[From Mannin #9,1917]

Manx Falcons at the Coronations

Puffins, Eagles and Bucks

On looking through the Reports of the Historical Manuscripts Commissioners in connection with Manx matters, I came across some references to the following birds and animals which have a Manx connection. These will, I think, be interesting to readers of MANNIN, and in order to render them more so I have incorporated the extracts in question in a short sketch showing their historical bearing.



Although Falconry was introduced into England from the Continent as far back as the year 860, the earliest mention of it in connection with the Isle of Man was in the reign of Henry IV., when, in 1406, that king granted the Island to Sir John Stanley. The form of homage or 'service' prescribed was the rendering of two falcons to each successive English sovereign at the coronation. Falconry was then at a high pitch in England, and laws were in force for its protection. Falcons were also strictly preserved in the Island; it was a misdemeanour to take them or their eggs. The law on the subject was expressly defined in the Statutes of the Isle of Man1 under date 1422 (temp. Henry VI. and again in 1577 (temp. Elizabeth). A reference to these birds occurs in 1595 in a letter from Sir J. Gerrard, Governor of the Island under Queen Elizabeth, who had taken temporary possession of it on the failure of heirs male in the direct line of the Derby family. Writing to Sir R. Cecil,2 he said:- I found here (in the Isle of Man) three falcons and one tassell,3 and it is not possible to make a just division, wherefore I have sent account to your honour. The rest I keep for my idle exercise. If it would please you to bestow one of them on my lord Thomas I should take it thankfully, for his lordship spoke to me for one.' At the date of this letter falconry had begun to decline, and probably the service of rendering falcons by the Earls of Derby had ceased to be observed. At any rate there appears to be no record of it until the Restoration. In the reign of the Merry Monarch, when the birds were duly presented, the Marquis of Ormonde was acting as guardian to William 9th Earl of Derby during his minority, and Henry Nowell, the Governor of the Island, reported to him in 1676 as follows4:

'It having pleased God to remove the former falconer, Thomas Norris (whereof I formerly gave your grace intimation), and there being none as yet deputed in his place, and also the season of the year now requiring the usual care and providence to be taken of the falcons about the island, and lest that any inconvenience might arise either to the hawks themselves or to the deterring of them from the places where they accustom to resort, by shooting about those places which now requireth a restraint, I have, therefore, for the preservation of my honourable Lord's game, made bold to employ one Richard Parker in the service until your Grace or his Lordship's pleasure should be declared therein, allowing him for his pains and care therein such reasonable fee as his good service from time to time shall demerit (sic.) And I cannot also omit but give your Grace an account that there is of late an eagle coming into this isle, which is a fowl that very seldom and scarce in an age cometh here, it being a place where never any such birds useth to breed, and that there is all possible care taken for to preserve her here, it being observed to be very lucky when any such is seen in the island.'

The service of rendering falcons, which had taken place fifteen years before the date of this letter, is recorded as having been continued by the Earls of Derby through all reigns down to that of George II. in 1827. In the absence of any official record for that of George III. or after, I asked Mr. G. W. Wollaston, Bluemantle, of the College of Arms, for information. He states that 'there is no official record of the claims made and allowed at the Coronation of George III., but from private papers in my possession, it appears that the Duke of Athol (2nd Duke) claimed (presumably as Lord of the Isle of Man) and his claim was allowed. The Duke of Athol (3rd Duke) again claimed, and his claim was allowed at the Coronation of George IV.; he claimed then as Lord of the Isle of Man.' These last two 'services' were subsequent to the first Deed of Sale of the Island by the Duke to the Crown in 1765, and might, therefore, have been considered to have lapsed, but as the Lord's rents and some other rights were not included in the sale (nor finally disposed of until 1828) the Duke remained 'Manorial Lord,' and as such retained the right to the service. Although falconry is not even now (i.e. in pre-War time) quite extinct in England, the presence of the birds at a state function must have appeared incongruous so long after their old glory had departed. An interesting link of the present with the past is furnished by the fact that the last 'Coronation Falcons' were taken at Maughold by an uncle of Mr. P. M. C. Kermode.6



The reference to an Eagle in Nowell's letter of 1676 appears to be the earliest notice of the visit of this bird to Mann. Bishop Wilson in his History of the Island (written in the first half of the eighteenth century) stated that there was one 'airy' in existence in his day, and this may have been the one at 'Emery,' referred to by Mr. Ralfe in his books The eagle would thus seem to have been a rare visitant to Mann. On the other hand, Train,, quoting Camden's Britannica of 1695, states 'eagles and kites are in great plenty' in the Isle of Man. But this reported abundance is open to doubt, inasmuch as in a later (1722) edition of Camden only 'one airy of Eagles' was stated to exist.



