Friday, December 31, 2010

OBE for Alex Downie

Regular readers of this blog will know how fond I am of Alex Downie and how much I admire the zeal with which he pursues the best interests of the island wherever he is, whomever he talks to. I especially love the story about him cutting through the bureaucracy involved in getting to meet the head of a middle eastern state by standing in line with the locals after Friday prayers. So imagine my delight to discover he has been recognized in the Queen's New Year's Honors list. Congratulations, Alex, this award is well deserved.

ALEX Downie MLC was quick to praise his colleagues after being awarded the OBE in the New Year's Honours list. Here

He has been involved in politics for 25 years - firstly as a Douglas councillor, then as a Member of the House of Keys and now as a Member of the Legislative Council.

He said: "I have had the privilege of working with a good team of people."

He acknowledged the hard work of Tim Craine, director of the Business Development Agency, Brian Johnson, director of Civil Aviation,  Dick Welsh, director of the Isle of Man Ship Registry and Garth Kimber, head of E-gaming Development - all who work for the Department of Economic Development headed by minister Allan Bell MHK - as well as businessman Bill Mummery, who is the former Director of E-gaming Development.

Mr Downie said he was honoured and pleased to share it with those he has worked with and said it was recognition for the Isle of Man.

"It's an Isle of Man honour," he said.

Mr Downie recently retired from 40 year service with the Coastguard - 20 years in the UK and 20 in the Isle of Man, and was awarded the Coastguard Medal 20 years ago.

He has been involved with Manx National Heritage for more than 20 years and is president of the MSPCA.

"I thoroughly enjoy my work," Mr Downie said, "work to me is a great pleasure, it is never a burden. I always get up every morning looking forward to what the day brings."

Two other residents were also awarded:

Mrs Jean Buck has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to wildlife and conservation in the Island.

She has been heavily involved with the Manx Wildlife Trust for many years, carrying out projects for the organisation and raising funds.

Former Strix chairman Dr John Taylor is an inventor - his most famous invention is the cordless kettle.

Many of the hundreds of patents that he holds are connected with domestic appliances, thermostats, and electrical equipment.

Dr Taylor created the Chronophage clock which is on display at Corpus Christi College in Cambridge where he studied in the 1950s.

It is in the Taylor Library which he largely funded and the library is named after him.

Professor Stephen Hawking unveiled the unusual clock in 2008.

Dr Taylor with the Chronophage
Dr Taylor is a former King William's College student and returned to live in the Island 30 years ago.

Friday, December 24, 2010


IN the days of our grandmothers, Old Christmas Day, the fifth of January, was believed to be the true Christmas. On Black Thomas's Eve, which was the first day of the Christmas holidays, the spinning wheels all had to be put away, the making of nets ceased, and no work of any kind must be done until after Twelfth Day.
But there was once an old woman named Peggy Shimmin, at Ballacooil, and she was bent on finishing some spinning that she had begun, so on Old Christmas Eve she said to herself :
'The New Christmas is pas' an' surely itis no wrong to do a bit o'spinning to-night,' though she doubted in her heart if she were not sinning. So when Himself and the rest were in bed, she called her young servant-girl, lil Margad, and said
'Margad, me an' you will finish the spinning to-night.' Margad was frightened, terrible, but she got out her wheel and sat beside her mistress. The two began to spin, and they were spinning and spinning till near midnight, and behold ye, just before midnight old Peggy saw the flax she was drawing from the distaff grow blacker and blacker till it was as black as tar. But Margad's flax did not change colour because she had only done what her mistress bade her. Peg dropped the flax quick, put away her wheel, and crept in fear to bed. She knew now which was the true Christmas Day and never more did she spin on Old Christmas Eve.
Margad was left alone in the kitchen when her mistress had gone to bed, and at first she was trembling with fright; but she was a middling brave girl, and she took a notion, as there was no person to stop her, to see if all the things were, true that she had heard about Old Christmas Eve.
'They're saying,' she thought, 'that the bees are coming out, an' the threeyear-old bullocks going down on their knees, an' the myrrh coming up in bloom.' Then she says to herself :
'I'm thinking I'll go out an' watch the myrrh.' So she put a cloak round her and crept out at the door into the cold frosty moonlit night, and midnight had just struck as she put her foot outside. She stooped to look on the spot where the myrrh root was buried, and as she was looking, the earth began to stir and to crack, and soon two little green shoots pushed up to the air. She bent closer to see what would happen, and to her great wonder the leaves and stalks grew big and strong before her eyes, and then the buds began to show, and in a few minutes the lovely white flowers were in bloom and the garden was sweet with their fragrance. Margad could do nothing but stare at them at first, but at last she dared to gather one small piece of the blossom, and she kept it for luck all her life. Then she went to the cowhouse and peeped through the door. She heard a groaning sound and there were the young bullocks on their knees, moaning, and the sweat was dropping from them. Margad knelt down, too, and put up a bit of a prayer to the Holy Child that was born in a stall. But the wonders were not over yet, for as she went silently back to the house she noticed that the bees were singing and flying round the hive-they were inside again, when she shut the door of the house behind her.
Always after that, when the neighbours would ask her if she believed in the wonders of the Old Christmas Eve, she would say:
'I know it's true, for I've seen it myself.'

