Aunt Bessie Mysteries

Cover of Book 1

The first Aunt Bessie mystery is available for the Kindle and also in paperback.

Aunt Bessie assumes that she’ll have the beach all to herself on a cold, wet, and windy March morning just after sunrise, then she stumbles (almost literally) over a dead body. Aunt Bessie assumes that the dead man died of natural causes, then the police find the knife in his chest.

Elizabeth (Bessie) Cubbon, aged somewhere between free bus pass (60) and telegram from the Queen (100), has lived her entire adult life in a small cottage on Laxey beach. For most of those years, she’s been in the habit of taking a brisk morning walk along the beach. Dead men have never been part of the scenery before.

Try as she might, Bessie just can’t find anything to like about the young widow that she provides tea and sympathy to in the immediate aftermath of finding the body. There isn’t much to like about the rest of the victim’s family either.

Aunt Bessie assumes that the police will have the case wrapped up in no time at all, then she finds a second body. Can Bessie and her friends find the killer before she ends up as the next victim?


Posted in Culture

The handwritten diary of Elizabeth Romney

This is the catalog entry for a handwritten diary of Elizabeth Romney, including some pages from her visit to Douglas. The auction is in early May, at Heritage Auctions in Dallas. 

 [George Romney]. Journal of Elizabeth Romney for the years 1834-1837. One volume, 4.75″ x 7.5″, 188 pages (76 blank), recorded at various places, April 14, 1834 through September 17, 1837. Romney’s diary, recorded when she was in her early twenties, began the year her father died and lasted off and on for three years.

Romney’s diary entries record everyday activities, such as practicing her drawing, books she read, and visits to friends and various locales in England. Her first diary entry of April 14, 1834 relates to her arrival in Liverpool, apparently her first time in the town. On April 15, she compared Liverpool to London, particularly its people. “The contrast however is much greater in the people you meet than in the streets themselves….I have not yet seen as gentlemanlike man & there appears to be a great lack of beauty in the ladies.” A month later, on May 15, writing from Whitestock Hall, she expressed her disappointment at the low prices her grandfather’s paintings realized at a sale. “We received this eveng. an accounting of the sale of the pictures, even I (tho’ my expectations were far from sanguine) [am?] grievously disappointed with the pitiable prices they had fetched. It wounds me to the heart to think that those glorious pieces, into which grandpapa had [thrown?] so much of his genius should be no more estimated than to be suffered to sell for little more than the value of their respective frames-how would his enthusiasm in the execution of those pieces have been damped could he have foreseen that in the course of a few years” his works would be held in such low esteem.

In late May 1837, Elizabeth Romney, her mother, and sister Jane traveled to the town of Douglas on the Isle of Man, arriving there in the evening of May 22. During her stay there, Elizabeth produced a drawing of the Tower of Refuge on St. Mary’s Isle, which she included in her diary. On the 24th Elizabeth and her mother went into the town to shop & walked to the bridge. The shops appear very good but I have not as yet been into many. Douglas certainly is a beautiful place….I was particularly pleased on entering the harbor with the [?] House the site overlooking the Bay is so extremely commanding & it is so little indebted to any adventitious adornment – a green slope studded here & there with wild [?] in full bloom forms the simple lawn & is much more in accordance with my taste. The character of the scenery – the mamby pamby style of ornament – wch. is now generally adopted under the title landscape gardening. The Tower of Refuge wch. stands on the little island known by the name of St. Mary’s Rock & planned by Sir Wm. Hillary bespeaks him a man of public spirit & great taste.”

From the Estate of Malcolm S. Forbes.

Condition: The cover of the diary, quarter red leather, is in fine condition as is the internal text block.

