‘We’re not just there to attack politicians,’ Manx nationalist organisers of the annual Illiam Dhone commemoration had insisted.
Yet true to form, the occasion saw the regular call for heads to roll in government.
Giving his oration in English, Douglas North MHK Bill Henderson called for Chris Robertshaw to resign as Social Care Minister over his welfare reforms and plans to outsource care homes.
He told the gathering at Hango Hill - scene of the 1663 execution of Manx ‘martyr’ Illiam Dhone – that he had some ‘clear and sombre messages’ to give out. He said: ‘Minister Robertshaw, stop tinkering with our social welfare system - especially our social housing.
‘The working class people of this island are not the butt of this island’s financial problems. And I caution you with your wild antics and arrogance towards the closure of our care homes that you seem completely at ease with. It seems to me that you aren’t bothered what crisis you cause by these actions, or if you are never elected again.
‘Pure negligence as far as I’m concerned. A dereliction of your duty of care. Minister Robertshaw my New Year message to you from the working class people of this island especially older people and their families and others is....resign!’
Mr Henderson also delivered a broadside at Chief Minister Allan Bell urging him to take a second look at plans to ‘deconstruct government’ - ie reduce the number of ministerial posts by remerging health and social care and scrapping the Department of Community, Culture and Leisure.
He said: ‘What we are in real danger of here is losing our strategic vision. If you pare the government down to its near critical mass, then it will begin to lose some of its functions and become an “operational manager” not a strategic leader.’
He added: ‘Mr Bell, we want proper strategic CoMin priorities set. I’m sick to death along with the public of the dithering cat herding that goes on in that cabinet room of yours.’
Mr Henderson also called for a change of culture throughout the education department to give a greater focus on Manx history and heritage.
He said: ‘Our education system had seriously let us down in not promoting a much more Manx/island-based foundation for our young people. Why do our children have to learn about children in Victorian London? Why do our kids have to know about Henry the VIII and all his women in such detail? Why do our kids need to know in minute detail about the reformation of the English Church?’
It could easily be argued, of course, that much of the history of the Isle of Man, indeed the fate of the man being commemorated at Hango Hill, is inextricably linked to the history of England, the English Crown and the English Civil War.
The other oration was given in Manx by Mark Kermode of Manx nationalist party Mec Vannin who spoke of this year’s Isle of Culture celebrations.
Celtic League director of information Bernard Moffatt introduced proceedings by suggesting the size of the turn-out show that ‘nationalism is still alive in the island - thank goodness’.
He, too, had a message for government, about the damage that could be done by ‘thoughtless fiscal policy’ which he said had in the past helped keep Apartheid afloat in South Africa in the 1970s and 80s and later supported arms shipments to the Middle East though Manx-registered companies.
A wreath to Illiam Dhone was laid by Mr Henderson’s son Alex.