[From Manx Fairy Tales, 1911]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Earthquake felt on IOM

A small earthquake has hit Cumbria and surrounding counties.
People described hearing and feeling the earth moving for "well over a minute" just after 2300 GMT on Tuesday.
The earthquake, which had a magnitude of 3.6, was felt in locations across Cumbria and in Lancashire, south-west Scotland, parts of Yorkshire, Northumberland and the Isle of Man.
Police say there are no reports of injury or damage so far. The tremor was picked up by the US Geological Survey.
People have contacted the BBC to say they felt the tremor in places including Barrow, Sellafield, Cockermouth, Windermere and Penrith.
Cumbria Fire and Rescue service has also confirmed the quake.
A spokesman said: "We have had no requests from members of the public. At the moment, we don't believe there is any structural damage."
'Very frightening' Data from the British Geological Survey (BGS) showed the location of the quake as Coniston, in Cumbria, 9km (5.6 miles) south-west of Ambleside and with a depth of 14.3km (8.9 miles).
David Galloway, a seismologist with the BGS, said: "We've not had any reports of any damage and it's probably unlikely that there will be damage.
"We do get a few earthquakes in this country and maybe get one of this size every 12 to 18 months, but damage is very unlikely."


Friday, December 17, 2010

Lantern workshops at Scoill Phurt le Moirrey

It's been a long time since my children took part in one of these workshops and parades but it was a very beautiful sight.

THIS weekend there are free workshops to make willow lanterns for a parade through Port St Mary following Santa’s sleigh three days before Christmas.
The workshops take place tomorrow (Saturday, December 18,) (10am-4pm, the last entry is at 2pm) and on Sunday, December 19, (1pm-6pm, last entry is at 4pm) in Scoill Phurt le Moirrey. All ages are welcome – children must be accompanied by an adult.
The workshops, sponsored by the Isle of Man Arts Council, provide all materials, just imagination is required. The parade leaves Scoill Phurt le Moirrey at 6.30pm on Wednesday, December 22 and follows Santa’s sleigh to Paddy’s Market in the quay, where there is a Christmas market

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

'A Star Shone.'

New Christmas Song from isleofman on Vimeo.

Your readers may like to watch two videos of Manx children singing one of my Christmas songs, 'A Star Shone.' Also, 'A Star Shone' is available for download for a small fee on I-tunes - Sung by Katherine Crowe and Ballacottier School Choir

Best wishes

John Rhodes
Ballacottier School

Monday, December 13, 2010


A rare sighting of between 100 and 150 bottlenose dolphins have been seen today in the waters off the south coast of the Isle of Man.
The dolphins were first reported by John Galpin of Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch at around 9:30am at Dalby, only roughly 100 to 200 metres offshore. The dolphins were sighted again an hour later on the north side of the Sound, which is situated on the southern tip of the Island. During this second sighting, the dolphins were split into four distinct groups numbering from 25 to 40 individuaaals, including juveniles and calves.

More information on the Isle of Man is available at or via the Facebook group

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Idiots at the Daily Telegraph say Manx is extinct

Is responsible journalism dead? Does anyone check anything any more? Isn't inaccuracy supposed to be the bloggers' domain?

Honestly: Check out this nonsense from the Daily Telegraph.

Hat tip: Marion

Are the last two days' headlines linked???

