[From 1911 MacDonnell Inquiry]
LETTER FROM REV. CANON SAVAGE, M.A., F.S.A., CHAIRMAN OF "MANX MUSEUM AND
ANCIENT MONUMENTS TRUSTEES."
St. Thomas' Vicarage,
Isle of Man.
SIR, 3rd June, 1911.
As Chairman of the " Manx Museum and
Ancient Monuments Trustees," I have, at the request
of my co-trustees, written the enclosed note on the
constitution and antiquity of the Tynwald. It is with
much reluctance that I intrude in this way, but it
seemed to me better to do so than that it should have
to be said, after all is ended, "Why did not someone
point this out to us? "
Your obedient servant,
ERNEST B. SAVAGE.
The Manx Tynwald is the only one now left in the
world. Wherever the Northmen settled Tynwalds
were instituted for the purposes of making laws and
of enforcing obedience. The " unit " of a Tynwald is
twelve representatives of the people and one Deemster.
In Iceland four local Tynwalds became amalgamated
in course of time, to represent the whole Island, so that
the All-moot or Althing, as this union of Tynwalds was
called, consisted of four Deemsters and forty-eight
representatives of the people. In the Isle of Man
there were anciently two Tynwalds-one in the North
and one in the South-which became united, but the
old name was retained, that is why we have two
Deemsters, still called the Southern and the Northern
Deemster, and twenty-four Keys.
When the late Dr. Vigfusson, reader in Icelandic
at Oxford, came here, and when Dr. Sõderberg of Lund
University was here investigating Norse antiquities in
the British Isles, for the Swedish Government, each of
them was enchanted to find a real Tynwald still in being,
true to the primitive type, and retaining traces of sun
worship in its ritual. They had thought that the
Icelandic Althing, which was abolished by the Danish
Government more than a century ago, was the last to
disappear, and their delight at finding one still
surviving was quite touching.
The word "Deemster," according to Vigfusson,
means " Deemsteerer "-the steerer of judgment; he
was one who watched over the law-makers, that they
did not contradict the ancient laws and customs that
had come down by tradition-the " breast-laws " as
they were called here, and when the Tynwald sat in
judgment on any breach of law, he was like the Judge
" steering " the verdict of the jury.
The question of the Council does not come in at all
-the essentials of a Tynwald are twelve representatives
and one Deemster, or a multiplication of those numbers.
If it is not possible to retain two Deemsters as
" Steerers of Justice," might it be possible to have one
in that capacity, and the other as the " Steerer of the
Law-makers," so that between them they would fulfil
the two duties of the Deemsters of old time ?
It would be sad if this unique link with the past
were now to be snapped, and all antiquaries would
deeply regret it.
ERNEST B. SAVAGE, M.A., F.S.A.