‘Bronze Age burial reveals its long held secret’

staarvey-farm-pommelArchaeologists studying Neolithic and Early Bronze Age human remains in the Manx Museum collection for the ‘Round Mounds of the Isle of Man’project have made an exciting discovery.

Contained within a box of cremated bones excavated in 1947, osteologist Dr Michelle Gamble, discovered a collection of small bone objects that had not been noticed by the excavators. The bones had been buried almost 4000 years ago at Staarvey Farm in what is now German parish, Isle of Man.

The site was excavated by Basil Megaw (1913-2002) who was director of the Manx Museum (1945-1957). Mr Megaw had been contacted by the farmer who had hit a large stone during ploughing. Excavations revealed a stone-built cist (a box made out of stone slabs) containing fragments of burnt bone, two flint tools, and two Collared Urns (Bronze Age pots) buried upside-down. But it is only now that the bones have been studied in detail.

Dr Gamble said: “there was a large quantity of cremated bone from this site. The first step of the osteological analysis is to clean and sort the bones, so that we can determine the number of individuals present and any age or sex information. Within this burial, we have four skeletons, very fragmented and mixed together – 2 adults, one of which is a male, an adolescent, and an infant. The bone objects were burned as well and mixed in with the cremated human remains.”

Dr Chris Fowler, co-director of the Round Mounds of the Isle of Man project, said:

“I opened my email to find a photograph of an extremely rare Bronze Age object – a bone pommel from a bronze knife. This would have been fitted to the very end of the hilt. There are only about 40 surviving knife and dagger pommels of this period from the British Isles, and none have been found on the Isle of Man before – so I was very excited!

The size and shape suggest it was once attached to a small knife which archaeologists call a ‘knife-dagger’. Knife-daggers have been found buried with both males and females. Several other bone objects were found amongst the cremated bone. One is a burnt bone point or pin. A recent study of such objects found that few showed evidence of wear on the tip, suggesting that these were not tools, so it will be interesting to examine the end point of this example closely to see if there is evidence of use wear. It is perforated at the other end so may have been attached to clothing or a head covering. Some of the other objects may be burnt bone beads, and there are four enigmatic worked bone strips which we are still working to understand. 

The objects may have been worn by one or more of the dead as they were placed on the funeral pyre, or may have been placed by the dead on the pyre by mourners. It is possible that there were multiple episodes of burial in the cist, but we do not know how many of the individuals were buried at the same time and with which objects or how many cremation events took place.

The burial itself is fairly unusual among contemporary burials we know of from across Britain and Ireland. It is rare to find cremated remains buried in both a Collared Urn and cist – it was typically one or the other. There are records of about 50 similar burials of cremated remains discovered in a cist and containing a Collared Urn across Ireland, Scotland, northern England, and particularly Wales, and we are comparing the Staarvey burial with these at the moment.”

Allison Fox, Curator: Archaeology, Manx National Heritage, said:

“The reassessment of finds from earlier excavations is always worthwhile.  The finds can be the only parts of the original monuments that survive and although not every artefact was looked at in great detail at the time, they were catalogued and preserved.  Modern scientific techniques can now give a lot more information about these finds, but so can the low-tech approach of a skilled pair of eyes examining the finds in detail.”   

Round mounds are found through the British Isles and in Continental Europe. In the British Isles the earliest round mounds appeared in the Neolithic period, after c. 3800 BC. More were built periodically over the next 2500 years or so.

The current project aims to investigate what these sites and their associated burials, people and artefacts can tell us about life on the Isle of Man and interaction with other communities across Britain, Ireland and potentially beyond. It includes analysis of the landscape location of the mounds, geophysical survey at several sites, and re-analysis of both previously excavated remains and records of previously destroyed or excavated sites.

The project, which began in September, is directed by Dr Rachel Crellin (University of Leicester) and Dr Chris Fowler (Newcastle University) and has received funding and support from Culture Vannin and Manx National Heritage. Culture Vannin funded the examination of the human remains and are also supporting a series of workshops for school children that will be delivered by Michelle and Rachel in 2017 across the island.

For more information about the project please visit: https://roundmounds.wordpress.com/.



