Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Rush Hour on the Railways Event Over the Easter Weekend

Now that the railway summer season timetable is fully underway, supporters and enthusiasts will have the opportunity to use all three heritage services, including the Snaefell Mountain Railway.

New Go Explore travel cards are now available, featuring both railway and TT images, which offer unlimited travel on all scheduled bus and rail services, with a choice of 1, 3, 5 or 7 days. They can be purchased at any main station, the House of Manannan in Peel, or the Welcome Centre at the Sea Terminal in Douglas.

Alternatively a Go Explore Heritage card allows unlimited travel together with admission to all Manx National Heritage sites for five days.

Both cards provide significant savings on standard bus and rail fares, although half fare is payable on the Hullad Oie/Night Owl services on production of the Go Explore card.

But this weekend there's a special Rush Hour on the Railways event, beginning with an exciting film night at the Manx Museum Lecture Theatre on the 3 April, where there's an opportunity to join the Isle of Man Steam Railway Supporters' Association.

Their first film (full colour shots from the 1950s and 1960s) will provide a nostalgic train journey along the now defunct western line (closed in 1969), which progresses up through the northern plains, terminating at Ramsey; visiting places of interest such as the provincial stations at Kirk Michael, Ballaugh and Sulby.

This will be followed by a recently discovered promotional film of the Manx Electric Railway which will follow the  tracks from Derby Castle, passing through scenic glens and across cliff tops, together with rare photographs from the turn of the twentieth century.

Tickets priced at £7.50 or £3.75 with a valid Go Explore card available from Douglas Railway Station (telephone 697457) or on the door at the Manx Museum. Doors open at 7.00pm for a 7.30pm start.

On Saturday there's a chance to catch the Port Erin Flyer, a non-stop trip on the steam train departing Douglas at 7.00pm. Recreating the Southern Belle of the 1930s, the journey will include a Bar Car and photo opportunities, with a chance to mingle with members of the steam railway's Viking Group of volunteers at the Port Erin Railway Museum; providing historical information and a 'pop-up' cinema in the Royal Carriage which is housed at the museum. Standard fares apply, although Go Explore cards will be accepted.

But on Easter Sunday there's a cracking opportunity to travel northwards on the world's oldest tramcar. Departing Derby Castle at 9.30am, the tram will be accompanied by a number of classic vehicles (photo call at Ramsey Station) which will then continue their journey to the Jurby Motor Museum. Alternatively passengers can travel north on the Leyland PD2 bus for the standard tram fare. Go Explore tickets also accepted.

Anyone with a classic vehicle who would like to join the cavalcade is invited to contact Anji Street by telephoning 697475)

Finally, for the first time on the Isle of Man there will be a limited number of postal covers available bearing a Manx bus postage stamp. These unique covers will be conveyed on the Leyland PD3 bus tour of closed lines (also on the 5 April) collecting, where appropriate, the original ticket marks of all the old stations along the line. Stopping off at Ballaugh, there will be an opportunity to meet local artist Michael Starkey with artwork used in his recent publication Manx Northern Railway Stations; with time to enjoy some entertainment and refreshments provided by Ballaugh Heritage Trust.

Also included during this busy weekend will be tours of the workshop and signal box, the Travelling Post Office on the steam railway and the prospect of Sunday lunch or afternoon tea in the popular Dining Car.

For further details pick up a Rush Hour on the Railways leaflet.

www.iombusandrail.info

Valerie Caine
© March 2015

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Winners Announced at the Annual World Bonnag Championships!

With Spring almost upon us, the annual World Bonnag Championships took place at St James' Church in Dalby, where a capacity audience gathered to see who would be crowned overall champion.

It was another sell-out event for the busy organisers of this small, but very active church, who provided a warm welcome to everyone as bonnags of all sizes were lined up ready for judging later in the evening.

But first The Wandering Players (Yn Cloiederyn Wandereilys) took centre stage as they presented a rolling programme of poetry, prose, song and readings highlighting periods of Manx history. Using both popular and lesser known stories from the Island's chronicles, they provided a whistle stop journey which gave a definite local flavour to the occasion.

Closing with the much-loved song Ellan Vannin, members of the audience were then treated to an extensive home-made supper whilst Paul Kelly (a baker from Peel) set to his task of judging a large number of bonnags.

His judging was both astute and confident as he cut into each un-yeasted bread, smelling them for that unmistakable aroma of soda and weeding out those that didn't quite make the grade.  

