Tuesday, November 17, 2015

R.I.P - North American Manx Association Past President Mary Kelly

Mary Frances Kelly, 75, of Platteville, Wisconsin, died on Monday, November 16, 2015 at Agrace Hospice Care, Fitchburg. Mary was born on October 11, 1940 daughter of Maynard and Frances Doris (Browning) Kelly at St. Joseph’s Hospital, Dodgeville. Mary graduated in 1957 from Dodgeville High School at the end of her junior year. She attended the Wisconsin State College, Platteville, Layton School of Art, and the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; she was awarded a B.S. from UW-Platteville in 1964, a M.S. in 1970 and the PhD. in 1990 from UW-Madison. For more than 20 years she taught art and design in Jefferson, Monona and the UW-Madison. 

She traveled widely, making 8 trips to the Isle of Man in the U.K. to learn more about the birthplace of her paternal grandfather. On Tynwald Day, July 5, 1981, she became one of the founding members of the Wisconsin Manx Society. From 1996 to 1998 she was the President of the North American Manx Association, and beginning in 2004 she became a member of the UW-Platteville Museum Committee. In that capacity she helped to create the only permanent Manx Museum in North America that opened August 11, 2012. 

In the summer of 1975 she petitioned the court and won her precedent setting case to become the first woman in Wisconsin to be allowed to reclaim her birth name after a marriage that produced a child. Only one other state had allowed that provision at that time. 

She had bilateral mastectomies for breast cancer in 1976 and successfully challenged her insurance carrier to cover the cost of prostheses for women. Previously, they had denied payment stating they were considered entirely “cosmetic”. In 1983, she had a second “primary” breast cancer but once again refused any cancer treatment beyond surgery. In 2013 a third “primary” cancer started on her esophagus. She accepted both chemo and radiation in hope of a “third” cure for that lung cancer. 

She had been a historic preservationist for more than 30 years. Early in 2000, she successfully bid for the historic home of Major John Hawkins Rountree in Platteville and has continued to preserve and improve that property with the help of many craftsmen. In 2011, she became both a Wisconsin Century Farm and a Century Home Honoree for Dodgeville properties. 

In 2009, with Francis “Frank” B. Evans, her husband, and support of Dodgeville neighbors, she bought a small tract of land to create Oakham Lawn Park for a permanent neighborhood playground. 

In February 2013, Mary began making presentations about the Isle of Man to local historic groups. Both the Dodgeville Chronicle and the Democrat, Mineral Point, papers covered it.  

In August of 2015, through a generous gift of land donated by Mary, to the University of Wisconsin Foundation, a permanent chair or professorship was established at the University Of Wisconsin Department Of Neurological Surgery for research in metastatic cancer to the brain. 

Her interests included: photography, Manx cats and gardening. She will be mourned by her husband of 37 years, Francis B. Evans; daughter, Pamela K. W. (Jonathan) Davis; grandchildren, Evan J. K. and Joel T. K. Halpop; son-in-law, Robert Halpop; and many cousins from the Browning family. 

The family sends its thanks to the many lifelong friends, who also provided loving support through her final days. A special thank-you to Barbara Browning and Connie Skaife who attended to her personal care, morning and night, and made it possible for Mary to live at home up to her last weeks. The family is sincerely thankful for the health care and support from the UW-Hospital staff of Madison, the Agrace Hospice Care facility staff of Fitchburg, the Grant County Hospice staff, the Southwest Health Center of Platteville, and the Platteville Police and EMS staff. Our family has been blessed with all of your services during Mary's moments of critical care needs. 

Graveside services will be at 1:00 P.M. Thursday, November 19, 2015 at Eastside Cemetery, Dodgeville. Rev. Mike Short will officiate. On Saturday, November 21, 2015 from 12:00 P.M. (Noon) to 3:00 P.M. there will be a memorial reception and time of fellowship at the Melby Funeral Home & Crematory, Platteville. Online condolences can be made at www.melbyfh.com. The Melby Funeral Home & Crematory, is serving the family.

UPDATE: We sent a red and gold floral tribute to Mary which carried these words and the first verse of Ellan Vannin:

From your friends, in remembrance of your dedication to the North American Manx Association and your love of all things Manx.

"When the summer day is over
And the busy cares have flown,
Then I sit beneath the starlight
With a weary heart alone,
And there rises like a vision,
Sparkling bright in nature's glee,
My own dear Ellan Vannin
With its green hills by the sea.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ruth Keggin & Anna Czajkowska at the Erin Arts Centre

There'll be a special concert at the Erin Arts Centre later this month, when Manx Gaelic singer Ruth Keggin teams up with Anna Czajkowska for a flute and piano recital.

Although originally from Poland, Anna (a private music teacher) now lives on the Isle of Man. Awarded a Master's Degree in music performance (piano), Anna has performed a wide variety of chamber music throughout both Europe and the USA, as a soloist and in partnership with various ensembles.

