Skip to content

Skip to table of contents

Jehovah’s Witnesses

Select language English

Come With Us to the Isle of Man

Come With Us to the Isle of Man

 Come With Us to the Isle of Man


WHERE might you go to see basking sharks? One of the best places is off the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea. Sightseers sail from Man​—roughly equidistant from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales—​to watch these gentle five-ton fish feed on plankton, their only food. This is “the perfect setting for ecotourism,” confided local naturalist Bill Dale.

What of Man itself? Its 220 square miles [570 square km] of green valleys, brown moors, lakes and streams, picturesque bays, cliffs, and rugged coastline is home to 70,000 people. Come with us and explore some of the treasures of this history-packed part of the British Isles.

Tourist Attractions

Visitors to the historic Isle of Man often look for a Manx cat. This unusual animal has a cat’s face, but its hind legs are considerably longer than its front legs, giving it a harelike stance. Furthermore, the Manx cat has no tail. Although the Manx cat’s origin is obscure, it has been suggested that centuries ago sailors brought in kittens from Asia, where tailless cats do exist, and thus established this island breed.

The Isle of Man Tourist Trophy motorcycle races, held each year, also attract visitors. The course consists of over 37 miles [over 60 km] of main roads. At the first race, held in 1907, the top average speed was under 40 miles [65 km] per hour. These days the winning average speed is over 120 miles [190 km] per hour. It is, of course, a dangerous sport, and over the years a number of riders have been killed. *

The horse-drawn trams along the promenade in Douglas, the island’s capital, are fond reminders of bygone days, as is the 15-mile [24 km] Isle of Man Steam Railway, all that remains of the narrow-gauge railway that originally traversed the island. Just over 100 years ago, the Manx Electric Railway opened, and some of its tramcars continue to climb over 2,000 feet [over 600 m] to the summit of Man’s highest peak, Snaefell.

The Great Laxey Wheel

Lead, silver, and zinc played their part in the development of the island, especially at the Great Laxey Mine. The Great Laxey Wheel is a majestic monument to the skill of the Victorian engineers who erected it in 1854 and to its designer, Robert Casement, the son of a local wheelwright. It has a diameter of over 72 feet [over 20 m] and was powered by gravity-fed water from a cistern high up the valley. As the wheel revolved two and a half times a minute, it raised 250 gallons [950 L] of water from a depth of 1,200 feet [360 m], thus keeping the mine shafts clear. Its crank, which was attached to a system of rods some 600 feet [some 180 m] long, activated the water  pumping system in the mine. The axle of this great wheel alone weighs ten tons.

On the south end of the wheelhouse, an iron casting of the Three Legs of Man, which is six feet [2 m] in diameter, is displayed. What are the origin and the significance of this emblem, now used to represent the Isle of Man?

After 1246 the Three Legs of Man appeared on charter seals as the official symbol of the island. The design has been found on a Greek vase of the sixth century B.C.E. and is linked to the Greek cross, or gammadion. It is generally accepted that the emblem represents the rays of the sun and is connected with sun worship. How did it find its way to the Isle of Man? It may have arrived from the Mediterranean through trade with Sicily​—an island that also used this symbol—​or from  coins of the Norsemen, or Vikings. The three legs clad in armor as seen today were adopted by later kings of Man.

A Checkered History

The Romans conquered England in 43 C.E. and stayed for some 400 years, but they seemed to ignore the island of Man, which Julius Caesar called Mona. Norsemen invaded in the 9th century, remaining until the middle of the 13th century. These intrepid explorers from Scandinavia considered the island suitable as a base for trade and for raids on neighboring lands. During these years the Tynwald, the Manx parliament, was established. It is thought to be the oldest continuous national parliament in the world. *

Later, the Isle of Man was ruled at different times by Scotland, Wales, Ireland, England, and Norway. Then, in 1765, the British Parliament bought the island. Today its lieutenant governor serves as the British Queen’s personal representative, the island being a self-governing Crown dependency while enjoying a degree of independence as an offshore financial center. The island also prints its own postage stamps and has its own coins and bank notes, which have exchange rates equivalent to British ones.

Manx​—The Celtic Connection

The ancient language of the Isle of Man is Manx, a member of the Celtic group of the vast Indo-European family of languages. Manx is an offshoot of Irish Gaelic and is related to Scottish Gaelic. Over 100 years ago, it was said of Manx: “It is a doomed language​—an iceberg floating into southern latitudes.” And so it was. The last native Manx speaker died in 1974, at the age of 97; but as part of the island’s heritage, Manx is now being taught in schools again.

 Unlike Irish Gaelic or Scottish Gaelic, Manx remained purely a spoken language until as late as 1610. In 1707, The Principles and Duties of Christianity became the first book to be printed in Manx. Others soon followed.

By 1763, urgent appeals were made for a Manx translation of the Bible because at that time two thirds of the inhabitants of the island spoke only Manx. With limited facilities and few scholars available to fill this need, translations of different books of the Bible had slowly been appearing since 1748. Forty copies of a complete Bible for the use of the clergy were printed in 1775, and in 1819 there was a general release of 5,000 copies. What was the reaction? When her son read to her from the Manx Scriptures for the first time, one woman poignantly said: “We have sit in darkness until now.”

Twenty-five men translated this Bible from the English King James Version of 1611, and a few of them were also able to consult the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, the Septuagint. The divine name remains the same as in English​—Jehovah. * Truly, as W. T. Radcliffe wrote in 1895, this Bible is “a monument of learning which no educated Manxman will despise.”

Christianity Today

Respect for the Bible has not diminished among the islanders, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are well-known locally for Bible study. Their latest Kingdom Hall, on a picturesque site at the foot of Belmont Hill, in Douglas, was built in May 1999. Reporting on its completion in just six days by volunteers, all of whom were Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Isle of Man Examiner stated: “It could be hailed as a minor miracle.”

If you are able to visit this delightful island, rest assured that the soft-spoken islanders will make your visit both memorable and enjoyable. But be alert when talking to a Manxman. To him “the mainland” is the Isle of Man; England is “the other island.”


^ par. 7 For the story of former Tourist Trophy rider Fred Stevens, see the article “The Greater Challenge, the Greater Thrill!” in the September 22, 1988, issue of Awake!

^ par. 14 Two parliaments, the Faroese Løgting and the Icelandic Alting, were established earlier, but neither was continuous.

^ par. 20 The divine name in both Irish and Scottish Gaelic is Yehobhah, and in Welsh it is Jehofah.

[Map on page 14]

(For fully formatted text, see publication)





Irish Sea


[Picture on page 15]

Manx Electric Railway tramcar

[Picture on page 15]

The Great Laxey Wheel

[Picture on page 14, 15]

Isle of Man Steam Railway

[Picture on page 15]

The tailless Manx cat

[Picture on page 16]

A basking shark

[Picture on page 16]

Coastal view from Peel Hill

[Picture on page 16, 17]

Peel Harbor, with Peel castle in the background

[Picture Credit Line on page 15]

All photos except center emblem: Copyright Bill Dale,

[Picture Credit Lines on page 16]

Shark: The Basking Shark Society; right inset and background: Copyright Bill Dale,