Friday, October 31, 2014

Hop tu Naa - Who Was Jinny the Witch?

Jinny the Witch has long been associated with the Manx observance of Hop tu Naa, a celebration of the Celtic New Year, along with a varied assortment of customs.Many of them were based on divination, with young girls attempting to discover whom they would marry, whereas the boys were more likely to be visiting their neighbours with cabbages on sticks demanding potatoes, herring or bonnag; hence its lesser known title ‘thump the door night’.

Hop tu Naa has, in recent years, wrestled for power with the imported festival of Hallowe’en which is something entirely different,baring no resemblance to the Island based ritual.

The words Hop tu Naa are said to be a corruption of Shoh ta’n Oie (‘this is the night’ in Manx Gaelic) and it’s believed that they have the same origin as the more universally recognised Scottish expression ‘Hogmanay’. There’s no doubting the clear parallels of celebration amongst the population of Scotland, the north of England and the Isle of Man which emerge from the many testimonials of researchers and scholars in the folklore arena.

On the Isle of Man it’s also known as Oie Houney (November eve) or Hollantide; the latter a reference to a Manx quarter day on the old calendar signifying a time when leases or rents were due, and when farm labourers began work with a new employer.

But the concept developed and changed as turnips (or moots) usurped cabbages and the words of the songs chanted by youngsters moving from house to house varied across the Island.

Nowadays Jinny the Witch plays a prominent role in the song we tend to hear, but it’s often been asked, who was Jinny the Witch? Manx traditional field worker Stephen Miller, perhaps more curious than most, grasped the nettle and began to focus on when Jinny made her first appearance on the Island.

During the nineteenth century it was customary to sing a lengthy text (gathered by respected collectors Dr John Clague and A. W. Moore) with no reference whatsoever to Jinny the Witch; its verses detailing the surrealistic story of how a heifer is chosen with which to make broth. The cook’s throat is scalded by the hot broth so they run to a well for a drink of water, but on the way back they meet either a witch-cat or a polecat which forces them to flee to Scotland, where they meet a woman ‘baking bannocks and roasting collaps’ or cutting cheese.

Stephen believes that the forerunner of Jinny the Witch made its first appearance on the Isle of Man towards the close of the nineteenth century, and was heard in tandem with the original verses garnered by Dr Clague and A. W. Moore. The name evolved through Jenny Swinny, Jinny Squinney, Jinny the Winney, Ginny the Swinney and Jinny the Spinney (along with assorted spellings) until settling in recent years with Jinny the Witch.

Until the recent digitalisation of Manx newspapers, the earliest written reference to Jinny the Witch emerged from an interview with E. Ethel Flanagan for the Manx Museum’s Folk-Life Survey in 1957, although further research has broadened this, from the mid-1940s through to 1960; although one reference to Jinny the Witch was found in the Manx Sun newspaper dated 1900. However, the oral tradition was much in evidence before 1957.

Despite its size, the Island maintained multiple versions of the song which remained steadfastly in their own areas, although nowadays one Jinny the Witch rhyme dominates the Isle of Man save for a very different version which lives on in Peel.

However, the Church of England viewed Jinny the Witch as a Paganistic ritual and associated the subject with Satanism. In 1992 the Bishop of Sodor and Mann suggested in the Diocesan News that we ‘celebrate Hallowe’en as a Christian festival’ with an evening based upon ‘saints and sausages’ or ‘banners and buns’ rather than Hop tu Naa.

But Stephen’s research unearthed an interesting press report throwing a different light on how one church on the Isle of Man celebrated events on the 31st October. He commented, “The earliest link between Hop tu Naa and the notion that it has an association with witchcraft comes from 1934, when the Examiner reported on St Matthew’s Church holding a Hallowe’en party for the children of the school. As part of the decoration in the school hall, there was what was described as a ‘witches’ kitchen’. A photograph of the event held the next year, 1935, shows that the witch was no other than the Vicar himself dressed up as an old crone – presumably Jinny the Witch, though that, frustratingly, is not stated.”

However, local farmer Hampton Creer has spent considerable time researching a variety of topics in the Manx Museum library, including his own family history, and after looking through many old documents from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries concluded that he had found the name of the woman whom he considered to be Jinny the Witch.

Joney Lowney (or Lewney) lived on the Mount Murray Back Road in the parish of Braddan and came to the fore in Hampton’s research when he discovered that his ancestors (Hamptons of Ballabunt) had been called as defence witnesses at one of Joney’s Trials in 1716, where she was accused of being a witch.

