Sunday, August 31, 2014

Pathway to the Sun

This emotionally charged drama, held at the Centenary Centre in Peel, focused on five central characters from the close of World War I up to the beginning of World War II; with some of our top vocalists taking the starring roles - including this year's Cleveland Medal winner Mandy Griffin.

With both music and lyrics written by Patricia Cullen, the opening scene introduced Estelle, a widowed nightclub proprietor, who remained a constant link throughout the production, which played with the audience's emotions on many levels and tugged mercilessly at everyone's heartstrings.

At first glance, the main characters appeared to have more in common with an emerging Europe than the Isle of Man, but the story skilfully unfolded their links through relationship and synchronicity.
The drama was neatly defined between London and the Island, as it explored the dynamics between individuals caught up in a vulnerable situation and the fragility of their hopes and dreams.

A feeling of pathos was evident from the opening moments and a heart-wrenching ending, perhaps, almost inevitable.

The play was enhanced by additional background actors, simple, but effective stage props and a small ensemble of musicians, with an impressive performance by all of the leading players, who brought depth and feeling to each role.

Valerie Caine
© August 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

North American Manx Association Scholarships

NAMA presented five scholarships to members under 30 who were attending the Convention on the Isle of Man. How great to see young faces who expressed an interest in their Manx heritage!

Left to right: Kevin Smith, Jenelle Smith, Angus Walsh, Duncan Walsh, Nicole Wozny.

Kevin and Jenelle are from California, Angus and Duncan from California and Nicole is part of the vast Prendergast clan based in Chicago.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Racing in the Manx Grand Prix - A Dream Come True for Manx Girl Ali Foster

Local girl, Ali Foster, will be lining up on the grid in the Newcomers B Class and Supertwin races at this year's Manx Grand Prix, with the realisation that she will finally be fulfilling a lifetime's ambition to race on the TT course.

Originally from Douglas, but now living in Foxdale, Alison comes from a family who've long been involved with motorcycle racing, including her cousins David and Decca Kelly, former winners at the Manx Grand Prix.

Ali withdrew after her first outing at Jurby airfield after experiencing poor weather conditions, but during 2007 her confidence to race returned. She mastered the Race School at Jurby and was soon gaining valuable experience on the regular track days at the Jurby Motodrome.

She made a promising start in her first race during 2010 with the Andreas Racing Association at Jurby and has never looked back.

Ali has ridden motorbikes since she was old enough to get her hands on a licence, and after discarding her 'novice bib' worked diligently towards securing her National Licence, racing at many of the UK circuits such as Mallory Park, Elvington, Aintree and Anglesey.

After competing in the last three championship seasons at Jurby, Ali's most impressive finishes have been fifth place in the 650 championship in 2011 and sixth place in last year's Post Classic Championship on a 400cc machine. But Ali's greatest achievements to date have been two podium places on the completion of the end of season four hour Endurance Race; with a third place in 2010 in partnership with her friend James Ford and a second place in the following year with her cousin, Eddie Venn, and Manx Grand Prix stalwart Kevin Murphy.

Ali's sponsor is long time supporter Hazel Carroon, but many of her friends have also chipped in to see that she gets to the start line for this year's festival.

Everyone has pulled together to make Ali's dream possible, including her mum who kindly donated her own Kawasaki ER6 road bike, which has been rebuilt into a Supertwin by Ali's fiancé Steven Beale.

Steven, a Jaguar technician, who wholeheartedly supports Ali with her quest, was a newcomer at last year's Manx Grand Prix, returning this year to the Senior race on a 600cc machine.

Ali, who will be joined in the Newcomers Race by her cousin and Endurance Race partner Eddie Venn, does, however, remain cautiously optimistic, reminding everyone that her goal is to qualify and finish the race; bringing her mum's bike home safe and sound with a smile on her face!

