St Bridget – A Woman for Our Time

With the rise in feminism and raised awareness of the environment dominating the headlines, advocates may look towards an inspirational leader to guide them through their campaigns, but historically St Bridget, who has links with the Isle of Man, may well tick all the boxes.

Believed to have been born near Dundalk, County Louth, in the mid fifth century, St Bridget (Brigid (Irish) Breeshey (Manx)) is a much celebrated figure in Ireland, typically remembered for establishing an abbey and church in Kildare on a site now occupied by St Brigid’s Cathedral. However, confusion arises with similarities to a goddess of the same name and many believe she is a merging of two people, sitting on the boundary of pagan mythology, Druidism and Christian spirituality.

St Bridget, whose feast day is celebrated on the 1st February, is said to have held a unique position in the Irish church and society of her time, and as Abbess presided over the local Church of Kildare and was leader of a double monastery for both men and women.

Stories and legends abound about St Bridget, but what emerges is a portrait of a strong and gentle woman, a powerful leader, good organiser, skilful healer and a wise spiritual guide, who presents what is termed the feminine face of God. Often depicted as a peacemaker, this has been immortalised in the St Bridget’s Cross, a token of goodwill between neighbours after a local quarrel. A version of this may also be found on the Isle of Man.

The timing of her feast day sits perfectly with the celebration of spring, new life and St Bridget’s natural attunement of the seasons and cycle of nature. She was often referred to as the Saint of Agriculture. She has been designated a patron of many things, from chicken farmers and fugitives to printing presses and sailors, but the list also includes babies, children whose parents are unmarried, dairy-maids, infants, midwives, milk-maids and nuns.

Although time blurs the edges of historical record, it’s widely reported that St Bridget visited the Isle of Man as a young girl to receive the veil from St Maughold, although other sources place this ceremony elsewhere. At this point she is said to have founded the Nunnery, near Douglas, ultimately dissolved during the sixteenth century, but historians have been frustrated by lack of reference and a long term dependency on traditionary evidence.

However, there’s no doubting that she was a popular saint on the Isle of Man. You’ll find her name on both a northern parish and its church and seven ancient keeill (chapel) sites, as well as the aforementioned nunnery. Her effigy is also said to be represented on the ancient cross close to the churchyard at Kirk Maughold and on the armorial bearings of the Manx diocese. St Bridget’s Chapel, probably dating from the twelfth or thirteenth century, on the Nunnery estate survived, becoming stables before re-established as a place of worship from the late nineteenth century until 1998, when it was deconsecrated.

Meanwhile an old custom practised on the eve of St Bridget’s Day on the Isle of Man involved gathering a bundle of green rushes, standing with them on the threshold of the house and inviting the saint to visit; ensuring peace and plenty for the coming year. Some might also sweep out the barn before placing a bed, chair and table with bread and cheese, a lighted candle and a quart jug of good Manx ale in expectation of the desired visitor.

A Manx folksong, collected by Mona Douglas from Mrs Bridson of Glen Maye, entitled Invocation to Saint Bridget, readily underpins this tradition.

Valerie Caine

© January 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

New CD by Clash Vooar Breaks New Ground on the Manx Music Scene

Local six-piece band Clash Vooar (Big Groove) has been breaking new ground on the Manx music scene with their extraordinary powerful mix of songs, tunes and languages, which has been described as Manx Gaelic gypsy jazz blues, with their debut album hot off the press,

Featuring jazz enthusiast Dave McLean on bass and keyboard wizard Anglin Buttimore, an unmistakable feature of the talented line-up is the distinctive sound of lead vocalist and songwriter Aalin Clague, who also introduces the mellow note of the cornet to selected tracks. She’s accompanied on vocals by another well-known composer and flute player Breesha Maddrell and ukulele performer Rob Cain (all from the Manx electro-folk band Moot) and drums exponent Danny Kneale. And there’s a guest appearance from Jack McLean (Scran) on accordion.

 Members of the band have performed independently at a host of worldwide festivals, with music from Clash Vooar and Moot recently featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme Notes from a Musical Island, but in this incarnation have already notched up several successful performances at local festivals.

Presenting a selection of re-imagined, traditional music and original songs, Clash Vooar specialise in idiosyncratic storytelling which has its roots in Manx folklore, but successfully locks in prog rock keyboard, jazz inflection and evocative samples mastered by Rob Cain.

This exciting and revolutionary album unleashes a freedom of expression which has been unequivocally shaped by the band’s diversity with sound and experimentation, taking Manx music into an exciting new era.

Further information about Clash Vooar is available on their Facebook page.

 Valerie Caine

© January 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Manx Quartet to Represent the Isle of Man at Pan Celtic International Song Contest

Local quartet Drogh Yindys was selected to represent the Isle of Man at the annual Pan Celtic International Song Contest in Letterkenny, County Donegal, during the local heat Arrane son Mannin at the Masonic Hall in Peel recently.

