Thursday, February 28, 2013

Manx Performers Head for The Celtic Festival of Wales

Photo: Courtesy of Phil Kneen 

St David’s Day is a time of celebration for many Welsh people both at home and abroad, but in the seaside resort of Porthcawl it also signals the beginning of Cwlwm Celtaidd – The Celtic Festival of Wales, which has a long-held link with the Isle of Man.

The hub of the event will be the Grand Pavilion situated in Porthcawl, where Island based traditional dance group Perree Bane and new Manx trio Barrule will represent the Isle of Man amongst invited dance groups and bands from many of the other Celtic nations. Built in 1932, and originally intended as a Palm Court, the building is viewed as perhaps the most striking on the resort’s esplanade, with its attractive façade and distinctive octagonal dome.

With a strong core membership and a popular children’s section, Perree Bane offers a versatile selection of informal or staged dance performances and recently celebrated their 30th anniversary. Based in Ballasalla, they are easily spotted at summer events by the women’s attractive short red jackets (beggan ruy) complementing the ‘Juan y Clearie’ weave in their long, woollen skirts, and the men’s distinctive hats and white, collarless jackets.

Barrule, however, is a comparative newcomer to the folk music scene but already making its mark on a national audience with their inspirational arrangements with both traditional and new material. Although their eponymous debut album is currently available on the Isle of Man, it will be released in the UK at a later date, but their rendition of ‘She Lhong Honnick Mee’ with Greg Joughin guesting on vocals has already been aired on Mary Ann Kennedy’s ‘World on 3’ programme (BBC Radio 3). A Celtic fusion of Manx and Welsh musicians, Barrule will also be playing concerts and giving workshops for traditional music students in the Hebridean islands of Benbecula and Skye, followed by visits to Edinburgh and Newcastle, where they will be joined by Dr Chloë Woolley to deliver a lecture about Manx music.

There’s also a further Manx link with the festival’s headline band Jamie Smith’s Mabon which now includes Island musicians Adam Rhodes and Tom Callister amongst its ranks. Known locally as a member of traditional band King Chiaullee, Adam concentrates on playing bouzouki and backing vocals for the Welsh wizards, with Tom taken on board as an occasional fiddle player.

Porthcawl has become a popular springboard into the festival season, with an extensive list of performers from as far afield as Brittany and Asturias. Brittany is a cultural region in the north-west of France, defined by a strong Celtic heritage, and Asturias an autonomous community of Spain with a prominent Celtic influence in its place names. 

Check out their Facebook page – ‘Cwlwm Celtaidd, The Celtic Festival of Wales’ or their new website

Valerie Caine
© February 2013

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Box Designed by Archibald Knox Takes the Biscuit

During a recent auction at Reeman Dansie of Colchester, a decorative biscuit box designed by the internationally famous Manx designer Archibald Knox was sold for £26,000 to a private collector in the UK.

This attractive Cymric silver, enamel and blister pearl biscuit box by Liberty & Co. and was part of a remarkable collection of Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau silver which recently came to light after 40 years locked away in a bank vault.

Courtesy of Reeman Dansie
They were being sold by the daughter of the late Douglas Shepherd (1922 – 1989) an architect and designer for the Ind Coope Brewery and a member of the Art Workers’ Guild, who was responsible for several pub interiors during the 1970s which reflected the style of renowned artist and designer William Morris. Shepherd collected silver by Omar Ramsden, Robert Ashbee and Archibald Knox between 1950s and 1970s.

Speculation that the biscuit box was the only known example of its kind outside the Victoria and Albert Museum in London attracted eight telephone bidders, with an opening bid of £7,000, which was well in excess of the pre-sale estimate of £4,000 - £5,000. A battle between London dealer Jan Van Den Bosch and a UK private collector eventually pushed the price up to £26,000.

The 80th anniversary of Knox’s death has just been celebrated on the Isle of Man with supporters of the Manxman’s work gathering at the designer’s grave at the new Braddan Cemetery to hear Chairman and Founder of the Archibald Knox Society speak briefly about the man and lay a floral tribute.

This was followed by an exhibition and sale of artefacts by Island resident Chris Hobdell at the nearby Braddan church hall, which included a number of items designed by Knox, all of which were sold in record time as keen buyers and curious onlookers crowded into the tiny hall to see what was on offer.

Valerie Caine © February 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Anyone know where this is? It's labelled Euclid Park 1949

We left its shores and brought with us its values


Died December 22nd 1912.

