The Isle of Man
Quocunque Jeceris Stabit
Whichever Way You Throw, It Stands
The Isle of Man is 33 miles long, 13.5 miles wide with an area of 221 square miles and a coastline of around 100 miles. The population is roughly 90,000.
420 million Years Ago – 10,000 Years Ago
When North America collided with Europe the impact of the tectonic plates caused large panels of rock to be folded upward. Some of these formed the Isle of Man. One was Avalonia which England is on and the other was Laurentia, which became Scotland and North America. The fault line is visible at Niarbyl. Later when North America drifted away from Europe around 60 million years ago the Island was partially pulled apart and sealed together by magma eruption from the earth’s molten interior. This resulted in two distinct hilly areas separated by a central valley. From between 70,000 and 10,000 years BC the whole area was covered in Ice. The area above Ramey to the Point of Ayre is made up of Glacial sediment left when this ice retreated.
The Island has been populated since the Mesolithic Era (about 6500 BC). On South Barrule there is evidence of an extremely early Bronze Age Hill Fort from 500BC.The Iron Age was the beginning of the Island as a Celtic nation. After the invasion of Anglesey by Romans some Britons escaped to the Isle of Man in 60 AD. Christians from Ireland arrived around 500 AD and the language became increasingly Gaelic. St Patricks Isle, off the coast of Peel, reflects the importance of this Islet at the time, with St Patrick himself considered to be responsible for the fact that there are no snakes on the Island. It is St Maughold however who converted the Island to Christianity. In 627 Edwin of Northumbria conquered most of Mercia which may have included the Isle of Man.
The Manx Viking Era firmly began with the invasion of Godred Crovan (King Orry) and the Battle of Skyhill in 1097. Peel Castle was built by Magnus Barefoot in the 11th century on the site of the Celtic Monastery. Wimund, then became the first Bishop of Man and by 1154 the Island had become Catholic and part of the Diocese of Sodor and Man. The most famous of the Manx Viking Kings is King Olaf (1113-1152) before the Crovan dynasty came to an end with his son Godred (1153-1158). The Island then fell under Norse rule until 1261 when Alexander III of Scotland claimed it from Magnus Olafsson. This did not truly come into effect until after Magnus’s death, when King Magnus the VI of Norway paid 4,000 marks and an annuity of 100 marks a year, as part of the Treaty of Perth. The last King of Man, Guoroor Magnusson, was killed in the Battle of Ronaldsway in 1275 resisting Scottish Rule.
In 1290 Edward I sent Walter de Huntercombe to invade the Isle of Man and he seized possession until 1313 when Robert Bruce besieged Castle Rushen for five weeks. The fate of the Island very much depended on the outcomes of battles between England and Scotland until 1405 when Henry IV granted the Island to Sir John Stanley in return for two falcons every coronation. His sons, the Earls of Derby then inherited it. The Earls of Derby introduced trial by jury, the House of Keys and written law. Elizabeth I sent a clock to hang in Castle Rushen were it remains working to this day.
In 1643 during the English Civil War, the 7th Earl of Derby introduced leasehold rather than straw tenure. Then, after the death of Charles I (1649) took 300 Manxmen to the Battle of Worcester (1651) where they were defeated, and Stanley executed, in Bolton. His wife, Charlotte de la Tremouille had tried to save her husband by offering the Isle of Man to England. These events led to the rise of the Manx Militia on the Island, led by William Christian (Illiam Dhone), in the Manx Rebellion of 1651. The Countess was defeated at siege of Castle Rushen by English Parliamentary forces and in 1656 William Christian became Governor of the Isle of Man. He was then accused of misappropriating money, denied an Act of Indemnity (1661) and executed at Hango Hill in 1663 under the orders of the new Lord of Mann, Charles Stanley, the 8th Earl of Derby. The execution was badly carried out and William Christian had a long painful death. Charles II, by Order in Council, pardoned the rest of the Manx Militia still under sentence and William Christian’s family received financial remuneration. The dispute of tenancy holdings was finally resolved by the Act of Settlement in 1704.
