Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Disgusting but true

The very rare ash black slug, seen in Glen Auldyn
A RARE example of the world’s largest species of slug has been sighted in the Isle of Man for the first time in more than a hundred years, revealing its woodland habitat to be one of the few remaining ancient forests in the island.
The news came to light after an ash black slug was discovered in a deep wooded ravine with mature oak trees near Glen Auldyn by Keith Alexander, a visiting British invertebrate expert.
The species, distinctive for its dark grey with a pale wavy crest running the length of its back, is rare but widespread in both Britain and Ireland, and can grow up to 30cm in length. More commonly they will measure 20cm, so this 15cm Manx specimen is decidedly modest.
Andree Dubbeldam of the Manx Wildlife Trust commissioned Mr Alexander for a study of molluscs in woodland areas. Experts in this field don’t often come to the Isle of Man, the main reason why this species of slug hasn’t been spotted in the island since 1905, also near Glen Auldyn.
The ash black uses large deadwood for protection, requires high humidity and feeds on lichens, moss and algae.
More of the story here at IOM Today.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Isle of Man Stamps – The Narcissus Flower

An imminent release of stamps by the Isle of Man Post Office may appear to be a little out of season, but the Narcissus flower, commonly referred to as the daffodil, will be released to coincide with their attendance at the 27th Asian International Stamp Exhibition in China during November, where a number of countries will depict Chinese flora as part of their collections.

Daffodils, in their many forms, have become a popular sight on the Isle of Man as gardeners, cheered on by their colourful array in spring time, continue to plant bulbs all over the Island.

The English wild daffodil (Narcissus pseudo-narcissus) is seldom seen growing wild on the Isle of Man, but two other varieties have neutralised successfully here. The Manx Jonquil (Narcissus minor) can be seen frequently, especially in the north of the Island, with the suggestion that it was perhaps initially brought to the Isle of Man by a Manx sailor from his travels.

Known as the ‘wild daffodil’ on the Isle of Man, the variety Van Sion was first recorded in England in the seventeenth century. Common to many places here its long standing residency has led to the acquisition of a Manx Gaelic name ‘lus y ghuiy’ which translates descriptively into ‘the goose plant’. It was said to be unlucky to pick the flowers and bring them indoors before the goslings hatched, but according to the late Dr Larch Garrad, one of the Island’s most respected botanists, any bad luck came to an end on May Eve.

Manx links to the Narcissus flourished, with the double-headed ‘Butter and Eggs’, first recorded in England in 1777, and the brightly coloured and delightfully named ‘Raggedy Ann’. However, a rare sub-species of the ‘pheasant’s eye’ (Narcissus poeticus) was identified by the Royal Horticultural Society at a site at Glenbooie, near Peel, as Narcissus poeticus ssp. Radiiflorus var. exortus.

The Royal Horticultural Society also awarded Miss A. M. Crellin of Orrisdale, in the north-west of the Island, for her work in the cultivation of daffodils in the late nineteenth century.

But nobody could see a host of golden daffodils without bringing to mind the famous poem composed by the celebrated William Wordsworth, who along with his sister Dorothy cultivated their own connections with the Isle of Man, especially with Kirk Braddan Church.

Valerie Caine
© August 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Manx Band Win Top Prize at Europe’s Biggest Celtic Festival

Manx Band ‘Nish as Rish’ proved they were the best when they walked away from this year’s ‘Festival Interceltique de Lorient’ with the prestigious Trophée Loïc Raison. Given annually to the best new folk group at the festival, ‘Nish as Rish’ performed alongside other groups from Ireland, Brittany and Asturias in the final which was reported to have been the fiercest competition for 20 years. The band was presented with a cast bronze trophy, featuring a trio of folk musicians, and prize money totalling €1200.

Singer and flautist, Ruth Keggin, said, “I was so proud to be able to represent the Island this year in Lorient – for us to win the trophy on top of that was a dream come true. The support we had from the audience was just fantastic and it was lovely to see the three legs being flown so proudly by so many people. It’s a real achievement for the Island and for Manx music to have won twice in four years”. Local band ‘King Chiaullee’ won the trophy in 2008.
Music graduates from the University of York, members of ‘Nish as Rish’ perform both traditional and original music. Acclaimed for their sensitive and bold arrangements and their infectious stage rapport, the group performed alongside a number of top class acts and were singled out to perform live for local and national radio.