Ruth studied music at the University of York, under the tutelage of celebrated flute teacher Edwina Smith. However, she ultimately chose to specialise in singing, focusing on Gaelic song, for which she is better known these days.

Anna and Ruth got to know each other earlier this year and soon discovered a shared interest in musical taste. As both musicians were also keen to perform, it wasn't long before they teamed up professionally.

They will be performing a varied and interesting programme of music for flute and piano, although Anna will also present a selection of solo piano pieces by composers such as Debussy.

The concert starts at 7.30pm on Friday 20 November.

Tickets priced at £8 (adults) £2 (under 18) are available from the Box Office at the Erin Arts Centre (open 10.30am - 4.30pm Wednesday to Friday), or from Ruth at www.ruthkeggin.com

(Due to ill health this has now been postponed but it's hoped to reschedule early in the New Year.)

Valerie Caine
© November 2015

Monday, November 9, 2015

Who Will be Manannan's Choice of the Year?

Manannan's Choice of the Year (Reih Bleeaney Vanannan) is an annual, cultural award made to an individual or group who made the  greatest contribution to the Island's cultural heritage; and this is your chance to nominate a candidate for this unique award.

Nominees tend to be from a wide variety of backgrounds, working to promote and support the Island's language, literature, art, music, dance, history, education and the environment, amongst others.

Last year's accolade went to William Cain CBE TH for his voluntary work involving the conservation and protection of the wildlife and environment of the Isle of Man. He's a former Chairman of the Manx Wildlife Trust, who worked to establish the 1990 Manx Wildlife Act and to develop the Trust into a substantial and respected organisation.

Previous winners include Clare Kilgallon (music, song and dance), the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh (language and culture), Allan Skillan (field walking and prehistory) and Maureen Costain Richards (Manx artistic heritage - including Manx crosses), which reveals the rich diversity of Manx culture.

It was cultural fieldworker, Mona Douglas, who first identified Mananan as the patron of Manx culture, and it was her work with Ellynyn ny Gael (the arts of the Gaels) which led to the development of the Mananan Trophy; subsequently revived as Manannan's Choice of the Year.

The trophy itself was the brainchild of Manxman Stephen Quayle, with the evocative figure of the sea god Manannan positioned on a piece of Pooilvaaish marble designed by Eric Austwick. Each recipient is also awarded a medal created by Jenny Kissack, which is reproduced in silver and enamel by Celtic Gold.

Winners also receive a personal award of £500 together with an additional gift of a further £500 towards a Manx cultural cause of their choosing, donated by Culture Vannin.

Further details and nomination form available from Culture Vannin's website - follow the links for Reih Bleeaney Vanannan on their homepage.

Valerie Caine
© November 2015

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Cast Your Vote Now for Manx Fiddle Player in Scottish Music Awards

Local fiddle player, Tomas Callister, has been nominated along with four other musicians, for Instrumentalist of the Year in the annual MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards 2015, and here's your chance to help him clinch the award.

Organised by Hands Up For Trad, awards will be handed out within sixteen different categories ranging from Album of the Year to Gaelic Singer of the Year, to be announced at a gala evening at the Caird Hall in Dundee on the 5 December.

The Peatbog Faeries, Shooglenifty, Skerryvore and the Shotts and Dykehead Pipe Band will be amongst the nominees for this year's awards, the results of which will be decided by public vote.

Currently based in Glasgow, where he is rapidly making a name for himself in Scottish music circles, Tomas is best known for his work with Island bands Barrule and Mec Lir, as they take Manx music to a wider audience.

Tomas has been playing the fiddle since about the age of five and soon became immersed in the traditional music of both Ireland and the Isle of Man.

Moving to Uist in 2010 to study at UHI Benbecula then exposed him to the diversity of Scottish music, particularly that of the west coast, and he never looked back.

Tomas has recently represented the Isle of Man with both Barrule and Mec Lir in Nova Scotia, Scotland, Brittany and Australia.

Votes can be cast until the 20 November at:


Valerie Caine
© November 2015

Monday, November 2, 2015

Author of Quatermass Series Remembered at Manx LitFest

Nigel Kneale is remembered locally for being the Island's most successful radio, television and film script writer, and more broadly for writing groundbreaking screenplays for the cult 1950s BBCTV science fiction series, Quatermass.

But his son, Matthew Kneale, (also a published author) was invited to speak at this year's Manx LitFest, when he made two very successful appearances in Douglas and Peel to talk of his own work and that of his father.

The first event was held at the Manx Museum lecture theatre in Douglas, where Matthew Kneale spoke of his father's life and work before introducing a screening of the first episode of The Quatermass Experiment. He was later joined on stage by science writer Brian Clegg, whose new book will focus on the relationship between science and science fiction, for a broader discussion. The evening closed with an episode of Quatermass and the Pit.

