completed by an apron, sometimes fringed, and ornamented with embroidered figures in blue or other colours. The women's cloaks, too, were like those of the men; it is often recorded that a man made a present of his cloak to a woman, and in the laws it is prescribed that a son inherits his mother's cloak. The under-garments were ordinarily of linen, and amongst the wealthier classes of silk. The women took great pride in their long, smooth hair, which the maidens wore flowing and without covering, the forehead being enriched with a band of silk, gold, or silver, while married women enveloped their heads in elaborate folds of white linen, often decorated with gold wire. As a sign of mourning a blue head-dress was substituted for the white one. Shoes and stockings were worn ; and on journeys the women as well as the men wore hats. Brooches, finger-rings, bracelets, and other ornaments are often mentioned in the Sagas.

The chief occupations of the men, when not on Viking expeditions, were agriculture and fishing ; while the women milked the cows, span and wove flax and wool, prepared the food and drink, and served the men.

The chief amusements were falconry, athletic games and warlike exercises. In the long winter evenings they passed their time in saga-telling, asking riddles, in harp-playing and in games of chess and draughts. But the most absorbing pursuit of their lives, which may be described as both an occupation and an amusement, was what would, in these days, be called piracy. The best idea of the Scandinavian pirates, vikings, or " creekers," as they were called, will perhaps be gathered from the following extracts from the customary laws which regulated their proceedings, and from a description of their vessels and method of fighting.

No man should run before a man of like power and like arms. Every man should avenge the other as his brother. None should speak a word of fear or dread of anything, however perilous things might be. All that they took in warfare should be brought to the stang, or pole, little or big, that was of any value ; and, if a man had not done this, he must be driven out. No man should have a sword longer than an ell. No man should take women or children prisoners, or should bind a wound till the same hour next day. No man of them was to have less strength than two ordinary men. They were never to put awnings on their ships nor to furl their sail for the wind. No man could become a viking who was older than sixty or younger than twenty. According to the Ynglinga Saga, " he only might with full truth be call a seaking (sae-conungr) that never slept under a sooty rafter, and never drank in the chimney-corner."9

These sea-kings had various kinds of war-vessels, of which the largest was called the Dreki, or Dragon. 10 But the more usual war-vessel was the skeið, which Vigfusson describes as "a kind of swift sailing ship of war of the class langskip (longship)." 11 It held from 20 to 30 or more rowers' benches and from 150 to 250 men, and its length varied from 100 to 160 feet. There was also a smaller vessel called skúta 12 which the same authority defines as " a small craft or cutter," and he adds that " a number of such used to accompany a fleet for use in rivers or on the coasts." These cutters, which were about 80 feet long, contained fifteen seats, and the upper part of their gunwale was so built that the crew could easily step on it in boarding an enemy. All these vessels had high prows and stems, and were low in the waist that the oars might reach the water. The rudder, called styri, was on the right side, the stjornbordi, or starboard.13 The warships of all kinds were usually accompanied by byrðingar,14 or ships of burden, which carried the supplies.

The sea was, as we have seen, the Vikings' highway, and it must be remembered that, in those days, the sea afforded a much more rapid means of transit than the land, because there were no roads, and communication was consequently slow and difficult. Man, and the other Sudreys, with the portions of the mainland to which they were from time to time attached, formed, in fact, a sort of naval empire, with the open sea as its general channel of communication. It was by making use of it that the Northmen amassed considerable wealth, first by their viking expeditions, and, at a later period, by the more legitimate operations of trade. Their trade, soon after their settlement in Ireland and the Sudreys, began to be a large and active one with England and Normandy through the numerous Scandinavian merchants settled in those countries, as well as with the mother countries of Scandinavia. The Sagas mention regular trading voyages to Ireland and the Sudreys from Norway, and even from Iceland. 15 The merchandize from the North consisted, for the most part, of fish, hides and furs, white woollen and linen cloths; corn, honey, and wine were taken back in exchange. Internal commerce was, no doubt, carried on at fairs and markets. The Scandinavian kings in Ireland were the first who caused coins to be minted there. Many of these have been found in the Isle of Man.

