Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Manx Museum - First World War Show and Tells

On Saturday 26 July, the Manx Museum hosted the first ‘Show and Tell’ session in conjunction with This Terrible Ordeal exhibition. Taking place in the WWI Exploratorium, the sessions are a great opportunity for visitors to interact with our experts and handle objects themed around topics related to the conflict, allowing them to discover more about the experiences of the First World War.

MNH Community Outreach officer Katie King began the series with a look at The Tommy Soldier in a session aimed at family audiences. The session looked at the practicality of being a new recruit in Kitchener’s New Army, and the life of the Tommy solider – including hands-on examples of how he lived in the trenches.

This Saturday 2 August Dr Andrew Kelsey will present a more formal discussion on Battlefield Medicine in the First World War, looking at treatment of wounds and the enormous advances in medical knowledge developed in wartime. Andrew is a retired GP and former Associate Specialist in Anaesthetics at Ramsey Cottage Hospital, with an interest in First World War medicine.

On Monday 4 August there will be another opportunity to learn about The Tommy Soldier in a re-run of this ‘Show and Tell’ session. This date marks 100 years to the day since Britain declared war on Germany.

A final ‘Show and Tell’ returns on Saturday 16 August, when MNH Curator of Social History Matthew Richardson will look at Weapons of Trench Warfare in which visitors can handle a First World War rifle, grenades and other items used by soldiers on both sides during the First World War.

All of the sessions are drop in between 2pm – 4pm and are free to attend.


Image captions;
  1. The Tommy Soldier – Private Harry Gray, Castletown
  2. Battlefield Medicine – stretcher bearers rescue a wounded comrade
  3. Show and Tell display in the WWI Exploratorium

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Celebrating the 120th Anniversary of the Manx Electric Railway Extension to Laxey

It's been 120 years since the Manx Electric Railway reached the mining village of Laxey, on the east coast, but in celebration of this significant event the Island's oldest tramcars (Nos. 1 & 2) came into operation as part of the daily scheduled services during the weekend; with a rare opportunity to photograph both tramcars as they passed each other at Laxey Station.

Tramcar No. 1 (Courtesy of Isle of Man Railways)
Built by G. F. Milnes & Co. of Birkenhead in England, both tramcars are recognised by Guinness World Records as the oldest tramcars in service on their original system anywhere in the world.

They were delivered to the Isle of Man in 1893 along with a third tramcar, which was subsequently lost during a fire in the Laxey car shed in 1930.

Although not in daily use, tramcar number one carries the official Guinness World Record plaque which supports this achievement.

A plaque commemorating the official opening of the line to Laxey was recently discovered, and is now on display at the Manx Electric Railway Museum located at the Derby Castle terminus in Douglas.

Valerie Caine
© July 2014

First World War servicemen’s biographies presented to St George’s Church, Douglas by Manx National Heritage volunteers

Fifteen months of hard work by volunteers at Manx National Heritage came to fruition on Monday 28 July with a special presentation to Venerable Andrew Brown, Archdeacon of Man and Vicar of St George’s Church.   Some of the volunteers associated with this project gathered to witness the presentation at the Manx Museum.

During the First World War the Vicar of St George’s, Canon R D Kermode, kept and updated handwritten notes about individual men from his parish away on active service.  He noted their current whereabouts, if known, as well as whether injured, killed or returned home. These fourteen files of notes have been transcribed by volunteers and the full content made available online as a topic on entitled ‘Canon Kermode’s First World War Biographies (St George’s Douglas)’.  For details of individuals click on the Related People tab. 

A special printed copy of the content was compiled for the church itself.  The presentation to the Archdeacon was made by Margaret Rattigan on behalf of the volunteer team.  As well as being a volunteer transcriber, Margaret is a member of St George’s Church.  She found her grandfather’s biography in Canon Kermode’s files.  Also present were Connie Farrell, Alan Cooper, Wendy Thirkettle (MNH Archivist) and Jan Lowe.     

The gathering at the Manx Museum on Monday 28 July fell on the anniversary of the day in 1914 that the Austro-Hungarian Empire declared war on Serbia.   On 4 August Great Britain entered the conflict that became known as the Great War.  At a time when many commemorative events are being held on the Isle of Man, this contribution from a dedicated band of museum volunteers will have a part in the act of remembrance at a St George’s Church service on the afternoon of Sunday 3 August.  Thereafter, the volume will be available for remembrance and reflection in the church.

As well as holding many poignant stories of individual men and families caught up in the conflict, the notes reveal how men from one parish were scattered, posted many miles from home in different theatres of war.  St George’s was Robert Daniel Kermode’s home parish.  Many of the men were known to him personally, having connections to the church.   Among the 1,466 entries are notes about his postman and his nephew.