More Information:

Elizabeth Romney (1814-1893) was the daughter of John Romney (1758-1834) and Jane Kannal Romney of Whitestock Hall, England, and the granddaughter of the English painter George Romney.  She took ownership of her grandfather’s paintings, drawings, and manuscripts after the death of her father.  She never married and was the last Romney to live at Whitestock Hall, which was finally sold in 1901. George Romney purchased land in Whitestock, England, two years before his death, upon which his son John built Whitestock Hall, which stayed in the family until Elizabeth moved from the house later in her life.

George Romney (1734-1802) was English portrait painter. Born in the northwest of England, Romney traveled to London in 1762 and quickly became a fashionable portrait painter. His most famous portrait is The Death of General Wolfe. In later life he turned his hand to literary subjects, with Milton and His Daughters and Scene from The Tempest among his works. Today, he is considered one of the finest painters of the English School of Art.



Posted in Culture, History

New words for old music found

I (Kelly McCarthy) just found this piece of music with Manx lyrics handwritten by my grandfather, H. P. Kelly (who wrote the song Cadlee ny Moidyn Moirrey or “Bee dty host, my lhoannoo veen”).  It was in a book of Manx music collected by Mona Douglas, which was obviously my grandfather’s as it had his handwriting on it. He passed away in 1938, while serving as High Bailiff of Man which gives us a latest date for this work.

Greater Washington Area Manx Society member, Bill Cassidy has translated it thus:

Veagh dooys fegooish miljid erbee
Yn ghrian houree jeeaghyn gyn bree

Would to me be without sweetness at all.
The summer sun shining without strength ..

Agh tra ta mee maynrey ayns Jee
Ta’n geurey myr sourey dou eisht.

But when I am joyful in God
The winter is like summer to me then.

Breesey Maddrell at Culture Vannin says: “It looks like something new to our eyes word-wise but looks like the Arrane ny Cloiedeyr Viol tune.”

Posted in Culture

Manx Words – A New Dictionary

If you’re one of the growing number of Manx language speakers, then you’ll be interested in the recent publication of a new pocket dictionary under the expressive title Manx Words.

Produced jointly by Manx speakers James Harrison and Adrian Cain (Manx Language Development Officer for Culture Vannin), this recent addition to the rapidly growing material for learners and speakers was heavily influenced by the work and assistance of Steve Morris. Based at Swansea University, he produced a similar publication for learners of the Welsh language.

Adrian Cain, the Manx Language Development Officer for Culture Vannin commented, “This resource will be of real use to anyone who intends to learn the language. It isn’t meant to be a comprehensive introduction to Manx, rather it covers the key vocabulary that students are likely to encounter when they start to pick up the language.” 

 Manx Words is particularly useful to students in their first two years of study, with each word accompanied by examples used in every day speech, together with useful word lists and explanations of irregular verbs and common prepositions.

 The dictionary is now available from many Island bookshops priced at £10.

 Valerie Caine

© April 2017

 (Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in Culture

Manx Singers and Musicians Head for Pastures Old and New

   No matter what the temperature might be on the Isle of Man, things are hotting up for Manx music this month, with many singers and musicians heading for pastures old and new – together with a special weekend for harp players.

Trad bands Mec Lir and Ímar will be travelling to the Shetland Folk Festival, which prides itself in reaching even the most far flung regions of the islands, providing some of the best international, British and Shetland music. Regarded as the UK’s most northerly folk festival, its hub is based firmly in Lerwick, culminating in the celebrated Foy concerts, which provide audiences with the opportunity of enjoying virtually all of the visiting performers in just one evening. Why not join them at the festival’s unofficial opening – held on the overnight North Sea ferry!

Meanwhile Ímar will be heading to the Centenary Centre in Peel on the 14th April, as they step out on the first date of the band’s UK tour to promote their debut album, Afterlight. Tickets priced £14 available from

Also heading out to the Celtic fringe will be the local winners of Arrane son Mannin, who will represent the Isle of Man at the long standing Pan-Celtic Festival, in Carlow, Ireland, together with Clare Kilgallon, this year’s Vice President. Recognised as an opportunity to promote and strengthen the language, culture, music and song of the participating nations, the festival is perfectly placed to encourage inter-Celtic tourism, trade and commerce.