The song Yn Faageyder (Leaving Thee) focuses on leaving the Isle of Man, and as a group Drogh Yindys has a number of connections to Kirk Michael on the west coast; including singers Jo and Juan Callister, his sister also named Jo on whistle and fellow musician Katie Lawrence on keyboard. The song was originally composed in English by their father John ‘Dog’ Callister and translated into Manx Gaelic by Phil Kelly, both of whom are also connected with Kirk Michael.

The local heat, Arrane son Mannin (Song for Mann), provided a great chance for Island musicians to present an original song in the Manx language, encouraging diversity and innovation amongst singer/songwriters.

As well as the competition itself (with prize money sponsored by Culture Vannin) a large and enthusiastic audience enjoyed a varied evening of Manx entertainment, including BBC Radio 2 Young Musician of the Year Mera Royle, local singer/songwriter Matt Creer and the Manx Gaelic choir Caarjyn Cooidjagh.

Valerie Caine

© January 2019

Concert by Hartes Ease Closes the Festive Season

The annual candle-lit, musical evening held in Holy Trinity Church in the parish of Patrick, has now become an established event on the Manx calendar, with entertainment provided by local early music group Hartes Ease.

They were introduced by Alison Jones, one of the stalwarts behind the emerging Knockaloe Visitors’ Centre, which will provide a focal point for descendants of those incarcerated in the Knockaloe Internment Camp positioned across the road from the church during World War I, and those seeking history of the camp, which, at its peak, housed approximately twenty five thousand internees and guards. Poignantly, she also pointed out that as the camp wasn’t de-commissioned totally until the autumn of 1919, a number of internees were obliged to spend the festive season of 1918 behind barbed wire.

The programme provided by Hartes Ease largely included music from the Mediaeval period, with one of them, Ein Feste Burg, linking events with one of the many novels written by famous Island novelist Sir Hall Caine. Entitled The Woman of Knockaloe, the story is based upon the love story of a Manx girl and a German internee.

After refreshments the repertoire of Hartes Ease included two Manx tunes, Ushag veg Ruy and Ec ny Fiddleryn ayns y Nollick, arranged by one of their musicians Cristl Jerry. One of her ancestors was interned within Knockaloe Internment Camp.

All money raised during the evening will be donated towards the on-going work of the Knockaloe Visitors’ Centre, which will be up-and-running from March this year.

Valerie Caine
© January 2019

Traditional Oie’ll Verree Plays to a Full House

Organised by Michael Heritage Trust, the traditional Oie’ll Verree held at the Ebenezer Hall in the village follows a tried and trusted format, which in the age of contemporary entertainment can still muster a full house.

Members of the audience were welcomed by the Chair of Michael Heritage Trust, David Corlett, before returning compére, Zoë Cannell, took to her feet to act as lynch pin between the varied acts on the programme.

The evening always gets underway with a rousing rendition of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night before all eyes turned to the stage for a night of Manx entertainment. Music, recitation, song and dance dominated the programme, with Erin Loach and Paul Costain providing several local songs in both Manx Gaelic and English, Kirsty and Katie Lawrence captivating the audience on fiddle, whistle and cello, and some of the youngest members of the dance group Skeddan Jiarg stepping out onto the compact stage. They were joined by Marilyn Cannell on piano, who also provided an improvised song, self-penned poetry from the current Manx Bard Annie Kissack and Zoë Cannell and a selection of magic tricks with Island magician Lexi Dernie.

The annual presentation of the award Yn Gliggyr was made during a short interval to Mike Clague, before The Michael Players RBV presented the Manx dialect play In the Doctor’s Waiting Room written by J. E. Q. Cooil during the 1950s; a perfectly crafted comedy which concentrated on the varied suggestions as to how a pan might be released from the head of a small child – with a twist in the tail.

But the evening closed as ever with the aptly named Arrane Oie Vie ( Goodnight Song) and a sumptuous home-made supper.

Valerie Caine

© January 2019

Return of The Chronicles of Mann and the Isles Advocated at Illiam Dhone Ceremony

The annual ceremony commemorating the anniversary of the death of William Christian took place at Hango Hill, just outside Castletown, close to the site of both his execution and now demolished abode at Ronaldsway.

His death in the seventeenth century has long provoked comment and vitriol, with many still divided on the subject of whether he was a traitor or a patriot.

Jointly organised by Mec Vannin and the local branch of the Celtic League, the anniversary of Christian’s death also provides a platform for members of the community to enjoy the opportunity of free speech, as well as remembering the man nick-named Illiam Dhone (Brown-Haired William).

Introduced by Bernard Moffatt, the oration in Manx Gaelic was given by Chair of Mec Vannin, Mark Kermode, followed by a second in the English language by Bill Henderson MLC who spoke on the topic of the return of The Chronicles of Mann and the Isles to the Island.

It’s an important, historical document, covering the early history of the Isle of Man and thought to have been written at Rushen Abbey in Ballasalla – although other historians suggest that the content may have been recorded at the Cistercian Abbey at Furness. But the main thrust of his speech focused upon a plea for the return of the publication from the British Library in England. Back in 2007 he invoked a Resolution in Tynwald for the return of the Chronicles, but has lately detected further interest about the subject from his fellow members of the legislature.

