The Isle of Man is ruled over by a Lieutenant Governor, who is chosen by Her Majesty the Queen to be her representative on the Island.
Until 1988 (when the governor was ripped to pieces by an angry mob after a long-running debate about the Island’s horse trams turned violent) he held absolute power of life and death over the Island’s entire populace.
Most governors respected the people and were wary of angering them unduly – although historically there have been notable exceptions.
For example, in December 1604, Ralph Rushton was so maddened by a performance of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream he ordered all fairies to be hunted down and killed.
However, in a fit of madness, the ACTUAL order he gave was for the immediate execution of all ‘Marys’ which led to the accidental slaughter of ten children who were appearing in various nativity plays in Peel, Douglas, Ramsey and Castletown.
He put down the ensuing insurrection by promising free cabbages and herring to any Manxman who would defend him, through which device he rapidly raised an army of mercenaries who went on to win the Fifth Manx Civil War for him.
One governor whose name is anathema to the Manx people is Lord ‘Wedgie’ Bungenholme of Stoaton, who ruled the Isle of Man for six short months in 1844 after the death of John Ready.
Lord Bungenholme (in the centre of the picture above) was a notorious transvestite appointed by Queen Victoria after undergoing a gruelling six-week ordeal alongside eight other candidates. Eventually, he won through after the final round of selection which involved being dosed up with syphilis and malaria before racing from London to Newcastle barefoot.
Unfortunately, he believed he’d been in the running for the post of Lord Admiral and only realised his mistake as he was boarding the ferry to the Isle of Man.
His anger was such that as he stepped off the ferry in Douglas, he ordered the immediate execution of everybody aboard the ship with him – with the notable exception of his own retinue.
When he arrived at Government House to take up his post, he commanded the whole structure be torn down and a new residence be built for him in the shape of a giant statue of Prince Albert pointing out to sea.
From this, various rooms were hollowed out and decorated, and Lord Bungenholme settled in to live a life of furious debauchery and tyranny mixed with a healthy dose of sadism. He became infamous for his crossdressing lifestyle and bawdy drunken romps with visiting gentlemen and ladies form the royal court.
Although the first TT races were not to be for another 60 or so years, Bungenholme is credited with the original idea of holding a grand road race around the Island. He summoned all the women of ill-repute and invited the English aristocracy to race against him whilst carried on the backs of harlots.
This, in itself, would have been utterly unnoticed by the general populace had it not been for the fact that on the day of the race he introduced a number of new rules which involved scoring points for each spectator maimed or killed by competitors.
The race itself was won by Sir Gitley Nommontack of Hertfordshire but Bungenholme, in a fit of pique at being beaten, ordered him to be beheaded by the prostitute he’d ridden.
This earned him applause from the anxious crowd of Manxmen who assembled for the prizegiving in Peel, upon which Bungenholme – mistaking their applause for gunshots – fled for his life.
When he arrived back at Government House that evening, he sent an urgent message to Queen Victoria, telling a tall story of a Manx uprising and the need for swift and brutal military action.
A fleet set sail from Liverpool in short order and took up position in Douglas Bay. At dawn on the fourth of November 1844, the ships opened fire on the town, destroying four pubs, the Island’s largest brewery and several unsuspecting pieces of public art.
At this, the Manx people, led by Ian ‘Twelve-fingers’ Quayle, rose in outrage and marched on the governor’s residence with torches, ropes and pitchforks. Bungenholme was quickly captured but the revolutionaries, still aware the cannons of the English fleet were trained on them, put him in a boat and rowed him out to the flagship were he was warmly received.
Quayle explained the story to the fleet’s leader, Commander Douglas Arthur Arthur Arthur. He listened with no little sympathy and agreed to convey Bungenholme back to Liverpool for his own safety.
Lord Bungenholme went back to London and was stripped of his title by Queen Victoria. In 1845, she appointed Charles Hope who had a long and happy reign free from prostitute races. The name of Lord Bungenholme was stricken from all records and his iron handed rule was soon forgotten.
Labels: bungenholme, calf of man, government house, governor, isle of man, TT races
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