With the death of James Stanley in 1736 the title of Lord of Mann passed to James Murray, the 2nd Duke of Athol. The Island became a haven for smugglers who were so successful that the British Crown and Parliament passed the Isle of Man Purchase Act in 1765 (The Revestment Act). By purchasing the rights of the Lords of Mann the English secured customs revenue lost to the smugglers. An amount of £70,000 was paid together with annuities until 1828 when the sum of £417,144 was paid to gain full feudal control and the title of Lord of Mann passed to George IV and thereafter the reigning monarchs of England. In 1866 The Isle of Man was granted Home Rule with a Lieutenant Governor to represent the Lord of Mann. Thus, the Isle of Man became a Crown Dependency with currently Queen Elizabeth II as the Head of State and Lord of Mann. At the same time the Manx National Anthem “O Land of our Birth” was written.
Bishop Murray tried to levy a tax on Potatoes in 1825. Philip Teare laid siege to Bishopscourt in the “Potato Riots”. No tax was introduced and the bishop left two years later.
Douglas became the capital of the Island in 1869 and in 1874 the House of Keys moved to Douglas, but the new Capital and the Industrial Revolution did not draw everyone away from the countryside. In the 1840s William Fine Moore built Cronkbourne Village to house the sailmakers and workers involved in his Flax Mill. This is one of the earliest examples of an Industrial Village in the British Isles. The village later became the first area to have electric lighting on the Island (1920).
Mining on the Island dates to the Bronze Age so by the 18th century there were several mines. The lead and silver mines of Laxey and Foxdale were hugely profitable. In 1854 the Lady Isabella was constructed to prevent flooding by pumping water out of the Laxey Mine. It is the largest working waterwheel in the world measuring 72 feet 6”in diameter. Sadly in 1897, an underground fire killed 20 miners in Laxey. The Foxdale mines closed in 1881 and the Laxey mine in 1929.
Maritime skills continued to play an important part of the Island’s economy with several Manxmen being credited with advancement in this field including the building of the Suez Canal. Fishing remained important with Manx Herring and Kippers being exported far and wide. In 1830 the RMS “St George” floundered on St Mary’s Isle, all the crew were rescued, inspiring Sir William Hillary to build the Tower of Refuge to protect future sailors. He then went on to establish the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
In 1873 the Steam Railway opened on the Isle of Man and in 1876 the first Horse Trams started running. This is now the oldest running horse drawn system in the world. In 1893 the Electric Railway was introduced. These innovations were due primarily to the increasing demands of the Victorian Tourist Industry. Originally only wealthy British families could afford to sail to the Isle of Man but when workers were given paid holiday, these numbers increased, dramatically.
In 1881 Manx Women were given the vote. Emmeline Pankhurst holidayed with her parents on the Island and went on to found the Suffragette movement in England. Women were given the vote in England in 1928.
In 1903 England introduced a 20mph speed limit, so in order to test his new cars, Gordon Bennett came to the Isle of Man. The first race was held on public roads in 1904. In 1907, the first motorbike or Tourist Trophy race was held and proved to be hugely popular. Over one hundred years later the TT races are now the biggest tourist attraction for the Island with over 45,000 visitors a year.
By 1913 there were 613,000 tourists visiting the Island for their annual holidays. Sadly in 1909 the Manx passenger ship the “Ellan Vannin” sank in the River Mersey (Liverpool, England) killing 15 passengers and 21 crew.
The First World War killed 1,165 Manxmen and seriously injured 1,169. The Island sent 82% of its Male population (of military age) to both World War I and II, the highest percentage in the British Empire. Large numbers of horses and boats were also sent. Manx boats and crew were involved in rescuing the passengers and crew of the Lusitania when it was torpedoed in 1915. In total 269 bravery awards, were issued to Manxmen during the First War, including two Victoria Crosses. The innovative Manx Holiday Camps were turned into internment camps. Joseph Pilates (exercise therapy) was interned at Knockaloe. The tourist industry collapsed. In 1916 following the “Boarding House Rebellion” led by Samuel Norris Income Tax was introduced. The year 1930, saw the first plane passenger service to the Island and in 1938, the “15th” or “Manx Regiment” was established. Jurby airstrip was built. The start of world wide travel meant that the Isle of Man tourist industry never recovered. The five cinemas and several amusements parks in Douglas are now mostly flats, office blocks and shops.
