At a certain time of the year, the young men and young women of the Isle of Man were summoned to Castletown and the Governor, deemsters (judges), coroners (who carried out legal functions), and other officers, could choose anyone he liked for eight shillings a year and their keep.

They were going amongst them like choosing a cow at a fair, and with the boys, or girls, the coroner would put his rod (or wand) upon them and they were obliged to serve for that year, whether they were willing or not.

The great-grandmother of my father was taken for the deemster by the “rod,” and she went to London with the wife of the deemster in a travelling coach, and on the road they met robbers, who took what they had from them. The great-grandmother was the servant, and the deemster’s wife had told her to put the purse in her breast (bosom) under her clothes, and so the money was saved.

(source: artwork ‘The Highwayman’ by William Powell Frith; Manx Reminiscences by Dr. John Clague (1911))

Bernadette Weyde

Bernadette Weyde

I'm a web designer, amateur historian and keen gardener and I enjoy bringing Manx history, folklore and poetry to a modern audience.

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