She had been before the ecclesiastical  court at Bishopscourt previously in 1715 and sentenced to reform, but on her second appearance before the Bishop many prosecution witnesses were called during a four month period.

Although found guilty of the crime of witchcraft Joney escaped the death penalty.  The appalling deaths of Margaret Ine Quane and her son, who were burned at the stake in Castletown, horrified the Manx public and were never repeated. Instead Joney was sentenced to 14 days imprisonment, fined £3 and ordered to stand at the four market crosses, dressed in sackcloth.

Joney died in 1725 and is buried at Old Kirk Braddan churchyard.

A common refrain you might hear on the night of Hop tu Naa states:

Jinny the Witch went over the house

To get the stick to lather the mouse

Hop tu Naa, my mother’s gone away

And she won’t be back until the morning.

It’s believed by Hampton that this could be a reference to the accusation in Joney’s first trial which alludes to her vanishing one evening and not returning until the following morning with plenty of fishes.

Hampton has lived his entire life amongst the Manx people and is familiar with local accents which are now slowly disappearing from some localities on the Island, but he believes that it is the lilt of the Manx accent which has subtly altered the name of Joney into that of Jinny.

Jinny the Witch lives on in the hearts and minds of Islanders as innovative interpretations of the old verse slip into common usage, but she remains an elusive character.

Hampton considers that Jinny is from the seventeenth century, whereas Stephen’s research indicates a much later date, at the turn of the nineteenth century.His enquiries show that Jinny the Witch is part of a children’s ball throwing rhyme known all over England, which he strongly suspects was imported to the Island. And in Gloucestershire they still tell the tale of Old Jinny the Witch.

But regardless of her origin, it’s to be hoped that the children of the Isle of Man will long continue to chant the well-known rhyme as they travel from door to door in celebration of the Island’s Celtic New Year on the 31 October.

(With thanks to Stephen Miller and Hampton Creer)

Valerie Caine
© October 2014
(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Opportunities in Africa

Over forty Isle of Man business people turned out for a seminar on the ‘seismic’ developments taking place in Africa, and the opportunities they present.

The seminar was led by Standard Bank’s Chief Economist, Goolam Ballim. In the last decade Africa has gone from the hopeless continent to a rising star, meanwhile Europe’s share of trade with Africa has halved as the newcomer on the world economic stage has been courted by China and India.

Goolam heads up a team of 53 analysts in South Africa and is a highly respected international economist. He told the packed seminar, ‘Most of Africa is growing at a rate of 5% or better which is astonishing when you consider that growth in the rest of the world is at best weak. Even fragile economies in Africa like Mozambique, are showing promise. We are seeing political maturity in many countries such as Ghana which recently saw a seamless transition when the opposition won the election. This kind of political maturity would have been very rare and hard to perceive just a short while ago.’

He explained proof of the ascendance of Africa’s economic prospects comes in the form of the developing middle class who are mutually supportive of socio-economic and political development across Africa, spurring foreign investment and creating a positive transformation.

Goolam highlighted eleven nations within Africa where the middle class is rising fast, Nigeria is leading the pack and over the next 15 years it’s estimated there will be a further seven million households classified as middle class in that country alone. Even countries which have been ravaged by war and are seen as risky, such as Angola, will see big rises. It’s estimated Angola’s middle class will rise from the 1.2 to 1.3 million it is today, and around 33% of the population, to around 45% by 2030.
Goolam believes it’s the people in Africa who will drive the growth, ‘Another seismic dimension is Africa’s population which in 1980 was roughly 10% of humanity, but by 2050 it’s estimated that one in four humans will be African, while in contrast China’s population appears to be reducing in relative terms. The other factor is it is an exceptionally youthful population, the median age of an African is 20, the median age of a European is 40. While Europe and Asian countries such as Japan struggle with an increasingly dependent and ageing population, Africa has a growing working age population. Over the last decade roughly 40% of Africa’s growth can be explained by people being able to work and being productive in the economy.’

The seminar was hosted by Jason Gaines of Standard Bank’s Isle of Man Corporate and Business Banking team. He said:

‘We have to look to new markets if we want to grow our economy, and Africa is without doubt the rising international star. It is however also a difficult world to penetrate and each of the countries in the continent is different. Whilst the risk appetite of many counterparties has decreased, as Africa’s largest bank the continent is our specialism. Goolam emphasised how imperative it is that you understand the local market conditions, know who to talk to and how to talk to them, and that’s where we can help. We cannot ignore Africa and her potential, or we will run the risk of being left behind by the Chinese and Indians who are investing heavily in the continent.’