Posted in History, Manx National Heritage

Vote for Rachel Hair in the Trad Music Awards

rachel-hair-solo-2016-with-harpDeemed the most prestigious awards ceremony in the traditional music calendar, sixteen awards will be presented to the best Scottish trad talent at the MG ALBA Scots Trad Music Awards in a televised ceremony on the 3rd December, and amongst them will be a nomination with a Manx connection.

Harpist Rachel Hair, who is based in Glasgow, visits the Isle of Man each month to teach the Celtic harp using Manx traditional music through lessons organised by Culture Vannin, and has been nominated in the category of Music Tutor of the Year. Rachel has been in this role since 2011 and currently has more than twenty students from all parts of the Island. A number of them are members of Rachel’s Manx harp ensemble Claasagh, performing at community events throughout the year. Their next appear will be in the Rotary Top Talent Concert at the Gaiety Theatre in Douglas on the 26 November.

Additionally, Rachel Hair has produced two books of Manx music arrangements for the harp entitled Claasagh 1 & 2, which have been taken up by Celtic harpists around the world. She has also included several Manx melodies on her solo albums, and composed a harp ensemble suite in celebration of the life and work of Manx born artist Archibald Knox.

Meanwhile the name of any child on the Isle of Man with an interest in learning to play the harp can be added to the waiting list by contacting the Manx music Development Officer, Dr Chloë Woolley at manxmusic@culturevannin.im or by telephoning 01624 694758.

Closing date for voting is Friday 18 November:



Valerie Caine

© November 2016

Posted in Uncategorized

Celebrating Manx Birds at Inaugural Conference

chough_neil_morris_mg_9939  There’s a special treat for ornithologists later this month, with a joint presentation organised by members of both the Manx Ornithological Society and the local charity Manx Bird Life. This inaugural conference, which celebrates the Island’s population of wild birds, will be introduced by the Lieutenant Governor, Sir Richard Gozney, before a number of experts will discuss a range of subjects at the Manx Museum lecture theatre.

An afternoon of free talks chaired by Dr Richard Selman of the Manx Ornithological Society, and sponsored jointly by Stewart Clague Services and the Isle of Man Society for the Preservation of the Manx Countryside and Environment, this unique occasion is open to all.

A number of experts have been brought together from the Manx Museum, DEFA, Manx Wmanx-ornithological-society-logoildlife Trust, the Manx Chough Project, University of Oxford, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the British Trust for Ornithology, promising a rewarding afternoon for everyone, whatever their knowledge on the subject. Selected speakharrier_hen_male_pete_hadfield_y4w2320_deyelloweders will focus their attention upon a small number of birds with specific links to the Isle of Man, including the celebrated Manx shearwater; together with other established species such as the hen harrier, curlew and the chough.

The uniquely named Manx shearwater has recently made a welcome return to the Calf of Man, increasing in number since the implementation of a rigorous vermin extermination programme. Spectacular fliers and excellent swimmers, they are poor travellers on the ground, only landing under cover of darkness to breed.

Meanwhile the majestic hen harrier lives under threat in certain areas of the UK, but can be readily seen in certain parts of the Island in search of small prey.

The curlew is Europe’s largest wading bird, instantly recognised by its long, down-curved bill, brown upperparts, long legs and evocative call. And although a member of the crow family, the chough is easily differentiated by its red bill and legs.

This is a unique opportunity to understand more fully the daily golden-ploverchallenges facedfrank-281 by some of the Island’s most iconic, wild birds, but also learn more about some of the latest discoveries in this field. The afternoon event, which runs from 2.00pm – 6.00pm on the 12 November, is free of charge to all – doors open at 1.20pm

Organisers have also arranged an evening, celebmanx-bird-life-logoration buffet in conjunction with the conference, to be held at the Ballacregga Corn Mill, situated just below Laxey Wheel, where there’ll be a chance to meet the conference speakers and exchange views with like-minded people.

You can attend either, or both events, but those attending are asked to reserve their places by contacting jthompson@manx.net. Tickets for the buffet are priced at £16.50.

Further details about Manx BirdLife can be obtained from www.ManxBirdLife.im and the Manx Ornithological Society from jthompson@manx.net.

