[From 1911 MacDonnell Inquiry]



Burleigh, Douglas,
Isle of Man,
24 May, 1911.


I now enclose my memorandum as to the
position of the Deemsters in the Manx Legislature.

I also enclose the Report of the Committee on
Douglas Harbour. I regret that I have been unable to
obtain a clean copy as there is not one left in the
Government Ofiee.

The copy I send is the one on which I made notes,
to enable me to explain it to the Court.

After reading Mr. Hall Caine's letter to the Daily
Telegraph, I feel I must state in writing that as soon
as I was appointed Deemster I sold every share I held
in. Insular companies.

I have always held aloof from Insular parties, and
never, directly or indirectly, taken part in the Manx

Yours truly,


Memorandum as to the position of the Deemsters with
respect to the Manx Legislature.

The Laws, which in former times were called Breast
Laws, because they were supposed to be locked up in
the breasts of the Deemsters, were first reduced to
writing in the year 1417.

The heading of the book in which they were
inscribed is as follows

" In this book diverse ordinances statutes and
Customs presented reputed and used for Laws in the
Land of Mann that were ratified approved and con-
firmed, as well by the Honourable Sir John Stanley
Knight, King and Lord of the same land and diverse
others his predecessors, as by all Barrons Deemsters
Officers Tennants Inhabitants and Commons of the
Same Land."

The first law declares the Constitution, and I will
quote the first clause :-

" Our Doughtful and Gratious Lord this is the
Constitution of Old Time the which we have given in
Our days how yee should be Governed on Your
Tynwald Day. First you shall come thither in your
royal array as a King ought to do by the prorogatives
and royalties of the Land of Man And upon the hill
of Tynwald sitt in a chaire covered with a royal cloath
and cushions and your visage into the east and
your sword before you holden with the point
upwards and your Barrons in the third degree
sitting beside you and your benefited men and
your Deemsters before you sitting and your Clarkes
your Knights Esquires and Yeomen about you in the
third degree, and the worthiest Men in your Land to
be called in before your Deemsters if you will ask any
thing of them and to hear the Government of your
land and your will and your Deemsters shall make
call in the Coroner of Glanfaba and he shall call in all
the Coroners of Man and their yards in their hands
with their weapons upon them either sword or axe.
And the Moares that is to wit of every Sheading Then
the Chief Coroner that is the Coroner of Glanfaba shall
make affence upon paine of life and lyme that no man
make any disturbance or stirr in the time of Tynwald
or any murmur or rising in the Kings presence upon
pAine of hanging and drawing and then let your
Barrons and all other know you to be their Lord and
King and what time you were here you received the
land as heir apparent in your fathers days And all your
Barons of Man with your worthiest rien and Commons
did you faith and fealtie and inasmuch as you are by
the Grace of God now King and Lord of Man yee
will now that your Commons come unto you and show
their charters how they hoold of you And your Barons
that made no faith nor fealty unto you that they make

I wish to make the following remarks upon the
above :--

Ist. The Bishop sat as a Baron of the Isle, and not
as an " Officer," that is a Member of the Council, and
that he does so to the present day is shown by the fact
that he sits on a chair of state beside the Governor,
on Tynwald Hill, and not with the Council.

2nd. The Deemsters also are spoken of as distinct
from the Council, and have specific duties allotted to
them, viz. : to call in the Coroner of Glanfaba and have
the Court fenced, and particularly to call in the
worthiest in the land, if the Lord would ask anything
of them.

In early times the people of the South-East and
North-West of the Island differed largely in nationality
and in their customs, and there was very little intercourse,
owing to the mountain range the valley of
which Tynwald is the centre being the only place
where the inhabitants of the two districts could conveniently meet.

I have no doubt each Deemster selected his Grand
Jury of twelve, hence the twenty-four members of the
House of Keys, and also the regulation which requires
an Act to be signed by thirteen members.

3rd. The reference to the previous proclamation of
Sir John Stanley as Heir Apparent is due to the fact
that in very early days the Tanist Law prevailed in this
Island, and under that law, in 1408, Sir John Stanley
(who never visited the Island) was proclaimed King,
and his son, the second Sir John Stanley (and the one
mentioned in the law of 1417), was proclaimed Heir

A similar case occurred in 1392, when Sir William
Scrope was proclaimed as King, and his brother, Sir
Stephen le Scrope, was accepted as his heir and

In 1656 James Challoner, who was one of the
Commissioners under Lord Fairfax, for settling the
affairs in the Isle of Man, and afterwards Governor,
wrote a treatise, in which he says:-

" The Government is ordered by and under a
Lieutenant or Governor Major Wade with the assistance
of two Deemsters or Judges John Christian and
William Qualtrough for matters of law and Henry
Sharplesse Controller and Clerk of the Rolls William
Christian Receiver Hugh Moore Water Bailiff and
Robert Tynsley Attorney General."

No mention is made of the Bishop, Archdeacon, or
Vicar-Generals, who would of course not be recognised
by the Commonwealth authorities.

Challoner goes on : "to whose assistance in cases
" of doubt and considerations sometimes taken about
" the ordering the affairs of the Country for the
" defence and safety thereof and propositions of good
" and wholesome laws and orders for the peace and
" welfare of the people and betwixt the Lord and the
" people and betwixt party and party the said
" Governor and Officers do usually call in the 24 Keys
" of the Island."

He afterwards quotes the declaration as to the
procedure of Tynwald, but describes the " benefited
men " as the " fee'd Council," and adds: "And if any
orders be agreed upon by the Officers and 24 Keys
" they are to be presented to the Lord of the Island
" as from that Court and if his Lordship likes well
" of them and please to confirm them they are

" returned back and put upon Record and at the next
" Tynwald after are proclaimed for absolute Laws."
The proclamation has always been made by the
Senior Deemster if present, and in his absence by the
Junior Deemster.

To this day all Acts of Tynwald contain the words
" We the Lieutenant-Governor Council Deemsters and
" Keys in Tynwald assembled," and the Deemsters
sign in a different place from the other members of the
Council, although in recent years their votes have been
taken as if they were ordinary members.

I have never seen an Act which was not signed by
at least one Deemster.

If, therefore, the Deemsters have had, by virtue of
their office, a recognised place in Tynwald from the
very earliest times, and if the Acts of Tynwald to this
date declare that they are passed by the consent of the
Deemsters, who alone have the right to proclaim the
laws on Tynwald Hill by immemorial custom, I
respectfully contend that their removal from the
Governor's Council and the Legislature would be
almost, if not quite, as great an interference with
the ancient constitution of this Island as the removal
of the Keys themselves, and could only be justified on
the ground that some grave injustice to the community would be caused by their retention.

2nd Deemster.


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