Friday, October 24, 2014

Manx Yankee

Jude Dicken at Manx National Heritage in the Isle of Man trawls the Manx newspapers from years gone by for stories from and about the Manx in the USA.  You can too by visiting
Here's just one of many stories waiting to be discovered...

‘Oh, say! can you see’ the stars and stripes in North Quay.  Well you could during TT2014.  As confident and brash as Wall Street there it was billowing full mast from a yacht in Douglas Harbour.  To me that flag had all the glamour of a Hollywood movie star.  It was as if a shiny vessel made-up-of yellow taxis, glassy skyscrapers and vast prairies had got amongst the herring fleet.  And there’s more to come.  In July 2014 the Island welcomed homecomers from the North American Manx Association.  Proof if it were needed that as great an urge to go west is the urge to return home.  Ain’t that so Philip Craine.

Philip, a native of Peel, emigrated for America in 1828 at
the tender age of 23.  Of the many to pass through Staten Island his was a success story.  By 1860 he was a wealthy New Yorker and made his first homecoming trip aboard the steamship City of Washington bound to Liverpool and his ‘Mannin Beg ma Chree’.

12 days and 12 hours out of New York and at last the Mersey.  Philip’s sister in Liverpool was gob-smacked by his unannounced arrival.  After thirty-two years ‘she did not know me, and I did not know her’.  Later aboard the Manx Fairy Philip wondered whether the same estrangement would be true of the Isle of Man.  He needn’t have worried.

A ‘black iron vessel with a crooked spout’ and a ‘well spread table’ made this Manx Yankee feel right at home.  Sure, ‘the people look different, talk different, and dress different to what they did thirty-two years ago’ but change had happened for the good.  The Island was furrows-ahead of America in its ‘farms and farming implements’ and its buildings and steamboats Philip thought splendid.  ‘While we here in America have our mind on the rack from early dawn to a late hour at night, the people in the Island to all appearance take the world comparatively easy, living on four meals a day.’  The ‘healthiest and best looking women, wives (not dolls)’ are what’s on offer on the Isle of Man.  It’s a wonder the Manx ever emigrated.

But they did, in their droves.  A Manx Wild West to rival Peel.  Letters from Kansas, Missouri and Illinois blaze a trail in the local press.  Like that of 1861 from ‘Illiam Dhone’, Oregon, to his cousin Juan Moor Jack.  Illiam describes Manx families out on the prairies, growing tension over slavery and a Peel man marrying Laughing Water, an Indian princess. 

After two months Philip Craine went back to New York from where he’d write letters home until his death in 1886.  Later he’d recall how the ‘tears flowed freely from my eyes’ as the boat sailed past Maughold Head for the last time. ‘Land of my birth! with all thy faults, I love thee still!’ said Philip.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Flybe's new winter schedule

Flybe starts operating its 2014-15 winter schedule this Sunday, 26th October with four routes available from the Island to Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester and the return of its popular ski route to Geneva that is being extended through to 12th April 2015 to accommodate Easter holiday travel.  In total, Flybe offers a choice of up to 116 flights a week with one way fares from £24.99 including taxes and charges.
This is the third winter season for Flybe’s successful Manchester hub from where Isle of Man passengers are increasingly taking advantage of by-passing congested London airports to make more convenient, seamless onward connections. This can be either onward with other Flybe regional services or farther afield to an extensive selection of long haul destinations through its various codeshare partners, when booked through a travel agent. The most recent of these is with Finnair to Helsinki and onwards to its many destinations that includes 15 in Asia.
Paul Simmons, Flybe’s Chief Commercial Officer, comments: “Regional connectivity is Flybe’s mission and we have worked hard to maintain the continuity we know is so important on the Island’s critical daily lifeline link to and from Liverpool.”
Flybe is always looking at ways to provide improved benefits for its customers and the start of the winter schedule also sees the airline welcome Avios on board with a new travel rewards programme, and Spend & Fly, a simpler way to earn flights with Flybe’s credit card.  There is also a new secure onsite parking option offered at most of the UK airports from which it operates when making an online booking -  and it will always be the closest available possible to the terminal.
Adds Mr Simmons: “We look forward to welcoming our Isle of Man passengers on board this winter so they can experience for themselves  ‘the fastest way from A to Flybe!”

Monday, October 20, 2014

Turnips and Tales – Celebrate Hop tu Naa

Photo: The Cregneash turnip harvest
Autumn has arrived and the Isle of Man prepares for one of its biggest seasonal festivals – Hop tu Naa. The traditional annual events return to the village of Cregneash, while the Island’s ancient castles host a more spooky celebration.