Such a people were by no means barbarians. Du Chaillu, in his Viking Age, writes of them in the following enthusiastic terms : "No, the people who then spread over a great part of the present Russia,16 who overran Germania, who knew the art of writing, who led their conquering hosts to Spain, into the Mediterranean, to Italy, Sicily, Greece, the Black Sea, Palestine, Africa, and even crossed the broad Atlantic to America, who were undisputed masters of the seas for more than twelve centuries (?), were not barbarians." 17 He continues then, with some justice, to say that " the English and Irish monkish chroniclers were prejudiced against them on account of their church and monastery burning proclivities," 18 and he concludes that " they possessed a degree of civilization which it would be difficult for us to realize except by the aid of the unrivalled collections of beautifully ornamented weapons, articles of clothing, and costly objects in gold and silver to be seen in the museums of the Scandinavian kingdoms at the present day. The weapons show their skill in working iron ; the clothing, with its graceful patterns, interwoven with threads of gold and silver, testify to their skill in weaving; and the beautiful jewelry and vessels of silver and gold to their taste and luxury."19

But the greatest glory and most abiding record of the Northmen in Man is the legal system introduced by them. 20 In considering this system, it must be remembered that the population of the heathen north was divided into serfs 21 and freemen, and that, even after the introduction of Christianity, centuries elapsed before serfdom was abolished. The freemen, who were also, originally, udallers, or freeholders, enjoyed a high degree of civic liberty and exercized an important influence on the affairs of their own districts. These districts, though small,22 had each their own court, or þing,23 wherein the freemen managed their own affairs and administered justice. The armed freemen mustered once a year at the great heathen feast of midsummer,24 in the central ping, called, in Iceland, the Al-Þing,25 to settle their disputes and to hear the customary law declared; and, when any difficult or doubtful points of law arose, the worthiest or most important of them were selected by the lawman or law-speaker to sit with the king in the Court, which was held in the church, or, in heathen days, in the temple, to assist in deciding these points. In criminal cases the freemen thus selected, after taking an oath, decided whether the accused should be allowed to swear away the charges against them by their own oaths, or to bring " oath-helpers " ; or whether they would have to undergo the ordeal either by fire or water, or by judicial combat. 26 When any legal point that had arisen had been settled, the court thus constituted walked in procession 27 to the hill 28 which was situated west of the court. 29 The king then took his seat upon the summit of the hill, with his face to the east, and, after the court had been fenced,30 the law-man proclaimed the judicial decisions in the hearing of all the freemen, without whose consent no judgment was valid. 31 The law-man also " gave the law " on any point on which an opinion might be required by any of the freemen present. This official, whose office in early times was probably hereditary, was supposed to have an extensive knowledge of early customs. He was the representative of the law, and his duty was to expound it. He was, in fact, a living law-book. Such was the invariable form of the ancient Scandinavian "folk-moot." Let us now see how the Manx Tynwald compares with it. Like the Al-Þing,,, the Tynwald 33 (Þing-võllr, "Parliament-field or plain") had its plain (võllr), with the hill and the court connected by a path, which was fenced in. The court was to the east of the hill, and the procession went from the court to the hill. The king was seated on the Tynwald hill with " his visage unto the east." 34 When he had taken his seat, the court was fenced and the deemsters (dómstiórar, "deem-" or "doom-steerers "), who answered to the law-man or speaker, and whose qualifications were practically identical with his, summoned " the worthiest men " 35 in the land to answer any questions the king might put to them. Both the Al-Þing and Tynwald were deliberative as well as executive assemblies, being both Parliament and High Court of Justice. 36 The " worthiest men," who came to be called the Keys,37 or Yn-Kiare-as-Feed, " The Twenty-four," from their actual number,38 corresponded to the selected freemen. The earliest information that we have about them is the declaration of the deemsters to Sir John Stanley, in 1422, to the effect that in "King Orryes Dayes " 38 the Keys, or Taxiaxi, 39 were " xxiiij Free Houlders, viz., viij in the Out Isles, and xvj in your Land of Man," 40 so that, since it is reasonably certain that, by " King Orryes Days " the deemsters meant the period of Godred Crovan's dynasty (i.e., from 1079 to 1265), we may infer that the Keys were selected from the freeholding class, even after the division of the isles in 1156.41