Official delegate to the festival, Aalish Maddrell, commented, “I’m delighted that ‘Nish as Rish’ did so well this year – the crowds and committee of the festival totally fell in love with them. They quickly sold out of CDs and they developed a strong following. At a festival which attracts over 800,000 visitors over 10 days this is no mean feat!”

‘Nish as Rish’ recorded their debut album on the Isle of Man earlier this year which is currently available through the following outlets:-

Manx National Heritage Shops

Valerie Caine
© August 2011 

Popular rider Neil Kent dies at MGP

Another reminder that motor cycle racing is is exciting because it it dangerous and in this sad case, fatal.

POPULAR Manx Grand Prix veteran and winner of last year’s Lightweight race Neil Kent has died following an accident in Wednesday night’s practice.
The 49-year-old, from Boston in Lincolnshire, was involved in an incident at Greeba Bridge. He was on his 250cc Yamaha in the Junior session.
Mr Kent was an experienced competitor who had been racing in the Manx Grand Prix since 1986 and won the Lightweight race in last year’s meeting, his first victory on the Mountain Course.
He also won the John Goodall Spirit of the Manx Award, which recognises sportsmanship, endeavour and commitment.
Bill Bennett, chairman of MGP organising body the Manx Motorcycle Club, said: ‘Neil was a hugely popular competitor at the Manx Grand Prix and his victory after almost 25 years of racing in the meeting was universally popular. He was also a hugely appropriate choice for last year’s John Goodall Spirit of the Manx award. He will be sorely missed.’
The club extended its deepest sympathy to his friends and family. Mr Kent was single and his next of kin have been informed. IOMToday

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

 The Manxman in Sunderland two years ago
An historic Steam Packet vessel will finally sail into oblivion later this year as all rescue attempts have been exhausted. 
The Manxman had a capacity of 2,300 passengers and a cruising speed of 21 knots. She was built in 1955 for the Steam Packet and is the last steam-powered passenger vessel built by Cammell Laird at Birkenhead. 
The boat featured in a number of films: in 1980 as the rescuing liner Carpathia in SOS Titanic; in 1981 as a cross-channel ferry in Chariots of Fire (although it was Mona’s Isle that provided the on-board scenes); and in 1982 she was an emigrant carrier in the Barbra Streisand film Yentl. Even in 2006, while, at Sunderland, she was used in the Granada TV documentary The Building of Titanic.
Plans during the 1990s for the Manxman to become part of a new dockland development in Preston almost came to fruition, but after this and other rescue attempts failed, age, vandalism and general deterioration mean the boat was no longer viable to save.
The historic Manxman, which ended her 28 years of service with the company in 1982, inspired hundreds to join in a desperate bid to save her, but despite sterling efforts by a team who even formed a charitable trust the ship will soon be dismantled. 
Now, courtesy of the Pallion Ship Yard in Sunderland where she has been in dry dock for the past 14 years, fans of the ship can buy a lasting memento.
Items up for sale include the logo badge, lifeboats and davits, original panelling, wooden decking, handrails, portholes, windows and many more.
More at  IOM Today ...... 
She was based on a design originating in 1936 when two steamers, Fenella and Tynwald, were built at Barrow for the service. Both were lost during the Second World War. Post-war replacements and updating of the fleet began with King Orry in April 1946, Mona’s Queen in June, Tynwald in 1947, Snaefell in 1948, Mona’s Isle in 1951 and Manxman in May 1955.
All the subsequent ships designed for the Steam Packet were car ferries.
Enquiries to buy mementos can be made by email to or by calling 0191 5640404 and speaking to Julie Robson.

