[Quayle Bridge House Papers]

Document 231 [MS. 510 C]

Our Oldest Legal Records:

Extracts from Sheading Court Rolls of A.D. 1417/18 preserved in an 18th century ‘Book of Precedents’

REGRETTABLY. few written records haaeve survived to throw light on Manx Life and Customs during the Middle Ages. Therefore the collection of extracts from certain Sheading Court Rolls of the early fifteenth century, printed below, is perhaps one of the most important of all the two hundred and thirty documents which have been published in the Journal.

The oldest document preserved in the Rolls Office is the well-known indenture of 1417 containing a list of the Twenty-four Keys, the names of several of whom reappear in the text now published.

The whereabouts of the original Sheading Court Rolls of the same year is not known at present. Fortunately extensive extracts were copied from the missing records about 1725 by John Quayle (of the Bridge House Family), then Clerk of the Rolls, in the course of a great collection of precedents which he assembled from the records existing at that time.

It is from John Quayle’s Book of Precedents that our text is derived .: but, owing to lack of space there is room only for a translation of the Latin version as copied by Quayle, and we are indebted to Mr. David Craine, MA., for much assistance in preparing the translation.

Mr. Walter Gill has drawn our attention to the interesting fact that the original Rolls were in existence in 1877, in which year photographs of portions of the documents were exhibited to the Society of Antiquaries of London and some extracts were actually printed in the Society’s Proceedings (2nds. vii, 25). These extracts Mr. Gill has embodied in the first chapter of his forthcoming Third Manx Scrapbook (a proof of which he has kindly placed at our disposal), and it is evident that they are valuable as a careful and independent version of a portion of the missing documents. Mr. Gill’s comments on the subject are also of great interest especially from the point of view of the personal names occurring in the Rolls

It is hoped to publish in future issues of the Journal further extracts from John Quayle’s Book of Precedents, as this praiseworthy but entirely unknown work contains not oniy material for a detailed study of Manx law but throws light on many little-known phases of insular life and history.

[other extracts are in document 235]




Severall LAW-CASES or Precedents taken out of the antient and Modern Records of the

Setting forth the Constitution and course of proceedings used in the severall Courts of Judicature within the said Isle, and the nature of our antient CUSTOMARY Lawes.

[ Compiled by JOHN QUAYLE, Clericus Rotulorum, AD. 1725, et seq. *Comments by John Quayle are printed in italic type.]


to the following Collections

To Trace out the Antiquity or Origine of the antient Laws and Constitution of this Isle, or to know whether they have been introduced or borrowed from other Nations is a matter that admitts of some difficulty, since we have no Records now Extant that might Justify or Awarrant such an Essay or Undertakeing: But as this Island hath antiently had the name of a Kingdome and hath been Governed by severall Kings for a long Succession of Time before it came to the ffamilly of the House of DERBY and hath had a Legislative power within itself, it may therefore be reasonably supposed that our Laws have been for the most part propagated in our own native soyle and that they are Equally antient with our first Rulers.

I find mention made in some of our old* Records that our first written Laws were in King Orryes Days but what became of those Manuscripts is not certaine : Our Mancks Chronicle tells us that Mary the Daughter of Reginald (who was of the sd King Orryes Line) being Queene of Mann and Countess of Straherne in Scotland was disturbed in the possession of the Isle of Mann by Alexander King of Scotts and that she fled to the King of England Edward the first in the Twenty’th yeare of his Reigne being then at Sct Johns Town in Scotland to Complaine agt the said King of Scotts, and brought with her (as is said) All her Charters & Deeds of the Land of MANN, and in a short time afterwards she dyed, so that it is not improbable, but that what Records or other writeings were then Extant relateing to the Governmt of the Island might at that time be taken away by her & never restored again, ifor we have no written Laws or any Records now remaining but what have been since Sr John Stanleys time+, to whom this Island was given by King Henry the fourth, Anno Dni 1403.

And because all Judgements and Determinations given and made in matters of Law before that time (as we may well beleive) were only delivered orally by the Magistrates to the people, and no Memorial or Record made of them, the same there-fore antiently called BREAST-LAWS, But the sd Sr John Stanley and his Successrs Lords of this Isle (to the end that those antient Customary Laws wch before were continued & preserved by way of Tradition from one age to another might the better be made known to the people) took special Care and gave strict Comands from time to time That all such points of Law as were given and delivered by the Deemsters upon the transaction of all Cases of Moment should be Registered in the Court Rolls to remain as a Rule or precedent to future ages, and by that means our said antient Customary Laws have in process of time crept by degrees into writeing, So that from those Books or Court Rolls, We may gather a Summary Accompt of the said Laws.