Local group Biskee Brish will represent the Island in the New International Song Competition with their powerful rendition of Nagh Abbyr Shen, and the Matt Creer Band will be competing in the festival’s New Song in Traditional Style Competition with their composition Ny Boallaghyn Shoh. There will also be an opportunity to enjoy Manx music and chat at a lunchtime session and a combined dance night with the Breton and Cornish groups. With thanks to the Isle of Man Arts Council and Culture Vannin for their support.

Closer to home, however, will be a special exchange visit between local harpists Croan yn Tead and visiting group The Lissenhall Harp Ensemble from Ireland. Incorporating a programme of events and cultural activities, a series of harp workshops will be held at The Youth Arts Theatre on Kensington Road in Douglas, with a welcome for both harpists and other traditional musicians. This will also be the venue for an evening concert of Manx and Irish harp music on Easter Saturday. Tickets priced at £5 (free for those under 13), with further details about all events available from the Croan yn Tead Facebook page.

Valerie Caine

© April 2017

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in Culture

iMuseum relaunches newspaper site

[PG/13633/1/1961/195/1] Robin Hall and Jimmy MacGreggor, reading Holiday News, June 1961, Manx Press Pictures on

Manx National Heritage, the national heritage agency for the Isle of Man, wants you to discover what made the Island’s news in days gone by with the re-launch of the iMuseum Newspapers & Publications website,

Hundreds of subscribers both on Island and from around-the-world and are now using the new-improved website to read and search for news stories from the Isle of Man newspapers from 1792 to 1960, as well as publications chosen as useful for understanding the heritage of the Island.

Edmund Southworth, Director of Manx National Heritage said:

“Working closely with Government Technology Services, Olive Software and Gooii Design, Manx National Heritage has invested to update the technology and make even more enjoyable the experience of people finding the reading news stories from the Isle of Man’s distant and not too distant past.   The website is now quicker at delivering content to users, has a new-look homepage and for the first time is usable on mobile, tablet or smart device as well as laptop or computer”.  

Aside from being quicker, features on the new website include a simple timeline for clicking and browsing through year-by-year each of the forty-two newspaper and publication titles.  An Article View window now enables you to enlarge the text onscreen, go to the page where the article appears and print, email or share what you find on Facebook or Twitter.  A new My Collection feature has also been introduced, enabling users to store articles between online sessions.

Searching can be done on articles, pictures or advertisements using just a single word or phrase with the option to narrow a search by newspaper or publication and/or by date range.  For the serious researcher there’s also the new search results analytics feature which creates a visual breakdown of where a search term appears across the years which a researcher can use to really delve into the news stories they want to discover.

Subscription options remain the same at £7 for 24 hours, £10 for 7 days, £30 for 30 days and £100 for 365 days.  For a year’s subscription that works out at around 3p a day with unlimited search and download from wherever you are.  Alternatively, the website is free to use at Manx National Heritage Library & Archives Reading Room at the Manx Museum, open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am – 5pm.  Free access is also available in a number of public libraries across the Isle of Man.

iMuseum user, Ray Kelly, author of Manx Tholtans (vol 1) says:

“Whilst producing my book I found the iMuseum website invaluable.  For research into anything Manx the overall website and especially iMuseum Newspapers & Publications is invaluable and with subscription its available 24/7 all from the comfort of your own armchair.  The new website means pages load virtually instantly along with a huge range of searches you can enter. In short I cannot recommend it highly enough, so log on and immerse yourself in the past that was once forgotten, but can now be relived once again”.


Posted in Culture, History, Manx National Heritage

Launch of Poetry Book on World Book Day

The Enchanting Island of Cushag is the most recent publication to be launched under the auspices of Peel Heritage Trust with the Peel City Guardian, appropriately on World Book Day, at the Peel Clothworkers School.

