[J Manx Museum vol III #50 pp172/177 - 1936]

[This is included for its interest though personally I am doubtful that any strong conclusions can be drawn - recent DNA testing might however resolve some points though as these authors point out even by 1935 many changes were taking place in population types]

The Manx People and their Origins

By H. J. Fleure and Elwyn Davies.

In these days, when so much is said about Race Questions and science is prostituted to serve political ends and to foster hate, there is special reason to investigate the physical types of man in regions where this can be done without rousing political prejudice and where it may be possible to use the facts ascertained to amplify what we know from other sources about local history. These considerations led the writers to investigate the types of men in the Isle of Man, where there is a good deal of information concerning family history and there has been a great deal of intermarriage of a very local type, even within a parish.

The native-born population of the Island in 1931 was 36,558, of whom 15,084 were males over 21 years of age. Our survey examined adult men only and restricted itself to those whose four grandparents belonged to the Island by descent and whose family names were known in the Island before 1800 - indeed, 172 out of 213 family-names recorded were on record in Man in 1511-15. The sample included 1,200 men out of a possible total, we estimate, of not more than 7,000. Evidence of recent inter-mixture was afforded by the fact that our sample included so many more men of 50-60 years than of 20-30 years; it was obviously now or never for a survey of this kind.

To promote accuracy all 1,200 men were measured by the same person (E. Davies), and thanks are due to many helpers who gave time and labour to make the survey- a success It cannot be expected that the whole population even of a rural parish should carry the same physical characters; it is a matter of common observation that people of very diverse physique hand on their diverse characters side by side, even if intermarriage occurs between their respective families.

What we can hope to show is that some bundle of physical characters may be much commoner in certain districts than it is in others, and that this has a historical interpretation, indicating sometimes, for example, that the district has received a considerable influx from abroad. bringing in, physical characteristics that have survived.

It was necessary to divide the island into districts for our purposes, and the best proved to be groups of parishes as follows :-

(a) The northern morainic area, Andreas, Pride, and Jurby, with old-established farms often in the hands of old Manx families. 150 men.

(b) The low-lying parishes of Ballaugh and Lezayre, with old wet areas like the Curragh ; on the whole a region with less old-established population. 139 men.

(c) The parishes west of the hill mass, Michael and German, forming with (a) and (b) the northern Deemstership. 142 men.

(d) and (e) The south-west, including Patrick (126 men) on the one hand, and Rushen and Arbory (243 men) on the other.

(f) The eastern plateau parishes of Maughold and Lonan. 115 men.

(g) The south-eastern parishes of Conchan, Braddan and Santan. 133 men.

(h) The southern lowlands including llalew and Nlarown.152 men.

The large number entered under Rushen and Arbory was not due to a specially large number of measurements in those parishes, but to the number of persons measured elsewhere who traced their grandparents back to these parishes, which have witnessed specially marked emigration. It is characteristic of upland areas that they export considerable numbers of young men and women who, owing to the poverty of the area, have to seek opportunities in other richer areas. In the south-west there has been much rural depopulation consequent on the decline of fishing and crofting in recent years



A detailed review of a large number of measurements and observations taken on each of the twelve hundred individuals is given in an article in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, of London for 1936 (pp. 129-187), for help in the publication of which, as also for help in the financing of the reasearch, the authors are deeply indebted to the Manx Museum and Ancient Monuments Trustees.

Among the sixteen measurements and seven facts of observation noted for each person some are of well-established value for discriminating variants in a European population, others are as yet more of specialist interest. Stature is a measurement that must be used with care, as this feature responds fairly directly to food and exercise; for example, the newer ideas of the upbringing of girls has increased the stature of women, and better attention to the health of London's school children has increased their average stature. But among the rural people of the Isle of 1\Ian there is rarely a lack of food and exercise, so people usually grow according to their general type, taller stature being usually associated with fair colouring.

In the matter of colouring we must remember that both fair colouring (light hair, and eyes without brown colouring) and dark colouring (dark brown or black hair, brown eyes and some-times tinted skin) may be associated with different bundles of other characters, i.e., not all fair people are of ` Nordic type,' to use the common phrase.

The form of the nose can safely be compared within such limits as those of the Island, for the theory of response of this character to environ-ment, even if it be correct, has no application to differences in a uniform environment.

Head form is usually estimated, first of all, by finding what percentage relation exists between the head breadth and the head length, and this percentage is called the cephalic index. This percentage is under 73.5 in extreme long heads, 73.6-78.5 in moderate long heads, 78.6-82.5 in medium heads and 82.6 or over in broad heads.

