Happy 4th of July, But Now On To Tynwald Day!

Gold Country Celtic Society braves the heat on the 4th in Grass Valley.  Photo by Ed Johnson

Gold Country Celtic Society braves the heat on the 4th in Grass Valley. Photo by Ed Johnson

After doing my bit for God, country and the Celtic Society by marching in the Independence Day parade in Grass Valley this morning (thankfully finishing before the heat hit in force), I am enjoying the A/C as I write this.? I have no objective idea how well we did, but the crowd loved us.? Our bagpiper blew an almost continuous stream of tunes filling the air.? We finished at one of our member’s home, which is right at the end of the parade route.? We thankfully staggered into the shade for cold drinks, snacks and a BBQ. On the Isle of Man, however, they have not yet begun their celebration of Tynwald Day, July 5th.

Coat of arms of the Isle of Man

Coat of arms of the Isle of Man.? The banner translates to “However you throw it, it will stand.”

I am sure many are wondering what a Tynwald is.? Well, it is (according to the Manx) the oldest, continuously operating parliament in the world.? Iceland contests this, but the Manx point out that Iceland’s had a hiatus, so it is not continuous.? It is bicameral, with a directly-elected House of Keys and an indirectly elected Legislative Council.? The real power is with the 24 MHK’s (Members of the House of Keys).? I find it interesting that Tynwald is a Norse word, reflecting Viking invasion and rule, while Man is considered Celtic and Manx is a Gaelic language.? Since this is about Tynwald Day rather than Tynwald itself, you can go to the official Manx site here for more detailed information on Tynwald and its fascinating history.

The Royal Chapel of St. John the Baptist, built in 1849 on a church site since the 1500's.

The Royal Chapel of St. John the Baptist, built in 1849 on a Manx church site since the 1500’s.

When I moved to the Isle of Man with my wife, daughter, mother-in-law, father-in-law and dog, I was aware of the structure of the Manx government and its status as a self-governing Crown Dependency.? I was not fully aware of the fierce Manx pride.? Even though at the time I lived there, the native Manx made up about 40% of the population, they were insulted if you called them British since they were never a part of the UK.? They are Manx.? The same pride is there in the tradition of Tynwald Day.? On July 5th, the Tynwald meets at St. John’s, starting with a service at the Royal Chapel of St John the Baptist.? This small church cannot accommodate many, so the service is broadcasted by a PA for the crowds on the grass to hear.? And there are crowds.? When my wife and I attended and finally found a place to park, we heard the service on the PA and observed the rest of the ceremonies from the cheap seats.

Tynwald Hill with a canopy and slew of dignitaries.

Tynwald Hill with a canopy and slew of dignitaries.

After the service, a stream of dignitaries ( 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, a messenger of the Legislative Council, the Sword-bearer, the Presiding Officer and the Lieutenant Governor) march along a flag-lined route the short distance to Tynwald Hill.? Now, I should mention that calling Tynwald Hill a hill is generous.? It’s more of a terraced mound.? On Tynwald Day, it’s a very crowded mound.

There is a lot of pomp and ceremony, but the most interesting part is when the two Deemsters (high judges) read a brief statement of all the acts of Tynwald for the year, first in Manx Gaelic and then in English. If this is not done within 18 months of passage, the act is invalid.? Imagine if Congress had to do that.? Or even the California legislature.? It would take days, maybe weeks.? Maybe more.? After that, a verse of the Manx national anthem, Arrane Ashoonagh dy Vannin orLand of Our Birth, is sung and Tynwald retires to the chapel.? Everyone else goes to the adjacent fair and market for a little fun.? There are crafts and food to purchase, activities for the kids and a feeling of camaraderie, celebrating the uniqueness of Man.? That night, the national anthem is again sung and there are fireworks.? Sound familiar?? So, if, you’re reading this on July 5th, sing a verse of Arrane Ashoonagh dy Vannin in honor of the Manx, a proud people with a great heritage.? Click here for the words in both Manx and English.


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