Thursday, June 30, 2011

Isle of Man Stamps – Tales of the Tailless

The Isle of Man Post Office has recently issued a set of six stamps featuring artwork from a series of distinctive Manx cat postcards entitled ‘Tales of the Tailless’ together with a Presentation Pack and a First Day Cover.

Manx cats are synonymous with the Isle of Man and have become a timeless symbol of the Island. Their distinctive characteristics often become an animated topic of conversation and shrewd exportation has found many willing homes for our feline friends across the world.

Still to be found freely roaming the highways and byways of the Isle of Man, a Manx cat revealed his hunting prowess at a cat show in Calgary when he became the victor at the World Mousing Championship in 1964. Their talent for mousing was also put to the test in the House of Lords during the early 1940s and in the Home Office a couple of decades later. ‘Peta’ was a gift from the Island in 1964 that enjoyed diplomatic status, but invaded 10 Downing Street and ‘roughed up’ a resident Siamese cat owned by Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Despite their portrayal in cartoon animation as dim-witted creatures (Stimpson J. Cat and Mayor Manx) their characteristics tend to show a cat which is tough, determined and bright.

Manx cats come in many guises, ranging from Dimple Rumpies with no tail through to Rumpy Risers, Stumpies and Longies who carry a full length tail, but Manx qualities. Typically they will feature a round, large head with distinctive ears and exceptionally high hind quarters with a hopping gait hidden under a thick, luscious double coat of fur.

They have a tendency to pop up in the most unlikely places, acting as a companion for royalty on the royal yacht Britannia and enjoying the freedom of roaming the famous studios of Walt Disney. ‘Manxie’ (who was completely black) was a gift from the Isle of Man to the successful entrepreneur in 1933 when it was hoped to inspire the creation of a ‘Manx playmate’ for the popular Mickey Mouse. Coverage of his departure in the Isle of Man Examiner included a revealing interview with ‘Manxie’ who was placed in the care of the ship’s butcher for the voyage.

Latterly Manx cats have been associated with projects for endangered animals. Two of them were adopted by the extraordinary gorilla Koko of the Gorilla Foundation and a Manx cat called Zoë is used as a logo for the US based Zoë Foundation which seeks to preserve endangered tigers.

Valerie Caine © June 2011

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Check this out!!!

My first job was cleaning queenies. Here's how they get to the factory.

Message from Manx Fudge Factory

Hello everyone,

Thank you for posting the article about us. You may be interested to learn that we won the 'Best Tasting Manx Food' category and were Commended in the'Most Original Idea'.

It's been really good meeting people from your side of the ocean and we will be at Tynwald Fair on Tynwald day if any of you manage to get home. 

Hope to hear from you,
The Original Manx Fudge Factory 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Francis Coakley -- Thank you for scanning all the Manx Notebooks!!!!

Letter from Ohio:2


This letter was published in Manx Advertiser Feb 8th1827. It has been reprinted several times, including in Manx, Isle of Man, History of Manx People who came to America.
The William Kneen and the Phillip Kelly are presumably his fellow travellers on the Plutarch though it is somewhat suprising that he did not know the whereabouts of his brother-in-law!
subsequent letter was sent on Christmas Day when William Kelly and the Tears met for a meal.


