However, on the basis of the order in which signatures were appended
to Acts of Tynwald in the Statute Book from 1649, it is likely that
the first 'Speaker' was Major Richard Stevenson who appears to have
served from 1649 to 1660. Major Stevenson would seem to have been
succeeded by Edward Christian, who left the House of Keys in 1663.
Edward Christian's brother, Charles, held the office for the following
three years. There followed Captain Thomas Stevenson, who appended
his name to all Acts ahead of his colleagues
The first definitely recorded Member to formally Chair the House
was Captain John Stevenson who was Speaker from 1704 until his death
in 1737. He had several confrontations with the Lord of Mann and
on two occasions was even imprisoned.
The first Member to insist on the title of Speaker was Sir George
Moore, who was Speaker from 1758 to 1780. He introduced a silver
mace for use at sittings of the Keys, in imitation of the pomp and
ceremony of the English Parliament in the Palace of Westminster.
As 'the worthiest men in the land', Members of the Keys, and in
particular the Speakers, came from the leading and most influential
families on the Island. Often relation would follow relation, and
the appointed Speakers would come from the same extended families.
From the 1750s to the 1900s, the position of Speaker was either
held by a member of the Moore or Taubman families or by gentlemen
who had married into these families.
Much of the business of the House of Keys before 1866 was judicial
with the Keys functioning as a Court of Appeal, the highest legal
court on the Island.
Also, until 1866, Members of the House of Keys were self-elected
and appointed for life. The procedure for selecting a new Member
involved the Keys submitting the names of two 'gentlemen' to the
Governor, who then selected one of them as the new member of the
The Role of the Secretary
For most of the 19th century the
Secretary of the House of Keys was traditionally a member of the
House. The duties of the Secretary involved recording the meetings
of the House, and attending to the correspondence and administration
of the House.
The longest serving Secretaries were George William Dumbell MHK,
who was elected in 1841 and resigned in 1858, and Robert John Moore
MHK, who served from 1858 until 1884.
Six prominent Members of the House of Keys from the 1800s
are featured on the next page.