[from History of IoM, 1900]

Chapter I




The Governor : " Your allegiance to the King’s Majesty of Great Britain reserved ; you shall swear to be true, and true faith and fidelity bear to the Right Honourable ~ Earl Derby, and to his heirs. You shall not reveal the secrets of this Isle, nor houses, nor garrisons therein, to any foreigner or stranger.

" You shall truly and uprightly deal between the Lord and his people, and as indifferently betwixt party and party as this staff now standeth, as far as in you lieth. You shall take the advice and consent of the rest of the Lord’s Council of the said Isle, in all matters that concern the State and Government of the said Isle and houses. These, and all other things pertaining to the Governor of this Isle, his office and place, you shall, according to the purport and extent of your commission, and the laws of the said Isle, do and perform as far as in you lieth.

" So God you help," &c.

The Bishop and Archdeacon swore allegiance in the same way, to be true to the Earls of Derby, and to duly perform their duties, also " to maintain and defend the ancient laws, statutes, and customs " of the Isle, and with their " best advice and counsel to be aiding and assisting to the Captain of the Isle or Governor for the time being, for furtherance of the government and benefit of the Isle."

The Vicars-Generals’ oath was nearly the same, except that the words as oft as they should be " called upon or required" so to do, were added to the clause given above.

The Comptroller, Clerk of the Rolls, Attorney-General, and Receiver were sworn with their best advice and council to aid and assist the Lieutenant, Captain, and the rest of the Council, so oft as was needful, or so often as they should be called upon by them, or any of them, for the furtherance of the government.

The special duties of the Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls, were embodied in their oaths as follows :— " You shall not commit, or see any voluntary, or wilful waste committed by any manner of person, but you shall reveal or amend the same as it lieth in your power.

" You shall deal duly and truly, from time to time, so long as you shall, according to the trust reposed in you, execute the office of Comptroller and~ Clerk of the Rolls ; take accounts as well of all receipts of money to be levied for the Lord within the charge of the Receiver and Water-Bailiff, together with the disbursements due to be paid, and shall see the same employed to his Lordship’s best advantage to your knowledge.

" You shall deal uprightly and truly between the said Lord and his tenants, for and concerning all matters wherein you have to deal with the said tenants for the Lord, or otherwise, without sparing the rich, or oppressing the poor, or without any other unlawful exaction, other than such as is necessary for the use of the Lord, and safe keeping of the said Isle and houses.

" You shall make true and just account of all the receipts of money and customs received and had by the Receiver and Water-Bailiff ; as also of all payments, allowances, and disbursements out of the same, as far as it behoveth you, and as it standeth with your charge and office, as often as you shall be called upon by the Lord, his officer or officers authorised to call upon you for the making of the said accounts."

That of the Attorney-General was the same as regards the first clause, his oath then continuing :— " You shall faithfully, justly, and truly, without favour or affection, dread or fear, envy or malice, and without respect of love or gain, kindred or friendship, consanguinity or affinity, plead and defend the said Lord his causes, in all and every thing and things whatsoever, which by the laws of this Isle are or shall grow due to the said Lord, by his right or interest here.

" You shall see to and provide, in as much as in you lyeth or belongeth, that all forfeitures, fines, amercements, aliens’ goods, felons’ goods, wayfes, strays, wrecks at sea, flood-gates, and such like, be truly estreated and paid to the said Lord, or otherwise disposed of to his Grace’s use.

" You shall, from time to time, at every court, plead and defend the cause of all widows, orphans, and fatherless children, and not refuse any."

That of the Receiver was also the same as regards the first clause, his oath continuing:

" You shall deal duly and truly as well in the receipts of money to be levied for the Lord’s use within your charge of the office of Receiver, as all such customes and other corn-moditys to be paid to the said Lord, and shall employ the same to the Lord his best profit to your knowledge.

" You shall deal uprightly, truly, and indifferently, betwixt the said Lord and his tenants, for and concerning the said receipts of the said money and custornes, or any other matter wherein you have to deal with the said tenants for the said Lord or otherwise, without sparing the rich or oppressing the poor, or without any other unlawful exactions, other than such as is necessary for the use of the Lord, and the safe keeping of the said Isle and houses.

" You shall make due and true accornpts, as well of all your receipt of moneys and customes aforesaid, as also of all payments wherein you stand charged by virtue of the said office, or wherewith you may not be charged otherwise than upon your own conscience, as need require you to be called by the Lord, or his officers authorised to call upon you for the making of the said accompts."

