[from History of IoM, 1900]



§5. Military Organization

The Manx Military Forces

We will now briefly refer to the military forces in the island and to the precautions taken for its defence. After the Restoration, the total number of paid soldiers, &c., in the garrisons was 60, and their cost was 309 a year. 1 It will be observed that this is a much smaller force than that in the castles of Peel and Rushen alone at the end of the previous century.

Lord Derby's instructions about the defence of the Isle.

In 1666, England having declared war against the French and Dutch, Lord Derby ordered his officers to consult about the best way of defending the isle, and warned them " not to be unmindefull of the Calfe of Mann." 2 He also urged them to see that the castles and garrisons were well victualled, that the militia was to be called together, so "that by frequent musters and exercise they may be the better able to perform those duties imposed upon them for the preservation of the country,"3 and that neither officers or soldiers were to be allowed to leave the island.

An account of the ports and soldiers in 1681

Fifteen years later, the following account of the insular forts and soldiers was given by a contemporary observer: " Castle Rushen is well fortified with an out rampier and trench, within which there is an outer wall round the Castle with many oblick angles. The castle gates are secured by a drawbridge, perculles and a double great gate gaurded with barrs of iron, and there are severall turrets and platforms within the Castle planted with drakes, feild peices and cannons of several sizes. The ledges of the batteries are laden with loose cobblestones to pour upon the enemy in case of any attempt to storm the place. But the habitall of the Castle is not only unfurnished, but much out of repair, being never inhabited by any but 2 files of musqueteers."4 As regards Douglas: "At the enterance to the town there stands a little small ffort like a little Pinfold or large lime kilne where there are a few guns, and a fewer (sic) persons to guard them," 5 and, at Ramsey, there is " a little fort like a lime kilne planted with guns at the mouth of the river." 5

Peel Castle " is fortified with 26 canons mounted upon the Batteries." 5 The writer then proceeds to state that the military government " is managed by the Governor of the Isle who is in the nature of a Generall or Colonell, the militia of the Island consisting but of one Regiment of 20 companys whereof there are 18 Captains, one for every Regiment, one company for the Town of Castle Towne which is the Collinel (sic) Company, and one for the Towne of Duglas which is Major Coldcoat's company." He remarks that these companies had " a generall rendezvous yearly about midsummer at St. John's Chappell, near Peel, where they encamp and stay together a fortnight or 20 dayes in the feildes in little tents."6 Referring to the regular troops, he says that " the Earl keeps 3 files of musqueteers in constant pay all the year long in every ffort in the Isle who are paid quarterly 25s. a man after the rate of 5 a year out of his revenues issuing forth of the lands in this Island."6 The revolution which seated William of Orange on the English throne is not noticed in the Manx Records.

Orders for forming camps in 1689

In May, 1689, the following order was issued by the governor and officers: "Fearing that by reason of the present troubles and disturbances abroad, the Isle may be exposed to the incursion of pirottes and pickeroons and such like . . . for preservation whereof and that the Island may be put in a posture of defence . . . wee have thought it necessary and convenient and do accordingly order and appoint that camps be forthwith kept in severall places in and about the Island where there is the greatest danger." 7 Five camps were therefore established, only two of which, " Hanmer ffould " and " Banke's How," were the same as in 1643. The parishioners of Patrick, German, Michael, Ballaugh, and Jurby mustered at the first-named camp, and those of Lonan and Conchan at the other. The parishioners of Andreas, Bride, Lezayre, and Maughold mustered at Shellag Point; those of Braddan, Santon, and Marown at "The burne foote at Kirk Santan," and those of Malew, Arbory, and Rushen at the Calf Island.8 The captains of parishes were ordered to divide the companies into four equal parts and to send one part into camp every week. A major was appointed to each of these camps, and field guns were taken from Peel Castle and placed in them. Nor were the religious needs of the men in camp neglected, as the rectors and vicars of each parish were ordered to attend in turn at the camps nearest them to read prayers. Assessment for buying arms.

Assessment for buying arms

For the purpose of buying arms, a general assessment was made upon the people, when the bishop's share was estimated at " 8 musquetts," the archdeacon's at 4, the two rectors at 2 each, and the vicars at 1 each. 9

Tokens that military duty was neglected

These arms do not seem to have received due care, since, in 1695, the governor wrote to the captains of towns and parishes complaining of the neglected state of the arms put into the people's hands " for their own necessary defence and preservacon, especially now that the season is advancing when Privateers and other mischeivous Rovers venture into these narrow seas to take advantage of those they find unable to resist."9 Another significant token of the neglect of military duties at this time is afforded by the fact that a warden of the day watch was convicted for employing the watch on " his own private occasions, for drawing straw, ditching, threshing, and such like labour."10

Though it was still considered important.

But that great importance was still attributed to the performance of military duty by the inhabitants is shown by the clause in the Act of Settlement stating that the Act "shall be no way construed and taken to free and discharge the tennants and inhabitants of this Isle from giving their best assistance or supply for the defence of the Isle in time of warr or imminent danger."11 And, in 1715, it was admitted by the Keys that this clause " lays no new obligation on the people and is no more than saying that such should not be construed to free and discharge the Inhabitants; which, as we have formerly answered, anno 1708, we are willing to comply with in giving our best assistance according to what is most accustomed and still intended, namely our personall aid and that without pay, close (sic) or provision, wherein we shall always be ready to witness our true allegiance to the Crown of Great Britain and our endeavours for the safety and defence of the Isle when ever you [the governor] think fit to head us."12

Controversy between the governor and the Keys on the subject.

