An oft repeated myth is that the Island still has on its its statute book a law that Scotsmen (in or out of kilts) can be shot on sight (or otherwise injured). The origin of this is possibly a tale in High Bailiff Laughton's Reminiscences -
Governor Hope was himself a " stranger?" being a Scotchman. I once ventured delicately to remind him of this fact. His Excellency was the President of the Manx Chancery Court, and I was pleading before him n a case in which it became necessary for me to get rid, if possible, of a very ancient Statute, dated 1523 which my opponent had quoted in opposition to my case That Statute had not been acted upon for upwards of three hundred years, and I contended that it must be considered as obsolete. Upon which His Excellency remarked " that a Statute could not become obsolete it could only be repealed by Statute." I replied " that If such were the law, then His Excellency himself was in a very precarious position, for in the year 1422, a Statute had been passed, which remained unrepealed enacting 'that all Scots avoid the Land with the next vessell that goeth into Scotland, upon Paine or Forfeiture of their Goods and their Bodys to Prison'"; and I argued " that unless Statutes might by centuries of non-usage become obsolete, His Excellency was illegally occupying his seat upon the Bench, as very numerous 'vessells' had gone to Scotland since he had arrived on the Island." What effect my argument upon this point might have had with His Excellency, I cannot record as the case was decided upon another issue.
Subsequently I discovered that the Act of 1422 had been repealed, so that " all Scots " may in future visit the Island without fear of their " Bodys " or " Goods " but so strong was the prejudice against " Scots " that 276 years elapsed before they established themselves in the confidence of Manxmen.
The original act was dated 1422 which the relevant section:
Alsoe that no Alien coming into any Haven in Man, with Merchandize or other Wares, pass abroad into the Land noe further, but to the next Parish Church, upon pain of Forfeiture of his Goods and his Body to Prison.
Also be it ordained, that no Merchants have any Money out of the Land, and so to be certifyed by the Lieutennant and the Councell.
Also that all Scotts avoid the Land with the next Vessell that goeth into Scotland, upon Paine of Forfeiture of their Goods, and their Bodys to Prison.
This was in the period when relationships between England (to which Mann had been ceded) and Scotland were strained
The explicit repeal of the statute by then a dead letter, was part of several new laws in 1696
An Act for repealing the Laws made against Aliens.
Whereas by two severall antient Laws, the one of the year 1429, incerted in the Book of Statutes of this Isle, it is provided and declared, That all Aliens residing within the said Isle shall make Faith and Fealty to the Lord; and if any Alien be so resident, and make no Fair or Fealty to the Lord when he dyeth, (whose Tennant soever he be) the Lord shall have his Goods by his Prerogative: Now it being the good Will and Pleasure of the Right Honourable the Lord of this Isle to have the said Laws repealed, for the Encouragement of all, Foreigners and Strangers to reside here, be it therefore enacted by the Authority afforesaid, That the before-recited Laws, and all Things mentioned or intended in and by the same, shall, from and after the Day. of the Date hereof, be utterly repealed, made void, and of none effect, to all Intents and Purposes whatsoever; and that all and every Person or Persons, whether Subjects of the Kingdomes of Scotland or Ireland, or any Foreigners or Strangers, of any other Kingdoms or Nations (their Prince being in amity with the Crown of England) coming into this Isle to reside, shall for the future have and enjoy the same Imunitys, Privilledges, and Advantages that any of the Subjects or Inhabitants of England have or hereafter shall or way have and enjoy by the Laws and Customes of this Isle, any other Law, Usage, or Custome heretofore practiced to the contrary notwithstanding.
comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2010