This was followed by the annual wreath-laying ceremony and singing of the Manx National Anthem in both Manx and English.

Once the crowd dispersed, there was an opportunity to either attend a special service at Malew Parish Church (where Christian is believed to be buried), or travel back into Castletown for a post music session at Compton Vaults, where hot soup was available in return for a donation to the Isle of Man Food Bank situated in Tromode.

Valerie Caine

© January 2019




Washington Manx enjoy 12th Night celebration & send message to oldest surviving founding member

The Greater Washington Area Manx Society held its annual 12th Night celebration, beginning with a qualtagh chasing out the Old Year with a sword and bring gifts of salt, money and peat and ending with a rousing chorus of Auld Lang Syne. Here the Society poses with a sign for Avril Shipman, the Society’s surviving founding member who celebrated her 95th birthday last week. Other activities included a meeting to discuss events for 2019, announcing the NAMA 2020 plans for Plymouth, MA, and our rambunctious “Laxey Swap”.

New pound coin goes global with rollout to British overseas nations

British overseas nations can now adopt the iconic 12-sided £1 coin.

Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies will, for the first time, be able to design and mint their own versions of the new 12-sided £1 coin.

The iconic £1 coin has long been recognised around the world and Brits living in UK territories may soon be able to spend unique versions of the new pound, replacing the older coins currently in use.

The coins are expected to feature images celebrating the heritage of these territories, with their history and culture pictured on the reverse side. Ministers believe this will symbolise the close links between the UK and its territories.

The new £1 coin, introduced in 2017, is the most secure of its kind in the world. Many territories and dependencies have coins based on older versions of UK currency and they will now have the choice to use this cutting-edge technology and design to protect their cash.

This decision taken by ministers to roll out the coin underpins the UK’s commitment to its territories and dependencies, and will ensure they can benefit from the increased security that the 12-sided coin offers.

Robert Jenrick, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said:

The Great British pound is internationally recognised and as we extend the new £1 coin to our territories and dependencies, we will see new designs emerge that together symbolise our shared history.

In the same way that the rose, leek, thistle and shamrock are used on our coin to represent the four nations of the UK, these new designs will reflect the rich and varying British communities across the world.

From the Falklands to Gibraltar, this move sends a clear message of our unshakeable commitment to our territories around the globe.

Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Overseas Territories, said:

This is an exciting opportunity for our currency to reflect the breadth and variety of the British Territories. Each will be able to create a design that reflects their own distinctive heritage as part of the British family. As well as helping to boost their identity, these new coins will also bring increased security to each of these economies.

Currently, many of the UK’s territories and dependencies use their own versions of the pound which are pegged against Pound Sterling.

To produce their own 12-sided £1-coin, Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies will inform the Royal Mint, who will ensure that the same security standards are met before approving and supplying them with the necessary blank or struck coins.

Further information

The new £1 coin has a number of overt and covert security features, including its 12-sided shape, intermittent milled edges, and the denomination and year date incorporated in micro-text on the coin.

The three Crown Dependencies of the United Kingdom include:

  • Isle of Man
  • Jersey
  • Guernsey

The United Kingdom Overseas Territories include:

  • Akrotiri and Dhekelia
  • Anguilla
  • British Antarctic Territory
  • Bermuda
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Falkland Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Montserrat
  • St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha
  • Turk and Caicos Islands
  • Pitcairn Island
  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

Mollag Ghennal Celebrates 25th Anniversary

The much loved, annual Mollag Ghennal, which has its roots in the Garden Room of the old Villa Marina, before the Mollag Band took over the baton from the Calor Gas Ceili Band in 1993, celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary during the festive season.

It’s a tried and trusted format still favoured by the event’s many followers, who enjoyed a relaxed evening of mostly local entertainment at the Manx Legion building in Douglas. This year organisers welcomed Sel Edwards who provided both Welsh and Manx music, local singer/songwriter Matt Kelly, Imbolc (hotfoot from performances in Belgium), up-and-coming group Scran with their new album Nane, father and son duo Frank and Jamie Joughin and Manx dancers Skeddan Jiarg.

Meanwhile, the Mollag Band presented a new dimension, described by lead vocalist Greg Joughin as the musical equivalent of modern art, with groups of lyrics connected simply by vague association. An abstract image formed through the ears of the listener, a kind of melodic Matisse.

Supper was provided by the Mollag Kitchens.

As well as the usual self-penned, original songs from the Mollag Band, the evening concluded with a revolutionary mix of community singing linking Victorian music hall and Manx folk classics from the 1970s.

Valerie Caine

© January 2019

2020 – Get Ready! Massachusetts here we come!


We’re off to Plymouth, MA for our 2020 Convention. We’ll celebrate our Manx heritage in the place where Miles Standish, reputedly from Ramsey, was Captain of the Militia for the Pilgrims, in charge of their safety.

Put it in your calendars now! August 6-9th 2020.  More information to follow.