Report by JOHN SLATER
What a surprise for most of the audience to discover that Peter Cannell really was talking about civil war on the Isle of Man and not England.
I am struggling to make sense of events, even the term ‘war’, as accounts centre on just one day in 1098 called the Battle of Santwat between men of the south and men of the north of the Island. There seems to be doubt as to what is meant by Northmen. Were they just inhabitants of the northern part of the Island, or Northmen as people from what is now Norway were known? It is not inconceivable that they were both. Earl Otthar, leader of the north and Earl Macmaras, leader of the south, were both slain.
There seems to be great uncertainty as to where the battle took place. The balance of argument seems to support a site near Peel, although mention of St Patrick’s Isle has created confusion, as Jurby also has a strong association with St Patrick. It seems unlikely that St Patrick’s Isle itself would be the site as it is too small and the landscape doesn’t fit the description of the battle such as it is. However, the general view summarised by C.H. Cowley, the Peel chemist, in the 1920s was that the battle took place near what is now Peel Golf Course on the Congary brooghs.
Does Google help? There are several conflicting accounts: one thing they do seem to agree about is the part played by the wives of the southerners. It seems that they were so alarmed at the tide of battle turning against their husbands that they gathered stones and “..entered upon the scene, wild-eyed and weary with running, and tired with the weight of stones, but yet eager to help the men who were giving their lives for them. Evidently their weight told and the northerners were beaten.” The hail of missiles seems to have been decisive!
Given the loss of so many men in battle, the wives had to run the land as well as the homes and as a result they were granted the right to own land and to pass it on. This was a first, not just for the Island but for all of Britain. Was it a dim memory of this that led to them being granted voting rights, again a ‘first’ in 1881?
Peter’s talk included many details about the Island’s history, including its importance as a trading nation over many centuries. A whole panoply of figures passed before us: how many knew of Aufrica de Connaught, who claimed to be the last queen of Mann?
Suddenly, William Stanley, the 6th Earl of Derby and lord of Mann, turned up. We were told that he was a great friend of Christopher Marlowe and William Shakespeare. Apparently, some believe that the Earl actually was Shakespeare as his travels and experiences match those recorded in the works of Shakespeare.
By this time, I was well beyond the stun barrier. I suppose that several hundred years of history in less than an hour was a challenge but what fun! I do hope, Peter, that you enjoyed your visit as much as we did.
And the Battle of Santwat? We’re directed to Frances Coakley’s invaluable Manx Notebook http://www.isle-of-man.com/manxnotebook/ . If you have any more information on the battle, please contact her firstname.lastname@example.org .
Christmas dinner is on 3rd December in the Marine Hotel. Tickets from Nikki Sperring, 845623.