This was followed by local farmer, preacher and Island personality John Kennaugh, who spoke briefly about how money raised at events in Dalby is distributed to worthy causes both on and off the Island.
During 2015 funds will be divided between Dalby Church Restoration Fund, Women’s Aid IoM and the Manx overseas charity Mannin Sponsors Africa, who are working to provide wells for villages in Gambia.

A representative of Mannin Sponsors Africa spoke movingly about how our monetary contributions would assist in the provision of clean drinking water in Gambia, which then prompted John Kennaugh to recite The Pitcher, one of the many poems by Manx poet T. E. Brown.
The evening closed with the presentation of trophies and certificates to the winning bakers by Shoprite representative Rodger Gimbert, and the anticipated auction of all bonnags entered for the competitions; which included a cross-section of currant, plain and gluten-free bread.

Winners
Children: Bryce Clague
Gents: Gordon Clague
Women: Colleen Cowin (who also won the Isle of Man Creamery's Buttermilk Trophy as overall champion)
Commercial: Green's Tearoom of St John's

Valerie Caine
© March 2015

Thursday, March 26, 2015

PACKED EVENTS PROGRAMME KICKS OFF NEW MANX NATIONAL HERITAGE SEASON


This Saturday 28th March is the first day of the Easter school holidays on the Isle of Man and it also marks the first day of the new Manx National Heritage season. Heritage sites will open for their spring timetable, which sees most venues open daily from 10am to 4pm including Castle Rushen, Peel Castle and Rushen Abbey with its popular ‘Monky Business’ family activities.

This week has also seen the new ACE Card, supported by Lloyds Bank, distributed to all primary and secondary schools on the Isle of Man. The card, which can be used from this weekend, allows free access to all Manx National Heritage venues for all Isle of Man schoolchildren

A number of the sites have had refreshes and refurbishment during the closed winter period including Laxey Wheel, where repairs have been carried out to the stone masonry on the wheel housing as well as timber repairs to the viewing gallery superstructure, the cladding and the wheel structure. Old render was also removed and the wheel, housing risers and viewing platform were all repainted.

The Grove Museum in Ramsey has had conservation work to the exterior porch and repairs to the roof.  Some of the exhibits have been temporarily removed so that conservation work can be carried out on them and they will not be back in place when the museum re-opens on 28 March.

The Nautical Museum is still undergoing refurbishment and is due to open on 23 May with a new gallery telling the story of George Quayle and 18th century Castletown.

A packed programme of Easter holiday events for families at the Manx National Heritage sites include the Dragon Egg Hunt at Castle Rushen daily between 10am and 4pm from 31st March to 6th April where children are invited to solve the clues to track down the dragon’s missing egg and earn the gratitude of, and a small chocolate treat, from the resident Castle Rushen dragon.

Also this Easter, Rushen Abbey will be playing host to an Easter Fairy Tale Trail in the Abbey Gardens, between 10am and 4pm from 3rd to 6th April while the popular egg rolling competition at Cregneash gets underway at 1.30pm on Easter Monday with prizes for the best decorated hard-boiled egg before the great “roll off” begins.
Visitors will be able to follow in the footsteps of the women who made Mann at an additional four Manx National Heritage venues. History in Heels ‘pops up’ opened at Castle Rushen on International Women’s Day followed by the Manx Museum and House of Manannan. Pop up displays featuring remarkable Island women and their stories can now be found at Cregneash, The Old Grammar School, The Old House of Keys and The Grove from 28 March. 

The much anticipated ‘Ulster’s TT Heroes’ Exhibition opens this weekend at the House of Manannan in Peel.  The exhibition celebrates the greatest TT riders from Northern Ireland including Phillip McCallen, Brian Reid, Norman Brown and of course Robert and Joey Dunlop.  Displays loaned from Ballymoney Museum will be supplemented with artefacts and memorabilia that tell the country’s TT history through its greatest riders.


For more information on the events and site opening details go to www.manxnationalheritage.im.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Manx Folk Awards 2015

Organised jointly by the Department of Education and Children, Culture Vannin and Manx National Heritage, the Manx Folk Awards replaced the former Cruinnaght Aeg competitions which encouraged many of the Island's school children to compete creatively in the areas of song, music, dance and recitation.

