Page 01 | Previous Page 03 | Next | Page 05 | Page 06 | Page 07 |Back to The Book |

The Tynwald is many things to Manxmen. It is a small hill, round and indented like a cottage loaf, from which Viking masters first proclaimed the laws of the land.

IMG 1707

Harry Kelly's beautifully preserved Manx cottage.

The open air assembly was known as the Althing, which met at Thingr Vollr (Parliament Field), the original form of Tynwald. From this Tynwald at St John's the populace was reminded of old laws and informed of new proposals; judgments were made on lawbreakers and punishments meted out. (Some of those punishments were pretty gruesome. The slopes of Slieau Whallian, overlooking the Tynwald, were the scene of executions in which the criminal was rolled down the hill in a spiked barrel.)

In the course of time the name Tynwald has come to mean the official assembly itself as well as its meeting place. David Craine, MA., C.P., author of TYNWALD, a history of the area, writes:

"The hill has never been excavated but it is probably the burial ground of a chieftain of the Bronze Age (700-400 BC ); and later, following Celtic custom, became a centre for tribal gatherings and the proclamation of new rulers and their heirs."

He could find no evidence to support the commonly held belief that the hill contained earth from all 17 ancient parishes of Man, but considers it likely that token portions of soil were added to the mound as it was a known practice of Norse settlers in other countries like Iceland.

Tynwald is four metres high, built up by four circular tiers with a base diameter of 25 metres, give or take a few centimetres here and there. Mr Craine comments on the Tynwald that:

"It is not only the stage on which it is annually set one of the most remarkable political survivals of the world : to the Manx it has always been a powerful and visible reminder that the Isle of Man is an ancient kingdom, enjoying its own government, making its own laws, levying its own taxes and controlling their expenditure; and the scene of a ceremony whose disappearance would make their end as a nation."

Government is by the House of Keys. This comprises 24 elected representatives in an Upper (or Legislative Council) and a Lower House. The two when sitting together become the High Court of Tynwald.

It appears that political parties are not strong on Man and most parliamentarians stand as Independents. The Government usually appears as conservative - probably a national trait. At the time of writing still on the statute books are hanging for murder and birching for serious assaults, especially sexual ones.

Allegiance is given to the British Crown. The Queen has the title 'Lord of Man' and is represented on the Island by a Lieutenant-Governor

The meaning of the word 'Keys' is still debated among scholars. Some believe it once meant the unlocking of the secrets of the Law; some say it is derived from the Norse word kvid or jury; or from kjosa meaning 'chosen'.

Page 01 | Previous | Page 03 | Next | Page 05 | Page 06 | Page 07 | 

|Back to The Book |

© 2021 by Malcolm Qualtrough, Elizabeth Feisst and the late John Karran Qualtrough.
Hosted by Ask Web Design, Isle of Man.