Isle of Man
The Isle of Man (also known simply as Mann or the IOM; Manx: Ellan Vannin) is a scenic but fairly insular island[note 1] in the Irish Sea, right in the centre of the British Isles, with a 2021 population of around 84,000. It is best known for its motorcycle race, the TT (Tourist Trophy). It was also the birthplace of the Bee Gees, although they moved to Manchester as small children and then to Australia.
The Manx language is closely related to the Irish and Scottish Gaelic languages but, unlike them, uses a somewhat quaint old English spelling system.
Sovereignty, national and personal
Contrary to popular assumption, it is not part of the United Kingdom, although it is a crown dependency, responsible to the British monarch and to the British government in matters of defence and good governance.
It had belonged to Vikings up until the middle 13th Century. It was Christianized in the 1130s by Bishop Wimund, who eventually got bored and became a pirate. In 1266, after an inconclusive war between Scotland and Norway, it was surrendered to the Scottish king. In the 14th century it changed hands a lot between England and Scotland, following various wars and pillagings, before becoming finally a possession of the English crown around 1400.
It has had its own parliament, the Tynwald, for over a thousand years. It claims to be the oldest continuously-existing parliament in the world with a conventional founding date of 979 CE,[note 2] although there is a lack of records until hundreds of years later and 979 seems to have been picked arbitrarily by some people in the late 1970s who fancied a big party. It also claims to be the first to give (some) women the vote, subject to property-ownership qualifications. However this does not make it a beacon of progressiveness and human rights: it is notorious for maintaining some delightfully homophobic laws against sodomy. Some might well have found the punishment rather enjoyable if they had attended a British public school.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in 1994, more than twenty-five years later than England. Legislation against homophobic discrimination in the workplace was enacted as late as 2005.
For a number of years, the IOM was renowned for birching recalcitrant drunken youths. The last birching took place in 1976 and a 1978 judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (Tyrer vs UK) declared the practice unacceptable, although it remained on the statute books until 2000.
Tax haven, of sorts
The Isle of Man Banking Act recognizes impressive depositor confidentiality, in principle. In practice, the Financial Supervision Act of 1988 permits disclosure when required to assist criminal proceedings. This has led to a number of people, mostly older, and from England, coming over and buying up the bigger houses. Various types of criminals have taken an interest in the island, due to its peculiar tax status, and "no questions asked" banking system. It's also a popular choice if you're looking for a country to set up your offshore trust in.
During the Second World War, London used the island as the location for internment camps for members of the British Union of Fascists (BUF) (followers of Oswald Mosley), although the senior leaders of the group were held in lockups elsewhere. Defence Regulation 18B, announced on May 22, 1940, authorized the Home Secretary to imprison without trial anybody he believed likely to "endanger the safety of the realm".
The Isle of Man has a rich tradition of belief in fairies, and some True Believers claim that the island is the last place where living fairies may be found, or that only humans who speak Manx will ever be able to encounter them. Of course, since very few people can still be said to be fluent speakers of Manx — literally several hundred — very few people see fairies. This is why science cannot prove fairies.
The answer to the riddle, "What has three legs and flies?", is "Manx trousers".
- Residents of the Isle of Man are noted for their intense enjoyment of lexical ambiguity.
- Iceland's Althing was founded in 930 CE but was disbanded in 1800 and restored by a 1843 decree
- Isle of Man - 2021 census report
- Wimund: Bishop-Pirate and Scourge of Scotland, Haunted Palace, 22 July 2018
- See the Wikipedia article on History of the Isle of Man.
- See the Wikipedia article on Tynwald.
- Tynwald website, accessed 6 Oct 2020
- See the Wikipedia article on Judicial corporal punishment.
- British Union of Fascists