Monday, September 22, 2014

IOM Civil Defence Volunteers help out at The Nautical Museum

Many of us visited the Nautical Museum when we attended the NAMA Convention on the island in July. Here's an exciting update. 

A recent training evening for Civil Defence volunteers took them to an unusual venue – the dock of the world’s oldest sea yacht, the Peggy in Castletown. Earlier this year, the area in front of Peggy’s boathouse was excavated by archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology North, commissioned by Manx National Heritage.  Rather than the expected slipway, a beautifully constructed dock was discovered, which would have enabled Peggy’s owner George Quayle to float her gently in and out of the boathouse in the late 1700s.  

Timber gates formed part of the dock and with the removal of the ground around them, they were vulnerable to the sea that still fills and empties the dock each day.

To help support the gates until they can be further examined, it required sandbags to be placed around them. With their extensive experience of assisting during the recent floods, the members of the Isle of Man Civil Defence were the natural experts to construct the sandbag wall.
Allison Fox, Curator: Archaeology, MNH said;
‘The task of supporting the timber sea-gates at The Nautical Museum with a wall of sandbags was rather daunting with numerous logistical challenges, but with the planning, experience, efficiency and sheer physical effort of the Civil Defence volunteers the work was completed and a wall of 400 sandbags was soon in place.  The sandbag wall will protect the fragile gates over the coming winter and help ensure the protection of this unique part of the Island’s maritime heritage.  MNH would like to sincerely thank Civil Defence and the Department of Infrastructure for their help.’

Emergency Planning Officer Ian Young said;
‘Civil Defence were delighted to assist and in treating the operation as an exercise we hope in some small way we have helped in the important preservation work that is being carried out by MNH.’

The work formed part of an ambitious programme to conserve and study The Peggy. Later on this year the boat will be removed from her cellar to an environmentally controlled workshop where she will undergo further analysis and conservation along with the archaeological discoveries found during the recent excavations of the dock.

For further information, please contact;
Allison Fox
(01624) 648026

Image captions;
1.    Before the sandbag wall was in place – the remains of the timber sea gates can be seen towards the base of the archway
2.    Civil Defence volunteers at work
3.    After the wall – the carefully placed sandbags support the gates and will deflect the main force of the sea from damaging the interior of the dock

Editor’s Notes

The Nautical Museum in Castletown is home to the impressive boat – the Peggy – which was found in 1935 concealed in a boat cellar. The Peggy had lain undisturbed for 100 years after her owner, Captain George Quayle, died.

Captain Quayle was a man of great ingenuity and the boathouse he erected has many curious features including trap doors, secret panels and a replica ship’s cabin. 

In recent years, Manx National Heritage has been studying Peggy and the environment in which she sits with the help of Cardiff University and conservation consultants Eura Conservation Ltd of Telford.  The exceptional importance of the vessel has been recognised by her inclusion, alongside ships such as HMS Victory, within the National Historic Fleet, the maritime equivalent of Grade One listing maintained by the National Historic Ships Register.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Peel P50 Celebrates 50th Birthday!

The unique Peel P50, designed and built on the Isle of Man, celebrated its 50th birthday recently with a get-together of owners and vehicles for a number of special events.

Owners of some of the surviving vehicles, including not only the P50 but the Trident and Viking Sport, made by Peel Engineering, (with Cyril Cannell as Managing Director), gathered in the town of Peel for this singular occasion.

A small selection of P50s and Tridents were carried on the Isle of Man Steam Railway between Douglas and Port Erin as part of the Manx Heritage Transport Festival, before vehicle owners headed for a welcome reception and dinner at Peel Golf Club. During the reception the former Foreman of Peel Engineering, George Gelling, presented an informative talk detailing the company's fascinating history.

There was a further chance to swap stories at the Marine Hotel in Peel before a Rally the following day which coincided with Peel Carnival.

A number of P50s, Tridents and their owners, together with a large crowd of spectators and former workers, gathered at the site of Peel Engineering, on Mill Road, to witness the unveiling of a plaque (appropriately made of fibreglass) to commemorate its historical connections.

It was a colourful event which drew a great deal of interest, with many bystanders joining George Gelling for a tour of the sites on Mill Road associated with Peel Engineering, who were pioneers of glass fibre technology.

Renowned as the smallest car in the world, many of these micro vehicles joined the carnival procession, ending at the Creg Malin.

Later in the Atholl Room, at the Centenary Centre, those involved with the Peels to Peel Festival came together for a final time to enjoy a finger buffet before heading home.

The bar/reception area at the Centenary Centre was built with money donated by the late Cyril Cannell.


