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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 32

XVI.—Sodor and Man

XVI.—Sodor and Man.

This is the title of one of the English Bishoprics. This Bishop was formerly not a Lord of Parliament, but when some additional Bishoprics were created, the junior Bishops were excluded from Parliament, which gave to the Bishop of Sodor and Man a seat so soon as he ceased to be one of the junior bishops. His title of Bishop of Man is clear enough, except that, contrary to the general rule, he does not take his title from the name of any city or cathedral town. But whence Sodor? This has puzzled antiquarians and etymologists. Buchanan, the Scottish historian, states that before his time (how long?) the name of Sodor was given to a town in the Isle of Man. But no town so named is known to have existed. There is, however, a small island called by the Norsemen Holm, and by the people of Man, Peel; and a charter of Thomas, Earl of Derby, date 1505, has been cited, granting to the Bishop of Sodor the Cathedral in Holm Sodor vel Pele vocatum. But this really proves nothing. Instead of deriving the name Sodor from Holm Sodor vel Pele, the probability is that Sodor was antecedent, and that the qualifying word Sodor was introduced into the charter simply because the Bishop was "of Sodor and Man." If he had derived his title from the large Island of Man and the small off-lying island page 41 of Holm or Sodor, he should have been called Bishop of Man and Sodor, and it has been well observed that the Bishop of Durham might as well have been called the Bishop of Holy Island and Durham.

The real history of the name Sodor appears to be this : It is simply a corruption of the Norse Sudr-eya (Southern Islands), a name given by the Northmen of the Scandinavian Peninsula to the Hebrides or Western Islands of Scotland.

The name Hebrides requires to be accounted for. This is a Latinised Teutonic word, and it is found in the following forms:—Hebrides, Hebudes, Ebudes. Thus, not only is the initial h not radical, but the r is an intruding sound, not unknown in other words. Taking Ebudes as the oldest form, it is the Latin form of Ey-bude, or Ey-boda, which in Saxon English means Island-dwellings or Island-abodes.

But to the Norsemen of the Scandinavian Peninsula, these Island-dwellings, Island-abodes—Ey-boda—were merely the South Islands. Hence, in their Saga they are generally, I believe always, called the Sudr-eya, and the change from Sudr-eya to Sodor is, linguistically, a very easy one. The Bishop of Sodor and Man had ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the whole or greater part of the Sudr-eya or Ey-bude, and, I believe, has so still, and so takes the title of Sodor (Sudr-eya) and Man.