It has been found in our work that certain groups of characters are found in many individuals in the Isle of Man:-

(a) Fair colouring, tall stature, long and narrow head (low cephalic index), long face, long narrow nose, high forehead

(b) dark colouring, short stature, slim build, long and narrow head (low cephalic index), moderate to broad nose, moderate face.

These are the two chief groups with which we must concern ourselves, remembering that there are other groups of minor importance and that there are gradations between fair and dark, tall and short, and so on. It is the distribution of these groups that is of the most interest, for our analysis shows that the proportion of one rises and that of the other falls as between one parish and another. [See map on opposite page.]

In the Island, as a whole, fair colouring- pre-ponderates over dark colouring in the proportions 40.1% : 36.6%, but there are marked regional differences. Dark colouring preponderates over fair colouring in Conchan, Braddan and Santan only, where the proportion with dark colouring (48.9%) is almost twice as great as it is in Andreas, Bride and Jurby (26.7%). In the latter area the proportion with fair colouring (47.3%) is nearly half as much again as it is in Conchan, liraddan and Santan (33.1%).

The excess of Fair over Dark colouring is 5.7% in Ballaugh and Lezayre, 2.8% in Michael and German, and 8.7% in Maughold and Lonan, but this figure rises to 13.8% in Malew and ~larown and to 24.6% in Andreas, Bride and Jurby; in Patrick and in Rushen and Arbory the proportions with dark and fair colouring are approximately equal. These differences in colouring are most pronounced among the long-headed persons.

The numbers of fair and of dark longheads in the various districts are as follows-:-


Total Longheads measured.


Fair Longheads.


Dark Longheads.

Andreas,Bride &Jurby






Ballaugh & Lezayre






Maughold & Lonan ..






Michael &German






Conchan,Braddan Santan






Malew &Marown






Rushen & Arbory










... 20


It will be seen that the descending order for percentage of fair longheads, omitting Ballaugh and Lezayre, which, it is agreed, are in part a region of recent settlement, is : (1) Andreas, Bride and Jurby; (2) Maughold and Lonan; (3) Malew and Marown; (4) Michael and German; (5) Patrick; (6) Rushen and Arbory ; (7) Conchan, Braddan and Santan. Omitting Ballaugh and Lezayre once more, this is seen to be the ascending order for percentages of dark longheads save that Patrick this time has the same percentage as Michael and German.

Looking now at the individual measurements we find that the figures for length and breadth of the head in Andreas, Bride and Jurby run rather high and the really low measurements for these characters occur relatively sparsely there. On the other hand the low measurements are common in Conchan, Braddan and Santan. The same point comes out in connection with the breadth across the cheek bones (technically called Bizygomatic Breadth), and also with the breadth across the narrowest part of the fore-head (Minimum Frontal Diameter).

As regards nasal length, the higher values occur in considerable numbers of men in

Andreas, Bride and Jurby, but also in Rushen and Arbory. The lower values on the other hand occur in many men in Conchan, Braddan and Santon, but also in Maughold and Lonan.

The percentage which the breadth of the nose bears to its length is called the nasal index and gives a useful measure of the form of the nose. The parish areas sort themselves out as follows


Narrow noses.

Medium noses.

Relatively Broad noses.









,Andreas, Bride &Jurby


... 38.7%

... 28.0%

Ballaugh & Lezayre .




Maughold & Lonan


... 33.9%


Michael &




German .




Conchan, Braddan




& Santan ..




Malew &




Marown .


... 30.3%

... 31.6%

Rushen &




Arbory .


... 30.0%

... 24.7

Patrick ..


... 33.3%

... 32.5°/0

The most notable fact here is the small per-centage of narrow noses in Conchan, Braddan and Santan; that is relative narrowness is less common than in the other parish groups. This is not so much because noses are absolutely broad; it is a consequence rather of their short-ness noted above, and it will be seen that the relatively short broad nose occurs in a rather larger proportion of men in Conchan, Braddan and Santan; that is relative narrowness is less

The large proportion with long relatively narrow nose, and the small percentage with the short broad nose found in Rushen and Arbory is a notable feature. These characters of the nose are related to others concerning facial development; Andreas, Bride and Jurby have small numbers of men with low values for the height of the face, whereas Conchan, Braddan and Santan have relatively large numbers of such men. The lower values are commoner among (lark than among fair men.

