First Recorded Tynwald Day
At the outset it must be stated that there is plenty of evidence that Tynwald dates much further back in the history of the Isle of Man than the gathering of June 24 1417. The very hill on which the gathering takes place was constructed it would appear, perhaps two centuries before (the ground already special, thought to be the burial place of a Bronze Age chieftain, and near where the Chapel of St John now stands a temple to Thor was discovered), and there are suggestions that the institution of the Tynwald , effectively the Parliament of the Isle of Man (and before it probably of the Kingdom of the Isles including Lewis, Islay and other Hebridean islands ) is at least 1000 years old.
The hill is a subject of study in itself: legend has it that soil from each of the 17 parishes on the island is to be found in it, though no scientific proof of that exists; and its position likewise affords room for speculation, not only linked to the temple to Thor and the burial mound theses, but because of its significance at a point easily reached from all corners of Man – a symbol of a certain sort of democracy (and one that the British Parliament in splendid isolation in London would do well to consider).
Tynwald Day is held now on July 5 thanks to the change from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar, is a national holiday for Man, the Tynwald gathering accompanied by much celebration, music, and folkloric doings – happily including the eating of the traditional Bonnag (soda bread). It involves a meeting of the House of Keys (elected representatives), the Legislative Council that is the executive of the island, and a representative of the Lord of Man (i.e. of Queen Elizabeth II ), each of them assigned places on the four-tiered mound according to their ancient status. The titles of laws passed since the previous Tynwald Day are read out to those present, a necessary legal moment in what is otherwise a day of more spiritual import – this event is at the heart of the islanders’ view of themselves as an ancient kingdom, with its own traditions, laws, and ways of doing things.
Records exist of those who participated in the June 24 1417 Tynwald at St Johns, the names a fascinating mix of Celtic ‘Macs’ and Norse ‘–sons’ (for example Andrew Reynesson and Johen McScaly), the roll-call a clear demonstration of the island’s mix of Scandinavian and Celtic heritage.
More famous dates here
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