Detox unit not needed
A REVIEW had concluded there are no clinical grounds for opening the £1.06 million drug rehabilitation unit for in-patients as originally planned.
In the House of Keys, Social Care Minister Martyn Quayle MHK defended the decision not to open an eight-bed in-patient facility at the unit, which would cost £500,000 a year to run, insisting there was now a better solution.
But Peter Karran (Lib Vannin, Onchan) asked the minister to justify the ‘massive’ change in policy.
Tynwald approved funding of £1.14 million in December 2005 for a rehabilitation and detox unit for patients with drug and alcohol dependency problems. But the unit never fully opened, with no funding being found to staff a round-the-clock in-patient facility. IOMToday

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Weirdest headline: Heroin drought may cause death

editorial image Heroin

POLICE fear a heroin shortage in the UK could ultimately lead to deaths in the Isle of Man.
One of the most severe ‘droughts’ of heroin for five years had been reported in areas across the UK, with users being treated after overdosing on heroin mixed with other substances because of the shortage of the opiate across the countrywide.
Detective Sergeant Allan Thompson, of the drug trafficking unit, said: ‘What does concern me is that prices will rise when the drought ends, tolerance will be reduced and the risk of fatal overdoses will increase.’
The shortage is due to a fungus that has infested this year’s poppy crop in Afghanistan, literally reducing it by half. IOMToday
Some users have become unconscious after injecting or smoking the drug, whereas others have reported vomiting, flu-like symptoms and amnesia.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Tourism Awards Winners 2010 Announced

Isle of Man Tourism’s fifth annual Tourism Awards presentation took place today, Tuesday 7th December 2010, in the Prince Albert Suite at the Empress Hotel, following on from the success of previous years.

The awards recognise the outstanding customer service and dedication provided by individuals and organisations who support the development of tourism on the Island and make a significant commitment to both quality and service.  A record breaking 2,300 nominations were received from the visitors and residents who were asked to identify tourism organisations that provided an enjoyable and reliable holiday experience.

The judging panel consisted of Gary Roberts, Deputy Chief Constable - Isle of Man Police, Sue Gee, Managing Director - TLC Business Solutions, Paul Murphy, Training and Business Development Manager – Isle of Man College and Helen Byrne, Director – Isle of Man Newspapers.  The criteria used for judging was in line with the tourism strategy and vision for the future of tourism on the Island.

The guest speaker at the event was Gary Roberts who spoke about the importance of the Tourism Awards and how the judges selected the winners from each of the nine categories.

Minister for the Department of Economic Development, Allan Bell MHK, said:

‘These Awards celebrate the Island’s very best tourism businesses and I would like to congratulate each and every one of the nominees and winners in all nine categories.  All of the finalists are winners and they should take pride that they are setting the standards for others to follow.

‘I would also like to extend my thanks to the four judges, Gary Roberts, Sue Gee, Paul Murphy and Helen Byrne, each of whom have a wealth of experience within the service, hospitality and training industries and had the difficult task of selecting the winners.’

Department of Economic Development Member with responsibility for Tourism, Geoff Corkish, MBE, MHK said:

‘We know that in the current climate many businesses are experiencing difficult times and it is more important than ever to provide recognition for the work going on here in the Isle of Man to welcome the our visitors.   These businesses provide first-class products and services and we must not forget how much they assist Isle of Man Tourism to ensure the Island’s economy goes from strength to strength.

‘The Tourism Awards celebrate the achievements of businesses and individuals who represent the very best that the Isle of Man has to offer.  Many congratulations to all our 2010 winners and finalists.’

The winners chosen in each of the nine categories are as follows:

Best Customer Service
HQ Bar & Restaurant , Douglas – Angela McCluskey, Ian Cain, Chris Tomkins

Best Eating Out Experience
Tapas the Spanish Restaurante, Port Jack, Douglas – Manolo Segovia and Jill Lovrich

Best Accommodation of the Year, Hotel
The Welbeck, Douglas – Michael and Irene George

Best Tourist Accommodation of the Year, Guest Accommodation
Kings Guest House, Douglas – Carol Howard

Best Accommodation of the Year, Self-Catering
Laxey Harbour Chalets – Brian and Barbara Quirk

Best Accommodation of the Year, Campsite/Hostel
Laxey Campsite – Susan Jones and Pete Burgess

Best Attraction of the Year
Nautical Museum – Billy Stowell, Visitor Services Assistant        

Best Town or Village
Peel – Commissioners Ray Harmer and Peter Leadley

Best Event of the Year
Easter Festival of Full Length Plays – Michael Lees and Aalin Cunningham

Special Award for outstanding contribution to Tourism
This Award went to Billy Stowell, Visitor Services Assistant, The Nautical Museum in Castletown.  Billy was recommended for this Award by the judges as they felt he was an integral part of the attraction and without him the museum would not be quite the experience it is now.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Incubating businesses on the IOM

People are always asking me whether it's easy to do business on the Isle of Man, or asking for help to explore a new venture that involves the island. Well, now there's a government sponsored agency dedicated to helping, or "incubating" new businesses.  It's at
Business incubation is a term describing a business development process that is used to grow successful, sustainable entrepreneurial ventures that will contribute to the health and wealth of local, regional and national economies. Incubators provide a place for businesses to build their foundations.

