Thursday, March 26, 2015


This Saturday 28th March is the first day of the Easter school holidays on the Isle of Man and it also marks the first day of the new Manx National Heritage season. Heritage sites will open for their spring timetable, which sees most venues open daily from 10am to 4pm including Castle Rushen, Peel Castle and Rushen Abbey with its popular ‘Monky Business’ family activities.

This week has also seen the new ACE Card, supported by Lloyds Bank, distributed to all primary and secondary schools on the Isle of Man. The card, which can be used from this weekend, allows free access to all Manx National Heritage venues for all Isle of Man schoolchildren

A number of the sites have had refreshes and refurbishment during the closed winter period including Laxey Wheel, where repairs have been carried out to the stone masonry on the wheel housing as well as timber repairs to the viewing gallery superstructure, the cladding and the wheel structure. Old render was also removed and the wheel, housing risers and viewing platform were all repainted.

The Grove Museum in Ramsey has had conservation work to the exterior porch and repairs to the roof.  Some of the exhibits have been temporarily removed so that conservation work can be carried out on them and they will not be back in place when the museum re-opens on 28 March.

The Nautical Museum is still undergoing refurbishment and is due to open on 23 May with a new gallery telling the story of George Quayle and 18th century Castletown.

A packed programme of Easter holiday events for families at the Manx National Heritage sites include the Dragon Egg Hunt at Castle Rushen daily between 10am and 4pm from 31st March to 6th April where children are invited to solve the clues to track down the dragon’s missing egg and earn the gratitude of, and a small chocolate treat, from the resident Castle Rushen dragon.

Also this Easter, Rushen Abbey will be playing host to an Easter Fairy Tale Trail in the Abbey Gardens, between 10am and 4pm from 3rd to 6th April while the popular egg rolling competition at Cregneash gets underway at 1.30pm on Easter Monday with prizes for the best decorated hard-boiled egg before the great “roll off” begins.
Visitors will be able to follow in the footsteps of the women who made Mann at an additional four Manx National Heritage venues. History in Heels ‘pops up’ opened at Castle Rushen on International Women’s Day followed by the Manx Museum and House of Manannan. Pop up displays featuring remarkable Island women and their stories can now be found at Cregneash, The Old Grammar School, The Old House of Keys and The Grove from 28 March. 

The much anticipated ‘Ulster’s TT Heroes’ Exhibition opens this weekend at the House of Manannan in Peel.  The exhibition celebrates the greatest TT riders from Northern Ireland including Phillip McCallen, Brian Reid, Norman Brown and of course Robert and Joey Dunlop.  Displays loaned from Ballymoney Museum will be supplemented with artefacts and memorabilia that tell the country’s TT history through its greatest riders.

For more information on the events and site opening details go to

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Manx Folk Awards 2015

Organised jointly by the Department of Education and Children, Culture Vannin and Manx National Heritage, the Manx Folk Awards replaced the former Cruinnaght Aeg competitions which encouraged many of the Island's school children to compete creatively in the areas of song, music, dance and recitation.

Held at the Douglas Youth Arts Centre and the nearby Trinity Methodist Church at Rosemount, this popular, annual event is recognised for its informal approach, which sees finalists gathering in the Island's capital for three days of competitions.

In addition this year is a class for a new song (or new lyrics to a Manx trad tune) or something original in either Manx Gaelic or the English language.

There's an emphasis on fun and friendliness during this busy three day event, with plenty of assistance in choosing songs, dances or poems for performance, which can be carried over for the Manx Music Festival (aka the Guild) a few weeks later.

Valerie Caine
© March 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

English Folk Group Faustus Bring in the Crowds at the Centenary Centre in Peel

Saul Rose
Paul Sartin
The debut of the folk band Faustus at the Centenary Centre in Peel proved beyond doubt how English folk music has evolved in recent years, as the all-male line-up produced a seemingly endless supply of songs and tunes which left the capacity audience gasping for more.

Judging by  everyone's reaction the devil had a busy night, as we all sold our souls for the pleasure of listening to a range of music which criss-crossed a number of English counties and devolved seamlessly to an Island which rejoices in its own unique musical heritage.

Greg Joughin
Benji Kirkpatrick, Saul Rose and Paul Sartin are also involved with a number of well-known groups (Waterson:Carthy, Whapweazel, Seth Lakeman Band, Bellowhead and Belshazzar’s Feast), but their combined efforts as Faustus released a powerful expression of emotion; taking dyed in the wool songs and making them very much their own.

Their professionalism and dedication to the genre shone through as a beacon in the wilderness, rending asunder the historical image of English folk music and launching a thoroughly contemporary expression of some classical compositions.