A cable message was received on Tuesday stating that Mr William Watterson, of Bishop, California, had died on Dec. 22nd. Mr Watterson was the eldest son of the late Mr Mark Watterson, of Knockaloe, Patrick, and himself and several brothers and sisters settled in California, and have been identified with the progress and prosperity of that district for a great many years. Mr Watterson and a nephew and brother (Mr George Watterson) visited the Island two years ago, and renewed acquaintance with their Manx relatives and friends. Mr Watterson was a man of singularly loveable character, and was possessed of great business ability and integrity. He leaves a widow and several children.

FURTHER PARTICULARS. "The Inyo Register ' published in Bishop, Inyo County, California, of Dec. 26th, contains the following particulars concerning the death of Mr William Watterson, brother to Mrs A. J. Ridge, Douglas, from which the following is extracted :-

The lingering illness of William Watterson terminated fatally on Sunday forenoon, pneumonia intervening to add its complications to his troubles, and causing the end.

A brief biographical sketch shows that he was born in Peel, Isle of Man, on November 10th, 1842. On February 28th, 1869, he was married to Miss Eliza Quayle, and that same year the bride and groom came to make their home in America. They came to California. via the Isthmus of Panama, arriving in San Francisco on June 3rd, 1869. They made their home in the vicinity of Stockton for several years, then at Delano, Kern County, where Mr Watterson and his brother Mark were engaged in the sheep business. They came to Inyo in 1886, buying farm property which was thereafter improved and made more valuable. Success attended their labours ; since retiring from active work on the farm ai range, the family home has been in Bishop. Of Mr Watterson's brothers, James died in Benton, Mono County, leaving a family now well-known residents of Bishop ; Mark sold his interests here, and went to his native land to spend his closing days ; George is the head of the prominent hardware house of George Watterson Company. Mrs White Smith of Bishop, and Mrs Arthur Ridge, who has been here, were sisters -of the deceased.

The surviving members of the family of which he was the head are his companion of so many years ; sons : Wilfred W., president of the Inyo County Bank, present head of the municipal government, and one of the county's foremost citizens ; and Mark Q. Watterson, cashier of the bank named ; and four daughters : Mrs C. E. Kunze, now of Berkeley Mrs J. C. Clausen, of Los Angeles ; Miss Elsie Watterson, and Miss Mary Watterson, of Bishop.

Men like William Watterson leave their impress on the time in which they live. His passing is a loss not only to those immediately bereft but to the community for whose advancement he has done much. Quiet and modest in nature, he found his reward in consciousness of duty done, in satisfaction at his part in shaping the drift of community events toward better things. Whatever the cause, if it were worthy of support it could rely upon his co operation. It is our sincere belief that a individual has done more, or has wielded; stronger influence through personality alone for progress in this valley than Mr Watterson His convictions were strong, and though never intruded were ever weighty in affairs. In high and consistent character, he was eminently qualified to assist in advancing the permanent interests of the community favoured by the residence of himself and family in it. He lived uprightly, and in the respect and esteem of all, and he died "the death of the righteous," a Christian whose life was in accord with his professions. One of the finest men who has come among us has been taken.

The funeral on Tuesday was conducted by Rev A. P. Beall, assisted by Rev S. S. Patterson and Rev C. S. Maddox, at the Methodist Church. The Masons conducted the service at the cemetery, Mr Watterson having been a member of Winnedumah Lodge for- the last nineteen years. From Francis Coakley's labor of love to scan the Manx Notebooks. Shortly after the Watterson entry came this.


The following is from "The Daily Mining Journal," Ishpeming, U.S.A., of December 30th last:-
Joseph E Dobson, who was accidentally shot in the arm by a companion, near Silver Creek, eleven miles south of Ishpeming, where they were hunting rabbits last Thursday, died Saturday morning in the Ishpeming hospital. The shot. from the gun had shattered the bones in and above the elbow of Mr Dobson's right arm, and amputation was necessary.

Although Mr Dobson was seriously hurt, he walked more than a mile before a team could be secured to take him to the hospital. He suffered greatly and lost considerable blood, but it was not at first thought that the wound would result in his death.

Dobson, who was thirty-two years of age, and his companion boarded at the home of George Garrett, on Excelsior-street. He was a native of the Isle of Man, and came out from there four years ago in company with relatives. His parents, also a widow and one child, are living in the old country.
The remains were removed from the hospital to the home of his brother, Richard, at 640 Morris-street, from where the funeral took place on December 31st, under direction of Court Widows Friend, Ancient Order of Foresters, of which the deceased was a member. The funeral service was held in the First Methodist Episcopal Church

Manx Music University Roadshow

As Manx music continues to reach out to a wider audience, ‘trad power trio’ Barrule recently took the Island’s traditional music on a tour of UK universities and colleges which offer traditional music tuition.

