Most people that peruse these web pages will know very little about the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man lies in the middle of the Irish Sea almost equidistant between England and Ireland but closer to Scotland than to Wales.
One of the things that people find most surprising about the Isle of Man is that is not part of the United Kingdom but is a Crown Possession with a large degree of independence. The Isle of Man has its own Government and unlike Scotland and Wales, it has no representatives in Westminster.
Originally Celtic, it was conquered by the Vikings and became part of the Viking Kingdom of Sodor and Mann (Sodor being the Southern Scottish Islands). The Southern Scottish Islands were eventually lost leaving Mann to be ruled by it’s own Kings before being conquered by Scotland and then English Lords. It came into the possession of the Stanley family in 1405 who were also made Earls of Derby in 1485 and then when there were no male heirs in 1736 it passed to the Dukes of Atholl. The Derby’s felt that the title of King might make them unpopular with the English Crown and decided to give up the title in 1505 and became Lords of Mann instead, on the grounds that it would be better to “be a great Lord than a petty King”. The third Duke of Atholl was induced in 1765 to surrender the regality and customs duties to the Crown for £70,000 and an annuity of £2,000 after pressure from England because the Island had become a major smuggling centre and a refuge for debtors in the Eighteenth Century. The Fourth Duke was appointed Governor of the Island in 1793. He felt that the compensation accepted by his predecessors was insufficient and after more haggling his remaining privileges were bought for £417114. Since then the Crown has been represented on the Island by a Lieutenant Governor with the Queen or King being Lord of Mann. Today the Isle of Man is largely self-governing, though to avoid customs, indirect taxation is the same as the UK.
The Isle of Man’s separate history meant that it developed its own language, Manx Gaelic. Manx Gaelic is still taught in the schools but as a working language it died out in the 19th Century when those who spoke it were socially frowned upon. Today there is a revival movement, which has had some success. The language remains largely in use on the Island for place and house names though there are moves to increase its use. http://www.douglas.org.im/Spot.asp gives more information on the language, coinage and stamps of the Island. You can listen to Manx Gaelic phrases at http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/gaelg/goo/.
The Island’s Viking heritage also resulted in the survival of Viking democracy. While the Isle of Man claims to have the longest surviving democratic government, for long periods in its history this was in name only. The Vikings had annual meetings called things or tings. At these meetings all freemen would gather, new laws would be read, disputes settled and grievances aired. On the Isle of Man this meeting survived as Tynwald. Tynwald derives from the Old Norse for the meeting place of the thing. Its continuation was useful to absentee Lords or Kings on their occasional visits to the Island as a way of introducing themselves. The House of Keys, which is the main chamber of the Manx Parliament, was self-elected until 1866. In recent decades the right of individuals to present a petition for redress of grievance, which the Government must investigate, has been re-established and has become of some importance. Tynwald Day is normally held on the 5th July and is a Manx National Holiday. Further information on Tynwald day can be found at http://www.answers.com/topic/tynwald-day.
The Manx National Anthem can be heard at http://www.gov.im/Infocentre/audio.xml (traditionally only the first verse is sung). The Isle of Man is sometimes called Mona but its Manx name is Ellan Vannin and that is the name of an unofficial national anthem that can be heard at http://www.lkmusic.co.nz/EV.htm. The Bee Gees also made a recording of this and their version can be found at http://www.bernd-bouillon.de/html/ellan_vannin.html. Other well known Manx songs are “The Laxey Wheel” which can be heard at http://www.manxman.ch/indexdata/laxey/laxey.htm and the Ellan Vannin Tragedy http://www.manxman.ch/indexdata/ellanvannin/ellanvannin.htm.
2. The four-horned Loughtan Sheep http://www.sheep101.info/breedsM-N.html;
3. The Manx Cat which has no tail http://www.manx-cats.com/;
4. The Lady Isabella which is the world’s largest water wheel http://www.gov.im/MNH/heritage/museums/laxeywheel.xml.
The Island has many attractions - http://www.douglas.org.im/attractions.asp?ID=2262 gives some in Douglas. Douglas is the capital of the Island. For a gallery of images of Douglas including many old nineteenth and twentieth century photos see http://www.douglas.org.im/gallery.asp. In addition, a brief history of Douglas can be found at http://www.douglas.org.im/history.asp.
If you want to see more of the Island http://www.visitisleofman.com/culture/views/ has a collection of short videos of the Island’s main towns, of Snaefell which is the Island’s only mountain (just!), Cregneash (an historic village), and the Lady Isabella at Laxey. A brief outline of the Island’s details and an introduction to the Island’s main towns can be found at http://www.iom.org/iom/tour_facts_figures.html.
The Isle of Man is famous for its motor sports especially the TT when the Island is saturated with bikes. A good introduction to the TT experience can be found at http://www.webbikeworld.com/Motorcycle-racing/isle-of-man/tt/ and short videos can be found at http://www.gov.im/tourism/motorsport/bike/tt.xml.
If you are researching ancestry then the following websites might be useful:
- Frances Coakley’s massive site should have something of interest and can be found at http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/. In particular her pages on Family History http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/famhist/index.htm, Parishes http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/parishes/index.htm and Towns http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/towns/index.htm may be useful. Her town section gives a lot of historical detail.
- Heritage trusts are found in most towns. Ramsey is http://www.ramsey-heritage.iofm.net/ Castletown is http://www.castletown.org.im/heritage/chl_aims.html Peel is http://www.peelheritagetrust.net/
- For a summary of sources for Manx genealogy research see http://www.isle-of-man.com/interests/genealogy/sources.htm.
- Manx genealogical bulletin board is good if you need help or to see what others are researching http://www.isle-of-man.com/cgi-bin/interests/genealogy/bulletin/index.pl?noframes;index
- Brian Lawson’s site also contains a lot of Manx genealogical information http://www.lawsons.ca/
- Nigel Crowe’s pages also may be of interest though not all the links work. www.manxroots.com
- If you need a look up then this page is useful http://www.isle-of-man.com/interests/genealogy/look-up.htm and of course the LDS site http://www.familysearch.org/ which allows you to search the IGI, 1881 British Census, Ancestral File and Pedigree Resource File.