From Manx Soc vol IV,VII & IX

The Tynwald Court.

The first Tynwald Court we read of was held at Kirk Michael, on the hill of Reneurling (Cronk Urleigh), in 1422. Originally it appears not to have been confined to any particular parish or place, but to have assembled wherever most convenient to the people. Thus, in 1429 it met at Killabane, in Baldwin, and the following year was held between the Buttes of Castle Rushen. In 1511 it was removed to St. John’s, where it still remains. The mound from which the laws are promulgated, called Cronk-y-Keeillown, occupies the centre of the plateau upon which stands the village and church of St. John’s. The remains of a similar one exist at Baldwin, near to the site of the ancient church of Keeilill Abbane.* The chaplain, the Rev. Robert Airey, informs me that the Baldwin Benefit Society annually commemorate the event of the Tynwald having been held there.+ The mound at St. John’s is an artificial superstructure, said to have been formed out of portions of earth taken from the seventeen parishes ot the Island ; and if so, was probably desingned to be emblematic of unity, and proximity to the whole. " From this hill, a thousand years ago," remarks Professor Worsaae, " the Norwegians governed the Sudreyjar, and it is the last of the old Scandinavian Thing-hills (Thingavellir) in Europe." These courts were held in the open air for the protection of public liberty, and jealously guarded to prevent any infringement of their prerogatives Their first foundation was of a very simple and patriarchal nature, being formed by the authority of the head of the tribe, who was the sole fountain of justice. In process of time, however, when population increased, and society became more civilized, these primitive courts were found to be incomplete, and incapable of meeting the requirements of the people. They then gave place to another form called Modes, equivalent to the English courts baron, the members of which were nominated by the chief, he being president. In his absence the bailiff officiated, and was his principal officer of state. It soon became necessary to divide the business of this court, and place a section under the bailiff, who thus came to hold courts of his own and have deputies under him. In order to distinguish the bailiff therefore from his subordinates, the prefix High was added to his title, and he was thus by right of office, the principal person, magistrate, and judge, after the chief, in the community.** In these courts there were no attorneys, the legal profession not yet having sprung into existence, so that both plaintiff and defendant conducted their own suits. The transfer or lease of property was equally simpic the landlord merely putting Into the hand of the tenant, a piece of wood and some straw, which was accepted and returned by the tenant, when the contract was binding++ Out of these courts another arose in the Shetland Isles, which was the matrix of the Manx Tynwald. It was held on an island called Holm, in the parish of Tingwall. This island was only approachable by some stones laid in the water. On it was placed four principal seats for the judge and superior officers. Those who had suits to try remained on the main-land, till summoned to appear. In a case of judgment of death, the condemned had still a chance for life, provided he was able to recross the lake and reach the parish church before being seized by the people. From this court a suit could be carried to Isla, where a high court of judicature met for appeals from all the Isles. The tribunal consisted of fourteen judges, and an eleventh part of the sum at jssue was paid to the president, with a proportionate ratio to the others. The finding of this court was final, and from it there was no appeal. When the conquests of the Norwegians engrafted the sovereignity of the Sudreyjar in Man, they brought with them, and established in it, these courts. They have remained to the present day, modified by circumstances and improved by time, a monument of the spirit of freedom that actuated the Scandinavian inhabitants of this Isle.

* Now St. Luke’s.

+ On their anniversary day they march to the hill, upon which the standard bearer plants his standard, whilst the band plays " Mylecharane," " Kerrey-fo-Sniaghtey," and other Manx airs.

** It is clear from this that the High-Bailiffs of Man, by antiquity and right of office, can claim precedence of any officer in it after the Governor and Bishop.

++ A modificatjon of this mode of concluding a bargain is still practised in the Isle of Man. When a Manx farmer makes a tender for any stock he wishes to purchase, he takes a shilling called " luck money." and spitting on it, places the same in the hand of the vendor, naming his price. Should the seller not agree to it, he immediately returns the shilling declining the offer ; but if on the contrary be retains it, the bargain is struck, and both set off to spend the money in a social glass.


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