(Photos courtesy of: Frank Wildman, Pete Hadfield & Neil G. Morris)

Valerie Caine

© November 2016

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in Nature

Isle of Man awarded Unesco status as “one of the best places in the world” to explore nature.

14907668_1198057076919339_6793771171986814807_nThe Isle of Man has been officially recognised as “one of the best places in the world” to explore nature.

The island has been chosen by Unesco as one of 20 new biosphere sites for its outstanding natural landscape.

Among other sites include Uluru (Ayers Rock) in Australia and Mount Kenya – the second-highest peak in Africa.

Hundreds of volunteers who are involved in reporting shark, dolphin and whale sightings have been praised for helping the Isle of Man’s bid.

The Unesco World Network of Biosphere Reserves now features 669 reserves in 120 countries.

Located in the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is home to more than 80,000 people. Its coastline features cliffs, stacks, islets and long beaches, while the hills hold important peat reserves and are deeply cut by wooded glens in the east. Grasslands, pools and wetlands cover the coastal plain to the north of the island. The site’s marine environment is rich in biodiversity and harbours large populations of European eel, Atlantic cod and basking sharks, among others. The sea surrounding the island is harvested for shellfish.

In the countryside, farming activities centre on sheep and cattle livestock, as well as arable areas. The island has been a popular tourist destination since the late nineteenth century and has experienced a notable development in services and manufacturing sectors over recent decades.

Designation date: 2016
Administrative authorities: Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture; Isle of Man Government
Surface area (terrestrial and marine): 457,000 ha
Core area(s): 15,398 ha (terrestrial: 3,008 ha; marine: 12,390 ha)
Buffer zone(s): 114,670 ha (terrestrial: 46,563 ha; marine: 68,107 ha)
Transition area(s): 326,932 ha (terrestrial: 7,629 ha; marine: 319,303 ha)

Latitude: 53°50’N – 54°33’N
Longitude: 3°58’W – 5°10’W
Midpoint: 54°13’N – 4°35’W

Ecological Characteristics

The Isle of Man is situated in the centre of the Irish Sea. The area includes a varied coastline of cliffs, stacks, central hills, islets and long beaches. The hills hold important peat reserves and are deeply cut by wooded glens in the east. The coastal plain in the north contains pockets of unimproved grassland, pools and wetlands including the Ballaugh Curragh Ramsar site. The biosphere reserve extends out into the Irish Sea and encompasses all of the Isle of Man’s territorial waters. The sea bed contains a rich and varied biodiversity, including horse mussel and Sabellaria reefs and maerl and seagrass beds, many of which are protected within the Ramsey Bay Marine Nature Reserve.

The island has a small number of terrestrial mammals including eight species of bats (Microchiroptera), stoats (Mustela ermine), feral polecat ferrets (Mustela lutreola x putorius) and introduced or reintroduced brown and mountain hares (Lepus europaeus, L. timidus) and hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus). Native amphibians are believed to be limited to one species, the common frog (Rana temporaria), and terrestrial reptiles are represented by the common lizard (Lacerta vivipara).

Marine mammals regularly occurring around the Isle of Man include Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus), common and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops trunctus, Delphinus delphis), basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and minke whales (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), with other species of whale visible on rare occasions.

Socio-Economic Characteristics

Approximately 85,000 inhabitants live on the Isle of Man. The major settlements are Douglas/Onchan, Ramsey, Peel, Port Erin/Port St Mary, Castletown and Laxey, which account for over 70% of the population. There has been human habitation on the Isle of Man for much of the 10,000 years since the last Ice Age, and the present culture has strong Celtic and Viking influences. The island is governed by its own parliamentary assembly and legislative body, the Tynwald, which is thought to be the oldest continuous parliament in the world. Since Celtic times, the Manx people of the island have spoken a variety of Gaelic, Manx Gaelic, which is one of six Celtic languages (the others being Irish, Scots Gaelic, Welsh, Breton and Cornish).

Principal activities include banking and finance services, although these generate only about 1% of economic income. The Isle of Man’s mixed farming industry accounts for some 80% of land use. The marine environment is used extensively for commercial and recreational fishing. However, the fishing footprint is thought to be limited to well-used fishing grounds, leaving only a minimal impact on substantial areas of the territorial sea.