Monday, August 22, 2011

9th August 2011 Saving Time - Conserving the Castle Rushen Clock
Time has come to a stand-still in Castletown, as the famous one-handed clock of Castle Rushen has stopped. A prominent feature in the ancient capital of Castletown and a unique attraction to Castle Rushen itself, visitors to the Castle have been able to see and hear the rare and ancient movement. But for the remainder of the 2011 visitor season, the clock has been stopped.

Recently, Manx National Heritage staff noticed signs of wear in the teeth of the cogs that drive the striking mechanism, and the clock stopped chiming properly. Chris Week’s, Manx National Heritage’s Objects Conservator made the decision to stop the clock. After telling the time in Castletown for over four centuries, the clock needs some major restoration and repair.
Chris Weeks comments; “In 2009 one of the heavy weights that drive the clock broke loose from its anchorage and fell, causing some damage. The accumulated grease, dirt and paint on the clock make the condition of the mechanism hard to assess, so for the clock to continue to run in future centuries, it has had to be stopped and then dismantled and cleaned.

Manx National Heritage is fortunate to have the facilities and expertise to undertake the conservation work in-house at our workshops at the Manx Museum. Here the clock can be cleaned and properly documented for the first time. We hope to use scientific analyses to characterise the metal and wood used to make the clock, and we may be able to date the clock more accurately as a result.

We intend to retain and re-use all of the original parts, keeping our intervention to an absolute minimum. Modern fixings will be replaced with replicas where models exist. The clock will be reassembled in the workshops prior to its reinstallation at the castle. The whole process will begin as soon as the Castle closes for the winter, and should be complete by Christmas. We will seek to publish the results of our investigations in due course.”

Although the traditional association with Queen Elizabeth I (commemorated in the inscription on the clock face) may be fictional, the Castle Rushen clock almost certainly dates from the sixteenth century and has been in continual operation in its current location in the castle for over four hundred years. It is one of a few wooden framed clocks to survive from this period, though it has undergone significant changes and restoration during its lifetime.

Chief amongst these was the replacement, in the late seventeenth century, of its original escapement with the pendulum escapement we see today. Possibly at the same time the face was added (medieval clocks did not need faces because it was the chimes alone that alerted people to the time). Then, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many of the worn wheels and bearings were replaced.

The latest phase of the clock’s conservation will commence when Castle Rushen closes on 4th November for the end of season. You will be able to follow the conservation of the Castle clock on a blog launching when work begins. Look out on the MNH website for details,

Record entry as 1,700 mountain bikers take up End to End Challenge

A record entry of 1,700 mountain bikers will be tackling the Isle of Man Sleepwell Hotels End to End Challenge on September 18th.

Ahead of the riders are 75 kms of hills, moorland, country lanes and single track forest paths as they cross the length of the Island from the Point of Ayre in the North, to Cregneash in the South.  The elite competitors expect to complete the course in around three hours while those out to just finish and try and beat their best time could be on the road for anything up to three hours after that.

Swapping one mode of transport for another will be Northern Irishman Kris Meeke.  Kris is taking a break from competing in the World Rally Championship and is leaving his Mini Cooper behind, although the conditions he faces in the End to End Challenge are not too far removed from the sport of rallying.  Another well known name on the entry list is former Olympian Nick Craig.

It had been hoped that motorcycle racing star and television personality, Guy Martin, would be returning for his third crack at the event trying to improve on last year’s 79th position overall.  Unfortunately, his racing commitments are likely to keep him away this year.

Peter Taylor, Communications Officer for the organisers, the Manx Mountain Bike Club, said: ‘We were looking forward to welcoming Guy back as he made such an impression last year, but it wasn’t to be.  Obviously, his motorcycle commitments have to take priority but I am sure Guy will be back in the future to try and beat last year’s time of 3 hours 53 minutes 56 seconds.’

The event celebrates its 15th anniversary this year and the 1,700-strong field, not to mention a reserve list of over 100, is a far cry from the inaugural race when 37 riders faced the starter.  Of the original entries in 1996, over 25% will be there again in 2011.  Last year saw 1,359 starters, of whom 1,002 completed the distance.

Around 800 enthusiasts are travelling from the UK and overseas to compete.  Countries represented include Australia, Israel, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland.