The following table brims out some interesting points concerninz stature :-



Excess of those


Percentage Excess


of Fairs over


with Stature

above 5'

71" over


among those

with Stature


those with Stature 5' 712"


or less.


over 5'
















Andreas, Bride & Jurby .

47.7 ...

44 ...

40 ...


... -8.3 ...


Ballaugh & Lezayre ...

28.3 ...

8.6 ...

25 ...


... 3.2 ...


Maughold & Lonan ...

10.6 ...

32.2 ...

0 ...


... 19.6 ...


Michael & German ...

4.8 ...

-9.4 ...

20 ...


... 5.4 ...


Conchan, Braddan & Santan

... 0 ...

-15.2 ...

-23 ...


... 27.5 ...


Malew & Marown ...

27.8 ...

8.8 ...

0 ...


... -11.9 ...


Rushen & Arbory ...

-6.6 ...

15.4 ...

6.6 ...


... -2.7 ...


Patrick ..

18.6 ...


9.1 ...


... 20 ...


The persons with taller stature exceed in num-ber those with shorter stature in every area except Conchan, Braddan and Santan and, to some extent, in Michael and German. The excess is most marked in Andreas, Bride and Jurby and occurs especially among fair long-heads.

Malew and Marown, which come next to Andreas, Bride and Jurby in their proportions of men with fair colouring, do not show so markedly that special association of tallness with fair colouring, though they show its association with long heads.

Some points may be added here about other groups of characteristics. First of all, there is an interesting complication in the relations be-tween colouring and stature among longheads.
















"up to 5' 5





5' 6" & 5' 7"





5' 8" .5'..10"


15.137.1%~ %



5' 9" &





5' 11" & above





This table shows that among longheads statures of 5' 6" and 5' 7" are commoner among dark people, and statures of 5' 9" and 5' 10" commoner among fair people as already ex-plained, but that among people 5' 11" and over, dark colouring is again commoner than fair. This is not the case for the medium-headed people. We are, in fact, here in presence of a small group of characters including tall stature, spare build, dark colouring and long, often very narrow, head and face. These characters are found in districts of Great Britain as well, on the Denbigh moorland, in West Scotland and apparently in North Devon That they show a certain resemblance to one of the northern Spanish types has been suggested. If these locations are established we are probably dealing with a scattered deposit from some prehistoric migration.

44 men out of our sample of 1,200 had red hair, and this is a fairly normal proportion. Among them 21 had brown pigment in the eyes and 23 lacked that pigment. In most of the latter the red tinge is apparently merely an in-tensificatioin of blondness, whereas many of those with brown pigmented eyes and red hair have the hair a deeper and more distinctive red. All red hair is apparently not the same red hair. It is perhaps worth mentioning that reds are as much as 6.7% of the sample in Andreas, Bride and Jurby, the district most notable for its blond men, and are as little as 0.7% of the sample in Conchan, Braddan and Santan, only one case having been recorded among 133 men observed in this area, which shows the largest proportion of dark colouring.

Comparing the north and the east in particular it is clear that the area composed of Andreas, Bride and Jurby has large numbers with tall stature, fair colouring, and with high values for head length, head breadth, minimum forehead breadth, face breadth, face length, and with long but relatively narrow noses.

' Alalew and Marown form another area where fair colouring is marked, but the large measure-ments noted for the north are not a feature there. In Conchan, Braddan and Santan, on the other hand, dark colouring, shorter stature and smaller measurements of head, face, nose, and body are characteristic, and the big fair men are much less frequent, just as the smaller dark men are relatively few in the north.

[part 2 June 1937]

Let us consider further the meanings of some of the differences noted previously, repeating first of all that we have tried to stud- those men only whose ancestry is Manx, and local back to a date beyond that of the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution which led to the accumulation of population, partly of non-Manx origin, in the pleasure-resort of Douglas, and noting how significantly the old agricultural interest keeps up and persists in rising- Ramsey as a. chief market town.

It is evident that population has always been very thin in the mountain mass. The northern morainic area with Andreas, Pride and Jurby is relatively poor in traces of prehistoric man, and so are Ballaugh and Lezayre which include marshy areas that needed treatment before much population could accumulate there. In contrast with this the peninsulas of Maughold and of the south-west, and also the western coastal plateau in Michael and German, are rich in traces of pre-historic man. especially of the period or periods ,when monuments of great rough stones were set up. In those days the Island seems to have profited considerably from its central position in the Irish Sea.

