A Brief History of the Isle of Man


Rich in history, the Isle of Man can look back on a tapestry of events from the introduction of farming in the fourth millennium BC, the Manx Iron Age from 500 BC to 500 AD, the Celtic traditions, through to Christianity and Viking rule of the ninth century.

During the mid-thirteenth to early fifteenth centuries, Sovereignty passed frequently between Scotland and England , with occasional incursions from Ireland .

By the eighteenth century, it had become a major centre for the smuggling trade and to put a stop to this, the British Government enacted a new law in 1765, namely the Re-Vestment Act and purchased the entire Island for just 70,000. Whilst these measures were designed to save the UK Treasury approximately 100,000 per annum, they deprived the Islanders of their main source of income.

Throughout the centuries the Isle of Man has developed a way of life and a culture all of its own. Many world events such as the Roman and Norman invasions of Britain passed it by and the Island quietly took visits from Irish and Scottish freebooters in its stride. The arrival of the Vikings however, did leave a lasting mark on this tiny Celtic nation.

After a period of turbulence the Celts and Vikings came together as one nation and without a doubt the greatest single gift left by these fearsome Northern warriors was a unique system of Government that exists to the present day Tynwald

In 1266, Norway ceded the island to Scotland , and afterwards it was frequently in possession of the English .    There was a profound change took place in the character of Manx history in the years following 1266.  It will be recalled that in that year, after the death of Magnus, the island was handed over to Alexander III of Scotland .  This marked the beginning of a troubled era in the history of Man, since it was to fall a victim to the long struggle for supremacy between England and Scotland .  So significant with the strategic position of the Island that both sides were anxious to gain possession of it.  Hence it was tossed about like a shuttlecock between Scotland and England , with neither side caring anything about its unfortunate inhabitants.

The Manx clearly showed their unwillingness to accept Scottish rule by rebelling under the leadership of Godred , son of King Magnus .  A force led by John de Besci  arrived from Scotland to quell the revolt, and the Manx were out numbered and heavily defeated in the battle on St. Michaels Island close to the landing-place at Ronaldsway.  Probably Godred, himself fell in the battle and if so, the encounter marked the end of the male descendant of the famous Godred Crovan , or King Orry .

More troubles came to the Isle of Man, as the Island became a battleground between England and Scotland .  After changing hands several times, the strife-torn Isle of Man was the scene of much bloodshed and the laying waste of the land.  " Bruce had become King of Scotland in 1313, and in the same year he came in person to take possession of Man.   The Scottish force landed at Ramsey and proceed via Douglas , where Bruce stayed at the Nunnery, to Castle Rushen which had become the great stronghold of the Island .  After a month's siege the garrison surrendered and the castle was largely destroyed.  Bruce granted Man to Thomas Randloph , Earl of Moray.  The troubles in the Isle fo Man from the year 1266 through the year 131, evidently caused a group of Manx families to settle in Devonshire, near Plymouth , and they probably went there by sea.  Devonshire is one of two counties in the southwestern corner of England -- the other county being Cornwall .