Held at the Douglas Youth Arts Centre and the nearby Trinity Methodist Church at Rosemount, this popular, annual event is recognised for its informal approach, which sees finalists gathering in the Island's capital for three days of competitions.

In addition this year is a class for a new song (or new lyrics to a Manx trad tune) or something original in either Manx Gaelic or the English language.

There's an emphasis on fun and friendliness during this busy three day event, with plenty of assistance in choosing songs, dances or poems for performance, which can be carried over for the Manx Music Festival (aka the Guild) a few weeks later.

Valerie Caine
© March 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

English Folk Group Faustus Bring in the Crowds at the Centenary Centre in Peel

Saul Rose
Paul Sartin
The debut of the folk band Faustus at the Centenary Centre in Peel proved beyond doubt how English folk music has evolved in recent years, as the all-male line-up produced a seemingly endless supply of songs and tunes which left the capacity audience gasping for more.

Judging by  everyone's reaction the devil had a busy night, as we all sold our souls for the pleasure of listening to a range of music which criss-crossed a number of English counties and devolved seamlessly to an Island which rejoices in its own unique musical heritage.

Greg Joughin
Benji Kirkpatrick, Saul Rose and Paul Sartin are also involved with a number of well-known groups (Waterson:Carthy, Whapweazel, Seth Lakeman Band, Bellowhead and Belshazzar’s Feast), but their combined efforts as Faustus released a powerful expression of emotion; taking dyed in the wool songs and making them very much their own.

Their professionalism and dedication to the genre shone through as a beacon in the wilderness, rending asunder the historical image of English folk music and launching a thoroughly contemporary expression of some classical compositions.

Benji Kirkpatrick
But prior to their performance, the evening kicked off with local singer/songwriter Greg Joughin, who presented a selection of retrospective arrangements which lingered sensitively on some of the more poignant aspects of life.

Well known for his long-term association with The Mollag Band, on this occasion Greg was working as a solo artiste which gave members of the audience an opportunity to hear his self-penned work from  an unadorned perspective.

 
Valerie Caine
© March 2015





Sunday, March 22, 2015

Visit Ramsey for the Annual Shennaghys Jiu

 
With the local calendar starting to fill up with an eclectic range of events, there's a great opportunity to experience some exciting cultural entertainment during the annual Shennaghys Jiu festival, later this month.

Wholly based in Ramsey, the festival's primary aim is to encourage young musicians to perform together in a non-competitive environment, with an emphasis on the enjoyment of informal sessions and ceilis in a warm, friendly atmosphere.

There was a deliberate intention to step back from the pressure of competition, which has encouraged generations of young musicians, singers and dancers to step forward in a strong showing of solidarity within the northern parishes.

With almost twenty years of experience behind them, local organisers have managed to keep the festival sounding fresh and vibrant with a wide range of both local and visiting groups from the Celtic world.

This year performers will be visiting from Cornwall, Ireland and Scotland, with an opportunity to enjoy a selection of top, local musicians including The Mollag Band, Mec Lir, Scammylt, Malcolm Stitt, Peddyr Cubberley, Adam Melvin and the successful youth education group Bree, amongst others.

A free programme detailing all of the events, including concerts, ceilis and workshops, will be available shortly from outlets in Ramsey and the surrounding area, but be advised to keep checking their website for up to date information.

Visiting musicians will also be performing in local schools and a special children's art exhibition will be staged in Ramsey Town Hall.


Valerie Caine
© March 2015

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Friday, March 20, 2015

MANX NATIONAL HERITAGE TO EXHIBIT MCGUINNESS TT RACE WINNING HONDA SUPERBIKE AT THE MANX MUSEUM

Manx National Heritage, the organisation responsible for protecting and promoting the Isle of Man’s heritage and culture, is exhibiting one of the most successful machines in the TT’s history in the Manx Museum in Douglas, courtesy of leading Japanese manufacturer Honda.

John McGuinness’s Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade is now on show in the Social History gallery as part of Manx National Heritage’s TT display, which also includes other memorabilia, notably a set of Carl Fogarty’s leathers, Dave Molyneux’s 2004 TT winning garland, the fairings from Jock Taylor’s 1980 TT race win and a pair of Steve Hislop’s gloves. Trophies on display include some of Mike Hailwood’s replicas and Bob McIntyre’s 1957 Junior TT trophy.   