The Deemsters’ and Water-Bailiff’s oaths, on the contrary, had no relation to any advice or assistance to the governor and Council. The former was as follows

" By this Book, and by the holy contents thereof, and by the wonderful works that God had miraculously wrought in heaven above, and in the earth beneath in six days and seven nights (your allegiance to the King’s Majesty of Great Britain reserved), you shall bear true faith and fidelity to his Grace James Duke of Atholl and his heirs, in whom is the title of inheritance of this Isle and houses thereof.

" You shall without respect of favour or friendship, love or gain, consanguinity or affinity, envy or malice, execute the laws of this Isle justly betwixt the Lord and his people of this land, and betwixt party and party, so indifferently as the herring back-bone doth lie in the midst of the fish.

" So God you help and by the contents of this Book."

The Water-Bailiff’s oath contained the same provision as to waste as that of the Comptroller, &c., and then proceeded

" You and your deputys, as far as in you lyeth, shall execute the office of Water-bailiff and Customer duly and truly, according to the trust reposed in you, during such time as you shall execute the same office.

" You and your deputys, as far as in you lyeth, shall duly and truly receive and take for the said Lord’s use such custome of all men, for ingates and outgates and other customes, as is limited by the book of rates or otherwise, as upon your discretion ratably you shall receive and take the custome of all comoditys to be transported or brought in, not mentioned in the said book of rates.

" You and your deputys, as far as in you lyeth, shall make true and just accompt unto the said Lord, or his officers, of all such receipts as you shall receive, or ought to receive, for and in the name and behalf of the said Lord, from time to time, and as often as you shall be called upon, to the most profit, best use and advantage of the said Lord, any use, custome, or other matter to the contrary notwithstanding,

" You shall not give your consent for the transportation of any prohibited wares, forbidden to be transported by the said Lord or his Lieutenant-Captain and Counsell.

" You and your deputys, as far as in you lyeth, shall not conceale any wrecks, or any other commoditys due, or which ought to be due, to the said Lord, appertaining or belonging to the said office of Water-Bailiff or Customer.

" You and your deputys, generally as far as in you lyeth, shall do and execute all other matters and things belonging to the said office of Water-Bailiff and Customer, not herein-before mentioned, and all and every other matters and things whatsoever whereunto you shall be called, or otherwise shall come unto, or do and execute of your own accord, for the execution of justice and equity in the said office, or any other cause to the Lord’s most advantage, not favouring the rich, or oppressing the poor, and all this according to the purport and extent of your commission.

" So help you God, &c."




" To the Gentlemen of the Twenty-four Keys.

" GENTLEMEN,—It is with some uneasyness that I have observed a disobedience in some of your body to the authority of the Staff as cannot be parralleled among our Records. I did positively require you to make your return in writeing when you passed upon the Grand Jury whether they proceeded according to Law and Evidence or no, this is your duty, most of you did not only refuse this, but contrary to my particular order several times repeated, contemptuously did disperse yourselves and go home without regard to what was required, as if you were subject to no authority or rule, but such as you shall prescribe for yourselves. The effect of this is but too apparent throughout the Island by many instances of the irregularities and contempt in the common people, that has perhaps not been so much as seen here before. . . . And therefore I take this opportunity to tell you that did so, that it is contrary to your duty, and a high contempt of the authority of the Staff intrusted with me under the tenor of an oath to support and preserve, and I think you are under the same obligacion, and for this contempt I have just occasion to sett a fine upon such of you as contemned the authority placed in me by the Lord and the Lawes of this Land, and since you have not known how to make use of the liberty I formerly allowed you, I once more require your answer in writeing in the manner before mentioned, and if you still persist in your disobedience I must . . . take some other methods than I have yet done, and confine you here (Castle Rushen) till you give that obedience to my order that becomes you.

" (Signed) ALEX. HORNE."



The oath taken by the Keys is recorded, for the first time, in 1710, as follows

" Your allegiance to the King’s Majesty of England re-served. You shall true faith and fidelity bear to the Rt Honbie William Earle of Derby and his heirs during your life. You shall be aiding and assisting to the Deemsters mall doubtful matters, the Lord’s Councill, your ffellows’ and your own you shall not reveal. You shall use your best endeavours to maintaine the antient Lawes and Customes of this Isle.

" You shall justly and truely deliver your opinion and do right in all matters which shall be put unto you, without ifavour or affection, affinity or consanguinity, love or fear, reward or game, or for any hope thereof ; but in all things deale uprightly and justly, and wrong noe man. Soe God you help and the contents of this Book " (Lib. Scacc. See also " Constitution,"Manx Soc., vol. xxvi. p. 169).




