Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Snaefell Mountain Railway Anniversary

Despite the unfavourable weather conditions which plagued the one hundred and twentieth anniversary celebrations of the Snaefell Mountain Railway, many people made a pilgrimage to the summit for this special occasion.

Proceedings got under way at Laxey Tram Station with a performance by members of the National Methodist Youth Brass Band, who were on an extensive tour of the Island.

But as passengers were waiting to board the tram for Snaefell, there was one unusual figure who moved quietly amongst them who captured their attention. This was the infamous Alexander Bruce, in full costume, who was instrumental in establishing the Manx Electric Railway from Douglas to Ramsey and also familiar for his part in a syndicate known as The Snaefell Mountain Railway Association.

He is, however, more readily recognised as the General Manager of Dumbell's Bank and implicated in the financial institution's collapse in 1900. Although charged and placed under formal arrest, Alexander Bruce was by this time gravely ill, prompting the High Bailiff to rule that the suit against the Scotsman would rest. He died barely six months after the bank's demise and is buried in Braddan Cemetery, a short distance from George William Dumbell who created the bank which bore his name.

Scheduled trams continued to run up and down the mountain in weather conditions which mimicked those experienced at the opening ceremony one hundred and twenty years ago.

But an additional tram carried a number of dedicated enthusiasts on a specially extended journey along the Snaefell Mountain Railway line, accompanied by local historian and author Andrew Scarffe, who gave a running commentary. There were also a number of photographic opportunities along the way.

Due to the impenetrable weather conditions, other celebrations were forced indoors, which included Snaefell Mountain Railway collectable memorabilia from Isle of Man Stamps and Coins and displays of how to make a Manx 'bumbee cage' with John 'Dog' Callister.

A small exhibition within the Summit Cafe and Restaurant comprised a private collection of postcards connected with Snaefell and its environs, together with personal recollections of the area. A number of Michael Starkey's paintings were also on show.

Later, the inaugural presentation of a specially commissioned forty minute work for a chamber ensemble, composed by Tim Price of Ramsey, was performed inside the Summit Cafe and Restaurant, as well as simultaneously relayed over loudspeakers across the surrounding countryside and live on Manx Radio.

Valerie Caine
© August 2015

Monday, August 24, 2015

New CD from Lily Neill.

Lily Neill has put out a new release through CD Baby. It's called From Time's Woods. To purchase this music now or to hear some sound samples first, click here:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Island at War Event on the Steam Railway

 For those with an interest in World War II, this weekend's special 1940s event on the Island's vintage steam railway should be just the ticket.

Advertised as a family-friendly event, it's a chance to relive the nostalgia of 1940s wartime with the Isle of Man Steam Railway's fifth Island at War weekend.

A number of events will take place at three of the main railway stations, bringing history to life at Douglas, Castletown and Port Erin.

Passengers travelling on the train from Douglas to Port Erin will also have the opportunity of seeing a Spitfire crash site, guarded by  an artillery vehicle en-route, which can only be seen if you travel by train.

Douglas Station will be transformed on both days into an active military outpost, which will include a variety of entertainment, vintage cars, military vehicles and cameo re-enactments.

New for this year is the 'Hair-raid Shelter', where you can pop in for a quick 1940s hair make-over before catching the train.

Meanwhile, Castletown Station will become a wartime camp, where 'casualties' will be brought in by train for the nearby field hospital.

There will be entertainment on the trains for children, with refreshments sold to passengers from the platform as in former days.

At Port Erin Station there will be a selection of exhibitions, entertainment, vintage cars and a 1944 Morris C9B self-propelled Bofors Gun, with an opportunity to buy crafts and cakes from the WI.

Highlights of the weekend will be a special Manx veterans' train from Douglas to Port Erin and the popular singing trio the D-Day Darlings.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the railway stations, there's a chance to explore what life was like for the Island's rural community during World War II at Cregneash.

There will be harvesting and agricultural displays, demonstrations by the Isle of Man Home Guard and Women's Land Army, and an opportunity to hear about some of the human interest stories from World War II in a guided tour.

In addition, there will be a guided walk to explore the history of the World War II radar stations at the nearby Meayll Hill, led by Dr Andrew Foxon; advance booking recommended.