McGuiness raced the bike between 2009 and 2013, winning the Superbike TT from the same year as well as his double race victories in 2011 and the 2012 Superbike TT.  It is also the bike that he raced in the 2013 meeting, finishing third in the Superbike race before memorably triumphing in the Senior TT. 

As well as the five TT victories, it is the bike on which McGuinness set a new Senior TT lap record in 2009 at 131.578 mph and a new Superbike TT lap record in 2013 at 131.671 mph. It holds the Senior TT race record at 128.943 mph from 2013.

The bike was built by Honda in 2009, specifically for John McGuinness. The chassis was specially developed for the TT races and has full factory Showa suspension front and rear from HRC. It was set-up by McGuinness at a Castle Combe Pre-TT test with Showa suspension factory staff. The brakes are Brembo full World Superbike specification. The engine was built with HRC Pistons and Cams, plus HRC Gearbox and Ignition. It revs to 14,500 rpm, produces 210 bhp and has a top speed of 200 mph.

The bike will be on display from March 2015 to March 2017, which will include both this year’s and next year’s TT and Festival of Motorcycling. Other bikes on display in the museum include Mike Hailwood’s 1979 Senior TT winning Heron Suzuki, his last race on the Island, Carl Fogarty’s 1992 0W01 Loctite Yamaha bike from the memorable Senior TT race of that year as well as Frank Whiteway’s 1970 production TT winning Suzuki. 

After his 2013 Senior TT win, McGuinness said of the bike: 
“Brilliant, just fantastic. If you were to choose a race to win, it would be the Senior… The bike was awesome, the pit stops great and we saved one of the best races till last. It was incredible action.”

Matthew Richardson, curator, Manx National Heritage commented:
“We are very grateful to Honda Racing for loaning us such a prestigious bike with such a strong TT history. It will undoubtedly be of great interest to visiting and resident bike fans, and will complement our other TT memorabilia.”

Monday, March 16, 2015

Learning about Fairtrade at St James Church in Dalby

As Fairtrade Fortnight came to a close, a special evening was organised at St James Church in Dalby to learn more about how Fairtrade works, with an opportunity to partake in some chocolate tasting and discover more about the real story behind the confectionary, which most of us take for granted.

Margaret Newton, local Traidcraft distributor, hosted the evening, providing detailed information about how Fairtrade works to help poor farmers, workers and their families around the world, and answering assorted questions from members of the audience.

As one of the leading suppliers of Fairtrade products in the UK and the Isle of Man, Traidcraft is committed to fighting poverty through trade; bringing empowerment and dignity to the poorly paid and disenfranchised. Trading also encourages a reasonable standard of living and the chance to seek further opportunities, bringing additional benefits and independence.

With the fire burning in the hearth and the promise of treats later in the evening, Margaret introduced a short documentary entitled Fairtrade Matters, which followed the fortunes of Edson Maotchedwe and Tsala Mwale, who both work in the tea industry.

Set in Malawi, the film reveals the challenges that beset both the farmer and their co-workers as they look towards improving their lives, and  that of others in their community, through the assistance of Fairtrade.

This was followed by an informative and revealing illustrative talk about how the contents of the humble cocoa pod are eventually transformed into chocolate. It's not easy to grow cocoa trees, which produce small flowers that eventually flourish into brightly coloured pods, but chocolate is arguably one of the world's favourite foods.

But the theme of chocolate set the tone of the evening thereafter, with everyone encouraged to participate in tasting a variety of Fairtrade chocolate bars, challenging their taste buds and finding out how much they really know about the products on offer.

Later there was an opportunity to purchase a range of Fairtrade goods and sample a variety of home-made cake, with bakers challenged to combine  local produce and Fairtrade ingredients.

www.traidcraftshop.co.uk
http://iom.selectfairtrade.co.uk

(Photos courtesy of Andy Powell, James Robinson & Simon Rawles)

Valerie Caine
© March 2015

Friday, March 13, 2015

MANX NATIONAL HERITAGE ENTERS STUNNING VIKING PENDANT FIND FOR NATIONAL COMPETITION


Manx National Heritage, the organisation responsible for protecting and promoting the Isle of Man’s heritage and culture, has nominated the Viking Horse Bridle Pendant that was found on the Island in October 2014 for recognition in a British Isles competition. The pendant was found by detectorist Daniel Crowe in the south of the Island.