The IOMBIC's mission is to support entrepreneurs and businesses to operate on the Isle of Man, helping them realize their growth and success potential and get the best return on their investment. 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Potomac Celtic Festival 2011 - Cancelled

Loudon County levied extra costs on the Potomac Celtic Festival -- as well as prohibiting advertising -- and this and the lack of sponsors broke the bank. In addition, the Festival's president and site chair, Hugh G. Colston Jr. sadly passed away in October.

As a result the Festival will not convene in 2011 and will look instead to 2012 and a new, smaller venue under new president, Patty Kloss-McKay.

Thanks to Cheryl Mitchell for the update.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Manx Fudge

BALLASALLA-based The Original Manx Fudge Factory is the latest business to enter the ‘Manx Food Heroes Awards’, organised by Shoprite in conjunction with the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture and Isle of Man Newspapers. IOMToday
The family company, run by Peter Birch with his wife Kath and son Owen – when he is back on the Island during breaks from university – produces premium quality fudge, dessert sauces and chocolate on site in their Balthane Industrial Estate factory in Ballasalla.
Peter’s career over the past 40 years reads like a who’s who of the food industry and the chances are you have encountered his work at some point during that period.
If you’re a fan of Jaffa Cakes he happily claims responsibility for creating the ingredient that released the cakes from the conveyor belt.
He’s also worked for leading Dutch food manufacturer Zeelandia and Liverpool-based bakers Sayers.
Closer to home, Peter is known as the man who brought ‘Dinky Donuts’ to the Island in 2004 and former pupils of the Queen Elizabeth II High School in Peel will know him as their food technology teacher between 2001 and 2005.
However, Peter is now hoping that his latest venture will really make his mark in the food world.
Following extensive research, he was confident that he had identified a gap in the market and he began producing premium quality Manx fudge in October, 2009.
The company now has more than 21 varieties including the traditional Butter and Cream and four different Chocfourlate flavours, using the finest Belgian chocolate, as well as the more unusual Sicilian Lemon Meringue Pie, Cherry Bakewell and Bannoffee.
Peter believes that his fudge is the only genuine ‘Manx Fudge’ and he is committed to using only Manx ingredients where possible.
‘Locally-sourced ingredients are really important to us,’ Peter explained. ‘And we use only Manx produced cream and butter in all of our fudge, which helps us to maintain the taste and quality as well as supporting the local economy.’
Peter started his operations by selling to customers in the typical way for a small producer – through the independent stores and by going to the farmers’ markets in Castletown, Ramsey and Douglas – but he has now stepped up his operation and this week his fudge, sauces and chocolates went on sale in Shoprite’s Douglas store.
‘We’ve been in talks with Shoprite for a while and it is a really significant development for our business,’ Peter explained. ‘I was really nervous about going into large stores but the team at Shoprite have helped me with planning and packaging and I’m confident that this will be the start of a long term relationship.’
Fudge isn’t the only product that Peter produces – he is also turning his hand to creating chocolate bars.
However, as you would expect from someone with the extensive knowledge that Peter has gained from more than 40 years of working in the food industry, his chocolate is definitely out of the ordinary.
As well as the slightly exotic ‘ginger’, ‘raisin & wafer’ and ‘mint with caramelised mint leaf’ flavours, he also proudly extols the virtues of his ‘sea salt’, ‘garlic and herb’, ‘rainbow peppercorn’ and ‘chilli’ flavours.

The Original Manx Fudge Factory has already entered the Best Small Business and Best Food Categories in the Manx Foods Heroes Awards while their chocolate is definitely one of the early favourites in the Most Original Product category.
‘The awards are a great way for food and drinks companies on the Isle of Man to get recognition and while you probably wouldn’t have had many entries for this type of competition even 10 years ago, there are now lots of great local enterprises that deserve recognition,’ said Peter.
Entries for the Manx Food Heroes Awards are open until December when a panel of judges, including representatives of Shoprite, The Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture and Isle of Man Newspapers will announce a shortlist for each of the categories with the winners being revealed in January 2011.
For more information on the ‘Manx Food Heroes’ awards, entry forms and terms and conditions visit the respective partner websites at,