Valerie Caine
© September 2014

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Manx Bard -- An exciting new cultural initiative for the Isle of Man

Photo: The Manx Bard 'team' gathered around the Bardic chair that has been commissioned, thanks to funding from the Isle of Man Arts Council. Pictured (left to right) are: Simon Capelan, Janet Lees, Bridget Carter, Hazel Teare and Graham Hall.

Funded by the Isle of Man Arts Council and supported by Manx Litfest and Isle of Man Poetry Society, the Manx Bard is a new post to which the Island’s most worthy poet will be appointed each year.

The Manx Bard will officially launch on the opening night of Manx Litfest 2014, Wednesday 24 September, at Jabberwocky in Duke Street, Douglas.

Anyone aged 18+ who lives in the Island will be able to enter the competition to become Manx Bard. Each Bard will serve for a year, performing at Island events throughout the year, as well as attending selected festivals across the British Isles, helping to highlight Manx culture.

The concept is the brainchild of Bridget Carter, who heads up the Manx Bard committee, supported by Hazel Teare and Janet Lees.

‘Poetry is currently enjoying a resurgence and there is a real buzz around performance poetry in particular,’ said Bridget. ‘Last year’s Poetry Slam, won by Georgia Zapparoli, was a packed event with an electric atmosphere. Since then we’ve been holding open mic nights to give local poets the chance to perform their work. There is some amazing talent out there and we look forward to seeing even more of it as the search for the Manx Bard gets underway.’

'The Manx Bard is a brilliant and exciting idea and we're honoured to have it linked with the festival,' said Manx Litfest Festival Director John Quirk. 'Poetry has been a crucial part of our plans from the outset, and we're thrilled that the Bard's year in office will start and end at each Litfest.'

In recognition of our proud poetic heritage, the title of First Manx Bard has been awarded posthumously – to our national poet T.E. Brown. The first living Manx Bard will be appointed in autumn 2015 and unveiled at Manx Litfest.

To enter the competition, poets will need to submit a poem both on paper and in performance, for assessment by a panel of judges. They will also be asked for a proposal on how they see themselves spending their year as Manx Bard, in line with the key aim of helping to promote and celebrate poetry in the Isle of Man.

In the spirit of the Bardic tradition, the Bard will be inaugurated in a bespoke Bardic chair, wearing ceremonial Bardic robes. Thanks to the kind support of the Isle of Man Arts Council, the Manx Bard committee were able to commission the Manx Bardic chair from Local wood artist Graham Hall. The result is a work of art in itself, made from beautiful white sycamore, with hand- carved lettering by Simon Capelan. The quote is taken from the poem Spes Altra, by our national poet T.E. Brown. Linda Davies is designing the robes, which will be unveiled at the launch.

The Bardic tradition is a Celtic one, dating back to the times when the Bard was the spokesperson of a community. In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the Bardic tradition, and today there are several Bardic Chairs across the British Isles.

UK performance poet Mark Grist, who will be compering the Poetry Slam at Manx Litfest, was Chief Bard of the Fens in 2009 and Edinburgh Fringe Slam Champion in 2010. Mark’s show ‘Rogue Teacher’, at Noa Bakehouse on the night of Friday 26 September is also an unmissable event – especially for budding Manx Bards.

For further information please contact Bridget Carter on 07624 451697 or
For more information on Manx Litfest, please see and 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Manx Folk Dance Society 60th Anniversary Festival Concert DVD

This colourful extravaganza was recorded as part of the International Folk Dance Festival held at the Villa Marina, with the support of the Isle of Man Arts Council, to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Manx Folk Dance Society, featuring a diverse range of culture and folk dance from the Isle of Man, the UK and Europe.

Each of the visiting  groups, seen here in a range of eye-catching national costumes with accompanying musicians, have been involved in sociable exchange visits with the Manx Folk Dance Society and hold long-term friendships. It was a rare opportunity to enjoy a medley of dances providing a vibrant and skilful performance at the Royal Hall on a memorable evening, but if you missed it then here’s a chance to view it from the comfort of your armchair.

The DVD explores an astonishing fifty eight dances performed by thirteen groups, with bonus outdoor material filmed on location at Castle Rushen and in the Mooragh Park, courtesy of the Manx Video Camera Club.

With a number of viewing options available, it’s possible to watch the entire performance, view individual dance groups or select single dances. And for those with a dedication to detail and footwork, you’ll also find brief information about each dance and corresponding group.

Supported by Culture Vannin (formerly the Manx Heritage Foundation), and suitable for all regions, it’s a distinctive two disc bumper bundle available from the Lexicon Bookshop or from the Manx Folk Dance Society’s website priced at £12.

Valerie Caine
© September 2014

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

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)