But it must be remembered that, as their meetings were held in the open air, the whole body of the freemen who had the right to express their opinion could also be present.42 It is probable that the Manx Scandinavian kings, in later days, had some sort of executive Council,or, at least, that there was a Council in existence before the fifteenth century, because the deemsters, in 1422, gave it for law that "whosoever maketh Gathering or Councell in prejudice of the Councell, he is a Traytor," 43 but of its composition there is no trace. 44

Another token of their political and administrative arrangements is the division of the island into six sheadings, or ship-districts (skeiða-Þing or skeitar-Þing), each of which would have its miniature Þing, parliament or court. The six sheadings are now called Glenfaba, Middle, Rushen, Garff, Ayre, and Michael, 45 each of which has its officer, the coroner, whose functions are similar to those of a sheriff. But, as will be seen from the. name, these divisions seem also to have served another purpose, i.e., that of units in the system of military organization, which would naturally be on a nautical basis, as was that of the country from whence they had come.46 The Manx sheadings practically answer to the hundreds, or herdds, of Scandinavia, where every hundred had to fit out four ships; so that the Manx levy would, on the same scale, have been twenty-four galleys, and, taking the average crew to be forty, the full levy of the island 47 would be one thousand.

We may also note that such place-names as Varða Fjall, "Beacon Fell " (now South Barrule), and Elby, "Fire-place," show that the Northmen, like their predecessors the Celts, did not neglect the important duty of watching the Manx coasts and issuing timely warning of the approach of invaders.

As regards their land system, it seems probable, from the survival of the practice of annual redistribution of the land into the fifteenth century,48 that it continued to be much the same as in Celtic times. Further confirmation of this is obtained from what is known of the land system in Iceland and Norway, which tends to show that the land there was divided into long strips, embracing a portion of the mountain land and a portion of the sea-shore; that these portions of mountain and shore belonged only to the owners of the adjacent strips during a portion of the year, and that they were thrown open to all for the remaining part of it.49 As to the tenure on which this land was held, we cannot pronounce with any confidence. But, from what is known of the Vikings, it is not likely that they would have submitted to any baser tenure than that of military service, especially when we consider how limited were the powers of their kings or chiefs. Under them the land was probably cultivated by the conquered Celts, at first merely as slaves, but afterwards rising to the position of yearly tenants at will. According to the Chronicle, the freeholders were entirely suppressed by Godred Crovan after his conquest of Man in 1079, but, as the same authority informs us that his followers left him after plundering the island, it seems highly improbable that he would have been able to carry out so strong a measure without their support. And this view is confirmed by the constant recurrence, in the same authority, of such expressions as "chiefs" 50 and "nobles," 51 which show that a freeholding and aristocratic class survived the conquest by Godred Crovan, and probably continued, though perhaps in reduced numbers, till after 1266.

Among other traces which the Northmen have left are the great earthen barrows where their chiefs were buried in heathen times. Some of these doubtless belong to the earlier inhabitants, but many remain which are of the characteristic Scandinavian type. They are found, for the most part, on hilltops, or near the sea coast, where there is an uninterrupted view of the sea. Of this the numerous Hows and Ballahows in insular nomenclature afford an undoubted record, even in the places where the bows themselves have disappeared. The ancient Viking desired to lie, not only where his grave might be seen by all men, but where his spirit might arise and gaze upon the beloved sea. At a later date, after the introduction of Christianity among the Northmen, which, in the Isle of Man, was probably about 1030, they adopted the ordinary Christian method of sepulture; and, in the following century, when the people became prosperous during the peaceful reign of Olaf, they began to carve their curious zoomorphic ornaments (usually consisting of huge serpentine monsters, terrestrial or marine, engaged in fierce combat, with their writhing bodies intertwined) on the same kind of monumental crosses as were used by the Celts. It is interesting to trace the different types of ornamentation on these crosses which were made use of by the two nationalities in Man-the exquisite geometric patterns of Celtic art, the bolder (zoomorphic) conceptions, more congenial to the descendants of the Vikings, and the combination of the two types. 52

