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Sir James Gell CVO JP (1823-1905)

Constitutional Reformer

Attorney General and First Deemster. Active campaigner for the developing rights and privileges of the Island.
 
Educated at the Old Grammar School in Castletown and at King William’s College, James Gell was called to the Manx Bar in 1845 and at the age of thirty-one became High Bailiff of Castletown.
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Gell was appointed as Attorney General in 1866, the year R.H. Kinvig, in his History of the Isle of Man, identifies as ‘a turning point in Manx history […] both politically and economically’. This was the year in which the House of Keys passed a Bill agreeing that it should become a popularly elected body.  As Attorney General, Gell was directly concerned with the new Acts which would move the Isle of Man forward. His prodigious memory and ardent patriotism, tempered by a desire for progress, commended him to the reforming Governor Loch.
 
Later, as First Deemster and Clerk of the Rolls, Gell was a Member of the Legislative Council and therefore of Tynwald Court, where he was well known for his support for the developing rights and privileges of the Island.
 
When Gell died in 1905 the Island’s Governor, Sir Spencer Walpole, wrote that ‘the Island may have produced men of greater ability [...] but in the long centuries of its past history it has never been represented by a man who had a more intimate knowledge of its Constitution or[…] a deeper loyalty to its people’. 

A deep loyalty to his people