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Watch and Ward


The system of Watch and Ward dates from the Scandinavian period and the regulations by which it was governed were codified by Sir John Stanley II around 1414. Such was the importance attached to the system that it was the subject of the first law of this codex and provided that "First..watche and ward be kepte thoroughe your Lande as it oughte to be, upon lyfe and lime, for whoso faileth one nighte of the watche, forfeiteth bodye and goodes..". For the third offence the miscreant was to forfeit "..lyfe and lyme to yr Lorde..".

The system of Watch and Ward was not only for defence but to have prior knowledge of the arrival of merchant ships. With certain exceptions, every man had an obligation to take part and to stand a watch either by day or by night. The watch stations for Onchan, recorded in a document of 1627, were both in Howstrake, the day watch hill being the Howe, and the night watch port being at Port Conchan, (Onchan Harbour), and the warden of the watch at that time was a Thomas Bancks of Howstrake. Across Douglas Bay similar stations were sited at Carnane and at "Duglas Towne". A list of the Custodians of the watch in 1498 for the Sheading of Garff names an Edmund McGawne, most probably the same man who occupied Bemahague, adjacent to Howstrake, in 1511.