For further details visit

Valerie Caine
© August 2015

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Isle of Man Stamps & Coins - Commemorating the Battle of Britain

Isle of Man Post Office has teamed up with the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the legendary battle with a special set of collectable memorabilia.

The Battle of Britain, which was fought in five phases, began in early July 1940, and during the coming months fifty four British squadrons of almost one thousand men took to the skies against the Luftwaffe's extensive fleet of 1,220 long range bombers, 1,100 fighters and 400 dive bombers. Britain's Fighter Command comprised four groups which protected the South- East of England, the Midlands and East Anglia.

Many hundreds of lives were lost and Britain's defences were on the brink of collapse, but by early October 1940 they had managed to thwart the enemy's attack.

Their triumph was based on a unique air defence system made up of a chain of radio direction finding sites (now known as Radar) positioned around the British coastline. Created by Air Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander in Chief of Britain's Fighter Command, his system used a centralised control and reporting system.

Meanwhile, the Island's personal contribution towards the Battle of Britain was quite significant, with a higher percentage of its population deployed to military service than any other community in the British Isles during World War II.

This included the legendary RAF Group Captain Douglas Bader, who spent some of his early childhood on the Isle of Man. Despite being fitted with prosthetic legs after an air crash in 1931, Bader rejoined the RAF eight years later and went on to become one of its heroes.

During the final weeks of the Battle of Britain, the generosity of the Manx public financed the construction of two spitfires, aptly named North Barrule and Manxman; the latter used by Bader in his well documented attack of German aircraft during 1940 - 1941.

The special collection issued by the Isle of Man Post Office in commemoration of this event includes a cupro-nickel crown presented in a collector's box, a sheet of twelve commemorative stamps and a special folder containing black and white photos highlighting events during the battle, and paintings from renowned aviation artist Kevin Woodcock, featuring aircraft from both German and British fleets.

Isle of Man Stamps and Coins General Manager, Maxine Cannon, said "The Battle of Britain could rightly be considered one of the most iconic battles fought in our history, a victory for Britain and the many brave soldiers that gave their lives in her defence. We are proud to mark this vital date in support of the Battle of Britain Memorial Trust in tribute to the brave work of 'the few'."

The Isle of Man Post Office currently displays commemorative plaques in remembrance of Manx postal workers killed in action during both world wars at its main branch in central Douglas, but they are set to be removed to postal headquarters on the outskirts of the capital.

Valerie Caine
© August 2015

Visit from our Patron Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal

Your members may be interested to learn that we had a visit from our Patron Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal on 21 July.  Article is included plus a couple of photographs - more photographs can be seen on our website

Kind regards


Please send any and all donations towards the refurbishment and of integration project of Peel Cathedral to:
Val Garrett
Fundraising Campaign Manager
Cathedral Isle of Man
Cathedral Close
Peel, Isle of Man

The Princess Royal’s visit on Tuesday was great success. HRH unveiled a foundation stone in The labyrinth within the Cathedral grounds which will be an exact copy of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France before joining a 430 strong congregation for a magnificent Thanksgiving service. 

The Cathedral was honoured to have HRH take part in the service by reading a lesson and enjoying a variety of music from the Cathedral Choir and Choristers. 

Afterwards HRH took the time to speak to the Cathedral bell ringers before crossing to the Corrin Hall to meet with the Choristers, youth workers, Cathedral interns and some donors.

Dean Nigel Godfrey said, ‘We were honoured to have our Campaign Patron HRH The Princess Royal make a second visit to the Cathedral, to enable her to see what progress has been made and meet some of the people behind the project.’  

Work continues on the Cathedral and Grounds. In the next few weeks the Cloister (Apple Tunnel) should be constructed around the foundation stone laid by the Princess Royal in what is the 13th Century Abbey Garden based around the Abbey of Rushen and the Priory of Douglas.  This garden is one of a series of gardens which track the engagement of Christianity with Manx Culture since the 5th Century.

A new entrance is being put on the Corrin Hall with disabled access, new windows installed and a piece of sculpture is being created which should be installed by the end of 2015. It is a bronze, an abstract representing Joseph Pilates (founder of the Pilates movement and internee at Knockaloe Camp) and Archibald Knox and a censor at the Knockaloe Camp.  The sculpture will be in the 20th Century Knockaloe Garden.