Posted in Nature

Manx Link Remains Strong with Cornish Festival

lowender-peran-festival-logoWith Cornwall’s international Celtic festival, Lowender Peran, firmly ensconced in its new location in Newquay, both singers, dancers, musicians and visitors (including those from the Isle of Man) will converge on the Atlantic Hotel, for a festival which has long held ties with the Island.

As in previous years, organisers of this popular festival will shoe horn a large number of family-friendly events into a five day period, with some free time to explore the surrounding area and sample a selection of typical Cornish fare.

The very popular Manx group Mec Lir (hot foot from the Celtic Colours Festival in Nova Scotia) will be representing the Island this year with their original, upbeat tunes and refreshing arrangements.

Although the festival has recently shifted from its long term home in Perranporth, many of the event favourites have been retained, such as ceilis, street dancing, formal and spontaneous music sessions, and workshops. Many will also be pleased to see the return of the festival parade, which will wend its way through the town centre, followed by a free ceili with the North Cornwall Ceili Band and street entertainment.mec-lir-not-an-ep

Bur the proliferation of music doesn’t stop there, with any number of opportunities to get up and dance, and as a backdrop for shoppers at the annual craft fair. A recent innovation too, is the ‘classic sessions’, which will focus on session tunes from each of the Celtic nations. Additionally, there will be a cultural expo, sporting stands from a wide range of cultural and heritage organisations, and towards the end of the festival a ceili featuring dance tunes from across the world; with more than a nod to this year’s Olympic Games in Rio.

(Photo of Mec Lir courtesy of Phil Kneen)

Valerie Caine

© October 2016

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in Uncategorized

Cabinet declared. Just two ministers fail to get position

Howard Quayle, chief_ministerThe political memberships of every government department have been announced. The only MHK not to get a position is Chris Robertshaw, member for Douglas East. He had been Minister for Policy and Reform in Allan Bell’s administration but stormed out of the Council of Ministers last year, frustrated at the slow pace of change in government.

Mr Robertshaw said he wanted to concentrate on scrutiny of government. Members of departments get 30 per cent more on their salary. Members of the Treasury get 40 per cent more. Ministers get 50 per cent more.

Cabinet Office: Ministers Howard Quayle and Chris Thomas. Member David Ashford.

Economic Development: Minister Laurence Skelly. Members Daphne Caine, Rob Callister, Tim Crookall, Lawrie Hooper and Martyn Perkins.

Education and Children: Minister Graham Cregeen. Members Geoff Corkish, Ann Corlett and Lawrie Hooper.

Environment, Food and Agriculture: Minister Geoffrey Boot. Members Tim Baker, David Cretney and Martyn Perkins.

Health and Social Care: Minister Kate Beecroft. Members Clare Bettison, Rob Callister, Ann Corlett and Jason Moorhouse.

Home Affairs: Minister Bill Malarkey. Members Alex Allinson, Clare Bettison, Michael Coleman and Juan Turner.

Infrastructure: Minister Ray Harmer. Members David Anderson, Tim Baker, Julie Edge and Jason Moorhouse.

Treasury: Minister Alfred Cannan. Members Bill Henderson, Ralph Peake and Bill Shimmins.

Planning committee chairman: Tim Baker Children’s champion: Daphne Caine.

Chief Minister Howard Quayle MHK announced the appointments, as agreed by the Council of Ministers, today. Proposals for the chairmanships and vice chairmanships of statutory boards, which are subject to approval by Tynwald, will be announced in due course. Mr Quayle said: ‘I am impressed and encouraged by the eagerness of Tynwald members, both old and new, to get on with the job and work together for the good of the island. ‘The departmental memberships combine fresh faces and fresh ideas with experience and continuity.’ MLC Tony Wild, convicted last year of drink driving, has also not been given a role.

Read more at: http://www.iomtoday.co.im/news/isle-of-man-news/politicians-allocated-roles-in-government-1-8192117

Posted in IOM Government

Join Bree for their 10th Anniversary Weekend

bree-logo If you’re aged 10 – 18 and have a creative flair for music, song, dance, or storytelling, you are warmly invited to join a number of local tutors at Culture Vannin’s Bree workshop weekend at the Youth Arts Centre in Douglas, on the 29th and 30th October.

