People often forget the British ties to the Isle of Mann. Though a Crown Dependency and not part of the United Kingdom, Her Majesty is the Lord of Mann. Though the involvement of a British monarch is seldom, this national observance is one of the most significant for the Manx people (residents of the Isle of Mann). Dating back to the Viking settlements of 8th Century AD, this tradition has continued unchanged for over 1000 years. No other parliament in the world has such a long unbroken record.
What is Tynwald Day?
Tynwald Day is the Manx National Day of the Isle of Man, usually observed on July 5. If this falls on a Saturday or Sunday, then it is observed on the following Monday.
Tynwald Day Events
It begins with a ceremony where the inhabitants of the Isle of Mann gather to hear the laws of their land proclaimed, to seek justice, and to air their grievances.
King George VI was the first British Sovereign ever to preside over this occasion in July 1945, George VI presided in 1946, and Her Majesty The Queen presided in 1979 when the Millennium of Tynwald was celebrated. His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales presided on Tynwald Day 2000 as her representative.
The key representatives of this national event are as follows:
- Lieutenant Governor – the legal representative of the Lord of Mann with the power to grant royal ascent
- Sword-Bearer – who wears a scarlet uniform and carries the Sword of State which bears the triskelion which also appears on the national flag.
- Legislative Council – the upper chamber of Tynwald parliament, consisting of 8 members elected by the House of Keys
- Members of the House of Keys – the directly elected lower branch of Tynwald parliament but have much more power than the Council
- Speaker of the House of Keys – wears a wig and black robes with gold decorations
- President of Tynwald – the ex officio chairman and wears a wig and blue robes with silver decorations. The President’s robes also display the triskelion.
- The Deemsters – Isle of Man’s highest judicial officers, wearing scarlet robes and long wigs.
- State Officials of the Isle of Man – a long and prestigious list of governmental, religious, and royal persons including Her Majesty (Lord of Mann)
- Guests of Honor – representatives of the United Kingdom and of other nations, usually including the Republic of Ireland and some Scandinavian countries. In recent years, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland have sent separate representatives
- Guard of Honor – typically the Lord of Mann or Lieutenant Governor provides inspection of the guard and lays a wreath at the National War Memorial, which was inaugurated in 1923.
- Religious Service – At eleven o’clock, Tynwald convenes in the Chapel of St John the Baptist to begin the ceremony
- First Procession – following this service, the participants, led by clergymen and certain government officials, proceed to Tynwald Hill via a path lined with both the red national flag and the blue parliamentary flag. It is also strewn with rushes; a Celtic tradition of propitiating the sea god Manannan by offering bundles of rushes on Midsummer’s Eve.
- Tynwald Court Procession – the second procession follows this order: the officers of the House of Keys, the members of the House of Keys, the Chief Minister of the Isle of Man, the Speaker of the House of Keys, a messenger of the House of Keys, officers of the Legislative Council, members of the Legislative Council, the Attorney General, the Deemsters, the Bishop of Sodor and Man, the President of Tynwald and a messenger of the Legislative Council. Thereafter, two guards, the Sword-bearer, the Presiding Officer and the Lieutenant Governor (if not presiding)
- Laws Pronounced – people come from every part of the Isle of Man to hear the laws pronounced. The six current coroners deliver their rods to the Governor and the first Deemster swears the new coroners in. Then every coroner kneels down before the Governor, and takes his rod from the hands of the Governor. The Coroner of Glenfaba reads the laws in Manx.
The majority of events take place on Tynwald Hill known in the Manx language as Cronk-y-Keeillown, or the Hill of the Church of John. The Hill is basically a mound which is understood to include soil from all 17 of the Island’s parishes. The mound, approximately 12 feet (3.7 meters) in height, includes four circular platforms that consecutively decrease in size, one on top of the other.
The Lieutenant Governor, together with the Sword-Bearer and the officers and members of the Legislative Council, occupy the highest level of the Hill; officers and members of the House of Keys occupy the next level. Other officials are accommodated on the lower levels and at the foot of the mound. A tent covers the top platform. The flag of the Isle of Man flies from the flagpole except when the British Sovereign presides, when the Royal Standard flies.
- Royal Anthem – more widely known as God Save the Queen is performed and sung by those in attendance.
- Fence the Court – after the anthem is finished, the First Deemster and Clerk of the Rolls, upon the instruction of the Lieutenant Governor, directs the Coroner of Glenfaba to declare these following words which the reader repeats in Manx (Isle of Mann’s tongue):
“I fence this Court of Tynwald in the name of our most gracious Sovereign Lady The Queen. I charge that no person do quarrel, brawl or make any disturbance and that all persons do answer to their names when called. I charge this audience to witness this Court is fenced. I charge this audience to witness this Court is fenced. I charge this whole audience to bear witness this Court is now fenced.”
- Coroner’s Oath – ascend the Hill (in a clockwise direction around the Island) in order of precedence, beginning with the Coroner of Glenfaba, followed by the Coroner of Michael, the Coroner of Ayre, the Coroner of Garff, the Coroner of Middle and the Coroner of Rushen. The First Deemster administers the oath to the kneeling coroners. The Coroners then receive ceremonial staves from the Lieutenant Governor.
- Proclamation of Laws – is traced back to the Norse practice of making public proclamations on mounds (hills). Each law is promulgated by the First Deemster in English and by the Second Deemster in Manx. This applies only to laws that have been enacted during the past year and which have received the Royal Assent.
- Petitions and Grievances – once the laws are read, individuals present may submit petitions or air grievances. Petitions are presented at the foot of Tynwald Hill to the Clerk of Tynwald, who conveys them to the Lieutenant Governor. The petitions and grievances are then referred to a committee of Tynwald.
Tynwald Day Conclusion
Tynwald reconvenes at in the Chapel of St John the Baptist. The Lieutenant Governor, the President of Tynwald, and the Speaker of the House of Keys use quills to sign certificates documenting the promulgation of the laws. The Lieutenant Governor and the Legislative Council then withdraw, leaving members of the House of Keys for a session of their house where they will deliberate on proposed bills.
After Tynwald Day, Tynwald Court returns to Douglas, the Isle’s capital, for three further sittings on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday following. After these sittings, Tynwald Court adjourns for the summer and does not reconvene until October.