Nearly every early writer on the Isle of Man has something to say about the Manx puffins, and some curious details are related concerning their life-history, and habits. Mr. Ralfe in his book gives extracts from the principal authors, beginning with Camden (1586), and ending with Train (1845). He also prints under date 1704 a petition to the Lord of Mann by John Stevenson of Balladoole in relation to his claim of five hundred puffins yearly out of the Calf of Mann. These were in part consideration of the gift by his ancestor, Richard Stevenson of the Calf islet, to James seventh Earl of Derby, in 1643, and were arbitrarily discontinued in 1696 by Colonel Sankey, Governor under Earl William. In the fourteenth report of the Hist. MSS. Commissioners (App. pt. IV.) there is a letter which leads up to the petition in question dated February 9, 1696-7. It was from Major R. Stevenson to Roger Kenyon (former Governor of the Island) complaining that, having been called upon to pay for all the puffins he had had since his father's death, he had taken the matter to the Chancery Court, where he had been attacked by the then Governor Sacheverell, who entertained a vindictive attitude towards him. A letter was thereupon addressed by Kenyon to the Earl of Derby asking for justice. A petition by Major Stevenson is also published in the Report, setting forth that he stands convicted to Castle Rushen for not 'delivering a pawne' to answer the demands for the said puffins, and appealing for release. A further letter states that the Major had promised to lay all his papers before Lord Derby, and put himself at his mercy. Judging by the petition quoted by Mr. Ralfe, no decision had been come to in the matter up to 1704, nor can I find any recorded of later date.

The Stanley family however continued to enjoy the proceeds of the sale of the puffins, etc., from the Calf until the time when the last of that line was in possession, for among the Knowsley MSS,9 there is a 'book of venditions, being an account of sales of puffins, rabbits, and cattle grazing on the Calf.' This is dated 1735, when James, tenth Earl, was Lord of Mann.



Another curious reference, one relating to Manx deer, is to be found in the Kenyon MSS.10 In a letter written in 1693 by G. Wentworth to R. Kenyon at Peel, a warrant is enclosed from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for the delivery of a 'fat buck of this season, fairly killed, out of 'Mirescoe.' He states 'he is not certain how they should be directed, having sent no warrants thither since the Revolution. The Lord Warington is in his patent called master forester and keeper of the game, and, I am told Sir Thomas Stanley is bow bearer.'

Sacheverell, who wrote nine years after the date of this record, refers to the introduction of fallow-deer into the Calf, and he also mentions, as Camden had done before him, 'some small quantities of red deer in the mountains.' The region of Mirescogh would, however, not seem the most promising place for the hunting of a 'fat buck,' seeing that it was originally a lake and marsh district, and was so up to the date of the Revolution, when the letter implies that bucks had been supplied from it. The earliest mention of Mirescogh occurs in the Chronicle of Mann under date 1176, when King Godred gave part of it to Abbot Silvanus, where he built a monastery (afterwards transferred to Rushen). At that time it was an island in a lake, and so it practically continued until the year 1648, when draining was commenced. Ballamona, it is said, now occupies the site of the old lake. It should be mentioned that 'hart or hind' was included in the law as given to Sir J. Stanley by the Deemsters and Keys in 1422, the taking of which as in the case of falcons was prohibited.

G. W. WOOD, A.K.C.

1 Gill's edition, v. I, pp. 8 and 52
2 Hist. MSS. Com. Cecil MSS (pt. 5.)
3 Tiercel--the male bird.
4 Hist. MSS. Com., Ormonde MSS. (N.S. v. IV.)
5 The Birds of the Isle of Man, 1905, p. 128.
6 Vol II. p. I
7 Collections relating to claims at the Coronations, 1838.
8 The Birds of the Isle of Man. P. G. Ralfe, 1905, pet 134.
9 Yn Loar Manninagh (v. III., part VI, 297.)
10 Hist. MSS. Com. 14th Rep., app., part IV.


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