Cleaveland, County Cayahogo, State of Ohio, Dec. 13 ,1826,,
It is with the greatest delight I take my pen to answer your letter, which I received the 15th inst., being the first time I went to look for it. I hope this will find you all in good health, as it leaves us at present. First, religion being of the greatest importance to pilgrims on their journey to eternity, here we enjoy the preaching of the gospel in its purity. Presbyterians, Wesleyan Methodists, Anabaptists, and Episcopalians, are prevailing religions in the United States, besides numerous other denominations. There is a brick chapel in this town which serves the purpose of an academy also.
We live in the town of Cleaveland, situate at the outlet of the Cayahogo river lat. 42°0 " long. 30 °W. of Greenwich. The canal commences here, and runs diagonally through the State until it intersects the Great Ohio river, being 350 miles long, and will be compleated in five years more. This town, 15 years ago, contained two log houses, and now contains as many inhabitants as Ramsey, and superior buildings of brick and timber, and in a few years more will be a flourishing town, when the canal will be in operation. Upwards of 100 schooners and 6 steam-boats navigate this lake, and twice that number will not be sufficient in a few years. Three other Lakes lie west of this, and vessels sail upwards of 1,000 miles west from here. I have seen upwards of 50 families of Swiss arrive here in one day. They have commenced a canal from Pitsburg to Philadelphia, which will take seven years to finish it - no country in the world possesses such internal navigation. Farmers at first settling, make log houses. There are inexhaustible quarries of freestone, coals, limestones; marle, and salt springs abound in the Missouri territory. Plains of salt exist ready for use. Most of the lands in the Western States are level, and some a little rolling. No mountains are to be met with in this State, and only a few in any of the Western States.
Most of the land abounds with excellent water springs very seldom you meet with a house but has a well within 20 yards of the house, the inhabitants being very particular in their water. Most of the land at first is covered with timber, and abounds with wild turkies, geese, ducks, patridges, woodcocks, pidgeons, bears, wolves, and deer; but these last three are not to be met with where mankind dwell, and none of them dangerous rattle snakes being the most to be dreaded; there are none of the rest venomous; but rattle snakes are very scarce, and there is an herb, if applied in time, is a certain cure: they will not bite you unless you come on them unawares. An expert axe-man can clear an acre of land in a week. They cut down the trees about three feet above the ground, and heap them up together, and set fire to them, then sow wheat among the stumps, and harrow it. They also sow some sort of grass seed among the wheat in this way it yields from 30 to 60 bushels an acre then let it lye for four or five years, and it bears hay crops of two ton an acre. The sixth year most of the stumps are rotten, so that they can plough it. Most of the land is very fertile.
Fifty miles west of where we live, and in the territory of Meohiga, there are millions of acres of natural meadow land, and also tracts of wood land amongst it, now for sale. You may buy any part of it, which is not taken up, at 1¼dollar an acre, this being the price of Congress land throughout the States. You can buy land within 5 miles of this town from 2 to 3 dollars an acre, by the highway side. I have seen for miles in length, where they dig the canal, that the soil is 6 feet deep, and all as good as the best garden I ever saw. Winter is tolerably cold it doth not commence till after Christmas, and warm weather commences again in March. Along the river, where the water stagnates in the hot weather, fevers and agues prevail; but back from the banks of the river it is remarkably healthy. Pat. Tear and I work for the same man. I was not yet idle but two days, and we went to see the surrounding country. An idle day is a great loss here - at the lowest calculation it is of a dollar. We have rented three rooms till May, at 62½ cents per week. Five quarts of whisky is the allowance of a labourer on the canal per week. Some kill themselves with drinking whisky.
We have not purchased land yet, because we wanted to know where Wm. Tear and W. Kneen settled; and if any of you were to come out that we might buy our lots together, as we would think a great deal of seeing a Manksman here, and we gain information and money by staying here. Painsville is only 30 miles east of us. We intend to go to see Wm. Tear's family at Christmas, and we are glad that you informed us of the place of his residence. We have not heard of Wm. Kneen and P. Kelly since we left them; let us know where they live, and how they are. Salt is 50 cents per bushel, apples 25 cents, potatoes 30, wheat 50, pease 75, beans 75, onions 62½, corn 30, barley 37½, sugar , maple, 18 cents per pound, muscovado 12½, tea , hyson skins 75, , young hyson 100, old hyson,125 , tobacco 12¼, iron3 , cheese 6, butter 10, beef from 2 to 3, pork and mutton from 3 to 4, whisky 25 cents per gallon, cyder , molasses , brandy , wine , rum . One hundred cents make a dollar, and a dollar 4s. 6d. British. Woollen cloths are a little dearer here than in the Isle of Man; linen shirting, calico and silk are cheaper here. Tailors get from 3 to 4 dollars for making a coat; shoes, women's, price 1 to 2 dollars; men's, 1½ to 2 dollars, men's boots,5½ to 7 dollars; green hides, 5 cents per lb; bark the trouble of gathering it; women for washing 1½dollar a day.
From all that I can learn, Mary Kneen and Jane Tear would do well here. A labourer is nearly as good as a tradesman whatever any person doth, he is well paid for. There are very good tradesmen here of every occupation, and live like gentlemen. Women here do no husbandry work hardly, but just go from one house to another. They have their silk gowns and veils; and men also dress in the first stile. Oxen answers better than horses to log and plough wild land, but as soon as it is improved they use horses. They have here very fine horses, excellent cattle, and sheep a common fleece is from 4 to 5 lbs. weight of them; per quarter of mutton 20 to30 lbs. Farmers when they get their land cleared live easily, and fare sumptuously every day. Some have from 2 to30 hogs, 200 sheep, 60 head of cattle, and upwards, and from 5 to 20 horses, make from 1 to 2tons of cheese, and 1 to 2 tons of butter a year. Four or 6 acres is but a common orchard. Tobacco is raised here in plenty, and sugar from the maple tree. Barrels of apples, peaches, and grapes, preserved, are in every house for winter stock.
A man can earn thrice as much here per day, and provisions are thrice as cheap as in the Isle of Man. We have not paid one cent for re. Thomas, and father, and mother enquire, is it worth their while to come out? I say, Yes; and good for every other person that is not better circumstanced than they are. As for such as have plenty of the good things of this world, I say stop at home. I do not want any person to do as I say, far be it from me let every man judge for himself; for if every thing did not suit, they might blame me. I know if we were in the Isle of Man we would all come to this plentiful country again. If any person will come over let him exchange his money in Liverpool, take none but silver dollars, and take the rout as we did it is the cheaper. If any of you will come, fetch some ryegrass and an English plough, with irons complete. They have cast-iron ploughs here every person is allowed to bring the articles belonging to his profession. Earthenware, of a good kind, pays double.
W .K