Benji Kirkpatrick
But prior to their performance, the evening kicked off with local singer/songwriter Greg Joughin, who presented a selection of retrospective arrangements which lingered sensitively on some of the more poignant aspects of life.

Well known for his long-term association with The Mollag Band, on this occasion Greg was working as a solo artiste which gave members of the audience an opportunity to hear his self-penned work from  an unadorned perspective.

Valerie Caine
© March 2015

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Visit Ramsey for the Annual Shennaghys Jiu

With the local calendar starting to fill up with an eclectic range of events, there's a great opportunity to experience some exciting cultural entertainment during the annual Shennaghys Jiu festival, later this month.

Wholly based in Ramsey, the festival's primary aim is to encourage young musicians to perform together in a non-competitive environment, with an emphasis on the enjoyment of informal sessions and ceilis in a warm, friendly atmosphere.

There was a deliberate intention to step back from the pressure of competition, which has encouraged generations of young musicians, singers and dancers to step forward in a strong showing of solidarity within the northern parishes.

With almost twenty years of experience behind them, local organisers have managed to keep the festival sounding fresh and vibrant with a wide range of both local and visiting groups from the Celtic world.

This year performers will be visiting from Cornwall, Ireland and Scotland, with an opportunity to enjoy a selection of top, local musicians including The Mollag Band, Mec Lir, Scammylt, Malcolm Stitt, Peddyr Cubberley, Adam Melvin and the successful youth education group Bree, amongst others.

A free programme detailing all of the events, including concerts, ceilis and workshops, will be available shortly from outlets in Ramsey and the surrounding area, but be advised to keep checking their website for up to date information.

Visiting musicians will also be performing in local schools and a special children's art exhibition will be staged in Ramsey Town Hall.

Valerie Caine
© March 2015

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Friday, March 20, 2015


Manx National Heritage, the organisation responsible for protecting and promoting the Isle of Man’s heritage and culture, is exhibiting one of the most successful machines in the TT’s history in the Manx Museum in Douglas, courtesy of leading Japanese manufacturer Honda.

John McGuinness’s Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade is now on show in the Social History gallery as part of Manx National Heritage’s TT display, which also includes other memorabilia, notably a set of Carl Fogarty’s leathers, Dave Molyneux’s 2004 TT winning garland, the fairings from Jock Taylor’s 1980 TT race win and a pair of Steve Hislop’s gloves. Trophies on display include some of Mike Hailwood’s replicas and Bob McIntyre’s 1957 Junior TT trophy.   

McGuiness raced the bike between 2009 and 2013, winning the Superbike TT from the same year as well as his double race victories in 2011 and the 2012 Superbike TT.  It is also the bike that he raced in the 2013 meeting, finishing third in the Superbike race before memorably triumphing in the Senior TT. 

As well as the five TT victories, it is the bike on which McGuinness set a new Senior TT lap record in 2009 at 131.578 mph and a new Superbike TT lap record in 2013 at 131.671 mph. It holds the Senior TT race record at 128.943 mph from 2013.

The bike was built by Honda in 2009, specifically for John McGuinness. The chassis was specially developed for the TT races and has full factory Showa suspension front and rear from HRC. It was set-up by McGuinness at a Castle Combe Pre-TT test with Showa suspension factory staff. The brakes are Brembo full World Superbike specification. The engine was built with HRC Pistons and Cams, plus HRC Gearbox and Ignition. It revs to 14,500 rpm, produces 210 bhp and has a top speed of 200 mph.

The bike will be on display from March 2015 to March 2017, which will include both this year’s and next year’s TT and Festival of Motorcycling. Other bikes on display in the museum include Mike Hailwood’s 1979 Senior TT winning Heron Suzuki, his last race on the Island, Carl Fogarty’s 1992 0W01 Loctite Yamaha bike from the memorable Senior TT race of that year as well as Frank Whiteway’s 1970 production TT winning Suzuki. 

After his 2013 Senior TT win, McGuinness said of the bike: 
“Brilliant, just fantastic. If you were to choose a race to win, it would be the Senior… The bike was awesome, the pit stops great and we saved one of the best races till last. It was incredible action.”

Matthew Richardson, curator, Manx National Heritage commented:
“We are very grateful to Honda Racing for loaning us such a prestigious bike with such a strong TT history. It will undoubtedly be of great interest to visiting and resident bike fans, and will complement our other TT memorabilia.”

Monday, March 16, 2015

Learning about Fairtrade at St James Church in Dalby

As Fairtrade Fortnight came to a close, a special evening was organised at St James Church in Dalby to learn more about how Fairtrade works, with an opportunity to partake in some chocolate tasting and discover more about the real story behind the confectionary, which most of us take for granted.

