Manx people

The Manx (/mæŋks/; Manx: ny Manninee) are an ethnic group originating on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea in northern Europe. Their native culture has significant Norse-Gaelic, Celtic, and English influences. The Manx language descends from Middle Irish.

Ny Manninee
Total population
95,788 (In the Isle of Man, Canada,[1] the United States,[2] Ireland and Australia)
Regions with significant populations

 Isle of Man
 England (especially Liverpool, Manchester, and London)
 United States (especially Cleveland)
 New Zealand
 Canada 6,125 (including those of mixed ancestry)[3]

 Pitcairn Islands
English (see Manx English) · Manx
Predominantly Christianity
mostly Protestant (Anglican and Methodist, Baptist),
also Roman Catholic, Mormon, Christian Scientist, Atheist
Related ethnic groups
Scots, Irish, Gaels, English, Welsh, Cornish, Bretons, Faroese, Orcadians

Isle of Man demographics

According to the 2011 interim census,[4] the Isle of Man is home to 84,655 people, of whom 26,218 reside in the island's capital Douglas (Doolish). The largest proportion of the population was born on the island, but major settlement by English people (Sostnee) and others has significantly altered the demographics. According to the 2011 census, 47.6% were born in the Isle of Man, and 37.2% were born in England, with smaller numbers born elsewhere: 3.4% in Scotland, 2.1% in Northern Ireland, 2.1% in the Republic of Ireland, 1.2% in Wales and 0.3% born in the Channel Islands, with 6.1% of the population having been born elsewhere in the world.

Manx people living in the UK were commonly grouped by the 2001 census under "White British". The extremely high ratio of "come-overs" to "natives" has brought with it changes in terms of culture, identity and speech. Manx people have also made a significant contribution elsewhere through migration. The Manx have a long tradition of moving to Liverpool for work, hence a lot of Liverpool people have Manx ancestry, among them are Paul McCartney of The Beatles,[5] American actress Olivia Wilde, former Vice President of the United States Dan Quayle and Chris Cornell of the bands Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of The Dog. Many Manx people emigrated to the United States, with notable populations in Cuyahoga County and Lake County, Ohio.[6]


Bilingual street sign, Ramsey town centre

Manx people have traditionally had three vernaculars:

  • Manx, a Gaelic language (çhengaghyn Gaelgagh).
  • English language
    • Anglo-Manx, the distinctive indigenous English dialect of the Manx, now much diluted.
    • British English, the usual form of English used in the Isle of Man, especially for formal purposes.

The English language is used in Tynwald (Tinvaal); the use of Manx there is restricted to a few formulaic phrases. However, some Manx is used to a limited extent in official publications, street signs etc. Education in the Manx language is offered in schools, The Bunscoill Ghaelgagh is a Manx-language primary school in St John's, Isle of Man. As of 2011 it is the only school in the world where children are taught their lessons solely in Manx and which allows children to learn the language fluently.[7]

The school is considered successful and is part of the Manx language revival.[8][9] After UNESCO listed the language as extinct in 2009, pupils wrote letters asking "If our language is extinct then what language are we writing in?", and the classification was later changed to "critically endangered".[10] Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (Ealish ayns Çheer ny Yindyssyn) is read in translation after 30 copies were presented to the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh by the Manx Gaelic Society when the book was officially launched.[11]

Since the late 20th century, Manx has become more visible on the island, with increased signage, publications and radio broadcasts. The revival of the Manx language was successful because the language was well recorded. Examples of this are the translation of the Bible into Manx and audio recordings of native speakers such as Ned Madrell. The efforts of the revival are also additionally supported by online media and mobile app services such as learn Manx (Ynsee Gaelg) and Loayr Gaelg (Speak Manx) on the website of Culture Vannin.

Historically, Old Norse was a North Germanic language spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and their overseas settlements, including the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles, from about the 9th to the 13th centuries. Even though old Norse was once spoken on the island, its influence is reduced to place names.

History and politics

The Isle of Man is one of the six Celtic nations, and has been under Norse, Scottish, English control and self-governing for much of the past thousand years.

The earliest traces of people in the Isle of Man date to around 8000 BC, during the Mesolithic Period, also known as the Middle Stone Age. Small, nomadic family groups lived in campsites, hunting wild game, fishing the rivers and coastal waters and gathering plant foods.[12]

The Neolithic period was marked by important economic and social changes. By 4000 BC, people once reliant upon the uncultivated natural resources of the land and sea had adopted cereal growing and stock rearing, using imported species of grain and animals. Large-scale clearance of natural woodland provided fields for crops and animal fodder.[13]

During the Iron Age, Celtic influence began to arrive on the island. Based on inscriptions, the inhabitants appear to have used a Brythonic language; however, at some point, possibly c. 700 AD, it is assumed that Irish invasion or immigration formed the basis of a new culture, and the Manx came to speak Gaelic. This language has developed in isolation since, though it remains closely related to Irish, and Scottish Gaelic.[14]

At the end of the 8th century, Viking settlers began to arrive and establish settlements, eventually coming to dominate the island.[15]

The Norse Kingdom of Mann and the Isles was created by Godred Crovan in 1079. The Norse had a major impact on the island, leaving behind Norse placenames, and influencing its distinctive political system, Tynwald (from Old Norse, Þingvóllr), which is one of the oldest parliamentary democracies in the world.