About this same period, or possibly a little later, the fashion of writing in runes on these monuments to the dead was probably imported from Norway. The runic inscriptions show how mixed was the population of Man at that time; for, of the proper names occurring on the inscribed crosses in existence at the present day, nineteen in number, there are twenty-three Norse to seventeen of Gaelic or unNorse.53

Both the Gaelic and Norse languages were almost r. certainly spoken in Man during this period. The masters would speak Norse among themselves ; the law and all public transactions at the Tynwald and elsewhere would be in that tongue, while the servants or slaves, and probably many of the women, would usually speak Gaelic. It is clear, however, from the vast preponderance of Celtic place-names and surnames over Scandinavian that the women's tongue soon predominated, and that, when Scandinavian rule came to an end, the Norse language soon disappeared.

Of Scandinavian literature in Man there is no trace, but it is possible that Manx Celts, who appear to have emigrated in large numbers to Iceland, had their share in developing the prose epic, or saga, the noblest form of Northern literature.

1 Most of the following information is derived from the Landnâmabóc (Vigfusson's translation) ; from The Viking Age, by Du Chaillu, and the Introduction to the Burnt Nial Saga, by Sir G. Dasent.

2 See descriptions of Vikings, p. 83 note *, and pp. 145-6.

3 Hence the frequency of the termination " by " in the Isle of Man, see p. 85, note .

4 In the larger establishments, there was, besides, the great skali, or hall, a separate building, called the burr, or bower, where the women sat, span, and gossiped.

5 See p. 104.

6 A face with moustaches on a cross in Braddan churchyard shows this.

8 See Valtyr Gudinundsson in Paul's Gundriss der germanischen Philologie, vol. iii. pp. 444-446.

9 See p. 115, note t

10 The largest vessel mentioned in Scandinavian history is The Dragon belonging to King Cnut, which was 300 feet long. The Long Serpent, of Olaf Tryggvasson, was about 180 feet long.

11 Icel. Dict.

12 Perhaps the word " Scoute" used in the Statutes (see vol. i. p. 40) of a fishing boat is derived from this.

13 Hence the name star or steer-board. Rudders were not placed on the stern-post till the latter part of the Middle Ages. For description of a viking ship, see Appendix A.

14 The ordinary merchant ships were also called by this name.

15 There was, for instance, in Iceland, a man named Hrafn, who was commonly called Hrafn Hlimreksfairer, i.e., " Limerick trader," on account of his regular voyages to and from Limerick.

16 This refers to the Swedes who did not come to the Western Isles.

17 Vol. i. p. 3.

18 Ibid.

19 Vol i. p.8

20 We have no contemporary account of it, the first notice of it in the insular Records being in the fifteenth century; but from the analogy of the local Þings in Norway, which are found just before 938 (i.e., in Hakon's-Athelstan's Fostre-time ; see Sars. Hist. Nor., p. 177), of the Al-Þing in Iceland, and from the modern Tynwald in Man, we are able to form a good idea of what it must have been.

21 The presence of these classes is shown by such names as Mac y Vondi (now Vondy), " bondsman's son," and Mac Vrimyn (now obsolete), possibly " freeman's son."