Tynwald Day is coming...

...and you should all read up about Tynwald Hill and the day itself.  Check out Wikipedia

Work of Archibald Knox in UK Auction

 As interest in the work of Manx designer Archibald Knox grows around the world a large number of his designs will go under the hammer at one of Britain’s leading auction houses.

Described by the Antiques Trade Gazette as ‘arguably the most exciting provincial saleroom in the country’, family firm Woolley and Wallis have been established since 1884. Priding themselves on providing a high level of expertise and professionalism, Woolley and Wallis organise some thirty specialist sales each year, with leading experts on hand in nine departments. Their gross annual turnover for 2010 was in excess of £23million, ranking them as the second highest provincial saleroom in the UK.

Seventeen pieces of work attributed to Archibald Knox were up for sale, including a typical water-colour landscape which is believed to depict a scene from the Isle of Man.

The remaining lots were created by Knox when he worked for the celebrated Liberty and Company in London, with a selection of distinctive time pieces estimated to attract the highest bids. They include rare examples of a silver and enamel Cymric mantle clock referred to as ‘The Magnus’ and a Tudric Pewter clock.

There are some fine pieces on offer reflecting the instantly recognisable style of Knox which was heavily influenced by Celtic design. With his impeccable eye for detail and unstinting tenacity Knox’s output was prodigious, and although a somewhat private individual is now justifiably recognised for his talent.

 Many of the lots available are Tudric or English pewter with his unique designs expressed on a selection of individual items.

Valerie Caine
© June 2011 (inc photos except for Knox in America courtesy of Manx National Heritage)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Southern Festival of Flowers

The Southern Festival of Flowers is a new venture which has blossomed within the Southern Mission Partnership after the highly successful Manx Heritage Flower Festival was held for the final time last year.

The festival will form part of the Manx National Week celebrations and has been fortunate to secure Duncan Lawrie Private Bankers as main sponsors for the event, with a selection of smaller businesses connected with the south of the Island and local families helping to sponsor individual churches.