In 1266, under the Treaty of Perth, Norway's King Magnus VI ceded the isles to Scotland. For more than a century the Isle of Man, during the Anglo-Scottish wars, passed between Scotland and England. During this troubled period, the Island was captured by the Scottish army of Robert the Bruce in 1313. Later in the 14th century, when England once more seized the Island, the Lordship – indeed kingship – was given to the Montacute family, Earls of Salisbury.

In 1405, the Lordship was granted to Sir John Stanley, whose descendants (later the Earls of Derby) ruled the Isle of Man for over 300 years. The lordship passed through a female line to the Dukes of Atholl in 1736 and was eventually purchased by the British Crown in 1765.

Since 1866, when the Isle of Man obtained a measure of home rule, the Manx people have developed into a modern nation with an economy based decreasingly on agriculture and fishing and increasingly first on tourism and then on financial and other services.

The 20th century saw a revival of interest in Manx music and dance, and in the Manx language, though the last native (first language) speaker of Manx died in the 1970s. In the middle of the 20th century, the Taoiseach Éamon de Valera visited and was so distressed at the lack of support for Manx that he immediately had two recording vans sent over to record the language before it disappeared completely.

As the century progressed, the Manx tourist economy declined, first because of the effects of the two world wars and later as tourists began to take advantage of cheaper air travel to take European package holidays. The Manx government responded in the 1960s by promoting the island as an offshore financial centre. While this has had beneficial effects on the Manx economy, it has had its detractors, who have pointed to negative aspects such as the effects on local house prices, and perhaps also money laundering. The economic changes gave a short-lived impetus to Manx nationalism in the 1970s and 1980s, spawning Mec Vannin, a nationalist group, as well as the now-defunct Manx National Party and Fo Halloo ("Underground"), which mounted a direct-action campaign of spray-painting and house-burning. Nationalist politics has since declined and a number of its former proponents are now in mainstream politics.

The 1990s and early 21st century have seen a greater recognition of indigenous Manx culture, such as the first Manx-medium primary school, though Manx culture still remains on the margins of popular culture for the majority of Manx residents.

Manx political parties

Most Manx politicians are independents rather than party members. Political parties such as Liberal Vannin (which currently has one MHK) and the Manx Labour Party (which had MHKs in Tynwald continuously from 1919 to 2015, and won two seats in 2021) have been active in recent years.

Work permits and immigration

The Isle of Man has had a complicated relationship with the United Kingdom over the years – it is neither part of the UK, nor of the European Union, but is a Crown Dependency.

Manx people, as British citizens, may travel and work freely in the United Kingdom. Passports issued on the Island are marked "British Islands – Isle of Man", instead of "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", and these passports are issued to all British citizens resident on the island.

The Isle of Man is part of the Common Travel Area, which means there are no immigration controls on travel to and from the UK and Republic of Ireland; however a work permit is generally required in order to work on the island.

Chronicles of Mann and English possession

The Chronicles of the Kings of Mann and the Isles[16][17] or Manx Chronicle is a manuscript relating the early history of the Isle of Man. The Chronicles are a yearly account of significant events in Manx history from 1016. Written in Latin, it documents the island's role as the centre of the Norse kingdom of Mann and the Isles. The Chronicles also document the influence of its kings, religious leaders and the role of Rushen Abbey.

There have been campaigns to transfer the possession of the Chronicles by the British Library in England, back permanently to the Isle of Man and to the Manx people. In 2014, the Celtic League supported this cause, demanding the return of the manuscript to the Isle of Man. They continue to pursue a campaign for the reappropriation of artefacts back to their Celtic countries.

See also

  • List of Manx people
  • List of residents of the Isle of Man
  • Manx surnames, surnames originating on the Isle of Man


  1. Statistics Canada (8 May 2013). "2011 National Household Survey: Data tables". Archived from the original on 11 July 2018. Retrieved 11 October 2014.
  2. "Table 1. First, Second, and Total Responses to the Ancestry Question by Detailed Ancestry Code: 2000". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 23 July 2017. Retrieved 5 May 2013.
  3. "File Not Found". Archived from the original on 22 April 2018. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  4. Summary results of the Isle of Man Census 2011
  5. "Manx Beatle". May 2013. Archived from the original on 5 September 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  6. "Ohio Manx". Archived from the original on 20 December 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
  7. "A Miscellany on the History, Culture and Language of the Isle of Man" Archived 18 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Skeealyn Vannin, Journal of the Genealogical Society of Ireland, Vol. 7, No. 2 (2006)
  8. "Isle's Gaelic heritage celebrated" Archived 17 October 2019 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News, 4 November 2005
  9. "Islanders celebrate Manx language" Archived 17 October 2019 at the Wayback Machine, BBC News, 31 October 2005
  10. Sarah Whitehead, "How the Manx language came back from the dead" , The Guardian, 2 April 2015
  11. "Manx Translation Is Wonder To Behold" Archived 2012-09-05 at, Isle of Man Today, 22 December 2006
  12. "Hunter Gatherers – Isle of Man Government Manx National Heritage". Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  13. "First Farmers – Isle of Man Government Manx National Heritage". Archived from the original on 8 November 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  14. "Celtic Farmers – Isle of Man Government Manx National Heritage". Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  15. "The Vikings – Isle of Man Government Manx National Heritage". Archived from the original on 12 November 2012. Retrieved 17 August 2012.
  16. The Years 1016–1030 In The Years In The Chronicles Of The Kings Of Mann And The Isles ('The Manx Chronicle') Archived 14 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine – British Library
  17. Chronicles of Mann return ... Archived 16 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine – Isle of Man Government
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