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Whatever the origin, in early times the Keys were the landowners who sat as advisers beneath the King and the barons. The annual Tynwald ceremony has become most complex in its pomp and symbolism and for those interested in the details, a trip to the library should be most rewarding. There are a number of books on Manx history available.

The title 'Deemster' appears to have been given to the chief representative of the original six districts or 'sheadings' into which the Island was originally apportioned. Later these were reduced to two, the northern and the southern. The name is translated generally as law-man. In early times, as in many cultures, the Law was not written down but memorised by the law-men - kept 'in their breasts' - and thus known as Breast Law. When a legal point was queried, the Keys would consult with the Deemsters and a ruling would be given.

That dissertation is a mere thumbnail sketch of the history behind the Millenium celebrations.

For 12 months the Island basked in the sunshine of a publicity that captured the imagination of the world; firstly for the incredible stability of government (especially when political regimes were rising and collapsing like hasty soufflés from the hot ovens of self-styled chefs) and secondly for the glamorous re-enactment of history.

Highlight of the pageantry and festivals and special issues of stamps and coins and posters was the replica of an early Viking longship which set sail from Norway to simulate the first Norse invasion.

Genealogists on Man were inundated with requests from people of Manx descent in the United States, Australia and New Zealand for information on their families' background. The past became important; even that of such a tiny scrap of land in the Irish Sea as the Isle of Man.

Some strange-sounding places tripped off the tongues of returning travellers, you can be sure.

"I just loved Ballacregeen. Did you pass Cronk-E-Dooney……

go to Balley Castle?"

Ancient Gaelic names, ancient Norse names (with mutations and hybrids of both) enliven the reading of Manx signposts and maps among the settlements of British background such as Douglas, Castletown, Peel and Port St Mary, Silverburn, Milntown and Derby Haven.

(British dominance of the Island dates back to the early 15th century when Sir John Stanley became King of Man. The Scots (early Picts) made their presence felt right back in the 13th century and it was once lawful on Man to kill a Scotsman on sight.)

Scholars of toponomy - the study of place-names - have a field day (field years more likely) in a place like Man which, as an island, has fewer 'through' travellers than a continent, thus keeping old names more contained.

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