(Photos courtesy of Vic Bates)

Valerie Caine
© August 2014

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Royal Manx Agricultural Show 2014

Despite on-going road works and changeable weather conditions, crowds flocked to the Royal Manx Agricultural Show, held at Knockaloe Farm in Patrick, for an extensive programme of events over two days.

With its friendly atmosphere and family based activities, there was something for everyone, together with a wide range of eateries to suit all tastes and lots of interesting ideas for those seeking new hobbies or pastimes.

It was a perfect opportunity to display a cross-section of the rural industries, including the popular beekeepers' tent and the Manx Food Court, which provided an insight into local businesses such as the Apple Orphanage and Laxey Glen Flour Mill.

The meat section, which included both well established outlets and some new contenders, was particularly busy with shoppers.

Craftwork was especially prominent, as was a selection of trade stands and children's entertainment. with competitions for fur and feather, baking and vegetable growers attracting the curiosity seekers.

The main entertainment ring became a focus of attention for animal judging but also drew the crowds for the daring, trick riding stunt show, Gulliver's Carnival, presented by the Stampede Stunt Company and sponsored by Manx Telecom.

Curraghs Wildlife Park had a few treats in store for younger visitors, whilst the ever popular classic cars and vintage machinery kept other generations occupied at the far end of the showfield.

But equal to the surrounding entertainment was the presence of the farm animals submitted for judging, which included an excellent range of cattle, sheep, goats and heavy horses, with an opportunity for the public to come into close contact with some of our countryside companions.

Valerie Caine
© August 2014

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Green Fields of France

Presented as a 'docu-musical tribute', The Green Fields of France was the brainchild of Bill Quine under the umbrella of Peel Heritage Trust, organised to coincide with the centenary commemorations of World War I.

Held over two nights at the Centenary Centre in Peel, it expressed a wide range of emotions; viewing life from the perspective of both those heading for the battlefields and others left behind.

Using music, song and dialogue, the stage production conveyed the true experiences of a small group of Manx soldiers at the Battle of the Somme, using dramatic sound and visual effects to enhance the experience.

Most of the cast took on the persona of someone from the Isle of Man to relate their tale, rather than convey the story of a melded, fictitious character, which made the event more poignant.

Although dedicated to all those who went to fight from the Isle of Man, and indeed to those who belong to the services today, the drama concentrated on the lives of four local men; John T. Quine DCM, John McCauley, Jack Lewney and John Callister.

Other actors explored the lives of those who remained on the Island, including Louisa Quine (wife of John Quine), singing sweetheart Margaret Gelling (grandmother of Arthur Christian - see below), paperboy Alec Maddrell and Peel Clothworkers' School pupil Becky Quayle, who later became a member of  Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service.  

Narrator for the event was a suitably attired James Mylchreest (grandson of the late Brian Mylchreest LVO, OBE, TD, JP and Colonel in Chief of the Manx Regiment) who helped bring the sequence of events to life with a number of local actors, singers and musicians.

Music was provided by violinist Isla Callister, trumpeter Arthur Christian and piper John Struthers from the Ellan Vannin Pipe Band, with some morale boosting songs of the era sung with gusto by a specially organised choir directed by John Elliott.

A commemorative programme explored other links to The Great War and included a Peel Roll of Honour within its centre pages.

Valerie Caine
© August 2014

Conference promises to shed new light on First World War internmen

Rush for dinner at Knockaloe Internment Camp by German Internee, George Kenner.

A special conference organised by the Manx Museum and De Montfort University takes place next month on the subject of First World War internment on the Isle of Man. Marking the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first German and Austrian civilian prisoners on the Isle of Man in September 1914, the proceedings get underway on Friday 12 September with a public lecture at the Manx Museum by Profession Panikos Panayi, on Knockaloe as a site of imperial internment.

Professor Panayi of De Montfort University has spent many years studying internment and has published widely on the impact of the First World War on German communities in Britain prior to 1914. His latest release, Germans as Minorities during the First World War, was published in July 2014 by Ashgate publishing.