22 This, in itself, increased the individual freeman's influence. 23 Judging by the Landnâmabóc and the Sagas, the way in which these Þings originated was probably somewhat as follows: A chief settler set up an altar to Thor in a grove. To this people came for worship or to meet their neighbours. Some brought wares to sell, others started games and wrestling matches. When any one had a quarrel, or manslaughter or any other misdoing had been committed, the case was brought before the chief settler to do justice. After a time it was found desirable for the more important purposes and for the trial of the graver crimes, to establish a greater meeting-Al-Þing, or Þing-wald.

24 Perhaps also at the great mid-winter feast.

25 "The parliament or general assembly of the Iceland Commonwealth " (Vigfusson, Icel. Diet., p. 18). It met, at first, on the Thursday falling between the 11th and 17th of June, it was then deferred to the Thursday between the 18th and 24th, and finally to the 29th of June.

26 It should be remembered that the selected freemen were not judges of fact, and that their procedure was not the germ of trial by jury. They were "assessors," such as are mentioned by Tacitus.

27 Lõg-bergis-ganga, "procession of the law-hill."

28 Lõg-berg, or Lõg-brekka. " law-hill," or " law-rock."

29 See Appendix C.

30 For form of fencing see Appendix B.

31 See Bishop Meryck's statement in 1581. P. 767.

32 As Iceland was largely colonized from the Sudreys, it is possible that the Manx Tynwald was the prototype of the Icelandic assembly.

33 Its time of meeting has been the 24th of June (July 5th, N.S.) from time immemorial, but, according to the deemsters in 1422, it met twice in the year (Statutes, vol. i. p. 11), and there are occasionally other dates recorded in the statute book.

34 Statutes, vol. i. p. 3.

35 Statutes, vol. i. p. 4.

36 It is certain that in early days their functions were mainly judicial.

37 Claves. Ibid., vol. i. p. 2. For attempt to explain the meaning of the term " Keys," and note on the origin of their number, see Appendix D.

38 Statutes, vol. i. p. 11.

39 Taxiarch?

40 Ibid., vol. i. p. 11.

41 See p. 111.

42 For a detailed account of the Keys see Yn Lioar Manninagh, vol. i. part ii. (" The House of Keys: Its Origin and Constitution," by A. W. Moore, pp. 245-58).

43 Statutes, vol. i. p. 11.

44 It is scarcely necessary to mention that no trace of any written law in Man, in Scandinavian times, has been preserved. Nor is it likely that anything but a mere tariff of fines for deeds of violence was ever written.

45 Since 1867 they have been utilized as divisions for political purposes (see p. 822).

46 It must be remembered, in connexion with this, that Scandinavia had a vast coast-line, indented with fjords and bays, and that its population was mainly composed of mariners, who drew their sustenance from the sea rather than from the land. Hence it arose that from Lofoden clown and along the coast of the Baltic the land, as far inland " as the salmon runs," was divided into ' ship-shires " districts, each of which, for defence or war at home or abroad, had to supply, man, and fit out a certain number of galleys.

47 I.e., of the male population of the island between 20 and 60 who were compelled to serve.

48 See p. 49.

49 See Landnâmabóc, and Blow, Statistik Norzoegen. In some parts of Norway this redistribution by slips continued till 1821.

50 principes.

51 optimates.