Bree is a Manx Gaelic word meaning vitality, or energy, which aptly describes the group of students from school years 6 – 13, who meet monthly to pursue their interest in Manx traditional music and dance. Members of the group are given the opportunity of meeting for informal music sessions, public performances and workshops.

Additionally, students can also apply for the up and coming Big Bree Workshop Weekend, with a choice of music, song, drama, composition, or song writing in either English, or Manx Gaelic. The weekend concludes with a concert on Sunday afternoon, when past members, tutors and students’ families are invited to celebrate the group’s tenth birthday.

At just £10 for the entire weekend, experience of Manx music, or the language, is not necessary, although musicians are expected to be competent on their chosen instrument.

For more information about Bree contact Dr Chloë Woolley, the Manx Music Development Officer for Culture Vannin at manxmusic@culturevannin.im, or telephone 694758.

Application forms can be downloaded from www.manxmusic.com – deadline 21st October.


Valerie Caine

© October 2016

Posted in Uncategorized

Manx Groups Fly the Flag at Celtic Colours Festival in Nova Scotia

barrule-manx-flag As the breathtaking scenery of Cape Breton Island takes on a rich mantle of vibrant colour during its most spectacular season, the twentieth anniversary Celtic Colours Festival will also be attracting many visitors and musicians – including two groups from the Isle of Man.

Local favourites Mec Lir and Barrule made a memorable impact at the annual event on previous occasions, and have been invited back especially for the anniversary celebration. They will join a number of international artistes from Japan, Russia, Jamaica, Scotland and Ireland, as well as rubbing shoulders with some of the finest musicians, singers and dancers from Cape Breton Island itself.

The award-winning festival, which continues for nine days, provides a welcome extension for the tourism season, and since its inception has matured into one of Canada’s premiere musical events, as well as a cultural highlight on Nova Scotia’s calendar.

Inspired by nineteenth century settlers from Scotland and Ireland, and influenced by the Island’s Aboriginal Mi’kmaq people, Cape Breton’s isolation proved to be an ideal cultural preservative. Venues for an eclectic line-up of events range across the Island, as the community pulls together in a bid to celebrate a living culture.

Promoters of the festival pursue a goal of building relationships both within and without its territory, pulling out all the stops to make this year’s event unforgettable. Food is high on the menu for this gathering, where you can supplement your diet with local sea food, sample a traditional supper of home-made fish cakes, beans and cornbread, try pancake and sausage for breakfast, or something a little more contemporary.

This spills over into a number of farmers’ and community markets, showcasing local food and crafts, but there will be plenty of opportunities to work off all that tasty food, with an extensive programme of events to tickle those taste buds.

With so much beautiful countryside on the doorstep, it’s also an ideal opportunity to join one of the many country hikes and walking tours, designed to reveal different aspects of Island life. Additionally, festival visitors might like to try their hand at pumpkin carving, tour a local coal mine, or join a cranberry picking excursion.mec-lir-not-an-ep

But for those who prefer something a little closer to home, there will be storytelling, blacksmith demonstrations and a chance to learn more about the Celtic Quilt Guild and a Milling Frolic; recreating the traditional Gaelic way of ‘working the cloth’ as they sang.

To help celebrate this special anniversary, a series of exhibitions will be located around the Island giving a retrospective view of the festival, and including singular presentations commemorating the centenary of women’s suffrage in Canada and focusing on Aboriginal art.

With forty nine concerts and in excess of two hundred and fifty events across the Island, it’s going to be difficult to see it all, but many will be heading for the concerts with Mec Lir and Barrule on the programme.

(Photos courtesy of Phil Kneen)

Valerie Caine

© October 2016

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in Uncategorized


Manx National Heritage teamed up with Lloyds Bank in the summer holidays to offer the chance for a young designer to create an Isle of Man poster and have it professionally produced as a postcard to be placed on the shelves in Manx National Heritage shops. The competition was in association with the Manx Museum’s Exploratorium which is kindly supported by Lloyds Bank, a playful museum gallery that looks back to the time of the tourism heyday on the Isle of Man.