Some of the servicemen were old Sunday School boys or members of the St George’s Young Men’s (Barrack St) Club.  140 of the Club’s members enlisted voluntarily.  At the Club’s reopening in October 1919 Lt Governor Major General Fry unveiled a memorial in the clubroom to its 32 war dead.   A 1912 group portrait of Club members survives and is pictured here (MNH PG/383/1); it will shortly be available online via asa means of enhancing access to Manx archival source material for the First World War.

The original notes of Canon Kermode can be consulted in the Manx National Heritage Library and Archives at the Manx Museum (reference MS 10003).
Image captions:
  1. Presentation to Venerable Andrew Brown, Archdeacon of Man and Vicar of St George’s Church.  Left to right: Connie Farrell, Alan Cooper, Venerable Andrew Brown, Margaret Rattigan, Wendy Thirkettle, Jan Lowe.
  2. St Georges Mens Club 1912
For more information: MNH Archivist Wendy Thirkettle,  01624 648041

Sunday, July 27, 2014

NAMA 2014 - A Round-up of events

Day One of the NAMA 2014 Convention was spent checking in our 64 delegates and doling out tickets for events to our party of official members and the other large group of Peterson family members who came along with Lucy. We have around 90 American Manx, two Canadians and one Australian on this trip!

During check-in, by Anne Minay and local volunteer Voirrey Horne, members were able to purchase locally produced fudge and Manx knobs from our friends at the Manx Fudge Company.

Thanks to the kindness of Madame President Clare Christian we were taken on a tour of the three houses of Tynwald and the NAMA Board was afforded the very great honor of holding our annual meeting in the Legislative Council Chamber. The minutes from this meeting with reflect the fact that we did indeed go back.

Angus and Duncan Walsh party like it's 1914
In the evening, Manx National Heritage hosted us at the Museum where we could tour the fabulous exhibits including their collection of World War I artifacts. They even brought out Kearsley Walsh's great-uncle's uniform from the Boer War. Among the guests welcoming us were His Worship and Mrs. Stan Cain, the Mayor and Mayoress of Douglas, Mr. Alex Downie, OBE, MLC and Mr. Edmund Southworth of Manx National Heritage. Many of the MNH trustees had come to welcome us and mix with this large group of American visitors.

We were entertained with wine and Manx cheeses under the bleached bones of the great whale suspended in the room displaying the animals that share the island.

Day Two Friday July 4th started with the laying of a wreath at the Manx Aviation and Military Museum, Ronaldsway Airport in Ballasalla. Our friend Ivor Ramsden had worked hard to create a Canadian Memorial Garden to commemorate the lives of 28 Canadian airmen who died in flying accidents in the Isle of Man between 1941 and 1944.

Then we drove, in pouring rain, to Cregneish. We were fortunate to have Andrew Foxton onboard  our buses (he swapped between them) who is an experienced tour guide. He described where we were driving and how important the living folk museum is the history of the island. (You may have seen it featured in the movie, Waking Ned Devine.) We also stopped at the Sound for a breathtaking -- and windy -- photo op. Thanks to Manx National Heritage -- especially Edmund Southworth and the Trustees -- for all their support and assistance in putting together this trip.

Lunch was a catered affair at the Castletown Civic Centre. We were met by Chairman of the Commissioners, Richard McAleer and other local dignitaries. The hall had been beautifully decorated for us by Dawn Scott. Castletown very gracefully presented us with a gifts bearing their symbol and we responded with a gift from Mount Vernon, home of George Washington.

After lunch we visited sites in Castletown including The Nautical Museum, with "The Peggy" a perfectly preserved old schooner from the 'Running Trade" which has been boarded up and left undisturbed for many years. We also visited the Old House of Keys, and many went to clamber around Castle Rushen. From there, we went to Peel and received a generous Afternoon Tea from the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral Isle of Man.

We also took our Convention photo. 
Some of us got our American swag on.

Day Three - A peaceful day. Starting with a Manx quilting class from Mannin Quilters...

...and including a talk on Y-DNA and Manx heritage. In the evening we held our Convention Dinner.

The Convention dinner was held in the Sefton hotel and also featured beautiful and elaborate table decorations featuring Manx flowers and fabrics made -- yet again -- by the very talents Dawn Scott.