Hop tu Naa comes from ‘Shoh ta’n Oie’ meaning ‘This is the Night’. It is a Celtic celebration falling on 31st October and marks the last night of the Celtic New Year. It was a time when farmers would celebrate a safely gathered harvest and all the preparations were made for the long winter ahead.
Each year Cregneash welcomes hundreds of families to the farm to select their turnips and help them carve their turnip into a lantern for Hop tu Naa, as well as holding a fantastic festival of crafts, music, dance and storytelling, celebrating traditions old and new.

On Saturday 25th October at Cregneash ‘Hop tu Naa Nippers’ can sing and dance, join a welly walk around the farm to the turnip field, and enjoy Manx Fairy Tales. On Sunday 26th join us at Cregneash to celebrate our unique Manx Hop tu Naa traditions and customs. Enjoy live music, carve your turnip lantern, join in the traditional song and dance and discover recipes and superstitions from the past.

Both events take place 12pm – 4pm and feature seasonal produce from the Farmer’s Market, seasonal refreshments and face painting. Apple Orphanage join us for the Sunday event. Every child receives a free home grown turnip to carve. Admission to the events is £6 Adult, £3 Child with a 10% discount for Members.

As parking is limited at Cregneash, a free park and ride service is in operation for all event goers on the 
number 28 service bus from Port Erin, Port St. Mary and Scoill Phurt le Moirrey. Further information is available on our website

If you can’t make the main events at the weekend, during half term week from Monday 27th – Friday 31st, visitors are invited to ‘Turn up for Turnips’, at Cregneash. Collect and carve your turnip for a small charge of £1.50 per turnip or bring along your own and enjoy the village in autumn time. Standard admission – local school-children go free with their ACE cards kindly supported by Lloyds Bank.
On Hop tu Naa itself, Friday 31st October, join us for an atmospheric event ‘Tales from the Crypt’ at Peel Castle. Meet the darkest characters from St Patrick’s Isle and hear their tales. It certainly isn’t the Moddey Dhoo you should look out for inside the ancient walls! Tickets are £8 per person, suitable for ages 10 and over, available in advance from House of Manannan and Performances are brought to you Labyrinth: History in Action players and take place at 4pm and 6pm, lasting approximately one hour.

For a more family friendly after dark experience on Friday 31st October, come and explore ‘Castle Rushen in the Dark’. Bring along your torches, wrap up warm and take a spooky tour and hear from our storyteller as night falls. The event is from 5pm – 7pm, timed entry may apply on arrival. Admission is £5 Adult, £2 Child.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New webcams for Castletown

The harbour in Castletown will soon be visible online.

Two webcams are set to be installed by the harbour master’s house: one will look over the harbour, the other towards Derbyhaven.

Castletown Commissioner Alwyn Collister raised the issue several months ago, pointing out that other areas of the island had webcams, why not Castletown? They will be linked to the local authority and government websites and in place by Christmas.

The photo above is from a webcam in Douglas marina. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Professor Hutton unearths ‘The Problem of the Celts’

Manx National Heritage is delighted to welcome the enigmatic English historian Professor Ronald Hutton back to the Isle of Man to present ‘The Problem of the Celts’ at the Manx Museum on Friday 17th October.

The lecture is hosted in collaboration with Celtic Style, an exhibition to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Archibald Knox on display at the House of Manannan until February 2015. The exhibition explores Celtic Style from its early beginnings to the present day and is kindly sponsored by Lloyds Bank.

Professor Hutton is a leading authority on the history of the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs. He is Professor of History in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Bristol.He is an author of numerous publications and regularly contributes to press articles, and has often been quoted in history disputes or challenging common historical assumptions, most recently of Stonehenge.

Professor Hutton says;
“Between 1880 and 1980, academics all over Europe spoke confidently about the Celts as a group of ancient peoples with a distinctive lifestyle, art and set of languages. But since 1980 British archaeologists and historians have almost completely abandoned the concept.”

Professor Hutton will illustrate why this change of opinion took place, and examine what can be salvaged from the ruin of the old model to make the term ‘Celtic’ meaningful in the new century.
The talk will take place at the Manx Museum on Friday 17th October at 7.30pm doors open at 7pm.

Tickets are £10 available in advance from the Manx Museum Gallery Shop and A 10% discount is available to members of the Friends of Manx National Heritage, places are limited so please purchase in advance to secure your place.

Image captions;
1. Professor Ronald Hutton

For further information, please contact:
Anthea Young
T: 01624 648034