Cushag was the pen-name of Ramsey born Josephine Kermode, one of fourteen children of the Reverend William Kermode and sister of the celebrated naturalist and archaeologist P. M. C. Kermode.

Her poetry has long been a favourite of Bill Quine, who set about compiling all of her known poems (105 in all) for this publication, which includes perhaps her best known composition Traa dy Liooar, together with a short biography.

With the future of the Island’s heritage and culture ultimately in the hands of the younger generation, it was decided to engage the pupils of Peel Clothworkers’ School in this event, which also commemorated the death of Cushag eighty years ago. The launch was attended by Jo Callister who represented the Department of Education and Children, Mrs Bridge Carter and Mrs Di Benson of the Isle of Man Poetry Society (who also recited examples of their own work) and the Honourable Ray Harmer MHK. They were also joined by Dr Breesha Maddrell of Culture Vannin, representatives of Peel Heritage Trust and invited guests.

Bill Quine revealed further details of the life and times of Cushag to his audience and gave an insight into his fondness for her poetry, with recitations by pupils Charlotte Dalgleish and Chloë Gelling.

Peel Heritage Trust has also generously donated approximately one hundred copies of the book to the Department of Education and Children for distribution amongst Island schools.

But before their return to lessons, pupils were read the opening lines of a newly written poem entitled Bobby and the Buggane, and challenged to come up with a suitable conclusion. The winner will receive a prize from Peel Heritage Trust.

Celebrations concluded with light refreshments including, appropriately enough, some home-made bonnag.

Priced at £9.50, The Enchanting Island of Cushag is available from Mitchell’s Newsagents in Peel, Bridge Bookshop (Port Erin and Ramsey), the Lexicon Bookshop in Douglas, or direct from Peel Heritage Trust.

Valerie Caine

© March 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Uncategorized

Plenty of Entries at the World Bonnag Championships

  The annual World Bonnag Championships was a great opportunity to combine a talent for baking with an evening’s entertainment, drawing competitors and onlookers from all parts of the Island.

The Manx bonnag is a simple, un-yeasted bread which once figured prominently upon many farmhouse kitchen tables, but remains a favourite at a number of social gatherings and in some Island households.

Sponsored by Shoprite, the winners were:

Women’s Section – Carolyn Kinrade  (who was also awarded the Isle of Man Creamery’s Buttermilk Trophy

Men’s Section – Dominic Gordon

Under Fourteen – Eva Jones

Gluten Free – Vanessa Callin

Professional Bakers – Niarbyl Cafe (Shoprite Trophy)

Everyone who entered the competitions was invited to take away a complimentary bag of Soda Bread Flour, courtesy of Laxey Flour Mill.

But if you didn’t have time to whip a bonnag into shape, there was also chance to watch the events and enjoy a hearty supper, along with entertainment by Dot Tilbury and friends, presentation of cheques to last year’s charities and an introduction to this year’s chosen beneficiaries. The evening concluded with the auction of all competition entries.

Proceeds after costs will be divided between Tabitha’s Trust, the Pahar Trust (Nepal) and Dalby Church Restoration Fund.

Valerie Caine

© March 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Culture

Celtfest – a Fresh New Name for the Island’s Annual Summer Festival!

  There’s a fresh new name on the festival calendar, but behind it a rich background of history and social enterprise.

Celtfest Isle of Man has been organised by Yn Chruinnaght (a group of like-minded individuals who love all things Celtic) and promises to invigorate mid-summer with a selection of new ideas and trusted favourites.

Putting the Celts truly into Celtfest will be anatomist, anthropologist and broadcaster Professor Alice Roberts, who has presented several landmark BBC series, including The Incredible Human Journey, Origins of Us, Ice Age Giants and, of course, The Celts.