The courts existing prior to 1883, viz., the Staff of Government, Chancery, Exchequer, Common Law, Admiralty, and Deemsters’ 1 were united and formed into " Divisions " of the " High Court of Justice of the Isle of Man," of which the governor is president.

Of these the " Staff of Government Division," though pre. sided over, as formerly, by the governor (whose consent is necessary to everyjudgment) and at least two of the three judges, was deprived of all its original jurisdiction, and is now solely an appellate court, hearing appeals from the other divisions of the High Court ; and from the Licensing Appeal Court on questions of law.

The jurisdiction hitherto exercised by the Exchequer Court was assigned to the " Common Law Division," as was also the jurisdiction of the Admiralty Court.2 These two courts were consequently abolished.

The practical result of these changes is that the whole of the original jurisdiction of the old courts is now exercised by the Chancery and Common Law Divisions of the High Court. Of these the Chancery Division is presided over by the Clerk of the Rolls, sitting without a jury. It is held fortnightly during the legal terms, and exercises jurisdiction over the following matters : the administration of the estates of deceased persons; the dissolution of partnerships, or the taking of partner-ships or any other accounts ; the raising of portions or other charges on land ; the sale and distribution of the proceeds of property subject to any lien or charge ; the execution of trusts, charitable or private ; the rectification or setting aside or cancellation of deeds or other written instruments ; the specific performance of contracts respecting real estate ; the partition (otherwise than by vetting quests under orders of the Common Law Division) or sale of real estate ; the wardship of infants, and the care of infants’ estates ; the care and custody of lunatics, idiots, and persons of unsound mind, and the care of their estates.

The Common Law Division is presided over by the two deemsters, each of whom holds a court in his own district. In this division is included (1) the jurisdiction of the Common Law Courts, in which the deemster sits with a jury of six men ; (2) the jurisdiction formerly exercised by the Exchequer and Admiralty Courts ; (3) the summary jurisdiction exercised without a jury ; 3 (4) jurisdiction in testamentary matters; (5) jurisdiction in bankruptcy matters ; (6) the criminal jurisdiction with a jury of enquiry ; 4 (7) jurisdiction over refractory servants ; 5 and (8) the reception of the verdicts of trespass and other juries."


1 Including all original and appellate jurisdiction conferred on the governor, to be exercised judicially by law or custom.

2 We have already referred to the abolition of the office of the water-bailiff, who presided over this court until 1885.

3 As formerly. We may mention that the deemsters hold these courts in their respective districts at least once a week during the legal terms.

In them suits are brought for the recovery of debts exceeding the sum of £2 ; suits for the possession of land or houses, if brought within six months from the time when the cause of complaint arose ; questions of title arising out of suits for possession ; suits founded on contract, but not for damages for breach of contract.

4 As formerly. 

5 This jurisdiction (originally conferred in 1665, Statutes, vol. i. p. 120), which gave a deemster power to order a refractory servant to return to the service of his master, or in default to be imprisoned, is now practically obsolete.





In the Council, a Bill is introduced (1) by a member without previous leave, or (2) on its being sent by the Keys. In either case, on a motion being made, it is read a first time. A Bill may be rejected at its first, second, or third reading, but a Bill from the Keys is hardly ever rejected on the first reading. The Bill is read a second time, on a motion, at a subsequent meeting. If the second reading be carried, the Council, without a motion, go into committee 1 and consider the Bill in detail, and amendments, if there be any required, are made. Sometimes a Bill is referred to a select committee, and is then considered when the report of the committee has been made. The next step is the reading of the Bill, on a motion, the third time. Further amendments may be made during the third reading.

In the Keys, a Bill is introduced (1) by a member who has previously received permission from the House to do so,2 or (2) from the Council. In either case it is read a first time without a motion. At a subsequent date it is read a second time, on a motion, considered clause by clause and passed. The House sometimes refers a Bill to a select committee and considers it clause by clause after receiving the committee’s report, but it does not, like the Council, sit in committee of the whole House.

