Thursday, January 31, 2013

Arraneyn – Manx Gaelic Traditional Song

Originally recorded on vinyl in Peel during 1973, this collection of unaccompanied Manx ballads under the title of ‘Arraneyn Beeal-arrish Vannin’ has now been re-issued on CD by the Manx Heritage Foundation.

Recordings of Manx traditional music are in short supply, so this will be viewed by many as a valuable insight into the early stages of the Manx music revival.

‘Arraneyn’ includes a cross section of songs, using original Manx versions of many well-known examples taken from the Manx National Song Book, and others that dwell on more unusual aspects of Island life, such as dead hens and witches in corsets!

Recorded by Manx speaker Brian Stowell, his clear and distinctive voice provides an opportunity to hear the Island’s native tongue at its best, with his energetic delivery and clarity of voice ideal for anyone wishing to learn Manx songs.

An evocative presentation, Brian’s recordings have already captured the attention of BBC broadcaster and award-winning Scottish Gaelic singer and harpist Mary Ann Kennedy, who selected ‘Arrane Sooree’ (The Courting Song) to represent the Isle of Man on the triple CD set ‘Beginners Guide to Celtic’.

Full lyrics, translations and extensive notes from the original recording have been retained on the disc as a PDF file for listeners who would like to know more about the songs.

‘Arrane’ is available from all good bookshops and at Manx National Heritage sites across the Island priced at £12.

Valerie Caine
© January 2013

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Students complain about paying fees for college

Incredible to Americans, the Isle of Man still pays for its students to attend university (college). More amazing yet to us is that students are arguing that $4000, just less than half of what a UK college charges for a full year of education, is too great an amount to contribute to their own education. As anyone familiar with the American system will attest -- $4000 is a great bargain!

Isle of Man education minister Tim Crookall is to meet students who oppose the introduction of university tuition fees later.
A vote on the proposed introduction of fees has been deferred until February's Tynwald.
Tim Crookall said: "I know they are not happy about what is going on... but I have got a job to do and this is part of that job."
The scheme would see students pay at least £2,500  about $4000 a year from 2014.
More than 100 students protested outside Tynwald on the 16 January and former education minister Peter Karran handed over a 2,500 signature petition on their behalf.
'Biggest hope'
Mr Crookall said he was happy to talk but the motion would still go before the court next month.
Sam Turton, 18, a pupil at St Ninian's High School in Douglas, hopes to study politics at university.
He said: "We are eagerly anticipating the opportunity to meet with Mr Crookall face to face.
"Our biggest hope is that he can find a way to look at other areas where savings can be made."

Mr Crookall said the students had "acted impeccably" and they had done a "great job".
If the scheme is passed in February, it would be the first time Manx students have had to pay tuition fees.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Eco-move saves Isle of Man school 'thousands of pounds'

Bio-mass boiler in Manx school

Queen Elizabeth II High School in Peel installed a bio-mass wood pellet boiler to replace an oil fired system.
It is thought the new appliance will need about five tonnes of fuel every week, all of which will be sourced from Manx conifer forests.
Government energy officer Peter Longworth said cost savings were predicted to be £12,000 a year.
The boiler from Austria was paid for by the government's Energy Initiatives Fund and cost £128,000 to install.
Environment minister Phil Gawne said: "I think this is a fantastic example of local sourcing.
"The nearest plantation is less than five miles away and the sawmill is less than two miles, far better than having to import oil or gas from less direct, less secure, external sources."
Other sites on the Isle of Man with bio-mass boilers are government buildings in St Johns, Reayrt Y Chrink, Port Erin; Clagh Vane and Ballasalla.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Celebrating 20 Years at the Centre for Manx Studies

Although part of the School of Histories, Languages and Cultures at the University of Liverpool, the Centre for Manx Studies is very much an Island-based enterprise with a strong work ethic, providing both a long term educational and research provision and at the same time contributing generously towards the Manx GDP.

Founded in 1992 and currently based in the tranquil setting of the old Nunnery grounds on the outskirts of Douglas, the Centre covers a wide spectrum of subjects and teaches both undergraduate and postgraduate students whilst promoting international recognition of the Island.

Postgraduate Masters and PhD degrees have been offered by the Centre for Manx Studies since 1998 in a variety of disciplines, allowing local students to study with an internationally-renowned university without leaving the Island. With an endless supply of Manx research topics available to students some have some of them have also succeeded in publishing their work for a wider audience. The Centre for Manx Studies currently has five PhD students studying a range of subjects including archaeology, music and history.

The Centre’s remit, however, also extends to providing a significant amount of teaching for the undergraduate BA in History, Heritage Management and Manx Studies run by the University of Chester at the Isle of Man College.