And considering that none hath hitherto Under-taken to Collect and bring them into one Volume (being dispersed here and there amongst the Records as Cases happened) I thought it worth my paines and the Expence of Time to make the following Collection of them, to give myself the satisfaccon of having a true notion of our antient fundamentall Laws wch Time perhaps may have altered or corrupted. I have for the most part taken but one single precedent in each Case tho there be many of the same nature, because I would not make my volume too bulkey.

I hope there will be some further care taken to bring all our Antient Customes & Legal Constitution into a Body of written Laws (well I heartily wish might be effected, both for the Ease of the Magistrate and the benefit of the people) and then I question not but that these Collections will not only lay open the ground work, but also furnish materials fit for such an Undertakeing; And if thereby I may be so happy as to contribute any thing to the publick good or benefit of my Country I shall think my paines sufficiently rewarded.

* Statute Book, pag. 130.
+ Statute Book, p: 10.
§ Statute Book, pag. 13, 15, 20, &c.

The first Records Extant in this Isle (Besides those in the Book of Statutes) are in certaine sheetes of parchment, and begin thus :


ISLE OF MAN A.D. 1417 Lord John Stanley Lord of Man and the Isles.

At a Head Court holden there at the Castle on the 4th day of October in the year of Our Lord 1417 and the fourth of the Royalty of the Lord of Man, before John Litherland, Lieutenant, then in that place.


The Moar presents a Bloodwipe, said to be proved by him

John McCray (12d) [presented] because, against the peace, he drew blood on Bryan Bullock as was proved by the Moar of the parish of [Holy] Trinity, &c.


An Accon for the said Bloodwipe. The party is fined xijS and to make satisfaccon to the other

John McCray complains concerning Bryan Bullock for satisfaction on the grounds that the same man against the peace of the Lord King did make a leap upon the same John and then struck him with a staff, &c., who came and confessed; therefore 12s in fine and to make satisfaction to the other, &c.


The like Accon brought by the other party for takeing him by the neck or throat

Also Bryan complains concerning the said John for satisfaction on the grounds that against the peace of our Lord the King he violently took Bryan by the neck and used him evilly, who came and placed himself upon the Enquest through which he was found guilty, therefore 12s in fine and to make satisfaction to the other, &c.


A presentment for trespasses in the Calfe Isle

An Inquisition was taken at the same Court concerning trespasses made in le Calfe, upon oath, &c., who say that Thomas de Yvenhow (20d) and Gilbert McWaddy keep 4 pigs, against the order, in le Calfe ; and that Michael Shirlock has two horses, and that John Shirlock cut down a wood in the same place, therefore these men in fine.


ANNO 1417 At a Court held as before at the Castle on the tenth day of January of the aforesaid year in the presence of Thurstan de Tyldesley and Rodger Hasnap, commissioners to the Lord of Man and the Isles.

One arraigned for Comitting Robbery on the Highway

To the judgment of the same court it was presented that Brother John Proker had stolen thread and wool worth 14d of the goods and chattels of a certain mendicant from Ireland, and robbed the same man in the highway.


ANNO 1418 At a Head Court holden &c. before John Ffasakerley, Lieutenant, then at that place, &c.


One Indicted or presented for takeing up a ship wreck from the shoare & carrying it home to his own house

An Inquisition taken at the same court upon the oath of John Mcphillips, &c., twelve men of the jury, who say that Thomas Bell feloniously stole and carried away a timber thrown up close to the sea as a Wreak below Scarlott and drew the said timber to his own house &c.


The Abbot presented for keeping an unlawfull measure amongst his Tennts &c.

They also say that Richard, Abbot of Rushen, keeps an illegal measure upon his lands in Ballasalley, and does not keep the same measure as the law of the country demands and sets forth, to the hurt of the tenants of the Lord King, &c.


An Accon for Tyth agt Reginald Stevenson of Balladoole transmitted to the Bishops Court &c. John Meffayle complains against Reginald Stevenson for satisfaction on the ground that he withholds 6d. of the said Reginald’s tithes belonging to the Church of St. Columba, and the said Reginald comes and declares that they are not bound to answer in this Court and that the plea belonged to the Court Christian, from this judgment should be sought ; and thus the cause is transmitted to the Lord Bishop for trial, and the said John left in fine for his unlawful action.


An Accon for coming with a false token* from the Governr to arrest a person going into Ireland fined xiis

Michael McGawne complains against William Browne on the ground that he came deceitfully to the said Michael with a false token from the Lieutenant of Man in order to allow a certain servant to go into Ireland through which the said Michael was arrested, etc, and harmed to the extent of 13s 4d, and he said that if the defendant wished to contradict this the aforesaid Michael was prepared to prove it by lawful witnesses whom he thereupon produced and who gave evidence, therefore by the judgment of the Court it is ordered that William Browne shall give satisfaction to the plaintiff as well as pay a fine of 12s.