The competition ‘The Nation’s Greatest Find’ is run by ‘The ‘Searcher’ Magazine, a magazine about the hobby of metal detecting. Nominations for the annual awards which have been running since 2005 are received from England, Scotland Wales and the Isle of Man. The Manx nomination will receive its own national trophy for most significant find.  The competition focuses on ‘significance’ rather than monetary value.

It is judged at the British Museum by Dr Roger Bland, Head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and Keeper of Prehistory and Europe, Dr Michael Lewis, Deputy Head of the PAS and Peter Spencer Numismatic Consultant for the Searcher. Additionally, Ed Vaisey, Culture Minister at the DCMS has been on previous panels and it is hoped that he will be available to judge again this year.

Allison Fox, Curator of Archaeology at Manx National Heritage, described the find and provided its context, explaining:
“This wonderful 4.5cm copper alloy pendant is a decorative feature on a horse bridle and would have adorned the forehead of a Viking’s horse.  Vikings were accomplished horse riders, often taking their animals on their ships when they were travelling to new lands.  Bridle decoration emphasised the power and wealth of the horse’s owner and this pendant would have been a magnificent golden colour when worn.” She continued:“This style was popular in northern and western Europe and the beast is shown gripping the inner edge of the pendant with its tail and tongue.  It dates to around AD 1100, a time when the Viking Kingdom of Man and the Isles was at its most powerful and the Isle of Man was the seat of power.  We know much about this period from documentary sources but the number of artefacts from this time is fewer than from the early centuries of Viking residence, so this wonderful addition helps us further picture the time of the Kingdom.”

-ENDS-

Notes to editors:

Discoveries of archaeological artefacts on the Isle of Man are required to be reported to Manx National Heritage at the Manx Museum in Douglas.  This reporting helps to build a fuller picture of the past of the Isle of Man by showing where people were active and what kinds of everyday things they were using.  Lots of finds are made by metal detectorists, but others are made by people out walking or even just digging in their own back gardens, and the curators at the Manx Museum are always happy to help identify finds.  Many such finds have been very kindly donated to the Manx national collections by their finders and the owners of the land on which they were found.  

Rare discoveries of artefacts made from silver or gold on the Isle of Man may be classed as ‘Treasure Trove’.  These artefacts are also reported to Manx National Heritage, and the Coroner of Inquests then makes the judgement on whether an object is Treasure Trove.  If it is, then it is legally owned by the British Crown, but the finder may be entitled to a reward for reporting the discovery.  Up until the 1970s items of Manx Treasure Trove were added to the collections of the British Museum in London.  Now, gold and silver artefacts can remain on the Isle of Man and many are displayed at the Manx Museum in Douglas and more will be displayed in a new gallery at the House of Manannan.   

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Manx Dance Group Celebrates 40th Anniversary

Local traditional dance group Bock Yuan Fannee recently celebrated its 40th anniversary at the Masonic Hall in Douglas, in conjunction with the Arrane son Mannin event when a local song was chosen for the forthcoming Pan Celtic Festival.

Organised by Fiona McArdle and compèred by one of the group's founding members, David Fisher, the celebration included a selection of Manx dances performed by current and past members of the group and a special 40th birthday cake, followed by a lively ceili with Tarroo Marroo; which included some original members of the dance group.

Bock Yuan Fannee (Manx for 'Shank's Pony') met initially on the 5 January, 1975, along with the well-known Island cultural fieldworker Mona Douglas, with a view to forming a men's group to perform Mylecharane's March, a stick dance for six dancers and one fiddler, which also features the ‘Laair Vane’ (White Mare) together with associated prophecies.

Performing in their working clothes rather than traditional costume, these founding members rehearsed in the kipper yards in Peel, but Bock Yuan Fannee soon became a mixed group; and the first Manx group to travel to the highly successful Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival.

The 1980s proved to be a busy time for the dance group, with dancers attending many Celtic festivals, but splinter groups began to flourish as some members went on to establish Ny Fennee and Perree Bane. Another offshoot was the Manx Gaelic choir Cliogaree Twoaie, which has just celebrated its own 30th anniversary.

During the 1990s members of Bock Yuan Fannee and Perree Bane joined forces under the title of Bock Bane to perform at a number of Breton festivals in Morbihan, and, as Ny Riftanyn, paid a visit to Cornwall's Mazy Day in 1992.