Matthew Kneale & Brian Stowell
On the following day, Matthew Kneale fulfilled a second engagement at the House of Manannan in Peel, where he spoke to a packed audience about his acclaimed book English Passengers. His story is set in the mid-nineteenth century on a Manx sailing ship. Captained by Illiam Quilliam Kewley and his crew from Peel, the vessel sails for Tasmania after being chartered by a group of men seeking the Garden of Eden, against the backdrop of the rapid decline of the indigenous population of Tasmanian Aborigines.

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2000 and winner of the Whitbread Prize, Matthew Kneale has written six other novels together with a non-fiction publication.

After reading selected passages of the book, the author was happy to answer a series of questions before signing copies of his novel, English Passengers, for members of the audience.

Although from a Manx family, Nigel Kneale was born near Barrow, (at that time part of Lancashire but now relocated to Cumbria), where his father had been employed as a journalist, but the family returned to the Isle of Man when he was a small boy.  

Nigel Kneale
A talent for writing was self evident in the Kneale household. Nigel's father, William Thomas Kneale, initially worked as a journalist, before joining his brother to run one of the Island's principal newspapers at that time, the Mona's Herald.

Nigel initially pursued a career within the legal profession, but upon reflection turned his thoughts towards another vocation; broadcasting live on BBC radio in 1946 reading his own short story with the wistful title Tomato Cain.

He later penned a number of short stories, also reflecting aspects of Manx life, which were brought together and published in 1949 under the title of Tomato Cain and Other Stories.

By this time, Nigel Kneale had moved to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), but discovered further success when is book of short stories won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1950. In the same year, Nigel Kneale's first professional radio script (based on the local Snaefell Mine disaster) was broadcast under the title of The Long Stairs.

Matthew Kneale
Leaving his acting ambitions behind him, Nigel Kneale concentrated on writing for the emerging television industry, from which came the cult series The Quatermass Experiment, along with several commissions and other stories based on the Quatermass idea. Those with a keen eye, or ear, for detail, may notice a number of Manx surnames and place names associated with the Isle of Man, which he incorporated skilfully within his writing.

His work was to influence future drama of this kind, including the long running series Dr Who.

Declared Manxman of the Year in 1957, Nigel Kneale's success continued until 1997, although he made only a handful of return visits to the Island.

He died in 2006 at the age of eighty four.

His personal papers were subsequently deposited with Manx National Heritage.

(Photos courtesy of Steve Babb and Manx LitFest)

Valerie Caine
© November 2015

Jack sticks up for the Isle of Man's suffrage record

From Jack Cormode in California: The new movie "Suffragette" brings up the idea of women voting.  

Here is a note that I sent to a reviewer from the San Jose Mercury News.

October 30, 2015

Ms. D'Souza,

In your review of the movie "Suffragette", you noted that "Britain was the first" to give women the right to vote.  Since 'Britain' is not a political (voting) entity, this may be incomplete information to your readers.

According to the Wikipedia Timeline of Women's Voting, 
  • 1881
    • Self-governing British Crown dependency of the Isle of Man: limited at first to women “freeholders” and then, a few years’ later, extended to include women “householders”.
This is in reference to the Manx nation being the first to give women the right to vote in national elections.  New Zealand and Australia, as self-governing states gave the right to vote to women before the United Kingdom did so.

It might also be noted that Emmeline Pankhurst was of Manx descent (on her mother’s side).



Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ned Maddrell Lecture 2015

Ned Maddrell
The annual Ned Maddrell Lecture, hosted jointly by Culture Vannin and  Yn “™heshaght Ghailckagh, takes place on Saturday 7 November at St John's Mill (Tynwald Mills), and will feature a guest speaker who will be discussing a minority language situation with relevance to Manx Gaelic.

Previous lectures have focused on issues in Nova Scotia, Norfolk Island and the Aboriginal languages of Australia, but this year's lecture will centre on the language revitalisation in Guernsey and Jersey; drawing comparisons with the Isle of Man.

This year's speaker will be Julia Sallabank, a Senior Lecturer in Language Support and Revitalisation in the Department of Linguistics at SOAS (University of London), where she teaches and researches language revitalisation, policy and planning.

Ms Sallabank has been conducting language related research in Guernsey since the year 2000 and later in Jersey and the Isle of Man.

The Channel Islands have adopted some of the revitalisation work successfully practiced on the Isle of Man, such as appointing Language Officers, but there are significant differences in other aspects of both language planning processes and outcome.

Although Ms Sallabank's talk will focus on practical examples, she will also attempt to draw conclusions and lessons in relation to aims and priorities, and describe her recent research into the learning and teaching of minority languages to adults.

Manx Language Development Officer for Culture Vannin, Adrian Cain, commented, "The lecture and discussion should illustrate the leading role Manx has played in minority language revitalisation in these Islands."

Beginning at 2.00pm, the lecture is free of charge although booking is required by contacting Adrian Cain.

For more information about either the lecture or the Manx language please contact Adrian Cain on:

07624 451098

Valerie Caine

© November 2015