Scattered throughout the area, the flower festival brings together venues from both the town and the countryside, including Rushen Abbey in Ballasalla and the Old Grammar School situated in Castletown courtesy of Manx National Heritage. Each building has adopted its own theme, which allows individual venues to express themselves freely, unrestricted by an encompassing theme. This has led to some inspired choices, which are also reflected in many of the special events which have been organised in conjunction with the flower festival. This includes listening to the poetry of the celebrated T. E. Brown and the music of M. L. Wood, tea and bonnag to keep visitors fuelled between venues and Bach with burgers for those who prefer something a little unusual!

Participating churches are well distributed throughout the parishes, but include many opportunities for home-made refreshments, with visitors encouraged to visit St Peter’s at Cregneash, The Howe, Port Erin Methodist Church, St Cairbre’s with Colby Methodist, Abbey Church in Ballasalla and St Mary’s on the Harbour in the ancient capital of Castletown.

There’s also a chance for budding photographers to take part in a competition sponsored by talented Manx photographer Vicky Harrop and for children to enter a painting competition sponsored by local supermarket chain Shoprite.

Valerie Caine
© June 2011 (inc photos)

Monday, June 13, 2011


Greetings from the Isle of Man to all members of the Manx Societies across the world.

 We have now just finished TT Week and soon Tynwald Day will be upon us.  This year the World Manx Association is celebrating its Centenary and this is to take place between 1st and 8th July, with a different event each day.  Further details can be found on our web-site

The purpose of this email is to ask your help in establishing the identity of any of your members who will be Homecomers during this period.  We have already made arrangements for seats on the grandstand at Tynwald Hill for those we know are coming.  

We are keen to welcome all Homecomers at a Reception on 1stJuly and this will take place at Woodlands, the one-time home of   AB Crookall, who founded NAMA and was the originator of the great 1927 Homecoming.  We will be joined on that occasion by members of the Crookall family.

On Friday 8th July we will be saying goodbye to those Homecomers still with us.  The venue is Eyreton, the former home of Harold Cain, son and successor to Richard Cain as President of the WMA.  Here we will be joined by members of the Cain family to share in the celebrations.

We would hate to think that there were Homecomers on the Island at a time when they could join us but weren’t aware of what was taking place.  So if you could “spread the word” we would be most grateful.

World Manx Association Centenary

Peter Kelly from the WMA saw the posting below where I compared the pre and post war logos. Last year he told us: "The World Manx Association badge was updated by Dorcas Costain-Blann during her term of office as President 2003 - 2008. The original badge was designed by Frank Graves a native of Peel who was practicing as an architect in Manchester and a member of the Manchester Manx Society.This was in 1912."

Now he adds: "When Frank Graves designed the front cover for Ellan Vannin , the magazine of WMA in 1923 he tweeked the logo by adding two mountains in the background. He described the ship as sailing out of Peel before a south-west wind, Greeba on the left and Slieu Whuallian (sic) on the right.

The reason why the three legs was not on the sail originally is because it was on one of the supporting shields either side of the world in the foreground. The other shield has the letters W M A intertwined and this was used by Leigh Goldie Taubman as the badge for the Junior World Manx with gold lettering on a blue background round button hole badge."

So now we know a little more about the WMA design. Thank you, Peter.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Parville Gardens Open Days

I wish I were home to visit Parville. It enjoys a beautiful prospect and these gardens look magnificent.

Parville is situated adjacent to the parish church in Ballabeg and boasts some beautifully landscaped gardens which will be open to view by the public in early July, by kind permission of Mrs. Inga Pettit and the Caroline Pettit Trust.

Elevated from the main road and considered to be one of the most attractive landscape compositions on the Isle of Man, this is a rare opportunity to enjoy the recent alterations and embellishments to the gardens.