More recently members of Bock Yuan Fannee united with the Manx Folk Dance Society for a range of festivals and latterly performed in their own right at the Pan-Celtic Festival, but they also find time to call for ceilis, conduct dance workshops and occasional public performances.

Nowadays members of Bock Yuan Fannee meet at St Olave's Church Hall in Ramsey at 7.30pm on the second and fourth Sunday of the month, for a relaxed session of Manx social dancing.

Families with children are always welcome - just turn up on the night.
 
(Photos courtesy of Chloe Woolley)


Valerie Caine
© March 2015

Monday, March 9, 2015

Congratulations, Leslie!

Leslie Hanson became the new President of the Wold Manx Association at the AGM held on Saturday March 7th 2015, succeeding Peter Kelly who completed his five year term of office. 
The World Manx Association is the umbrella organisation for all the numerous Manx Societies around the world.  Handing over the chain of office, Peter commented that Leslie would make an excellent President having many connections with the Manx Societies in America and he has at his own expense travelled to The States for the biannual North American Manx Association congress for several years.  
Leslie’s mother, the late Betty Hanson, was President of the W.M.A. in the 1980s and whilst Leslie has tended to hide his light under a bushel, Peter said he has many hidden talents and is a very capable person.

Leslie is well known to members of the North American Manx Association as he regularly travels to our Conventions and made a point to join us when we visited the Isle of Man last year. Congratulations, Leslie, we hope to see you again soon!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

An Introduction to Manx Music and its Celtic Style at the House of Manannan

Dr Chloe Woolley
Dr Chloë Woolley, Culture Vannin's Manx Music Development Officer, assisted by members of Bree, (the Manx traditional music and dance youth movement), recently held an afternoon lecture at the House of Manannan in Peel which focused on an introduction to Manx music and its Celtic style.

Chloë set the scene by explaining how the term Celtic had influenced modern-day thinking in relation to music, before expanding upon how Manx traditional music fits into a wider Celtic genre. This allowed exploration of the oral tradition, early manuscript collections of the 1890s, the revival of interest in the subject during the twentieth century and some of the personalities who shaped the Manx music scene.  She also assessed the musical repertoire of contemporary musicians in the traditional genre and the important socio-cultural links sustained by the Celtic music community.

Her talk traced a number of inspirational collectors, but also opened up the background to their collecting, revealing how the use of language, movement of people from a rural to an urban setting, poverty and emigration influenced the direction of the Island's music. However, its musical heritage was also shaped by the rise in popularity of music hall songs, printed sheet music and the wide-scale influence of Methodism by the eighteenth century Anglican evangelist John Wesley.
Bree

But the assertion of British patriotism during the late nineteenth century stimulated an awareness of ethnic and national status in all of the Celtic countries. Inspired, in part, by fellow Celtic nationalism and the national consciousness emerging throughout Europe, antiquarians, scholars and collectors on the Isle of Man renewed their interest in local culture and took steps towards the reconstruction of a Manx identity; albeit finely balanced between Britishness and Celticism, so as not to compromise the Island's status of 'home rule'.

The popularity of English culture became overwhelming, ultimately diluting the Manx repertoire, which stimulated collectors to track down and record what could be salvaged of local music from the indigenous population

These far-sighted individuals collected songs, tunes and ballads from a cross-section of the community, in an attempt to reconstruct and embrace a Manx history which concentrated strongly on the Island's Celtic links. Chloë and the Bree students ably demonstrated some of the collected songs and melodies.

Chloë also explained how the vibrant Manx music revival of the 1970s coincided with a period of social unrest, growth in nationalist politics, the Manx Gaelic language revival and a growing fashion for regional folk music; with its native tongue viewed as a key component of Manx identity.

Her talk concluded with an expansive view of how the Manx music scene has grown since the 1970s and firmly established itself both within the Island itself and beyond these shores - becoming an integral part of the wider Celtic community.

Valerie Caine
 © March 2015

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Book Review: P50 - Peel Engineering's Extraordinary Legacy

With renewed interest in the Manx micro-car known as the Peel P50, it's an appropriate time to publish a book which explores the background of this remarkable vehicle and the unique story behind Peel Engineering.

Brimming with an assortment of nostalgic photographs, including rare ones of Peel Engineering's Managing Director, Cyril Cannell, this little gem has been produced as part of the car's fiftieth anniversary celebrations, and includes details of recent anniversary events.