*The token was given by the Governor or Deemster as an authorisation to an executive officer and was a small flat piece of slate or other stone on which was scratched the initials of the grantor. No specimen of this primitive warrant is known to exist.


Ale Taster’s presentment for selling contrary to assize

The Ale-tasters present that Marian Yne Maclony (3d), wife of M’Corward Caleaghony (3d), William Nichalson (6d) and Marian wife of Patrick Souter, have brewed and sold contrary to the fixed measure : therefore &c.


The Law for claiming a Debt within a year and a day, pleaded on this Accon

John Litherland, Executor of the Will of Lord John Sprotton lately Bishop of Sodor, complains concerning Patrick McJohn Andrew, executor of the will of McJohn Andrew, late deceased, on the ground that he owes him 70s silver, who came and declared that he could not be held responsible in the matter since within a year and a day he made full Administration of all the goods of the late deceased before the Lord Richard, now Bishop, and thence has an acquit-tance ; and the aforesaid [Patrick Mc] John said that he wished to declare that his late father, John, did not owe the before-mentioned Bishop the said sum of which he himself is executor and this he is prepared to prove before a jury ; and upon this came Finlo McKey and others, jurors, who declare that he must pay the said sum to the before-mentioned John, just as he paid the other creditors.


Goods seized on for being carry’d off without Lycense

An inquisition was taken upon the oaths of Donald Wauterson and others who declare that Bryan Wauterson contrary to the orders of the Lord went from the island of Man ; he owns a cow, an ox, etc., with McEngelsey, and a cow, etc., with Andrew Wright and 4 heifers with William Gilbred, tenant of the Abbot of Rushen, &c. which goods are seized.


3s for breaking the Coronrs arrest

The Coroner of the parish of St German presents that Thurmot Begg ne Clery broke his arrest, therefore 60s in fine.


6 soldiers present persons for fishing in the Lord’s River at Peele

An Inquisition taken upon the oaths of John Merton and others, six soldiers from the Peele, who declare that Alaun McJohn Andrew and others have fished in the Lord’s River at le Holme, and have there seized fish by force of arms against the peace, etc.


Recognizance for the peace

Gilbert McWanty procures a guarantee of peace in regard to the Lord of Man and the people and particularly in relation to John Lucason and others, namely Gilbert M’Don and Gilbert Houghton . . . under penalty of 100~, and the said Gilbert McWanty under penalty of £20.


Recognizance taken Body for Body & Goods &c.

Thomas McClery and others came in person before Thurstan de Tyldesley and Rodger Haysnap, Commissioners to the Lord of Man, and were surety for John Lucason to answer to the law of Man and the will of the Lord in diverse matters imposed on him whence the judgment declared body for body and under penalty to make satisfaction of all their goods.


Ale-Tasters fined for not doing their Duty

At a Court holden at Kirk Michael, in the aforesaid year, the Ale-tasters of Kirk Michael, namely Patrick McBruch (3d) and ffinlo McGilbane [are presented] because they do not report deficiencies such as pertain to the office.


The fforrester presents for hunting within the forest

John Boginton, the Forester, presents that William Cottingham commonly hunts at dawn and at dusk within [lit. below] the Forest destroying the beasts in this manner, and because the said man is likewise in the habit of killing hares there.


The arrest broken for not bringing a servt to the Castle or to the Deemster’s House

At the Church of St. Lonnan:

The Coroner likewise presents that Palk McKeghery broke his arrest made on his servant who should have been at the Castle or Deemster’s House on the third day, therefore in fine 12d.


A presentment for keeping an unlawful measure at a Tennt Miln

At Kirk Maughold:

An Inquisition taken upon the oaths of 12 Jurors who declare that Wm Causee keeps an unlawful measure at the mill of Corney and this to the loss of the Lord’s tenants ; and he extorted goods to the value of 40s, taking muicture contrary to the Statutory price.


Pardon pleaded by a ffellon wch is said to be under the Lords great Seal, etc.

Apud Kk Braddan:

Hugh McWhay was called in the same Court for the purpose of showing a sealed document he has, or otherwise declaring what he knows of various felonies, trespasses and accusations on account of which he was prosecuted ; who comes and asks from the Lieutenant and Deemster if there be anyone who may wish to proceed with the said cases against him, that he may appear, and he himself will defend himself according to the form of Law, and nobody comes, and further

He declares that he has a certain official letter from the Lord relating to pardons under the Great Seal, and notwithstanding the letter he puts himself to the Grace of the Lord and of his Council.