The main garden, separating the house from the road, was originally walled on all sides and likely to have been opened up by the Kelly family at the turn of the nineteenth century. Much of the recent work completed at Parville has been dedicated to the garden, including the creation of walks and new planting by Mrs. Pettit who is originally from Sweden. The gazebo was designed by her late husband, Stephen Pettit, and the Edwardian Lodge substantially, but sympathetically extended, using a design created by Anna Begbie from Architecture in Mann. There is much to see here including the stream which has been dammed to create a wildlife pond and beyond, over the bridge, a delightful walk through the scenic Parville Glen. It’s also possible to wander through the colourful Iris Meadow and walk through the wood near the entrance to the main house. New additions include a large wild flower meadow behind the village hall and two active bee hives.

Although the house itself is not open to the public it does, nevertheless, have some interesting historical background. Its early history is obscure, although a connection may be had with the Bishop’s Barony in the Middle Ages, but by the seventeenth century the house and adjoining farms were owned by the successful Parr family. John Parr became one of the Island’s Deemsters and wrote the only comprehensive book on Manx law which became known as Parr’s Abstract.

Parville then passed through a succession of new owners, including Attorney General John Quillin in 1764. The property then passed down to his descendants in the Quirk family, where it became for some time the home of George Quirk who became both Water Bailiff and Secretary to the Lieutenant Governor. But financial difficulties forced the sale of the estate to the Castletown Waterworks Company, before the Clucas family of Lezayre took over ownership. Having plenty of residencies at their disposal the house and surrounding fields were sold to Irishman William Kelly in 1891, and after his departure in 1920 Parville went through a succession of owners before being bought by the Pettit family in 1996. The house had been subject to a number of alterations during its lifetime, not all of them compassionate, but Stephen Pettit began the colossal task of restoration, which is now being continued by his widow in conjunction with the Caroline Pettit Trust.

This valuable work is on-going with the design of a Parterre by Anna Begbie in place of a redundant greenhouse and beds of soft fruit, with a new kitchen garden under development in the field above the house.

Open Days
2nd & 3rd July
2.00pm – 5.00pm
Entrance fee £3.50 (including refreshments)

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Valerie Caine © June 2011

MBEs all round!

The Isle of Man's Mark Cavendish has been appointed MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list for his services to British cycling. The 26-year-old, who has won Tour de France stages 15 times, received the Freedom of Douglas in April.
Della Fletcher is Director of External Relations for the Isle of Man Government and as I know from personal experience does a bang up job on behalf of the island.

Three other residents, motorcyclist David Knight, government official Della Fletcher and charity worker Carolyn Shipstone were also made MBEs.
Enduro champion David Knight was made MBE for services to motorcycling and Carolyn Shipstone works for the national charity, Care for the Family's Community.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Spot the difference

If you look at these two World Manx Association logos you will see the difference between the 1920s original and the post-war version. The swastika was discontinued presumably because of the negative Nazi connections. It was originally present in its innocent sense as a symbol of good luck and success. The three legs were a perfect replacement and thinking about it, probably should have been there from the beginning.

World Manx Association Centenary

As we celebrate the centenary of the World Manx Association this would be an opportune moment to reflect on the words of the Manx poet T. E. Brown, who gave his last public lecture on the Isle of Man at Castletown in 1897, where he encouraged the people of the Island to welcome those fellow Manxmen and women who were returning to our shores after many years abroad, but little did he know what impact his words would still have more than a century later.

With the prolonged emigration of Manx people to other lands, travelling in the hope of a better life to the US, Australia, South Africa and England, many found solace within the embrace of other Manx folk who were already settled in their new home. Despite being some distance from the land of their birth they clung together as a community, providing accommodation and help in locating employment for those that followed in their footsteps from the Isle of Man. From these convivial beginnings evolved the numerous Manx Societies which still flourish worldwide with the earliest recorded branch formed in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1865.
But in amongst the audience listening to the words of T. E. Brown in 1897 was local entrepreneur Richard Cain, who became a long serving MHK for the constituency of Ayre. A decade later Cain and his wife attended an event organised by the Liverpool Manx Society where he spoke of linking the Manx Societies together and the thoughts of the poet.
Nothing happened until 1911 when a favourable meeting was held between Cain and other interested parties which resulted in the formation of the World Manx Society. The society’s inaugural meeting was attended by a large number of expatriate Manxmen from around the globe, who elected a sterling body of 24 committee members and Richard Cain as their first President. The name of the organisation was also changed at this point to the World Manx Association to reflect their connections with the growing number of Manx Societies.
The annual organised ‘homecoming’ was first proposed in 1912 to be implemented in the following year, but this was stalled by lack of time and abandoned altogether during World War I.

