The Isle of Man is in count-down mode to the annual national `Tynwald Day’. The event takes place at Tynwald Hill in the west of the Island and is billed as the National holiday for the Manx people. In recent years it has been increasingly extended so as to encompass a full week of events.
With a distinctive focus on the ceremonial and `homage’ to the `Lord of Man’, aka the English Queen, the event is something of a colonial-fest, almost a hang-on from another age when subservient peoples around the globe had to endure such events.
Over the years `security’ has been a big concern but this has less to do with worries about an external threat and more to do with the possibility that militant nationalists so sickened by proceedings might try to disrupt the smooth
passage of the event (something which occurred in the 1970s and 80s) which is relayed live to those that try to avoid it via sycophantic coverage from `Manx’ Radio. In fact so terrified are the authorities that their pageant will be disrupted they have taken to placing a police guard on the Hill for days before the event.
In fact it seems certain that the Islands current head of colonial police, Mike Langdon, will be taking extra special precautions this year given the events of recent months which demonstrated that nationalist agitation about the political status quo in Mann was on the increase. Indeed, some of the same politicians who liaised with him over the earlier discontent we understand have been in touch again!
The Tynwald Fair day as it used to be known has sound credentials and before it was high-jacked and turned into something of a colonial political circus it was a genuine means for the people of the Isle of Man to meet with friends and acquaintances they might not see for the rest of the year.
In those days the ceremonial very much took a back seat with a sprawl of discussion, debate and general socialising occurring in the environs all around the hill which continued long after the self-important government glitterati had departed for the more `comfortable’ environment of Government House.
However, just over thirty years ago the rot set in and despite opposition from Mec Vannin (the Manx Nationalist Party) the general public were evicted from a large section of what was the true Tynwald Fair field and corralled in an area to the NE of the Hill. Thereafter the social significance of Tynwald Day went steadily downhill as the ceremonial increased.
Throughout the 1980s an encroaching militarism developed with guards of honour (still a facet) swelled by additional military components and displays. This provoked a reaction which led to a dilution of such military involvement but in recent years this has started to creep back.
Surprisingly at a time when the Isle of Man is much exercised about financial stringency the one area that seems immune from such scrutiny is the Tynwald colonial-fest. The budget today far outstrips what was allocated in the days when it truly was a `Manx National Day’ and delivers less!
J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information