This contention of the Keys, that the inhabitants were liable for personal service only and not for any contribution in money or arms, led, in that year, to a lively controversy between them and the governor, who maintained that they were liable for both.13 The governor was evidently much annoyed by the attitude of the Keys, remarking in a letter to Bishop Wilson that they had " an untoward disposition, as if they look upon it as a matter indifferent who should come into this Island, so they can sell their goods, as corn &c., and therefore looking upon themselves as neutral are for giving no opposition, though it were to the enemy of the Crown of Great Britain." 14 The Keys were ultimately compelled to give way, 15 and it was probably in consequence of this that the Duke of Atholl, on his arrival in 1736, was received at Tynwald by a regiment of footmilitia, which is distinctly stated to have been " well armed."16

The horse-militia.

The horse-militia, or parochial horse must, at some period before 1736, have been increased beyond their old number of 68, for, on the same occasion, the duke was " attended by three squadrons of horse-militia, one bay, the second black, and the third grey, well mounted and armed, commanded by their officers, and with drums and standards, on the latter of which were embroidered the armes of the Isle."16

In 1739, however, it was considered that the altered circumstances of the time demanded an additional supply of arms, and the governor summoned the Keys to acquaint them with the declaration of war between Great Britain and Spain, and to ask them to consider "proper measures for raising a supply of money to furnish the Countrey with such a competent number of arms and such a quantity of ammunition as will be necessary to put it into a posture of defence."17

Another assessment for arms

Thereupon they at once ordered 500 fire-arms to be purchased at the expense of the inhabitants. The island was assessed for this purpose to the amount of 326 13s. 4d.18 A little later we learn that, as there was a hope " that a peace may be concluded," and in consequence of " the poverty of the people," the payment of half the above assessment was respited to the 25th of March, 1740, and the remaining half to June 30, 1740. In 1744, on the declaration of war by France against England, the same assessment was made, and 150 firelocks were bought. 19

Precautions taken in 1745

On the 23rd of September of the following. year, the garrisons and militia were ordered to be ready " on an hour's warning" 20 to resist a possible landing of some of the Scots who were marching south with the Pretender. All watches were doubled, and, if they observed " vessells or any number of boats approaching," 20 they were ordered to give immediate notice, that they might assemble the companies of their respective parishes " to resist their landing by force." 21

Purchase of arms enforced by law in 1748

In 1748, it was represented by the Keys that the inhabitants were " willing and desirous to purchase arms for themselves, and each to keep a firelock in his house always in good order and fit for service." 21 It was, therefore, enacted that every " Landowner, and other Housekeepers within this Isle, being Protestants," should " purchase themselves arms as requested . . . provided they always keep them clean and in good order in the sight of the Captains of their respective Parishes and Towns in their several divisions, who for that end and purpose are to call them forth with their arms at least four times in the year, and report their condition to the Governor." 22


1 They were distributed and paid as follows: Rushen- Constable 13 6s. 8d., 1 gunner 8, 1 porter 8, 1 drummer 4, 2 watchmen 5 each, Library keeper and Chaplain 5, Surgeon 8, I "Customer" (Customs officer I), 16 soldiers 5 each. Total 25, costing 137 6s. 8d. Peel-Constable 12, gunner, porter, drummer, 2 watchmen and a "Customer," as at Rushen, 10 soldiers at 5 each, and 4 boatmen at 45s. each, but no chaplain and surgeon. Total 21, costing 103. Douglas-Deputy constable 6 13s. 4d., 1 gunner 5, 1 " Customer," who was also a soldier, 6, and 4 soldiers 4 each. Total 7, costing 33 13s. 4d. Derby Fort- Commander 8, 3 soldiers 4 each. Total 4, costing 20. Ramsey-A " Customer," who was also a soldier, 6, and a soldier 5. Total 2, costing 11. A gunsmith for all the garrisons 4 (Rotu1.). The enormous difference of wages between 1593 and 1660 will be observed.

2 Lib. Scacc.

3 Lib. Scacc.

4. Denton's MS.

5 Ibid., 1681.

6 Denton's MS.

7 Lib. Scacc.

8 We should have thought this a very awkward place for a muster, as the possibility of access to it entirely depended on the state of the weather.

9 Lib. Scacc.

10 Lib. Scacc.

11. Statutes, vol. i, p. 169.

12 Lib. Scacc.

13 See Appendix C.

14 Lib. Scacc.

15 For discussion of this subject see Appendix C.

16 Records of Tynwald and St. John's (Manx Soc., vol. xix. p. 105).

17 Lib. Scacc.

18 Towards this each quarter-land paid four shillings, and the bishop, archdeacon, and clergy 32 13s. 4d., " to be regulated and levyed amongst themselves " under the bishop's direction, while Douglas was rated at 45, Castletown and Ballasalla at 20, Peel at 15, and Ramsay at 15. It was also ordered that an exact account of arms was to be taken by the captains of parishes and towns (Ibid.).

19 Ibid., 1744.

20 Ibid., 1745.

21 Lib. Scacc, 1745.

22 Statutes, vol. i. p. 254.


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