But eager to move forward with their plans the committee pressed on, asking Frank Graves, an Architect in Manchester, but formerly of Peel, to design a unique badge for the association which proved extremely popular. His distinctive design is still used along with the motto ‘Ellan Vannin dy Bragh’ adapted from an original suggestion by the Winnipeg Manx Society.

Members of the World Manx Association proved to be the movers and shakers of their day pushing for an easily recognisable Manx flag and campaigning for a national holiday on Tynwald Day. They also instigated an annual celebration in memory of T. E. Brown, which although initially a little ambitious, survives today as a memorial held around about the anniversary of the poet’s death.

Now, a centenary since its inception, the World Manx Association has organised a host of activities to be enjoyed by both visitors and residents. Homecomers will be treated to a busy schedule of events which will include the Annual Gathering and Dinner at the Sefton Hotel with live links to Manx Societies around the world. During their weeklong stay they will also have the opportunity to join a selection of nostalgic tours, which will include a number of venues linked to the formation and history of the World Manx Association, take part in the Homecomers’ Service at The Nunnery, participate in the Tynwald Day celebrations and enjoy a special Centenary Concert at the Villa Marina. Further details about the centenary celebrations and the sale of commemorative merchandise can be found on the association’s website.
(Courtesy of Manx Tails)
Valerie Caine © June 2011

Thursday, June 9, 2011

What's new in iMuseum

Hacker record player once belonging to
Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees. © Manx National Heritage

A new digital museum now open, giving you unprecedented access to Manx National Heritage Collections. In future, iMuseum will be available online with a simple subscription for newspapers. The museum brings togther a selection of archives, library and museum collections into one digital resource, and the collection will significantly grow over the coming months and years as more of our records are digitised.
• Customs & Superstitions
• Farming
• Medicine
• Music
• Politics
• The Sea
• Traditional Crafts
• Vikings
Learn about the Viking sword found near Tynwald Hill, the portrait of Cornelius Smelt, Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man and the Hacker record player once belonging to Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees!

Click here to read more:

A page from the Isle of Man Examiner, 21 June 1957
Listen to Manx Gaelic speaker John Kneen talking in 1952.

We’ve also added over 1,000 photographs of people from the mid 19th- 20th century for those with surnames beginning with the letter ‘D’ and ‘K’. Explore People could reveal where your ancestors worked, lived and played, from Dabreck or Dyson and Kaighan to Knox. Search by photograph and discover hundreds of fascinating images of people from the past.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

To Exalt a Nation – a Glimpse into the life of Ballaugh Church Hall

This modest, but delightful publication, celebrating the centenary of Ballaugh Parish Church Hall is written by village resident Joy Ling (née Craine), providing us with a glimpse into the life of a much loved building in the Manx countryside.

Upon its official opening in 1910 Ballaugh Parish Church Hall was considered to be the finest of its kind on the Island, and it was hoped that such a fine building would serve as both Sunday school and Village Hall.

It all began in 1904 with a suggestion put forward by Rev. Kneale the Rector of Ballaugh. The book recounts in detail the remarkable efforts made by this small community to raise funds for the building, and after six years concerted effort the Rector and Wardens were also able to purchase a field on Ballacrosha which became known as ‘the Church Hall Field’.

The foundation stone was laid on the 6th July, 1909, by Lord Raglan in heavy rain and dedicated to the building’s most generous benefactor Mrs Cross of Ravensdale, followed by a grand concert in the village hall. An account of the life of Mrs Cross in the book makes interesting reading.