Honored Guests at our Convention Dinner included:

Alex Downie, OBE, MLC, Guest Speaker
Hon. Tim Crookall, MHK, Minister for Education and Children presenting NAMA Youth Award 

Mandy Griffin, 2014 Cleveland Medal Winner, Singer
Edmund Southworth, Manx National Heritage
Adrian Cain, Culture Vannin
Peter Kelly, President World Manx Association and Honorary Vice-President of NAMA
MeShell Berry, Department of Education and Children
The invocation was given by NAMA Chaplain: Rev. Canon Stephen Schaitberger 

During the dinner a special award carved from Manx Mountain Ash was made to Florence Abbinanti who was celebrating her 22nd NAMA Convention at the tender age of 93.  A gift was also presented to former Chief Minister Donald Gelling whose birthday is Tynwald Day, July 5th. David Nixon accepted the NAMA Youth Award from Minister Tim Crookhall on behalf of Sometimes Y, the Massachusetts-based dance group that entertained crowds at Tynwald Fair in 2013.  Anne Minay, the Island organizer of the Convention was presented with an American flag throw and to her great surprise, Honorary Life Membership of NAMA.

We were beautifully entertained by Mandy Griffin who movingly explained that the Cleveland Medal was the event that had inspired her to become a singer when she was just ten years old. She went on to sing the songs that secured her fourth victory in the highly competitive Cleveland Medal competition at the Manx Music Festival, or Guild as it is known on the island.

Alex Downie, our Guest Speaker and great friend of NAMA, gave a great speech about the Manx who had left for America and the fact that not all of them were model citizens (!) before describing Manx successes of the past few years in economic, social and sporting fields.

During the dinner,  Jack Cormode, as the senior Past President present, officiated as 1st Vice-President Kelly McCarthy became President and the 2014 slate of members was approved by the General Membership. We welcomed new Trustee, Bill Cassidy and our new 3rd Vice-President, David Nixon.

Margie went mad for Tynwald!
Adrian Cain, the Manx Language Officer, ended our evening by drawing the raffle in Manx and teaching us a few phrases including the expression "Ta mee toiggal beggyn Gaelg" (I understand a little Manx!) We closed the evening with a rendition of "Ellan Vannin"  bolstered by local singers in our midst including Noel and Mary Cringle, Dollin and Jean Kelly, Donald and Joan Gelling as well as the inestimable Mandy Griffin.

Sunday July 6th
We started our proceedings in the atrium of the Villa Marian Arcade with the National anthems sung by the sparse collection of members accompanied on the Mighty Wurlitzer. It was magnificent! Thanks to the staff involved for organizing this. Following our Board meeting we were treated to a backstage tour of the Gaiety Theatre and all its secrets including the world's only Corsican trap.

Then it was off to get changed for the Tynwald Garden Party at the Nunnery! Hats and frocks were in abundance. Margie Martinsen had hand assembled her entire costume! We were guests of Tynwald and treated to a beautiful day as well as tea and cakes on the lawn. All very Downton Abbey!

Our last call on Sunday was a Memorial Service at Loch Promenade Church to honor our deceased members and celebrate our wonderful Association of Manx people and this great trip back to our roots. Afterwards we stepped upstairs and were served a delicious meal of Fish and Chips delivered by the Terrace Chippy!

We were this close!

Monday, July 7th - Tynwald Day Celebrations

Bill and Kelly McCarthy
Our last day of the Convention was very special. The President of Tynwald, our dear friend, Clare Christian, had organized grandstand seats for us to watch the ancient ceremony of the promulgation of the 2014 laws.

Presidents Jody Morey and Kelly McCarthy were given guest tickets to the St. John's Chapel for the service and signing into law of the Acts.

Jody and her Fascinator!

Because of Tynwald, the Sefton Hotel kitchen and serving staff was called away to work at the nearby Villa Marina where Tynwald was hosting its members and honored guests. So we asked the local Italian restaurant, The Italian Job, whether it would open up specially for us. What a great buffet meal! It was fantastic.

From there, and to end our Convention, we gathered for one last time in the Garden Room at the Sefton Hotel for a Cooish.

Dollin Kelly captivates the crowd with T.E. Brown

Celebrated local reciters, Dollin Kelly and Anne Clark entertained us with Manx readings and we sang some classic Manx songs accompanied on keyboards by John Riley.

The eagerly anticipated draw for the Manx Quilt was won by Margie, who lived up to her nickname of Tigger by shooting out of her chair, which spilled over backwards, and bouncing excitedly around the room shouting,"I won it, I won it!"
Margie wins the quilt. Chris Eastham from Mannin Quilters is thrilled!

With one last chorus of Ellan Vannin and a thank you toast proposed by Jody Morey, the 2014 North American Manx Association Convention drew to a close. Thank you to everyone who help to make it such a great success. The Manx welcome was more than we could ever have anticipated. Gura mie eu, Ellan Vannin. 

Isle of Man Stamps: The Southern District Agricultural Society & Manx Ark Rare Breeds Project

This celebratory miniature sheet presents six paintings of rare British animals from the award-winning Island based artist Jeremy Paul, capturing a number of traditional British breeds which were heading for extinction.

His paintings recognise the work of the Manx Ark Project and celebrate the centenary of the Southern District Agricultural Society, whose show it is this weekend.

