[ILN 18 July 1857]


Tynwald 1857

Tourists who may chance to wend their way to this romantic portion of the British dominions in this travelling month have an opportunity of witnessing, a primitive form of law-giving, specially interesting to the reader with the dulness of Parliament-men and the fag end of the London season. Here is no jewelled throne, emblazoned chair, or luxurious woolsack, whence the the forms of law are promulgated; but from the Tynwald Hill (which means either "a fence for an assembly " or "a juridical hill ") the local laws of the island still continue to be read annually before the Governor, two Deemsters, Keys, Council and various officers of state, and Divine service concludes the solemnities of the day. There is something peculiarly appropriate and impressive in this primitive juridical seat. It is situated near the intersection of the high road from Castletown to Ramsey with that from Douglas to Peel.

The Tynwald Hill is by some asserted to be a Danish sepulchral barrow, and by others a simple mound, composed of earth brought from every parish in the island. Near the hill is the Chapel of St. John, from which it is approached by a pathway of close on 400 feet. The appearance of the mound is that of four truncate cones, piled one upon the other, measuring at the base in circumference 240 feet, and rising to an elevation of 12 feet, while each of the cones diminish in size as they approach the apex, upon which the Governor or "Lord of Man" is seated.

Here, on the 24th June, 1417, Sir John Stanley , King and Lord of Man, held the first regular Court of Tynwald of which any record is kept; and then called upon the Deemsters and Keys to draw up a code of directions for the future guidance of the Tynwald, which code, descriptive of opening the Court of Tynwald, was promulgated.

The day for holding the Tynwald Court is the 5th of July, which this year falling on a Sunday, the ceremony was enacted at St. John's, on Monday the 6th. The morning, though dry, was lowering ; nevertheless, the number which assembled on the ground was large, and was in a great measure made up of visitors to the island. The proceedings commenced shortly after eleven o'clock, when his Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor arrived, and was received at the entrance to the chapel by the usual guard of honour. and proceeded into the chapel, which was already crowded. His Excellency and the members of the Insular Legislature, together with the numerous congregation, then engaged in Divine worship; the government Chaplain, the Rev. E. Ferrier, being the officiating minister. At the close of the service a procession was formed in the ancient order

First, the Coroners of Sheadings and Constables; then the Captains of Parishes ; Parochial and other Clergy of the Island in their robes; High Bailiffs of the Towns; Members of the Honourable House, the Clerk to, and Members of, the Council, including the Water-Bailiff, Vicar-General, Archdeacon, and Lord Bishop; and his Excellency the Hon. Charles Hope, Lieutenant-Governor, in the Windsor uniform, preceded by the Sword-bearer; the procession being, closed by the police-officers. The ground from the Chapel to the Tynwald Hill was lined with troops and a large assemblage of people. On the procession reaching the hill, the steps of which, as well as those of the chapel were strewed with rushes, the Coroners for the past year yielded up their wands of office, and those for the ensuing year were sworn in by the Deemster.

The laws passed by the Insular Legislature during the past year, and which had received the Royal assent, were then promulgated. His Honour Deemster Drinkwater, First Deemster, read over the minutes of the Council at which her Majesty the Queen gave her Royal assent to the particular enactment, which he then read in an audible voice. The same Act was then read in the Manx language, by the Coroner of Glenfaba Sheading, but in so low a tone as not to be audible at the foot of the hill.

Nearly two hours were taken up in promulgating these Acts, and at the termination of the reading thereof the Court returned to the chapel. The Governor and Council took their places in the chancel, while the Keys occupied the south transept ; E. M. Gawne, Esq., Speaker, in the chair. The enactments then received the final signature of both branches of the Legislature, has having been that day promulgated. The High-road accounts for the past year were received by the Keys, and the Secretary was understood to say that the balance-sheet showed a decrease in the expenditure of some £400; the King William's College accounts were also handed in, for the purpose of showing that the requisite sum had been applied to the sinking fund. At this point the Keys, in compliance with a message, proceeded to meet the Governor and Council again in Tynwald.

We have not space to report the proceedings, which were of local interest; and in the midst of a discussion it was agreed to postpone the consideration of the question to the next sitting of the House, which it was expected would be at an early period. The Keys then adjourned.

The chapel was crowded during the greater part of the day, as rain commenced to fall shortly after the members of the court had reached the tent on the hill, and occasional showers succeeded during the afternoon.

The "Midsummer Fair" was held on the green. By aid of the pencil of our artist, Mr. James Mahony, who was on a visit to the island on the day of the ceremony, we are enabled to present our readers with the accompanying picture of this curious relic of early law-giving.


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