• September 28, 2023

Despite the fact the Chronicles of Mann were likely compiled in the Isle of Man, document the history of the Isle of Man in the crucial Norse period and were kept here for hundreds of years they are not ours says Chief Minister Alf Cannan MHK. In a reply to a question from John Wannebugh MHK the Chief Minister says they ‘belong’ to the British Library. The question of how they came (as part of the Cotton collection) to end up in the British Library is ambiguous as Mr Cannan should know.

It seems however there is no will in COMIN to sek the return of this important historical document.

The Celtic League has been calling for the return of the Chronicles since just after we ran the successful campaign to return the Calf of Man from English National trust ownership nearly four decades ago. The Celtic League has withheld copies of its journal CARN from ‘Legal Deposit ‘ with the British Library for three decades although issues of the magazine are supplied to the other Legal Deposit Libraries (National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh, Bodleian Library, Oxford, Cambridge University LibraryTrinity College, DublinNational Library of Wales, Aberystwyth.

Here’s Mr Wannenburghs question and Mr Cannan’s reply:

“The Hon Member for Douglas North Mr Wannenburgh MHK to ask the Chief Minister –

Whether he is of the opinion that the Chronicles of Mann are safe, and what has been done about having them repatriated.

The Chief Minister (Hon Mr Cannan MHK):

The Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles forms part of the collection of the British Library. Under the British Museum Act 1753, the Chronicles became the ‘foundation collections’ of the British Museum, governed by Trustees under an Act of the UK Parliament, for public use.

The current British Library Board, formed from the Library of the British Museum in 1973, has the obligation to preserve every book, paper, pamphlet, parchment or other of the foundation collection in trust for the British Nation, and to make them available for research purposes in the public Reading Room. Manx National Heritage have successfully negotiated with the British Library on several occasions for the temporary loan of the Chronicles in 1979, 1997, 2007 and 2012-2013. Manx National Heritage Library and Archives holds a copy of the Chronicles (ID Number MS 13288) which can be viewed in the public reading room Wednesday to Saturday.

The Manx National Heritage collections online website iMuseum.im has a link to a British Library online digital version of the Chronicles:


There is also a historic translation of the Chronicles made by the Manx Society:


This document belongs to an internationally renowned Government organisation which holds important archives representing cultural history from all over the world. The operational and legal policy of the British Library currently prevents anything more than periodic loans of the Chronicles to the Isle of Man.”

Note: The Chronicles which were held at Rushen Abbey until the dissolution of the abbey about 1540 were likely stolen at that time as was a lot of Church property.

Image: The Chronicles

Bernard Moffatt

AGS Celtic League (27th September 2023)

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