This revolutionary musical journey was organised by Dr Chloë Woolley, Manx Music Specialist for the Manx Heritage Foundation, its aim to introduce local music to a greater audience through a series of workshops and concerts which would encourage traditional music students to add Manx music to their repertoire, stimulate research and ultimately develop links with the Isle of Man.

New trio Barrule is comprised of professional musicians Tom Callister (fiddle), Jamie Smith (accordion) and Adam Rhodes (bouzouki) whose workshops and concerts went down exceptionally well as they progressed on their mini tour of Scotland and north-east England.

Barrule performed at the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton, Lews Castle College on Benbecula (Univesity of Highlands & Islands), the Scottish Gaelic College Sabhal Mór Ostaig on the Isle of Skye, the School of Celtic and Scottish Studies at Edinburgh University and Newcastle University.

Isle of Man Stamps – A Celebration of Coronation Commemoratives

Commemorative souvenirs marking the coronation of British monarchs have long been popular with collectors, but with the diamond anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation this year a whole range of new memorabilia will be available for the avid souvenir hunter during 1913.

But Isle of Man Stamps have already issued a new set of stamps to mark this royal occasion with the assistance of Alex Downie OBE MLC. A keen collector of coronation memorabilia for more than 40 years, some of his extensive collection is featured in this issue.

Despite its popularity the idea of a royal commemorative souvenir is a relatively recent trend, used for the first time to celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1838.

The thoughts behind what constitutes a souvenir have changed over time, ranging from simple, coloured postcards, models and flags in the early days to an extensive range of items for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

It’s thought that the shortest-lived royal souvenir on the Isle of Man, however, was a replica of the St Edward’s coronation crown made with 1200lbs of confectionery rock to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897. Exhibited briefly by its maker, Johnson and Co., the Crown of Sugar as it became known, was smashed to pieces on the day of the jubilee and distributed amongst local school children who produced specially made tickets in exchange for five ounce bags of sweets.

Valerie Caine © February 2013 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Isle of Man Beekeepers’ Federation Celebrate Centenary

The Isle of Man Beekeepers’ Federation will be buzzing with excitement this month as members celebrate its centenary by hosting a free public lecture at the iMuseum, where you can learn more about the health benefits of one of nature’s hardest working creatures.

The first Association of Beekeepers was formed from a meeting held at the Palace Restaurant in Victoria Street, Douglas, in 1913, although the current Isle of Man Beekeepers’ Federation was formed in 1950.  But undoubtedly the most outstanding Island bee-keeper of the early 20th century was John Lancelot Quayle who ran the village Post Office and General Store in Glen Maye for many years, claiming the British record for a crop of honey in 1897.

Affiliated to the British Beekeepers’ Association, the Island supports three local area branches based in the south, west and north, with each club organising several meetings throughout the year (occasionally at members’ apiaries) and a popular winter course for beginners organised by the Southern District Beekeepers’ Association.

There are approximately 100 registered beekeepers on the Isle of Man who can provide locally produced honey, candles, propolis, balm and furniture polish, with the disease-free Manx black bee ideally suited to Island weather conditions.

Members of the Isle of Man Beekeepers’ Federation also have the opportunity to gain recognised beekeeping qualifications, staging their annual Honey Show and Convention during November at St John’s, where local producers come together and compete for the BBKA Blue Riband Prize, awarded for the best exhibit in show.

Philip McCabe, who will be giving the lecture, is a former President of the Federation of Irish Beekeepers’ Association and is currently President of the European Commission for Apimondia, but will focus his talk on the benefits of honey; the oldest known medicine to mankind. As a third generation apiarist, an expert beekeeper and renowned as an amusing and entertaining speaker, he will include illustrations and personal anecdotes within his Manx lecture.

But another claim to fame was his attempt to break the world record bee beard in 2005. Protected ostensibly by little more than a meagre pair of shorts, his breath taking challenge failed to attract the 350,000 bees required, but his courageous deed did raise a considerable amount of money for one of his favourite charities, Bees for Development Trust, which helps to establish and support beekeepers in some of the remotest and poorest countries in the world, and the Irish Aid Organisation Bóthar.

For further information please contact Cilla Platt by phoning 835014 or email

Valerie Caine
© February 2013

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)