Young people were tasked with promoting a holiday on the Isle of Man, taking inspiration from old holiday posters, postcards, Island attractions, landscapes and heritage. Many of the entries were designed by young visitors at the Lloyds Bank tent and pop-up Exploratorium at The Royal Manx Show in August.

The chosen winner was the talented Dalainea Brown, aged 10 with her design of some of the Island’s most iconic attractions, as well as our famous Manx Loagtan sheep and the Little People. Dalainea’s design will be produced for display in the Manx Museum Exploratorium and also produced as a limited edition postcard which will be sold in return for a 50p donation to support the work of Manx National Heritage to help preserve and protect the Island’s heritage. Dalainea will also receive a VIP tour with her family at her chosen Manx National Heritage site.

Lucy Felton, Business Development Manager at Lloyds Bank said:

“We are so proud to continue to support Manx National Heritage in the wonderful work they do to preserve and protect the Islands heritage. The quality of the entries for the competition was very high and it was clear that the entrants had all put a great deal of time and effort into their designs.  This did made judging a real challenge, but it was the way that Dalainea’s work illustrated brilliantly so many of the treasures that our very special Island has to offer that convinced us that she was our winner.”

The two runners up were Ellie Katsihtis, aged 10 with an sandy Douglas beach scene and Isle of Man in colourful type who was visiting the Isle of Man on holiday during summer, and Billy Kneen, aged 6 with his bold black and white representation of the Laxey Wheel both received MNH goodies and their designs will also be on display in the gallery.

The Happy Holidays Exploratorium at the Manx Museum is open Monday to Saturday until spring 2017 when it will take on a new theme. Many of the vintage holiday posters can be searched at www.imuseum.im.

dalainea-brown-winner-of-the-poster-competition-with-lloyds-bank-and-manx-museum runner-up-design-by-billy-kneen-age-6 runner-up-design-by-ellie-katsistis-age-10 winning-design-by-dalainea-brown-age-10

Image captions:

  1. Dalainea Brown, winner of the poster competition with (from left) Marcus Avery and Lucy Felton from Lloyds Bank and Paul Welden, Manx Museum Visitor Service Assistant.
  2. Winning design by Dalainea Brown, age 10
  3. Runner up design by Billy Kneen, age 6
  4. Runner up design by Ellie Katsihtis, age 10


Lynsey Clague

Communications Manager

Posted in Culture, IOM Government

The amazing link between the Isle of Man TT, The Statue of Liberty and the Panama Canal


Bob Stimpson and Roy Moore Photo: Valerie Caine            

Two Douglas Isle of Man residents need the public’s help to place a Manx Granite memorial on the final resting place of a great Manxman – William Kennish – in New York!

Bob Stimpson, author of the book on Kennish published in 2011, together with the legendary Manx Radio TT commentator Roy Moore, who is a family descendant of William, have formed the William Kennish Memorial Trust.

Over the next few months Roy and Bob are seeking donations from the public to allow them to commission a Manx granite memorial which will be shipped out to New York to be placed on William Kennish’s currently unmarked final resting place in Green Wood Cemetery, New York. The fund already stands at just over $800 and a further $5,500 is needed to confidently complete the project. Any excess funds will be donated to a Navy charity.

The target is to get most of this raised in the next few months to allow the stone to be cut and carved this year before being shipped to New York in time for its placement and dedication on 19th March 2017 – the 155th anniversary of William Kennish’s death.

William Kennish (1799-1862) was a Royal Navy Master carpenter, inventor, poet and South American explorer who discovered the first route to link the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans without the need of locks. His pioneering exploration work in what is now Columbia eventually lead to the final selection of the Panama Canal route we know today. William’s son, also a William, supervised the construction of the concrete plinth supporting the statue of liberty – so you could say this iconic symbol of America has Manx foundations!

In November 2014 two of William’s American descendants joined Roy and Bob at the opening ceremony for the William Kennish Engineering Centre, Greenfield Road Douglas, which has become a key part of University College, Isle of Man. Earlier in the same year Isle of Man Post featured William on their Panama commemorative stamp and miniature sheet set. You can see the full story at www.william-kennish.com

If you want to donate online, go to www.william-kennish.com/donate for full details. Alternatively email contact donate@william-kennish.com for more information!

Posted in History, USA