This slim volume captures the spirit of the age over many decades recounting entertainment by the ‘Lady Raglan Quartet’, Magic Lantern Shows, Manx dialect plays and Mr Bridson’s trusty ‘Ballaughophone’!

The hall has been used extensively over the years with a particular emphasis on community events, coming to the fore in times of need during two World Wars.

The book’s author has dug deep into the archives for her latest publication, but she has also included a selection of personal memories from contributors along with a variety of thought provoking photographs. But if you want to know more about the stories behind the ‘Shepherd Castors’ and the ‘National Egg Collection’ you’ll have to read the book!

Priced at £6 ‘To Exalt a Nation’ is available from the ‘One Stop Shop’ in Ballaugh, ‘Novel Experience’ in Peel and St. Paul’s Bookshop in Ramsey, with all proceeds donated to Ballaugh Heritage Trust.

(Courtesy of Manx Tails) Valerie Caine © June 2011

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Closer to the Edge

Closer to the Edge
It’s a story of victory and disappointment; heartbreak and jubilation; life and death, but it also gives the viewer an insight into the complex mind of the professional road racer as he, or she, battles with hope and dejection as they get to grips with the most challenging road race in the world.

The remarkably successful 3D documentary film of the TT ‘Closer to the Edge’ made an astonishing impact at cinemas across the UK. On the Isle of Man, demand to see the film exceeded all expectations, with cinema bosses hurriedly extending the film’s run to accommodate both the curiosity seeker and the dedicated bike enthusiast.

Within seconds of the introductory sequence all conversation ceased as the packed auditorium became gripped by the exciting opening shots and atmospheric music, with that familiar tingle of excitement rippling seductively through the audience. Anyone foolish enough to break the hypnotic effect was promptly rebuked. Following the successes and failures of some of today’s top riders such as Guy Martin, John McGuinness, Ian Hutchinson and Manxman Conor Cummins, ‘Closer to the Edge’ doesn’t pull any punches, showing a sequence of spectacular crashes in quick succession, reminding us that sometimes it goes horribly wrong. Re-living the spectacular crash last year of Conor Cummins at The Verandah, over the mountain section, is particularly harrowing, although thankfully the flying Manxman survived and is competing at this year’s event.

The film revolves around a heady mixture of pathos and humour giving us a rare insight into the men behind the leathers, revealing rituals, fortitude and the occasional reluctance to admit defeat. It’s an adrenaline fuelled sport where tension and stress become key components of the riders’ lives, driving their devotion and obsessive desire to win.

But the sweet smell of success is often tempered with the tang of tragedy. Hovering in the background of each race and practice session its presence became a reality for the widow of Paul Dobbs who lost his life during filming. Bridget Dobbs spoke candidly about her loss with such bravery that it was difficult not to feel anything but admiration for her. Blaming no-one for her husband’s death all competitors understand that their journey home may be in a personally measured box, but none of them hope to take up the offer.

‘Closer to the Edge’ sends out a renewed message to the world about the future of the TT as it moves forward into the twenty first century with renewed vigour and confidence.

Having said that the film does have its critics; some believe there is too much emphasis on Guy Martin, others too little about the sidecars. It’s difficult to please all of the people all of the time, but regardless of its faults (real or imagined) ‘Closer to the Edge’ brings the world of road racing to a wider audience with the prospect of a bright future for the Isle of Man TT races.

Valerie Caine
© June 2011

Getty TT Photos Exhibition in Castletown

A superb exhibition of 50 photos of the TT selected from the Getty Images Archive, initially on display in London, are currently on show at the Civic Centre in Castletown, drawing both visitors and residents to the ancient capital.

Mainly nostalgic black and white shots from the early years, this stunning archive captures the halcyon days of the TT when the emphasis on safety was more relaxed, smokers were in the majority and both officials and spectators dressed smartly in suits and ties. There’s clearly a more relaxed attitude contained within these evocative images of yesteryear, before commercialisation took full advantage of the world famous TT races.

