[From Wood's Accout of IoM, 1811]

[Added for sake of compleness as adds nothing being highly derivative]

Book 3 Chapter I.


From the earliest tradition to the reign of Godred Crovan.

IT sometimes happens that, while the more interesting records of independent and powerful nations are destroyed by the conquests of foreigners or by internal contentions, the history of smaller and less important states remain uninjured, and give us earlier views into human life and manners. The historians, however, of these early periods seldom afford much information beyond the name of the sovereign, and the event of a battle, with sometimes an account of the promulgation of a code of laws, or the establishment of a monastery: : and it is only by careful comparison of notices accidentally inserted, that we gain any information on the subjects which, to a modern reader, are the most interesting.

The early history of Man rests only on tradition ; and that tradition is neither full, nor always consistent. According to Ninnius, this island was held by Biule, a Scot, in the reign of Arcadius and Honorius : according to Sacheverel, towards the end of the fourth century. At the beginning of the fifth, tradition assigns it to Mananan Mac Leir, a magician, who kept it enveloped in perpetual mists till St. Patrick broke the charm; and, having persuaded or compelled Mac Lier to relinquish the possession, made Germanus bishop and ruler of the island. He, by his wisdom, conduct, and virtuous example, completely established the christian religion among the people.

On the death of Germanus, St. Patrick sent over two other bishops, to govern the country; after whom St. Maughold was elected by the unanimous consent of the Manks nation. This saint, had been a captain of robbers in Ireland, and, arriving, during the administration of the two preceding bishops, in a little leathern boat; his hands manacled and bolts on his feet, pretended that he had thus exposed himself as a penance for the crimes of his past life; and made use of the reputation for sanctity, thus obtained, to obtain the government of the island. After this, the administration of affairs continued in the hands of the bishops till the coming of a king, called Orry: but whence and at what time he came, and under what circumstances he obtained the government, are events unknown.

About the year. 580, Brennus, nephew to Aydun, king of Scotland, got possession of the crown. All we are told of him is that, fourteen years afterwards, he led an army to the assistance of his uncle, and obtained a victory at the expense of his life.

On the death of Brennus the island appears to have been annexed to Scotland, and the three sons of Eugenius, the son of Aydun, Ferguard, Fiacre, and Donald were sent hither to be educated under Conan, bishop of the isle. According to the Manks tradition they did great credit to their preceptor, for, though Ferguard was murdered in a conspiracy, soon after his accession to the throne of Scotland, yet the second, Fiacre, refused the crown, and became an eminent saint; and the third, Donald, governed with so much prudence and justice as showed him to be greater than a saint.

About 614 this island is related to have been conquered by Edwin, king of Northumberland but, how long he possessed it is uncertain : a blank occurs, even in tradition, till the tenth century, when a second Orry, son of a king of Denmark and Norway, having conquered the Orcades and Hebrides, fixed the seat of his government in the Isle of Man, where he reigned long and prosperously; and became the father of a. race of kings, from him called Orries.

This second Orry throws a doubt on the existence of a former king of that name, whose insertion may be esteemed the work of some zealous Manksman, anxious to carry back, as far as possible, the antiquities of his country.

To Guttred, the son of Orry, is ascribed the building of Castle Rushen, A.D. 960, in which he lies obscurely buried. He is said to have laboured greatly to advance the civilization of his people.

Reginald, the third of the family, was slain by two brothers of his army, whose sister he had seduced.

From the history of Olave, the next king, it appears that, since its conquest by Orry, the island had remained tributary to the crown of Norway: for- this Prince, having assumed the crown without the King of Norway's consent, was civily invited to that country; but, on landing, was seized and executed.

Olain, his brother, is said to have seized on this and some other islands, by which expression we ;are perhaps to understand, that he did not wait for the consent of Norway, but maintained himself as an independent prince. After a proso perous reign of twenty-three years, he died of a flux in Ireland.

Allen succeeded, a cruel, libidinous man .who was poisoned by his governor. He left the crown to his son Fingal, who was succeeded by his son Goddard, princes of whom no character and no history are giverr.

According to the Manks tradition, twelve kings reigned successively of the race of Orry. The preceding list contains only eight; and it is remarkable that the most celebrated sovereign of the family should not have a certain place.

We learn from Sacheverel that Macon lived about the middle of the tenth century, a date which would place him either immediately before or immediately after Guttred, if there was room for him, there.. He is said to have lost his crown for refusing to do homage to Edgar, King of England; but he was afterwards. restored, and., made admiral of that prodigious fleet of four thousand eight hundred sail,* with which, twice a year, he sailed round the British islands, to clear the sea from rovers, especially the Danes and Normans, who, at that time, sadly infested„ the coasts of Europe.

How long this great man reigned is uncertain, and likewise, who succeeded him, though his name was probably Syracb, who held the kingdom about the beginning of the eleventh.century, and was succeeded by his son Goddard, a man of no faith, no honour, treacherous, inconstant, timorous, and unjust, who in the latter, part of his reign hospitably received and entertained Godred Crovan, the future conqueror of Man.

The establishment of this Prince is related in, the Manks Chronicle; the first authentic history, of Man. What precedes seems neither very consistent in itself, nor to rest on any substantial authority, nor are the dates easily reconciled with each other. The first of the Orrys appears to have conquered the island for the crown of Norway; and Olain seems to have enfranchised it from that dependence. Guttred was Sovereign in 960 : Macon, by the correspondence of English history, in 974, the year in which King Edgar is said to have been rowed by eight kings on the Dee. Olain reigned twenty-three years: he therefore must have followed Macon. But; it seems very improbable that Macon, who did homage for his crown to England, and had the command of its prodigious fleet, should have acknowledged any dependence on Norway. In this dilemma, perhaps the best way is to follow the opinion of Sacheverel, and, passing the eight first Sovereigns of the history as the invention of the Manks, consider Macon as the first and indeed the only Sovereign of Man oŁ whom we have any authentic account previously to the establishment of the Normans under Godred Crovan.

* Matthew of Westminster. Hoveden says 3600 sail; Brompton 4000. Hume considers these accounts as perfectly incredible.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2014