Ramsey Town Commissioners

Town Hall, Ramsey, Isle of Man, IM8 1RT - Tel: + 44 (0)1624 810100

Tower

Millennium Sculptures

Two Kings of Mann

 

The statues were sculpted by local artist Amanda Barton, whose works also include statues depicting Vikings at the House of Mannanan, entertainers George Formby and Sir Norman Wisdom located in Douglas town centre, and motor cyclist Joey Dunlop whose statue is located at the Bungalow on the TT course.   The sculpture was commissioned by the Ramsey Town Commissioners in 2000 to mark the passing into the new millennium.

 

 

The sculpture depicts two Norse Kings of Mann and the Isles each having an association with Ramsey, the Viking warrior Godred Crovan and his son and great statesman King Olaf.   Godred Crovan was also known as King Orry, an almost legendary character revered by the Manx as their greatest king, he seized the throne in 1079 and created the Kingdom of Man and the Isles stretching from the Irish Sea to the Outer Hebrides.  

 

Godred Crovan [King Orry]

 

King Godred Crovan was a very war like character, a Norse man thought to be from the Isle of Islay.  He fought alongside the Norwegians and survived defeat by the English at the battle of Stamford Bridge in 1066.   The Chronicles of Mann record the fact that Godred Crovan invaded the Isle of Man three times  

 

"In the year 1056 [1079], Godred Crovan collected a number of ships and came to Mann; he gave battle to the natives but was defeated, and forced to fly.  Again he assembled an army and a fleet, came to Mann, encountered the Manx men, was defeated and put to fight.  A third time he collected a numerous body of followers, came by night to the port called Ramsey, and concealed 300 men in a wood, on the sloping brow of a hill called Sky Hill. At daylight the men of Mann drew up in order of battle, and, with a mighty rush, encountered Godred. During the heat of the contest the 300 men, rising from the ambuscade in the rear, threw the Manx men into disorder, and compelled them to fly."

 

Olaf

 

Godred Crovan ruled the Island for some 15 years and died on Islay in 1095.  

 

A period of confusion followed Godred's death before Olaf took control of the kingdom.   Part of Olaf's youth was spent at the court of Henry I, King of England, he was an entirely different type of King to his father.  According to the Chronicles of Mann Olaf reigned for 40 years.   Except for a raid by the Welsh prince Cadwaller in 1142 his reign was a period of unbroken peace, a result which was evidently secured by his wise and politic conduct in not only keeping on good terms with the English monarchs, but in maintaining "such close alliance with the Kings of Ireland and Scotland that no one ventured to disturb the kingdom of the Isles during his time."   During his lifetime Olaf founded Rushen Abbey, and Castle Rushen, and maintained a reputation as a man of peace and law.

 

Olaf was killed in Ramsey in 1152 when three of his nephews, sons of his brother Harald, came from Dublin, where they had been brought up, with a number of followers "and demanded from the King one half of the whole kingdom of the Isles for themselves.  The King having heard their application, and being desirous to pacify them, answered that he would take advice on the subject. When the day and place for holding a meeting had been agreed upon, these most wicked men spent the interval in planning the death of the King.  On the appointed day both parties met at the port called Ramsey, and sat down in order, the King and his followers on one side, and they with theirs on the other; Reginald, the second brother, who was to give the fatal blow, stood apart, speaking to one of the chiefs of the country.  On being summoned to approach the King, turning to him, as if in the act of saluting, he raised his gleaming battle-axe on high, and at a blow cut off the King's head."   So died Olaf, under whom the Kingdom of the Isles seems to have attained both power and prosperity.

 

The two Kings represent on the one hand; violence and war, and on the other side, peace and prosperity. They were entirely different in their lives and style of rule yet united as father and son.

 

Symbolism of the sculpture

 

The sculpture has several hidden meanings hinted at by the clothing, accoutrements, weapons, demeanour and disposition of the players. The old and new images together with several interesting historical facts, some from the ancient Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles and archaeological reports, are bound up in their hidden meanings.

 

The sculpture represents the change to the new millennium by characterising the past millennium through the old warrior Godred Crovan and the new millennium by the more eloquent and politically astute young King Olaf.  The two characters apparently play an innocent game of chess.  King Olaf appears to be playing classical chess whilst his father, leaning across the board, plays the game as if it were the more aggressive ancient Viking game of Merels or mill.  Aptly, Godred has his bag of Merel pieces and his etched slate board by his leg. The men play the game seated.  On one side the elder bearded Viking sits on his sea chest with his weapons of war behind him, the Merel pieces at his side, and his sword, designed for butchery, at his belt. The younger, more eloquent, educated and clean shaven diplomat sits with his finer, manicured hands contemplating a chess piece.

 

The concept also reflects the fact that the millennium project was a bridge joining the 20th Century to the 21st Century.   There are a number of similarities and contrasts between the two Kings - Warrior  and Statesman, Father and Son, Adventurer and Settled Scholar, Pagan and Christian, Bearded Norse and Clean Shaven (English influence).  One man was of the old warrior school, tough and uncompromising, possibly with a tough appearance and, when in full regalia, would have his weapons and his helmet. The younger King, the son, was educated at the English Court and would have had more intellectual and diplomatic pursuits and possibly wear a coronet rather than a helmet.

 

Vikings very commonly gave each other nicknames: Erik the Red, Black Beard,  Godred Crovan was called "White Hands". It is said that he acquired this nickname because of his cunning mixed with a black sense of humour.  When a slaughter occurred and Godred was asked about it he would hold up his hands and say: "all that is behind me", in other words "don't look at me my hands are clean". This nickname is symbolised by the weapons located behind the figure.