The Centre’s two full-time academic members of staff, Dr Harold Mytum (Director) and Dr Catriona Mackie (Lecturer in Manx Studies) contribute expertise from their own specialist areas of research,  augmented by ten Research Fellows, many of them former staff or students from a diverse range of scholarly backgrounds.

An astonishing amount of significant research has been carried out by the Centre during the past twenty years resulting in a better understanding of many Manx topics, reviving interest in others and stimulating ideas for further research. It’s a comprehensive collection which ranges from the Iron Age and World War I through to music ecology, tourism and the Island’s economy, but always keeping the focus on a Manx subject.

Additionally the Centre also runs and oversees an intensive six-week archaeological field school straddling Ireland and the Isle of Man, attracting students from both the UK and North America; and a hands-on four-week training excavation each summer open to students from the Isle of Man, the UK and the EU.

The Centre has also forged important links with the Island’s community by introducing the community heritage initiative, designed to encourage Islanders involvement in archaeology and heritage projects, as well as offering contract archaeology and facilitating participation in conferences both on and off the Island. And at ground level there’s also an opportunity for the general public to attend a range of seminars offered by the Centre and to join the University of Liverpool’s Island based continuing education programme.

Valerie Caine, © January 2013, (Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Brief History of the Isle of Man

Given the job of producing a brief history of the Isle of Man would be a daunting task for any writer, who then has the unenviable task of deciding what to retain, and more importantly what to leave out.

But Sara Goodwins has masterfully taken a huge amount of historical detail and presented the results very successfully in this publication which promotes interest and curiosity and injects enthusiasm into its colourful pages. Written in a refreshingly open and friendly style, Sara’s well-presented book is not without humour as she enlivens each page with her personal approach to the subject.

Conveniently sectioned into nine chapters, it’s obvious that Sara has done her homework and thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Island’s past, offering her own considered view of the Isle of Man, but not without sensitivity for its people.

Illustrated with some beautiful colour photography, the Island is well served by this book which also carries Appendices about Rulers, Bishops and the Tynwald ceremony.

But this book covers much more than thatched cottages and Viking raiders, detailing the geological forces behind the Island’s formation, pondering over selected myths and mysteries (referred to here as an ‘alternative history’) and cogitating over events from our recent past.

Widely available throughout the Island priced £9.95.

Valerie Caine
© January 2013

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Isle of Man Stamps – The Chronicles of Man & The Lewis Chessmen

In conjunction with an exhibition at the Manx Museum in Douglas, Isle of Man Stamps has issued a set of six stamps depicting each of the celebrated Lewis Chessmen currently on show alongside the Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles on extended loan from the British Library. 

The intricately carved Lewis Chessmen are thought to be some of the most familiar and iconic archaeological artefacts in the world, falling into an era when a powerful sea kingdom, comprising the Inner and Outer Hebrides, Skye, Argyll and the Irish Sea was ruled from the Isle of Man. The Kings of Man and the Isles controlled a vital sea route deemed important for trading items such as rare chess pieces, silver coins and precious symbols of religious power.

It was during this period that the famous Lewis Chessmen were made by craftsmen carving expensive pieces of walrus tusk and an occasional tooth from a sperm whale. Valued around the world, they were discovered by accident on the west coast of the Isle of Lewis in the nineteenth century. Thought to have been made about 1200AD in the city of Trondheim in Norway, some of the figures were originally stained red, suggesting that the mediaeval version of chess adopted a different colour system to its contemporary cousin.

The rediscovered Lewis Chessmen provide an extraordinary glimpse into the past, giving us tantalising hints about life at this time and providing clues as to style of dress, art and possible wealth of individuals. Quality items such as these would be costly additions in any household.

The six figures on loan from the British Museum illustrate each part of the chess set and are significant by the individuality of expression, style or apparel. The king wears a serious, almost comical, expression whilst sitting majestically on his throne but don’t underestimate the grip he has upon the hilt of his sword. His queen, however, is a more curious character, her long hair braided and covered with a veil underneath her crown, her head in her hands wearing an expression suggesting discontent, or possibly contemplation. However, the bishop serves as perhaps the most important figure within the set as he became a key element in dating the Lewis Chessmen. Visibly giving a sign of blessing, the bishop wears his mitre with the peak pulled to the front which was adopted after 1150AD, a crucial marker in determining their age. The knight is portrayed astride an exaggerated Scandinavian horse of this era and the warder carries all the hallmarks of the fierce warrior known as a berserker, but the pawn sits eloquently in its simplicity.

Each stamp depicts a single figurine with text from the Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles in the background reflecting some of the intricate work from the rear of each statue.

Valerie Caine
© January 2013