52 See pp. 11-12.

53 Vigfusson, Manx Note Book, vol. iii. pp. 21-2.


A description of the Viking ship discovered at Gokstad, at the entrance of the Christiania fjord, in 1880, which seems to be a vessel of the Skeið class, will show us what these vessels were like.1 Its keel is 65 feet long, a portion both at the stem and stern being wanting, while its outside measurement between stem and stern-post is 100 feet. It is 16 feet wide in the middle. Its length, as will be seen, is considerable in proportion to its width, and it has a very fine run. Its sharp build, with the considerable length of keel, undoubtedly made it a fast sailer, and the flat bottom a steady boat at sea. It is clincher built of oak 16 strakes high. The 17 frames, which are placed 3 feet apart on the keel, run up to the eleventh strake only, at which point the beams are fastened to the ship's sides by knees. These frames are not fastened to the keel, but are bound to the planking with soft roots of trees. The seams are caulked with yarn spun of cow's hair. The ship had been made both for sailing and rowing. About midships is placed a keelson for the mast to rest upon. Above this, on the beams, is a large block of oak cut out at both ends in the shape of a fish's tail. Through an opening made in this the mast was lowered and let into the keelson. When the mast was raised the afterpart of the opening was filled up with a large piece of oak, which thus steadied the mast. The mast was probably fitted with a yard and a large sail, and a capstan found in the forehold was probably used for raising and lower ing it. There are sixteen openings for oars in the fourteenth strake from the keel, and in the afterpart of these openings there is an incision for the blades to pass through. The bottom of the ship was covered with boards, some few of which still remain. It was formerly decorated with shields, painted alternately yellow and black, on each side. Four of these may now be seen, and fragments of others were found. When the ship was being rowed these would have to be removed, as they covered the openings for the oars. On the starboard side is the rudder in its original position.2 It is shaped like the blade of a large oar, and has at the upper end been fitted with a tiller. It rests against two clamps, one next to the waterway and a larger one lower down, to which it was fastened by a thick rope, which did not hinder its movements nor prevent its being lifted by a line when the vessel was in shallow water. At the bow is the anchor stock and the remains of the anchor.

In the forehold are the fragments of bedsteads which would probably have been used by the officers. The vessel was evidently an open one, though it is probable that it may have been occasionally covered by a tent, fragments of which were found in the ship. It has been calculated that the vessel had a crew of forty, that when fully equipped it had a draught of about 3 feet 6 inches, and that its carrying capacity was about 30 tons. It exhibits throughout most skilful workmanship, proving that the Northmen of the ninth century had attained an advanced knowledge of shipbuilding. In the middle of the ship is the sepulchral chamber of the Viking to whom the ship belonged, and on whose death it was buried with him within the mound.

1 It was, in 1891, when the writer saw it, in a temporary shed in the University grounds at Christiania.

2 See p. 146.


The earliest trace of the ancient form of fencing the court is found in the Statute Book in 1417, when we are told that the " Coroner of Glenfaba shall make a ffence,1 upon paine of life and lymbe,1 that noe man make any disturbance or stirr in the time of Tinwald, or any or rising in the King's presence, upon paine of hanging and drawing." 2 In 1577, we get from the same source the following fencing of the Sheading Courts, that of the Tynwald Court being probably similar: "I doe fence the King of Man, and his officers, that noe manner of man do brawle or quarrell, nor mollest the audience, lying, leaning, or sitting, and to show their accord, and answer when they are called, by lycense of the King of Man and his officers." 3

The usual modern form of fencing is, " I fence this Court in the name of our Sovereign j Lord, the King /Lady, the Queen I do charge that no person do quarrel, brawl, or make any disturbance, and that all persons answer to their names when called; I charge this audience to witness that this Court is fenced; I charge this whole audience to bear witness that this Court is fenced I charge this whole audience to bear witness that this Court is fenced." 4 The old Manx form of fencing, now disused, is, as will be seen from its English translation, somewhat different

" Ta mish coyrt yn Whaaiyl shoh to harey .5 ayns ennym y Ree )(yn Ven Rein) nagh jean persoon erbee bwoalley, baggyrt, ny boiranys, as dy jean dy-chooilley persoon gansoor gys e ennym, myr vees eh er na yearree. Ta mish coyrt yn Whaaiyl shoh fo harey ayns ennym y Ree(yn Ven Rein ) Ta mish coyrt yn Whaaiyl shoh fo harey ayns ennym y Ree (yn Ven Rein)

" I do fence this Court in the name of the ( King /Queen ) that no person strike, brawl, or disturb the audience, and that each person answer to his name when called. I do fence this Court in the name of the (King /Queen) I do fence this Court in the name of the (King/Queen ) I do fence this Court in the name of the (King /Queen)

1 These readings are in accordance with the earliest MS.

2Statutes, vol. i. p. 4. $ Ibid., p. 52. 3 From Mr. Kerruish, coroner, Middle Sheading.