The foregoing relates to Public Bills. If notices have not to be served on interested persons and witnesses have not to be examined, a Private Bill may be dealt with in the same way as a Public Bill. But there are few such Bills in which this is the case. By the Standing Orders of the Tynwald Court, a petition for leave to introduce a Private Bill may be made to the court, and ordered by the governor to heard at the court. Notice must be given to the persons interested, and the court may take evidence at its Bar, or refer the petition to a committee to take evidence and to report. If leave be then given to introduce the Bill, the governor directs in which branch it is to be first considered. If the Bill be taken up in the Council, evidence is usually given at the first reading of the Bill, either at the Bar or before a select committee. Counsel is heard on the introduction of a private Bill on behalf of the promoters and interested parties, and, during the progress of the Bill, counsel on either side is heard on any points arising either in the Council or when the Council is in committee on it. Special leave for Counsel to appear on behalf of either a promoter or an opponent of a Bill is given on a petition presented by a member.

If the Bill be taken up in the Keys, evidence is given and counsel are heard either at the Bar of the House at the second reading, or before a select committee. Even though counsel have been already heard before a select committee, they may also be heard and questioned by the House (if it so desires), at the Bar, on the second reading of the Bill. The method of granting leave for counsel to appear is the same as in the Council.

We will now describe the procedure when differences of opinion arise between the two branches with regard to Bills, or clauses of Bills. If it be a Bill which originated in the Keys, and amendments have been made by the Council, the Bill as amended is sent back by the Council to the Keys. The Keys have then either to accept or reject the amendments. In the latter case, the Bill is returned to the Council for their further consideration, and, if no agreement be arrived at, the Bill drops.* But in most cases before a Bill is dropped efforts are made to adjust the differences between the two branches. Formerly the whole of the Keys went to the Council Chamber for that purpose, but now either messages are sent from one branch to the other, or, more usually, the Keys send, either at their own request, or on a request from the Council, a deputation of their membersf to hold a conference with the Council in its chamber These conferences, over which the governor presides, and at which there is a free discussion, are held at the request of the branch which has the possession of the Bill. The deputation report the result of this discussion to the Keys who may decide either to adhere to their previous opinion, to accept any modification of it that may have been suggested, or to agree to the Council’s proposals. Sometimes an agreement is not arrived at until the deputation has visited the Council Chamber several times.

A conference may also take place in order to give one branch information or explanation about a Bill passed by the other.

It sometimes happens that, after the Bill has passed both branches, and before it is signed, it is discovered that some important provision has been omitted. In this case the Council considers the question of inserting the provision, and, if they adopt it, it is sent to the Keys for their approval. If it be approved it is inserted in the Bill.

The Bill, when passed, is signed in the Tynwald Court by a quorum of both branches (i.e., the governor and two members of the Council, and thirteen members of the Keys). When this has been done it is called an " Act " and is sent to the Secretary of State for the Home Office, that it may obtain the Royal Assent. The Secretary transmits the Act to the Lord President of the Privy Council,~ who hands it to a committee of the Privy Council. The committee instruct the Attorney and Solicitor-General for England to report upon it. On receiving the Act back from them the committee report to the Sovereign in Council their opinion as to the Act, and, if their opinion be favourable to it, they advise the Sovereign to ratify it. If it be ratified it is returned with the Royal Assent to the governor, who causes it to be promulgated on the Tynwald Hill, at St. John’s (in the manner indicated in the text), and the Act then becomes law. On returning from the hill to the chapel, the fact of promulgation is attested by the governor’s signature on behalf of the Council and by the speaker’s on behalf of the Keys.

(The greater portion of this Appendix is due to Sir James Gell.)


1 Of the whole Council. The consideration in committee on the same day as the second reading is sometimes objected to, and, if so, it is postponed.

2 A member gives notice that he will ask for leave to introduce a Bill at one meeting ; at the next meeting he gets leave, at the third, the Bill is read a first time, and, at a subsequent date, on a motion, it is read a second time. There is no recorded instance of a member not obtaining leave to introduce a Bill.

3 In the case of a Bill originating in the Council, the above process is reversed, Council being read for Keys.

4 Five or seven, in accordance with the Standing Orders of the Keys.

5 Walpole remarks that this conference closely resembles what used to be known as a free conference in Parliament, " and that it usually proves an efficient contrivance for reconciling differences " (Land of Home Rule, p. 270).

6 When the Act has relation to a Government Department, it is usually referred to that Department for observations concerning it.

7 They sometimes consider it separately, and sometimes together.

8 Occasionally, after an Act has been sent for the Royal Assent, suggestions are made for its amendment before the assent is given, and these suggestions are transmitted to the governor, who lays them before the Legislature. Sometimes, when they have been laid before the Tynwald Court, the court has agreed to their adoption, but, other-wise, they are dealt with as amendments, made by one branch and submitted to the other, the Council first considering them. It is very rarely the case that a Manx Act has been refused the Royal Assent.


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