They focus upon a selection of endangered animals, including the Northern dairy shorthorn cattle, Cotswold sheep, Exmoor ponies, Irish moiled cattle, the Gloucestershire old spot pig and our very own Manx Loaghtan sheep.

Paul Davis of the Manx Ark Project said, "The beautiful animals depicted on these stamps underline what we stand to lose if we allow endangered breeds to become extinct. I am thrilled that the Isle of Man Post Office has recognised and commemorated our work with these precious resources."

The Manx Ark Project was the brainchild of Island based farmer Paul Davis, who developed the idea in conjunction with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust in a combined effort to preserve traditional breeds from extinction.

Sarah Comish of the Southern District Agricultural Society commented, "The Southern District Agricultural Society members are very proud to be associated with both the Isle of Man Post Office and the Manx Ark Project and are extremely pleased with the Rare Breeds stamp issue. Dr Jeremy Paul has produced a series of outstanding paintings and these have been translated into a set of beautiful stamps produced by the Post Office. We hope that we can help to showcase the work of the Manx Ark Project at the Southern Show and encourage the protection of these valuable breeds for the next 100 years."

Situated in the midst of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man provides an ideal haven for some of these threatened species, acting as a sanctuary in the face of any epidemics which may destroy such animals in the surrounding countries of Britain and Ireland.

Maxine Cannon, General Manager of Isle of Man Stamps and Coins, said "We are delighted to play our part in raising awareness of this important initiative to our worldwide collector base. The Manx Ark Project is a further example of the huge importance which our farming community places on protecting fauna for future generations."

Valerie Caine
© July 2014

Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014 - IOM gets first medal

Congratulations to Peter Kennaugh who won Silver Medal in the men's 40km points race to earn the Isle of Man's first medal at Glasgow 2014.
The 25-year-old finished second with 84 points, 14 behind race winner Thomas Scully of New Zealand, with another Kiwi, Aaron Gate, taking bronze.
Kennaugh, the reigning British road race champion, adds Commonwealth silver to the Olympic gold he won in the team pursuit at London 2012.
The Isle of Man team was disappointed when Mark Cavendish, arguably our most famous cyclist, crashed in the Tour de France and was injured badly enough that he could not compete for the island in these games. 

The BBC is reporting on these games and not doing too bad a job of it.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Visit Peel for Fun and Nostalgia this Summer!

As the summer calendar gets into full swing, there's plenty to do in the west of the Island with Peel Traditional Boat Weekend at the end of July followed by the perennial favourite Peel Carnival at the beginning of August.

The Compass Pipelines Peel Traditional Boat Weekend (25th - 27th July) aims to foster interest in the more traditional sailing craft, which used to be a regular sight in the Irish Sea, many of which have been lovingly restored by their dedicated owners.

Established in 1991, it's a great opportunity for visitors and Islanders alike to mingle amongst enthusiastic seafarers, learn more about the old boats, wander around the quayside and admire the vessels as they head gracefully into the bay for the majestic Parade of Sail.

It's a relaxed weekend of unashamed nostalgia, which sits perfectly in the historical port of Peel with a number of other linked events taking place around the harbour; including the hotly contested 'quick and dirty' boat building competition.

Peel Traditional Boat Weekend has become synonymous with Manx hospitality, with organisers providing food and entertainment (including the ubiquitous kippers for breakfast) for visiting crews who visit the Island from a variety of ports around the British Isles and beyond, as well as ample time to catch up with old friends.

Meanwhile, hot on its heels will be the annual Peel Carnival which promises a whole range of events throughout the day on the 3rd August.

Reflecting this year's theme, organisers are hoping to fill the seafront with a multitude of flags; with production well under way as we head for this year's extravaganza.

Many regular performers will be returning, including a selection of street entertainers from the Island based Play People, providing classic street gymnastics, and the Grundy Brothers from Belfast showing their amazing talent for fire swallowing; along with street theatre and side-shows. Look out too for the hilarious Bouncy Boys who will be conducting a walkabout in shoes the size of wheelie bins!

With three stages along the promenade, there'll be music to suit all tastes from about mid-day, including the popular  up-beat Caribbean-style steel band Panfire, who make a welcome return to the Island.

The popular Grand Parade will be officially started by the Houghton Weavers, setting off from the House of Manannan at 2.00pm, led by local Latin American rhythm group Samba Mann.

It's a great day out for all the family and will mark the end of Peel Culture Week, part of this year's Island of Culture.

The day's activities will close with a fire show, including eye-catching performances by jugglers on the beach, a final contribution from Panfire and a spectacular firework display.

Further details about both events available from their websites.

(Carnival photo courtesy of Tony Faragher)

Valerie Caine
© July 2014

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)