Commentator Murray Walker said, “In my view the TT races are the greatest motorsport event in the world. The races have been an enormous part of my life from when my father raced in the 1930s through to the period when I commentated for the BBC. This exhibition brings back many incredible memories”.

The exhibition presents a time capsule of historical moments, reawakening past names such as Stanley Woods, Harold Daniell, Freddie Frith, Artie Bell and Geoff Duke. But scattered amongst them are colour shots of more recent challengers like Guy Martin, John McGuinness, Steve Hislop, Joey Dunlop and David Jefferies.

Accompanying the images from the Getty Archive is a selection of photos celebrating over 50 years of racing at the Southern 100 meeting on the Billown Circuit.
But there’s one photo that held my curiosity. It was taken in the winners’ enclosure at the close of the 1930 Junior TT and showed third placed man Graham Walker (father of Murray Walker) congratulating the winner Henry Tyrrell-Smith. A crowd of spectators stood behind them are clearly delighted with their success, but standing amongst the cheering supporters is somebody who looks remarkably like George Formby who went on to play the character George Shuttleworth in the film ‘No Limit’ made in 1935, and was a regular visitor to the TT races.

Valerie Caine © June 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

Amazing that Americans love Manx dancing!

Dear Kelly:

I wanted to share with you the new dance that the teenagers, "And Sometimes Y", have mastered.  They were invited to perform at the Marlboro Ale in Brattleboro, Vermont last Saturday, and they did a fantastic job.  They performed in front of 15 teams of dancers (Morris, long sword, rapper, and Northwest clog) and about 500 general audience members, and everyone was impressed with the Manx dances.  The feedback that I've received is that folks want to know more about Mann. The second dance is by And Sometimes Y"

Here is a video of their show dance on Elliot Street.  They selected Gorse Sticks, a difficult jig, and I think that they did fine.

This troupe is based in Massachussetts.

From: David Nixon

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Anstey sets fastest practice time of the week so far

Kiwi laps at 129.695mph, while Keith Amor’s TT is in doubt after a spill at Quarterbridge
MANX Kiwi Bruce Anstey, riding for the Yorkshire-based Padgetts Honda Racing team, showed his hand with the fastest time of the week in Wednesday evening’s third TT practice session of the week.
A cloudy day gave way to sunny intervals for the evening session but with a stiff breeze, competitors would have to take particular care, as expected, over the Mountain although the wind could be felt all the way round the 37 and ¾ mile course.
There was also a lack of adhesion at Ballagarey reported ahead of the practice but with good visibility and dry roads, conditions were otherwise ideal for some high speed laps.
Guy Martin and Michael Dunlop who got the session under way slightly later than scheduled at 6.29pm, both on their Superbikes and following them were Gary Johnson, Keith Amor, James Hillier, Bruce Anstey, Ryan Farquhar and Ian Lougher, all also Superbike-mounted with the exception of Farquhar and Lougher who were on their Superstock and Supersport machines respectively. Dan Kneen was slow to leave the line but after a few adjustments he was soon on his way.
Martin was the first to complete the lap at 128.35mph with Dunlop right on his tail at 128.269mph, the Ulsterman later nosing ahead on the road, although it didn’t last long as he soon retired at Ginger Hall.
Johnson was the quickest though at 128.452mph while Amor, Anstey and Dan Stewart were all in the 127mph bracket with John McGuinness further back on 126.029mph, the Honda TT Legends rider immediately pulling in to make adjustments before getting back out on the course. Michael Rutter was going well on the Ducati at 125.69, only slightly slower than Cameron Donald on 125.76mph while Lougher was the quickest Supersport machine at 119.85mph.
Johnson and Amor were the quickest through the Sulby speed trap at 191.2mph but Davy Morgan again out of luck, this time getting as far as Quarry Bends. Paul Owen, Jim Hodson and Brian McCormack were some of the other riders to experience technical problems.