The following day, Saturday 13 September will see a number of academics from Britain, Germany and America gather to present their research into internment in the First World War. Sessions are open to members of the public with an interest in this subject. Finally on Sunday 14th September a tour of the site of Knockaloe Camp will take place, led by Yvonne Cresswell of Manx National Heritage.

MNH Curator Matthew Richardson commented:

“This promises to be a fascinating conference, on one of the lesser known aspects of the First World War. The role of the Isle of Man as an internment centre is one that we are still unravelling almost 100 years later, and new and revealing pieces of information continue to come to light, telling us more about what life was like in the camps of Douglas and Knockaloe for the Germans, Austrians and Turks held here”.

Matthew added:

“We are enormously proud at Manx National Heritage to be hosting the distinguished team of scholars which Professor Panayi has brought together. This is a really unique opportunity for people of the Isle of Man to hear and interact with some of the leading researchers in this field”.  

Full details of the conference programme and how to book can be found on

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Island in the Great War - Try it.

  1. Threshing with steam at Larkhill Farm, Abbeylands, Onchan in 1917; a Clayton Shuttleworth threshing engine (PG 8063/7)

On Sunday 17th August Cregneash will be taking visitors back 100 years to experience what life was like for the Manx people during the First World War. The event is part of the annual action-packed Island at War weekend on the Isle of Man Steam Railway, where the popular 1940s wartime events will centre around Douglas, Castletown and Port Erin stations. On the Sunday visitors can take bus service number 28 from the events at Port Erin to Cregneash to experience life 30 years earlier.

Helen Ashcroft, Site Manager at Cregneash says;
“To mark the centenary year, and as part of our efforts to tell the Island’s First World War story, we thought this year was a great opportunity to highlight the stories of the farming and fishing community caught up in the national struggle.

The event will have a very different feel to our Second World War events from previous years, and we hope we can encourage visitors to see how this momentous event impacted the Isle of Man”.

Manx agriculture flourished during the war and all surplus produce and livestock were exported to England. Internees were made to work on the farm. And later conscription affected the farming community although appeals were made for skilled workers such as blacksmiths to receive exemption.

In a letter from 1916 John Kermode, President of the Farmer’s Club on the Isle of Man wrote:
‘..young blacksmiths in the Island would do much towards the achievement of victory in their present occupations than if sent to the army, because farmers cannot do their work unless their implements and machines are kept in repair.’
As part of the event, Labyrinth History in Action players will bring these and other First World War stories to life on a walking theatre tour around the village. Tours depart 12:30, 14:30 and 16:30 and are bookable on arrival at Cregneash.

Isle of Man Cadets, 1st Arbory Scouts and Castletown Metropolitan Band will lead a recruitment parade march through the village at 13:30 and 15:30, and the call for volunteers will go out as it would have done in 1914.

Admission tickets are £6 adults, £3 students/ child and can be purchased in advance from the Manx Museum Gallery Shop and They will also be available at Port Erin Bridson Street and Cregneash on the day of the event. The ticket includes the theatre tours and a free return journey on service bus number 28, departing from Port Erin Bridson Street at 12:00, 13:00, 14:20, 15:00 and 16:00.

If visitors have a particular interest in the war at sea, Adrian Corkhill, author of the book “Hostile Sea” will lead a walk on the story of the German U-Boat offensive around the Isle of Man during the First World War. Participants will be guidedaround the coastline near Cregneash and learn about the drama of events 100 years ago when German U-Boats attacked and sank ships within sight of the Isle of Man’s southern coastline. The walk covers the sinking of the SS Downshire in February 1915, HMS Champagne and HMT Waltham in October 1917, and the schooner Tommi in May 1918.
Adrian will lead the walk ‘Hostile Sea – A View from the Coast’ on Saturday 16th or Sunday 17th August at 10:30. Tickets are £6 available from the Manx Museum Gallery Shop and