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Plain Bonnag

This week we follow in the footsteps of King Robert I, King of Scots, 695 years ago and cross the Irish Sea to the Isle of Man. He went with the intent and outcome of restoring the Isle of Man to Scottish rule after the English had taken over the island early in the long Wars of Independence. The Isle of Man first came into Scottish hands when the Norwegians ceded it and the Hebrides to Scotland in the Treaty of Perth in 1266. Prior to this treaty, the Isle of Man had been at the centre of Viking rule over the Scottish, English, Welsh and Irish seaways with its own parliament Tynwald. With the Treaty of Perth, Mann came under the rule of Alexander III, King of Scots (1249-1286), known as ‘The Peaceable’. It was a less peaceable face that the Manx had to face nine years later when Alexander sent a fleet of armed men to the island. On 8 October 1275 Scottish forcesput down a Manx rebellion in the Battle of Ronaldsway, the site of the modern Isle of Man Airport. The Manx had refused peace terms the previous day and before dawn were routed with more than five hundred slain. Monks at Rushen Abbey recorded in ’The Chronicles of the Kings of man and the Isles’ that -

   ‘Ten times 50, three times 10, and five and two did fall,

O Manx race beware lest future catastrophe you befall.’

On a happier note it was during the reign of Alexander that the famous symbol of the Isle of Man – The Three Legs – which proudly flies on the Manx flag came into being. You will see the Manx flag flying all over the island, not just on official buildings, but in ordinary homes. Scots would do well to follow their example with the Saltire.

From the days of Robert I the Isle of Man was to continue to pass from Scottish to English control until the Scots gave up. But our Gaelic speaking cousin have been able to hold to their own way over the centuries and their 1,000 year-old parliament – Tynwald – still has far more control over Manx affairs, both at home and abroad, than the devolved matters reluctantly given by Westminster, to the fledgling Scottish Parliament. Scottish Minister Linda Fabiani was the first representative from the Scottish Government, earlier this year (March 2008), to officially visit Tynwald, and hopefully the Scots will learn much from Manx contacts.  

By the time you read this, the Wright part of The Flag team will be holidaying on the island and tracing the route Robert I took from Ramsey, first to the island capital Douglas, where he stayed in the Nunnery, then on to Castletown, where he took the Castle of Rushen and destroyed it. Visiting Man is very much akin to journeying up the west of Scotland - bonnie scenery, mountains, glens and rivers (albeit on a smaller scale) are all a reminder of home. Little wonder that Mann has long proved to be a popular holiday destination from Scotland.

Most visitors to the Isle of Man try their renowned Kippers or scallop delicacies Queenies, but no visit to Man is complete without having a few slices of Bonnag – absolutely delicious with a fly-cup!

Plain Bonnag

Ingredients: 8 oz plain flour; 1-2 oz butter; pinch of salt; 1 cup buttermilk; 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda; 1 teaspoon cream of tartar

Method: Sift flour and salt into a bowl and rub in butter. Mix together with buttermilk, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar. Gradually add liquid and mix with a fork to make a soft dough. Turn onto a floured board and knead the dough until smooth. Shape into a round and place on a greased baking tray. Mark into sections and brush top with milk. Bake in a moderate oven for 30 to 40 minutes until well-risen and golden brown.

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