Margaret Newton, local Traidcraft distributor, hosted the evening, providing detailed information about how Fairtrade works to help poor farmers, workers and their families around the world, and answering assorted questions from members of the audience.

As one of the leading suppliers of Fairtrade products in the UK and the Isle of Man, Traidcraft is committed to fighting poverty through trade; bringing empowerment and dignity to the poorly paid and disenfranchised. Trading also encourages a reasonable standard of living and the chance to seek further opportunities, bringing additional benefits and independence.

With the fire burning in the hearth and the promise of treats later in the evening, Margaret introduced a short documentary entitled Fairtrade Matters, which followed the fortunes of Edson Maotchedwe and Tsala Mwale, who both work in the tea industry.

Set in Malawi, the film reveals the challenges that beset both the farmer and their co-workers as they look towards improving their lives, and  that of others in their community, through the assistance of Fairtrade.

This was followed by an informative and revealing illustrative talk about how the contents of the humble cocoa pod are eventually transformed into chocolate. It's not easy to grow cocoa trees, which produce small flowers that eventually flourish into brightly coloured pods, but chocolate is arguably one of the world's favourite foods.

But the theme of chocolate set the tone of the evening thereafter, with everyone encouraged to participate in tasting a variety of Fairtrade chocolate bars, challenging their taste buds and finding out how much they really know about the products on offer.

Later there was an opportunity to purchase a range of Fairtrade goods and sample a variety of home-made cake, with bakers challenged to combine  local produce and Fairtrade ingredients.

(Photos courtesy of Andy Powell, James Robinson & Simon Rawles)

Valerie Caine
© March 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015


Manx National Heritage, the organisation responsible for protecting and promoting the Isle of Man’s heritage and culture, has nominated the Viking Horse Bridle Pendant that was found on the Island in October 2014 for recognition in a British Isles competition. The pendant was found by detectorist Daniel Crowe in the south of the Island.

The competition ‘The Nation’s Greatest Find’ is run by ‘The ‘Searcher’ Magazine, a magazine about the hobby of metal detecting. Nominations for the annual awards which have been running since 2005 are received from England, Scotland Wales and the Isle of Man. The Manx nomination will receive its own national trophy for most significant find.  The competition focuses on ‘significance’ rather than monetary value.

It is judged at the British Museum by Dr Roger Bland, Head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Keeper of Prehistory and Europe, Dr Michael Lewis, Deputy Head of the PAS and Peter Spencer Numismatic Consultant for the Searcher. Additionally, Ed Vaisey, Culture Minister at the DCMS has been on previous panels and it is hoped that he will be available to judge again this year.

Allison Fox, Curator of Archaeology at Manx National Heritage, described the find and provided its context, explaining:
“This wonderful 4.5cm copper alloy pendant is a decorative feature on a horse bridle and would have adorned the forehead of a Viking’s horse.  Vikings were accomplished horse riders, often taking their animals on their ships when they were travelling to new lands.  Bridle decoration emphasised the power and wealth of the horse’s owner and this pendant would have been a magnificent golden colour when worn.” She continued:“This style was popular in northern and western Europe and the beast is shown gripping the inner edge of the pendant with its tail and tongue.  It dates to around AD 1100, a time when the Viking Kingdom of Man and the Isles was at its most powerful and the Isle of Man was the seat of power.  We know much about this period from documentary sources but the number of artefacts from this time is fewer than from the early centuries of Viking residence, so this wonderful addition helps us further picture the time of the Kingdom.”


Notes to editors:

Discoveries of archaeological artefacts on the Isle of Man are required to be reported to Manx National Heritage at the Manx Museum in Douglas.  This reporting helps to build a fuller picture of the past of the Isle of Man by showing where people were active and what kinds of everyday things they were using.  Lots of finds are made by metal detectorists, but others are made by people out walking or even just digging in their own back gardens, and the curators at the Manx Museum are always happy to help identify finds.  Many such finds have been very kindly donated to the Manx national collections by their finders and the owners of the land on which they were found.  

Rare discoveries of artefacts made from silver or gold on the Isle of Man may be classed as ‘Treasure Trove’.  These artefacts are also reported to Manx National Heritage, and the Coroner of Inquests then makes the judgement on whether an object is Treasure Trove.  If it is, then it is legally owned by the British Crown, but the finder may be entitled to a reward for reporting the discovery.  Up until the 1970s items of Manx Treasure Trove were added to the collections of the British Museum in London.  Now, gold and silver artefacts can remain on the Isle of Man and many are displayed at the Manx Museum in Douglas and more will be displayed in a new gallery at the House of Manannan.