Steve Honeybone, Chairman of the Manx Mountain Bike Club, said the End to End Challenge had become a huge success with the number of entries increasing every year.  He added: ‘Our goal is to keep the event special and we are focused on ensuring a quality experience for each competitor.

‘The Challenge uses part of the Island’s extensive natural trail network and we need to carefully manage the number of entrants to ensure the event stays safe and enjoyable.  With this in mind the future is likely to see an expansion into a weekend of mountain bike activities.’

Support for the End to End Challenge has come from The Department of Economic Development. Minister Allan Bell MHK commented that it was now an established part of the Island’s sporting calendar.  ‘The uniqueness of the event is a major factor in its popularity.  There cannot be too many places where you race, by mountain bike, across the entire length of a country, passing through some breathtaking scenery in the process.

‘I am sure another selling point is the fact that the event caters for every ability, and age group, ranging from the very top riders down to those whose main ambition is to finish.  I am delighted to hear that the Manx Mountain Bike Club is thinking along the lines of developing the End to End Challenge into a full weekend of activities.  It will certainly have our support.’

As well as main sponsor Sleepwell Hotels, other sponsorship has come from Isle of Man Tourism, Home Strategic which is helping with communications and the official race website, Quinn Legal, local radio station 3FM, Green Mann Spring Water, Zip Vit, and the Good Mountain Bike Guide.


Monday, August 15, 2011

International Folk Dance Festival

The Manx Folk Dance Society will be celebrating 60 years of dancing later this month by staging a special international folk dance festival, with public events across the length and breadth of the Island for everyone to enjoy.

Prominent at many Island events the Manx Folk Dance Society was formed in 1951 for the Festival of Mann celebrations, and although there is no definitive traditional Manx costume the group has adopted a number of distinctive and colourful designs over the years, which members use during performances both on and off the Island. Their continuing popularity has played a major role in preserving Manx dancing as they pass on their knowledge to subsequent generations, but their unabated enthusiasm has now spilled over into the production of books, records, cassettes and videos. They are currently working on a DVD of Manx dances which they hope will be completed by next year.

Generously supported by the Manx Heritage Foundation, the Isle of Man Arts Council and the Elizabeth Clucas Trust, the festival promises to be a colourful exhibition of costume and dance with a multi-cultural line-up of groups from England, Germany, Sweden, Wales and the Isle of Man. Many of the dances date back over centuries, expressing individual traits as diverse as daily chores in Sweden, or the fertility of crops in England, with their costumes replicated through the study of historical drawings and patterns to identify some of the key features of each country.

Members of the Manx Folk Dance Society have represented the Island at many international events over the years, and in turn have hosted visiting groups from which they have made their selection. There will be a cross section of talent treading the boards during this unique festival which has been many years in gestation and will culminate in a gala performance at the Royal Hall in the Villa Marina.

Despite a hectic schedule members of the visiting groups will also have the opportunity to explore the Island and meet up with old friends.

In addition an open invitation has been extended to members of the Manx Folk Dance Society, both past and present, to celebrate the group’s 60th anniversary on the 7th September, 2011, at the Hydro Hotel, Douglas. If you would like further details please contact Freda Black by phoning 624858.

Programme of Events
12th August 2011
Parade and opening ceremony in Castletown Centre 7.30pm – 10.00pm with short dance displays.
13th August 2011
Concert at the Villa Marina with all groups in the Royal Hall at 7.30pm                 
£10 (adults) £7.50 (children) tickets available from the  Box Office at the Villa Marina and the Welcome Centre

14th August 2011  
Dance performances in Castle Rushen 1.20pm - 2.30pm and 3.30pm - 4.40pm.
Dance performances at the Quarterdeck on Port Erin Promenade 1.30pm - 2.50pm and 3.10pm - 4.30pm.

15th August 2011
Dance performances in the Mooragh Park, Ramsey, 11.00am - 12.40pm and 2.20pm – 4.00pm.
Dance performances on the forecourt of the House of Manannan, Peel 10.45am - 12.30pm and 2.30pm - 4.15pm

Valerie Caine © August 2011