An Accon agt Tennants for not repairing the miln Dam. One of the Deffts appeared and sub-mitted, therefore in 6d. fine and the rest did not appear and being lawfully suffion’d, therefore in 6d. a peice fine

Patrick M'Kelly farmer of the mill of Baldall complains of Andrew McGerdean 6d, Wm McWillim 6d, Wilim McFfaile 6d, Murdagh McNell 6d and John McAgeghan 6d, on the ground that they did not come to repair the dam of the said mill, although summoned as tenants of the mill.+ The aforesaid Andrew and William came [to court] and the said Andrew admitted [ the offence] and was therefore in fine, and the aforesaid William declares that he himself was not summoned, and upon this Hugo McWhay came and proved by lawful witnesses that he [William] was summoned, therefore in fine ; and William McFayle and all the others were sum-mooed to Court and did not appear, therefore they were in fine.

+The Lord’s Customary tenants — farmers and crofters — were bound by law to take their corn to mills specifically assigned to them, to keep the dam of their particular mill in repair, to give straw towards thatching the mill, and to transport new millstones within the Sheading.


One of the 24 Keyes arraigned for ffellony, pleads to be tryed at the Tynwald Court by the Law and Customs of the Isle. An Abbey Tenant also arraigned pleads to be tryed in the Abbey Court. Both which are granted.

At the same Court Patrick McKelly, John McKelly, William McCasemond, John McCasemond, John Mc a gelling, William McHuggin Mc a gelling are taken by the Coroner from that place and indicted before the Coroner of Rushen, according as previously recorded of this dispute that they together with others came after sunset to the house of Luke McQuyne and feloniously broke into and plundered the said house.

And the aforesaid Patrick says that by law and the custom of the country his case ought not to be tried here but at the Court of Tynwald because he is one of the 24 Keys of the Law, and demands a hearing at the Tynwald Court, and this was granted. And the aforesaid John Mc a gelling declares that he is a tenant of the Prioress of Douglas and therefore is not bound to answer here but at the Court of the said Prioress and consequently his case is transferred to the said Prioress. And the aforesaid John McKelly, Wm McCasemond, John ~ and John Mc a geiling all declare that they are not culpable in any way and moreover put themselves to the country, etc., and the Jurors there-upon chosen for the trial say that they are not guilty of the aforesaid felony, etc.


The Sub Coronr or Lockman for not doing his Duty fforfeits iiijs to the Lord and being not able to pay it. The Coronr is to pay it for him

At Kirk Santan:

The Deemster of Man gives for law that because William McHuggin sub coroner did not arrest William McWhayn and others, for the purpose of preserving the Peace, at a time when he was sub-coroner according as the Law demands and requires, the aforesaid sub-coroner forfeits 60sh to the Lord if he has it in goods and chattels; and if the aforesaid sub-coroner has not sufficient to pay the said amount that then Patrick McKelly, Coroner of his Sheading, must give satisfaction to the said Lord for his said servant.


Swearing on the Grave of a Deceadt with iiij wittnesses to prove a Bargaine

The Prioress of Douglas complains of Donald McKenlaky because he unjustly took a part of the millstones valued at 20sh. from the mill of the said Prioress. Who came and alleges that Simon McKey had covenanted for it and that the said Simon is dead as was testified in that Court. It is therefore decided by the Judge that on the third day he [Donald McKenlaky] place himself on the grave of the said Simon in the presence of four good and lawful men for the purpose of proving his bargain ; at which time he came with four good and lawfull men and proved the bargain by which the said Simon handed over the said millstone to him ; therefore it is decided by the Court that the case be dismissed, etc., and the said Prioress in fine for her unjust complaint.


The modern Equivalent of Names still in use.

(supplied by Mr. D. Craine, MA.)
McCray (Mac Raith, ‘ son of Rath ‘) : Crye.
Caleaghony (‘ servant of the church ‘) : McCorward’s mother’s Christian name.
McClery (Mac y chleree ‘ son of the clerk ‘) : Clarke.
Thurmot Begg ne Clery (‘ little Thurmot the Clerk ‘) : Clarke.
McCasemond (‘ son of Asmundr ‘) : Casement.
Mcffayle (‘ son of Paul ‘) : Quayle.
Gilbrid (‘ devotee of Brigid ‘) : Bridson.
Mc a gelling (‘ descendant of Gealan ‘) : Gelling.
McGilbane (‘ ~ of the fairhaired youth ‘) : White. McKey, McWhay (‘ MacAodh, son of fire ‘) : Kee and Kaye.
Lucason (‘ son of Luke ‘) : Clucas.
Yne MacLony (‘ daughter of the son of Loney’): Lewney and Looney.
McHugin : Hudgeon.
McWanty ( ‘ son of Bondi ‘) : Vondy.
Wauterson ( ‘ son of Walter ‘ ) : Watterson.
MWhayn (MacDowan ‘ son of Black ‘) : Quane.

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