The Dean would like to sincerely thank everyone who attended the service, Denis and Darren Cunningham from Isle of Man Motor Museum who kindly brought the 1953 Humber Supersnipe that was used in the Coronation Tour of Europe to the Cathedral for guests to look at and also Watsons of Greeba who kindly lent some large plants for the steps of the Cathedral.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Celebrating 120th Anniversary of the Snaefell Mountain Railway

Anne Smart
With the Snaefell Mountain Railway still going strong and as popular as ever, special celebrations will mark the network's 120th anniversary on the summit on the 20 August.

There will be special trams and activities throughout the day, which will culminate in the inaugural presentation of a specially commissioned forty minute work for a chamber ensemble, which will be performed inside the Summit Restaurant and simultaneously relayed over loudspeakers across the surrounding countryside.

Michael Starkey
Festivities will commence early in the afternoon with a celebration tram tour departing from Laxey, including onboard commentary from local tram historian and author, Andrew Scarffe. He has co-ordinated a transport enthusiast's programme whereby passengers will be able to enjoy a number of photo opportunities on the mountain ascent, and a tour of the Snaefell car shed.

Later in the day a parallel run of trams leaving the summit of Snaefell is also planned.

There will also be plenty of activities to keep visitors occupied at the Summit Restaurant, where a look-alike of the nineteenth century railway pioneer, Alexander Bruce, will welcome passengers as they step down from the trams.

Artwork by local sculptor Anne Smart and Manx artist Michael Starkey, inspired by the theme of the anniversary, will be on display at the summit, together with a special photographic exhibition.

The Bungalow (possibly 1893)
John 'Dog' Callister will also be leading guided walks on the mountain top in a bid to explore the flora and fauna in the area.

The celebrations will conclude during the evening with a re-enactment of the official opening ceremony and the above mentioned musical performance of Seven Kingdoms by Ramsey based composer Tim Price.

Events will also be broadcast live on Manx Radio throughout the afternoon and evening.

Additional trams will operate throughout the afternoon, but advance booking is recommended for the celebration tram tour and those operating during the evening by phoning 697457 to reserve your seat.

Standard tram fares apply with Go Explore and annual Smart Cards accepted.

Tim Price
In addition, on the following day there will be one of the popular Snaefell Sunset Dinners in the Summit Restaurant, when there will be a further opportunity to view the artwork and photographic displays.

Advance bookings should be made by phoning 673631.

Valerie Caine
© August 2015

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Manx Bands Clinch Double Victory at the Lorient Interceltique Festival!

Barrule (Courtesy of Phil Kneen)

In a spectacular finale to this year's Lorient Interceltique Festival, two Manx bands swept the board in their bid for the coveted Trophée Loic Raison, topping off a special year for the Isle of Man at the annual festival in Brittany.

Power trad trio, Barrule, clinched first prize and the Ruth Keggin Band was right behind them in second position, showing that the Isle of Man, despite its size, can hold its own in the world of Celtic music.
Barrule (Courtesy of Simon Lees)

Although the  Isle of Man has been represented for many years at the Festival Interceltique Lorient in Brittany, this is the first time in the festival's forty five year history that the Island has been the main focus, sharing the status of 'honoured nation' with Cornwall.

It has been a unique opportunity to present the Isle of Man to a wide ranging European audience which attracted more than three hundred journalists, hungry to know more about the Island and generate a greater awareness of its culture, heritage and local produce. Key events were televised to millions of viewers across France.
Ruth Keggin (Courtesy of Phil Kneen)

Attracting a delegation of more than one hundred musicians and dancers from the Isle of Man, they entertained in excess of 800,000 visitors during a busy ten day festival, and included Barrule, Ny Fennee, Ruth Keggin, Rushen Silver Band, Caarjyn Cooidjagh, Russell Gilmour, Strengyn and Mec Lir amongst others. 

The pavilion stage witnessed a packed schedule of both Manx and Cornish acts, including those involved in official performances at other festival venues, which embraced two major gala events in the Grand Theatre and Espace Marine, and an appearance as part of the popular Nuits Interceltiques; an extravaganza of music, dance, film and fireworks.

The Ruth Keggin Band
This year's presentation represented a working partnership between festival organisers, Culture Vannin, the Isle of Man Arts Council, DEFA, DED, Manx National Heritage and local businesses, in conjunction with Cornwall Council and the Cornish Language Partnership. Sponsorship was also received from the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

Valerie Caine
© August 2015