This chronicle of the world's smallest car also highlights a lesser known aspect of the  history of the Island fishing port which gave its name to the company Peel Engineering, providing not only a number of vehicle designs, but several other innovative concepts; including the Peel motorcycle fairing, a revolutionary hovercraft and the spire on the Sea Terminal in Douglas.

Cyril Cannell's propensity for design was extraordinary, and even in his twilight years he continued to reveal new ideas, including a monorail scheme (highlighted in the book) which he believed could be installed along the old Peel to Douglas railway line.

The story of Peel Engineering, an important element of Manx history, is a singular tale which will appeal to a wide readership, whether they be car enthusiasts or historians.

Written by locally based enthusiast Barry Edwards, the book is available from Lily Publications and other Island outlets priced at £16.

Valerie Caine
© March 2015

(Courtesy of Mannin Media)

Monday, March 2, 2015

It's Time to Get Out Those Baking Bowls for the Annual World Bonnag Competitions!

Got a few hours to spare and fancy trying something new and creative? Then it's time to reach back into the hidden depths of your kitchen cupboards and seek out those favourite, family bonnag recipes, in readiness for the Annual World Bonnag Championships in Dalby later this month.

Not unlike it's Irish cousin, the soda bread, bonnag is a traditional yeast-free food item which was much-loved on the Manx farmhouse table long before the ubiquitous chips, cheese and gravy became a preferred choice for hungry islanders.

With numerous awards on offer for the best examples of this rural favourite, there are separate trophies for gents, ladies and children's classes, with the Isle of Man Creamery Buttermilk Trophy (and the honour of being named world champion) awarded to the overall winner.

But professional bakers and caterers are also encouraged to contribute their own tasty bonnag under a new category implemented last year, with the winner walking away with the Shoprite Trophy.

Those willing to take up the challenge are asked to turn up on the night with their bonnag on a paper plate, inscribed with name and category under the base for easy reference.

Each bonnag will be judged during the evening, as the audience enjoys some Manx entertainment by The Wandering Players, presenting Them Oul' Times through poetry, prose and song. In addition there'll be a fine Dalby supper followed by auction of all the bonnag entries.

Starting at 7.30pm on the 27 March at St James Church in Dalby, prior booking is essential by phoning Gilly on 844031 during working hours; tickets £7.50.

Proceeds from the evening will be divided between the St James Church Restoration Fund and this year's selected charities, Women's Aid (IOM) and Mannin Sponsors Africa, helping to provide wells in Gambia.

Further enquiries to Margy on 834768.


Valerie Caine
 © March 2015

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Highlighting Celtic Influences in Literature at Manx LitFest

Sara Crowe
One of the highlights of the most recent Manx LitFest took place at the House of Manannan in Peel, where a panel of experts gathered to discuss the Celtic influence in literature before a packed audience at the Manx National Heritage venue.

Manx LitFest is an annual literary festival which has quickly become an established fixture on the Island's calendar, attracting a wide selection of well-known authors and readers of all ages, as well as encouraging local writers to develop their skills.

Sponsored by Knox House Trust, the panel discussion tied in with the Celtic Style exhibition, which commemorated the 150th anniversary of the birth of Archibald Knox, the internationally renowned Manx artist and designer for Liberty & Co. The exhibition explored the historical influences and shared Celtic heritage that inspired both Knox and his Scottish and Irish contemporaries in the early years of the 20th century.

Donald S. Murray
The panel was made up of a number of Island based individuals with experience of this area; Dr Brian Stowell, Dr Breesha Maddrell, Dr Catriona Mackie, fiction writer Sara Crowe, whose debut novel draws on Celtic mythology, and visiting author Donald S. Murray, a Scottish Gaelic speaker from Shetland.

Each of the panellists made valuable contributions to the discussion, with an initial foray into the importance of how some of the mythological figures, who transcend both time and place, form a continuous link but are subsequently reinvented and reworked.

But the suggestion that a bonding of two traditions sparks creativity led the discussion into a new area, with a lively exchange of views about the literary ability of the Celts and the importance of bilingualism in its structure and the validity of stories as they pass through each generation.

However, the discussion didn't solely focus upon one genre, but looked at a variety of topics such as satire, politics, lullabies and nursery rhymes when it became clear that further research is needed into Manx literature.

As themes progressed members of the panel spoke of how many of the stories contained underlying messages, although storytellers may make subtle changes and problems could be created during translation.

Valerie Caine
© March 2015