Additionally, a new event for this year will be a free family day based in and around Cathedral Isle of Man (St German’s Cathedral in Peel) called The Gathering. Sponsored by Conister Bank, it will be an opportunity to enjoy music and dance performances, browse the artisan craft fair and take part in mini workshops. There’ll be food and drink on hand from local producers, together with yarn-spinner and puppeteer Fi Angwin (bringing traditional Celtic stories to life), well-known harpist Rachel Hair and a plethora of Manx performers.

Music will be very much a staple part of the Celtfest menu, including a liberal outreach programme of both visiting and local acts for school children, and a week of free, lunchtime sessions featuring talented, Island singer/songwriters and musicians at Noa Bakehouse in Douglas.

Further entertainment will also be available at the Centenary Centre in Peel with a cross-section of fine musicians from Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man; including Talisk, Connla, the Rioghnach Connolly Band and the stunning debut album The River, composed by the award-winning Hamish Napier and sponsored by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s Chief Executive Mark Woodward commented: “For four decades Yn Chruinnaght has been a leading celebration of Manx and Celtic culture and as it enters an exciting new era as Celtfest we are delighted to be the festival’s Travel Partner. Since the late 1970s the festival has not only engaged the Manx community but also brought visitors from across the Celtic nations to share their music, song and dance and experience the Isle of Man. As Celtfest, the festival can build on this great tradition and grow, bringing more people to the Island and getting even more of the local population involved. The Steam Packet Company is proud to call the Isle of Man home and delighted to support Celtfest as it shares our unique culture with people from around the world.”

Celtfest Isle of Man is also kindly supported by Culture Vannin and the Isle of Man Arts Council, but organisers would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to sponsor the event.

Further information available from Facebook, Twitter, or by phoning 07624 302200.

Valerie Caine

© March 2017

Posted in Culture

William Kennish Memorial Dedication Ceremony

  With the success of a local campaign to raise funds for a permanent gravestone at the burial site of one of the Island’s unsung heroes, there was an opportunity for some of those involved with the project to view the finished stone before transportation to New York.

Trustees of the William Kennish Memorial Trust, Robert Stimpson and Roy Moore (a descendant of the Kennish family) invited those who had donated to this unique marker along to Manx Memorials in Peel, where Matthew Gregson, who worked on the stone, was on hand to answer questions, together with the trustees.

William Kennish was born at Cornaa in 1799, and although he modestly described himself as illiterate, was later rapidly promoted within the Royal Navy. The son of a farmer, Kennish spoke only Manx Gaelic when he left the Island, but this didn’t hold him back. As a self-educated engineer, Kennish didn’t lack imagination, producing a number of inventions which included the Marine Theodolite, part of the first gun commander system in 1828, and an ambitious plan to provide a Harbour of Refuge at the Calf of Man.

He returned to the Island in 1844 with his family, briefly spending time in Castle Rushen Debtors’ Gaol, before presenting a 3,000 signature petition in London to improve the harbours on behalf of Manx fishermen. He later headed for the USA to further his career.

However, Kennish’s most outstanding achievement is, perhaps, reflected in his work to locate a route for what is now the Panama Canal. Undertaking seven complex surveys across hazardous territory, Kennish remains the only person to have successfully found a canal route without locks across the isthmus, and although un-adopted, his plan has been re-examined.

Kennish died of pneumonia in 1862, but the complications of typhus prevented his burial for seven years, and although eventually laid to rest in New York, he lies in an unmarked grave in Green Wood Cemetery.

However, the curious addition of the name of Charles P. Neurse on the reverse of the Kennish gravestone requires some explanation. Unforeseen family circumstances resulted in Kennish being buried in a public plot, together with the aforesaid Charles P. Neurse, who died of bilious fever at the age of twenty four. The policy employed at the Green Wood Cemetery requires that all persons within a given plot are identified upon the gravestone.

A brief dedication ceremony will take place on the one hundred and fifty fifth anniversary of William Kennish’s death on the 19th March, 2017, at Green Wood Cemetery, which will also be attended by the President of Tynwald, the Honourable Stephen Rodan MLC.

Valerie Caine

© March 2017

Posted in History