Its monuments of one kind in and near Maughold parish (Cashtal yn Ard, Gretch Veg and Ballafayle) are related to monuments in Ireland from Carlingford Lough westward to Sligo, in the Firth of Clyde, and at the Bridestones near Congleton in Cheshire. The monument called the Meayll Circle (Cregneash) in the south-west seems related to some in the western Baltic area and to one that formerly stood on a hill at Fort Regent; Jersey. The strange monument at the Braaid has not yet been usefully linked with monuments elsewhere. The monument at the Kew, when it is further examined, is likely to reveal resemblances with Brittany and the west of the Iberian peninsula. That at Corvalley also probably, has southern affinities. It is therefore likely that the Island was visited and settled by seafarers of early days who were concerned with communications to Ireland as well as to the south, and, to some extent, to the north. The early pottery of the Island's builders of rough stone monuments has marked Irish and southern relationships. The builders were preceded in the Island by small groups who made flint implements near the shore and seem to have lived by hunting and gathering. These are technically called the Mesolithic peoples because they continued Old Stone Age modes of life and work to a large extent, but belong to a period after that age though before the introduction of agriculture, active seafaring and good pottery making.

In Wales and France some remote areas still retain among the modern population men who carry characters very much like those we know from the skeletons of men of the later part of the Old Stone Age and the long Mesolithic Age. They have very long narrow heads with dark colouring affecting hair and eyes and often skin as well, narrow foreheads, strong brows, broad-projecting cheek bones and rather strong limbs So far we have not found more than very doubt-ful traces of such people in the Isle of Man.

The Iberian peninsula, parts of France, Corn-wall, Wales and Ireland are well known for their dark-haired long-headed people, less extra me in colour and narrowness of head than the above; the face is smoother and the build is generally rather slight. In some British areas they are spoken of as the `little dark people.'

The areas just mentioned as being important for them are all areas of great stone monuments, and their skeletons have been found in various monuments of this kind. There can thus be little doubt that the characters mentioned were spread northward at, and very likely also after, the first spread of agriculture. It has been shown that these characters are very generally distributed among men in the Isle of Man, but at present they are most marked among the men of

Conchan, Braddan and Santan, while they are also very common in Rushen and Arbory. They are least conspicuous in Andreas, Bride and Jurby as one would expect.

Among the dark longheaded population there appear to be at least two sub-types, one with a long head, rather long angular face, and good bony development, while the other has, typically, smaller measurements, smoother, more rounded features, and generally less robust bony develop-ment. The two varieties have a general distribu-tion. The North was not specially suitable for early settlement, and the dark longheads are most abundant in the valleys and in the areas adjacent to the uplands whence they have drawn their population.

In certain coastal districts of S. Italy, Sicily, Spain and Portugal, Western France, South-western England, West Wales, West Lancashire, the Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland and Norway, and certain coasts of the North Sea is found, in a percentage of the men, a group of characters including broad heads and faces, dark colouring and strong build. It would appear from their distribution that they are what may be termed a coastal deposit evidencing the movements of some ancient seafarers. A few skeletons of this type have been found in tombs of the early age of metal in Sardinia, etc., but we really do not know when the men with these characters came north to Britain save that it was doubtless at some period when maritime communications

from the south were active. So far as the Isle of Man is concerned the question need not be pursued any further, as there is at most on1v a sprinkling of men with these characters in the Island. Perhaps one might say that there are rather more of these in Rushen and Arbory than elsewhere.

Archaeologists describe the spread to Britain from the other side of the North Sea of a civilisation about coeval with or a little later than that of the great stone monuments. It was characterised by its beaker forms in pottery. It occupied the east of England and Scotland, whereas the civilisation of the great stone monuments occupied the west coast areas. It also sent out outposts to the west, and one beaker from the Isle of Man has been deposited by Rev. Canon Quine in the Manx Museum. The beaker pots of Central Europe and E. Britain are typically associated with burials of tall broad-headed men with strong brows and powerful faces. These characters are found associated together in a proportion of men in certain areas in east Britain and are specially characteristically handed down in certain families. They do not occur appreciably in the Isle of flan, which was apparently little affected by that civilisation; there is thus negative evidence as well as the positive evidence given in earlier paragraphs for the utilisation of archaeological data in interpretating anthropmetric results.