4 Literally, "I put this Court under command."

5 From John Stephen, late coroner of Michael Sheading.


The Tynwald at St. John's is situated on a little artificial hill in the central valley between Douglas and Peel, about eight miles from the former and two and a half miles from the latter. This hill is said to have been originally composed of earth taken from all the seventeen parishes. It is circular in form, and consists of four terraces, the lowest of which is 8 feet broad, the next 6 feet, the third four feet, and the topmost 6 feet. There are 3 feet between every terrace. The circumference of the hill, which is covered with grass, is 240 feet. It is recorded for the first time that a meeting " was held of all the people of Man at Tynwald " 1 (congregatrio totius Mannensis populi aped Tingualla) in 1237, and this Tynwald would seem from internal evidence to have been held at St. John's.

1 " Chronicon Manniæ " (Manx Soc., vol. xxii. p. 95).



Much ingenuity has been expended in guessing at the derivation of this title. The late Dr. Vigfusson thought it might be from the Scandinavian word Keise, " chosen," while Professor Rhys ventured upon the remarkable idea that it might be the English pronunciation of Kiare-as, in Kiare-as feed, the Manx for " Four and Twenty." But we believe that the title " Keys " is taken from the figurative meaning of the word key, i.e., that whereby any difficulty is explained, or mystery disclosed. Let us briefly consider the various titles given to the "Keys" in our Statute Book and other records. In the earliest document in the Statute Book, dated 1417, which is in Latin, the "Keys" are called Claves Manniae et Claves Legis (" Keys of Man and Keys of the Law "). From thence till 1585 we find the titles of " the worthiest men," " the elders," " the elders of the land," " the 24," or " the 24 of the land," applied to them. Between 1585 and 1734 they were known as " the 24 Keys," and from 1734 to the present day as "the Keys." But, during all this time, there is no reason to doubt that they were known colloquially by Manx-speaking people as the Kiare-as feed, "the twenty-four," since, even at the present day, they are so called by them. And it will be seen from a perusal of the Statute Book that up to 1585 " the 24 " was also their usual documentary title, the term " Keys " not being found between 1417 and 1585. It would appear, then, that the title " Keys " did not originate with the Manx people, but probably with the ingenious English official-the ` clerk-of-the rolls "-who copied the " Indenture" of 1417 into the records. He would know that the Keys, whose Manx name was probably unintelligible to him, were called in to unlock or solve the difficulties of the law,1 and so, perhaps, he thought that " Keys of Man " and " Keys of the Law " would be appropriate titles. For a time after 1417 the popular title of "the 24 " predominated even in documents, but the title "Keys" was so apt and convenient that it was gradually introduced into all written documents, and, finally, except among Manx-speaking people, it was accepted colloquially also. It is, of course, pure conjecture to ascribe the origin of the title "Keys" to the " clerk-of-the-rolls " of 1417, but we think that it may be reasonably assumed that it arose in some such way, and it is, at least, almost certain that it is an English, and not a Manx, word.

1 In 1722, Bishop Wilson wrote that the Keys were " so called from unlocking, as it were, or solving difficulties of the law " (Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 116).


It has been suggested that their number-24-originated in the union of two bodies of 12 each. This view is founded on the facts that all ancient moots were composed of bodies of 12, and that there are still traces, as well as traditions, of Tynwald hills at Reneurling, near Kirk Michael, and at Baldwin, about three miles north of Douglas. On the other hand, it maybe argued that it appears to have been the custom to hold the same court in different parts of the island for convenience in judicial inquiries, and there are certainly entries in the Statute Book showing that Tynwalds, representing the whole island, were held at Castle Rushen and Reneurling, as well as St. John's, in the fifteenth century and later. It is, we think, evident from Manx history that, if two Tynwalds ever co-existed, they can only have done so in very early days, and, perhaps, for a time under Godred Crovan. (See Vigfusson's note on " Tinwald " in Manx Note Book, vol. iii. p. 174.)


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