During the Second World War 85% of enemy aliens were interned on the Isle of Man and it became home to over 1,000 evacuated children. Among the interns was Professor Gerhard Bersu (archaeologist). The Isle of Man Steam Packet was hugely important in the Dunkirk evacuations saving over 24,000 soldiers and in the evacuation of civilians from Guernsey. Of the 5,455 Manx who served in the forces 451 were killed including 5 women. King George VI’s first royal visit outside the UK was to the Isle of Man in 1945, acknowledging the valour of the Manx and the sacrifice made. Rationing continued on the Island until 1947.
In 1962 Cyril Cannell and Henry Kissack developed the World’s smallest car and called it the Peel 50. The 1960s saw many bands and musicians visit the Island, including The Beetles, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Kinks and The Who while the Bee Gees left the Island to gain international fame. A popular “pirate” radio station, Radio Caroline, transmitted from Ramsey Bay. In 1967on ‘Black Friday’, England banned it from broadcasting despite having no jurisdiction, so in 1968 the boat was towed away. The station was replaced by Manx Radio, originally based in Onchan, which started broadcasting in 1964 almost 10 years before commercial radio was licenced in the UK. In 1966 Sean Connery officially opened the Palace Casino, the first licensed Casino in the British Isles. This was also the year of the Seamen’s Strike which meant the Isle of Man had no sailings for forty-eight days and was completely cut off from England.
In 1973, Summerland, a large indoor leisure centre on Douglas promenade caught fire and 50 people were killed including several children. A memorial garden was created at the base of Summerhill to mark the tragedy. Musicians such as Queen, Tom Jones, AC/DC, and T- Rex continued to visit the Island. Tynwald officially celebrated 1000 years of continuous parliament in 1979. A replica of a Viking longship called Odin’s Raven was rowed from Norway to the Isle of Man. The Millennium Way based on the old Royal Road was signposted and opened. Queen Elizabeth II presided over Tynwald Day itself and was gifted two silver falcons.
During the “Troubles” in Ireland, the Isle of Man was seen as neutral territory, by both sides. Many Irish, both Catholic and Protestant, relocated to the Island to escape the fighting.
By the 1970s taxes in England were very high, the government of the Isle of Man decided to introduce lower taxes on the Island, to attract industry and commerce. The Island became a Tax Haven and the financial sector prospered. This led to a boom in the housing industry with property developers buying up huge areas of land on the Island very cheaply. Old farms disappeared and instead became large housing estates. Some of these first houses were burnt down by the FSFO (Financial Sector F. Off) in the early 1980s. Building however continued on an industrial scale into the 2000s.
The Millennium has seen the Island economy diversify, with E-gaming and digital development taking a section of the industry. The Island has become a training ground for, and produced, Olympic and Commonwealth Athletes.
With the rise in ‘Stay-cations’, the Island is having a renaissance, due to its amazing countryside and scenic locations. Once again it is being seen as a destination with an emphasis on healthy living and outdoor pursuits. Various organisations have developed to protect the wildlife, coastline and marine life. The Manx charity ‘Beach Buddies’ has gained international attention for its simple methods in tackling pollution.
In 2018 UNESCO awarded the entire Island ‘Biosphere’ status for its uniquely balanced way of life. Marking it as a Worldwide destination.
2020 is a year most of us will never forget. Covid 19 and lockdown. The year the world changed. The year the world stopped. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.
So here we are. We hope you have enjoyed this quick dash through Manx History. Of course there is a lot more to say. We are not experts. The Island may be small but we have a rich history and there is a lot going on.
We hope that this website helps you to find out all the things that you can do here so you can really enjoy the Island. Let’s make the most of what we already have. Go and create new memories and add to the Island’s history. Traa dy Liooar.
Geographically the Island can be divided North, South, East for Douglas and Peel in the West.
Andreas, Ballaugh, Bride, Glen Auldyn, Glen Helen, Jurby, Laxey, Maughold, Ramsey, Snaefell, Sulby, The Ayres, The Lhen,
Ballabeg, Ballasalla, Barrule, Calf of Man, Castletown, Cregneash, Derbyhaven, Fort Island, Port Erin, Port St Mary, Santon, Scarlett, South Barrule
Ard Whallin, Baldrine, Crosby, Douglas, Groudle, Glen Vine, Injebreck, Onchan, Port Soderick, Tower of Refuge, Union Mills
Foxdale, Glen Helen, Glen Maye, Kirk Michael, Peel, Patrick, St John’s, St Patrick’s Isle