Tynwald Day, Isle of ManThe Isle of Man has a fascinating history, its people a mixture of Celtic and Viking blood. The Viking aspect of its heritage is still seen in various ways: place names, Norse carved crosses, but above all, the Tynwald.
The Tynwald is believed to be the longest continually running Parliament in the world - if Westminster is the mother of Parliaments, Tynwald is the very approachable grandmother. The date usually given for the first Tynwald (the name is a corruption of the Old Norse thingvollyr, meaning field assembly) is 979, when the Viking Godred Crovan conquered the island and imposed the Norse custom of such law giving gatherings on the people there.
Tynwald Day is a wonderful throwback to those times, taking the Parliament back to the people - surely there is a lesson in that for other politicians?
Every year on July 5 , or if circumstances dictate a day very close to it, a gathering is held at Tynwald Hill, St John's, near Peel . After a service in the local church the Lord-Lieutenant, acting for the Queen who is Lord of Man, proceeds with various other dignitaries and legal figures up the hill, and then the business of the day can go ahead.
The hill is artificial, supposedly built with soil from every parish in the island, standing about 12 feet above the ground surrounding it. There is a similar construction in Uppsala, Sweden, previously used in the same way. The officials may carry no weapons within the bounds set on the hill, another throwback to more turbulent Viking days.
The business of the day is firstly to proclaim, in both Manx and English, a summary of all the laws passed in the Parliament during the previous year; and secondly, to hear petitions of redress from those islanders who have a grievance which they would like sorted.
So not only do the officials have to come to the people, but the people get to air some views to the officials too. Without the proclamation to the people the laws passed are not strictly legal, a way of reminding the politicians whom they govern for, not whom they govern.
More British Folk Customs?