The prehistoric record of south-east England gives evidence of a number of waves of civilisation, probably in some cases accompanied by actual invasions, in the bronze Age and the pre-Roman Iron Age. In the north-west apparently - the life of the old time went on, with infiltration of ideas and objects from the south-east, but no radical change at least for a long time. In the Bronze Age the climate of Europe warmed up with the result that the Baltic area developed a high standard of craftsmanship indicating prosperity. On the other hand, whether from aridity accompanying heat in Spain or from the exhaustion of tin supplies, it came about that the activity of the maritime connection of Britain with Spain and Portugal diminished. This was most probably an important factor in limiting the influx of new ideas and objects into the Irish Sea area. Ireland, thanks to its supplies of copper and alluvial gold, remained important, but the crossings of the Irish Sea became mere stages in journeys across Britain.

The period of warmth was followed by a dramatic change; the climate became cold and wet at some period not far removed from the 8th century B.C. This change so impressed the imagination of the peoples of north-western Europe that it became incorporated in legend and folklore as the Fivnbidwinter when the winters succeeded one another with no summer between, and when there occurred the Twilight of the old Gods because their worship decayed as im-poverishment and emigration became dominant facts. It was a very wet period when beech forests replaced oak in Denmark and peat bogs superseded pine and other woods in the north-west generally. Naturally, north-west Britain was very wet at the time, and it seems to have gone through a period of poverty, with the result that it received little addition to its population at least until after the recovery of climate set in about 400 or 300 B.C.

The phase of cold wet climate in the north had brought to Spain relief from aridity, and

the country revived, as did Mediterranean trade generally, leading on to the growth of the classi-cal civilisations, echoes of which spread to the north-west with the rise of the Druid priesthood, and the infiltration of classical curves into the designs of ornaments in bronze and enamel of the west of Europe in what is called the La Tëne period. So far as the west and north-west are concerned, there was a regrowth of maritime movement and the fashion of building earthworks on hill-brows spread. This phase, in the west, is called technically Iron Age B, dating from perhaps B.C. 200 onwards, to distinguish it from Iron Age A, a phase of civilisation which arrived some centuries earlier in S.E. England, coming from Western France.

Before Iron Age 13 had reached the west the La Tëne civilisation (from about 400 B.C.) had overlaid Iron Age A in the south-east. We do not yet know with any certainty what earthworks in the Isle of Man belong to Iron Age B, or what the people who built such earthworks were like. This line of maritime communications may well have retained some activity while the Romans were in Britain, for we find that the movements of the Celtic Saints were along those lines It is quite possible that the Iron Age and later 'Celtic ' movements affected only small numbers of leaders, or that such people as moved were largely men with the physical characters already established in the west by earlier movements.

In the 9th and 10th centuries A.D, important immigrations of Norsemen occurred via the Hebrides and, to judge from local prevalence of Norse placenames, they settled most of all in Andreas, Bride and Jurby, but also to some extent in Malew. The fact noted above, that tall, fair, longheaded, longfaced, bony men occur in large proportions in Andreas, Bride and Jurby may be linked up with this historic fact of the Norse immigration, especially as it has been indicated that that portion of the Island seems not to have had much population in earlier times.

So much for the historical side of the matter. Has the subject of physical characters of man any other and especially any practical interest ? We think it has.

Much attention is being given at the moment by Government committees and research institutes to problems of nutrition, and rightly so. There is little doubt that deficiencies in the past, often arising from ignorance rather than from poverty, have prevented young people from attaining the full growth of body and mind of which they were capable, and also have laid them open to attacks of diseases like rickets, tuberculosis, and so on which might well have been avoided. There is no doubt, too, that rickets in childhood may have serious consequences when the phase of motherhood comes, and so may affect successive generations.

But in all work on nutrition we must be careful ere we argue that people are 'undersized.' It may well be that they belong to a type of small growth. We must also be careful in statements about the phases of growth of body and mind which appear to be spaced over a longer period in some (chiefly tall blond) types than in others (chiefly short dark people). It will be through interweaving of knowledge about nutrition and knowledge about type or physical characters that we may hope to get guidance for social welfare. Disease again appears to attack diverse physical types rather differently, though we are as yet too ignorant on this subject to venture opinions.

It has just been mentioned that growth and maturation, or adolescence, seem to occur differently in different physical types. That this has important educational bearings still waiting to be worked out seems clear enough. We already glimpse the fact that there are frequent marked associations of bodily and mental characteristics; in another generation this study may add practical value and interest to anthropometric investigations

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