New Exhibition Highlights the Work of Archibald Knox

If you’re planning a visit to the Isle of Man during the winter season, this would be a great opportunity to visit the forthcoming exhibition about Archibald Knox at the Manx Museum in Douglas.

Beginning mid-October, this will be a rare chance to see a host of items designed by Knox with many of them from private collections and, until now, unseen on the Island.

Although he’s known as an artist, teacher and designer, these lines can sometimes be blurred, depending upon personal experience, but here’s an unprecedented opportunity for everyone to see all aspects of the great man’s work. This will include silver, pewter, jewellery and copies of other work designed by Knox, reflecting upon his ability with water-colour, oil painting, sketches, ceramic items, wallpaper, textiles, carpets, design drawing, graphics, illustrations and illuminated lettering.

Interspersed with information about the designer and his life, visitors will also be able to assess examples from The Deer’s Cry, gravestones and memorials, study his teaching methods and learn more about the Knox Guild of Design and Crafts. Other original work, including silverware, clocks, water-colours and oil paintings will also be on display in other parts of the museum.

Additionally, there will be a selection of talks expanding on the Knox theme, including a curatorial lecture focusing on The Deer’s Cry with Yvonne Cresswell. Further talks will encompass Liberty and Co., silver hallmarks, the origins of the distinctive Cymric and Tudric range and industrial espionage at the turn of the nineteenth century. There will also be a brief introduction to the graves situated in Braddan New Cemetery, the aims and objectives of the Archibald Knox Forum and how to spot a fake Knox item. And there’s a further opportunity to view Anthony Bernbaum’s lecture at Olympia during 2014 (with thanks to Culture Vannin, Anthony Bernbaum and the Archibald Knox Society). It’s also hoped to provide guided tours across the Island to visit places associated with Knox.

The exhibition closes on the 13th January 2019.

Thanks are extended to those collectors lending items for display, Culture Vannin, Manx National Heritage, Our Island 2018 committee and the Archibald Knox Forum.

Further details about the Archibald Knox Forum can be found at, by emailing or through their Facebook page.

Valerie Caine

© October 2018




Island at War Event Attracts Visitors to Vintage Steam Railway Stations

With the summer season drawing to a close, Isle of Man Railways once again organised the annual Island at War weekend, which attracted visitors to the steam railway – with events held at stations in Douglas, Castletown and Port Erin.

Including live acts such as the fabulous D-Day Darlings (as seen on Britain’s Got Talent) and the popular, Island based Southern Belles, there were plenty of opportunities to absorb the 1940s atmosphere along the route. There were also additional events including guided bus tours of war sites in Douglas with Charles Guard and two evening concerts with the aforementioned D-Day Darlings. Visitors were encouraged to dress up and join in the fun.

Each station offered something a little different, with a display of restored World War II military and period vehicles stationed in Douglas, together with the Glampervan, offering a 1940s make-up and hair transformation. Here too was an evocative display of military uniforms and period costumes loaned courtesy of the Manx Amateur Drama Federation and curated by local artist Michael Starkey. And there was a treat for animal lovers with an opportunity to meet one of the Douglas Bay tram horses, who assisted in telling the wartime history of horses on the Isle of Man.

Meanwhile, in Castletown, southern based scout troops set up a wartime camp and field hospital, as well as providing activities and cooking demonstrations. There was also chance to see a traction engine and steam roller and tuck into some home-made cake and light refreshments.

At the end of the line in Port Erin there were plenty of goods from the WI stall and the Manx Craft Guild and a further opportunity to cast an eye over a selection of vintage vehicles. The Memorial Hall in Port Erin was transformed into a NAFFI café with exhibitions including an RAF 100 display.

Valerie Caine

© September 2018

On Wednesday 19 September 2018, Manx National Heritage will host a public lecture at the Manx Museum by Deborah Beck, author of, Rayner Hoff – The Life of a Sculptor.

Born on the Isle of Man, Rayner Hoff was the son of a stone and wood carver. He began helping his father on architectural commissions at a very young age and attended the Nottingham School of Art where he studied drawing, design, and modelling, from 1910 to 1915.

He served in the British Army during World War 1 in France, an experience from which he was to draw most passionately in the creation of his various war memorials. Later in the war he made maps based on aerial photographs.

Following the War he enrolled in the Royal College of Art in London. He graduated in 1922 and received the prestigious Prix de Rome.

After studying in Italy for three months, at the age of 29, Hoff emigrated to Sydney, Australia. His arrival in Sydney resulted in a cultural renaissance in his adopted country. He became an influential artist and teacher, and established the first school of sculpture in Australia.  He later became Head of Art at the National Art School.

He became a member of the Society of Artists and sent work to their exhibitions. In 1924, he designed their medal, and in 1927, was responsible for sculpture for the National War Memorial in Adelaide.  His best known works are the monumental sculptures on the Anzac War Memorial in Sydney’s Hyde Park.

His work on the Anzac Memorial is cited as Sydney’s most moving example of publicly visible sculpture.

Hoff also produced a variety of outstanding figurative sculptures and in 1934 was commissioned to design the Victorian centenary medal. At the time of his death, on 19 November 1937, he was engaged on the George V Memorial for Canberra.

Alan Kinvig, Museums and Site Manager for Manx National Heritage said:

“Manx National Heritage is delighted to welcome Deborah Beck to the Isle of Man.  This promises to be a fascinating lecture, exploring Rayner Hoff’s eventful life in the UK, his decision to emigrate to Australia and his meteoric rise as a prominent star of the art world in Sydney”. 

There will also be an opportunity to have your book signed by Deborah on the evening. A limited stock of books will be available from the Manx Museum shop.

The lecture coincides with the recent launch of a set of six stamps by Isle of Man Post Office celebrating Rayner Hoff’s work.

Tickets for the lecture cost £10 and are available for sale at the Manx Museum Shop, where presentation stamp packs and Deborah Beck’s book ‘Rayner Hoff – The Life of a Sculptor’ are also available.  Tickets also available online

The lecture takes place on Wednesday 19 September.  Doors open at 6.30pm for a 7pm start.


Image caption: Raynor Hoff with The Sacrifice


New Book Commemorates the Peel to Knockaloe Railway

Fitting snugly into a knapsack, this new publication encapsulates the memory of a short-lived 3ft gauge railway line which served the expanding Knockaloe Internment Camp, situated on the west coast during World War I.

Acting as a spur from the main line in Peel, it became a veritable work horse for the burgeoning camp which eventually housed a population of approximately 26,000 internees and guards.

The booklet is an ideal companion with which to follow the route – although you’d be hard pressed to find any of the track which transported essential supplies. It’s believed to be the first time information about this topic has been made available under one cover, detailing some remarkable statistics, focusing upon employment opportunities and the railway line’s construction.

Published by the Manx Transport Heritage Museum, it’s available from Mitchell’s Newsagents and the Ward Library in Peel, as well as Manx National Heritage outlets priced at £5.

However, there’s an opportunity to join a fully escorted walk along the route of the defunct railway line on the 9th September, starting at 2.00pm from the overspill car park at the House of Manannan, with no need to book in advance. Alternatively, the walks will be repeated during the Heritage Open Days weekends.

Please note that some sections of the route are unsuitable for wheelchair users and those with limited mobility.

Additionally, meet in the foyer of the House of Manannan at 3.30pm on the 7th September to commemorate the closing of the Peel to Douglas railway line in 1968.

Valerie Caine

© September 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

The Tides of Manaunaun played by Elif Onal

From Brent Warner of the Greater Washington D.C. Area Manx Society comes this gem.


There’s a piano piece by the American composer Henry Cowell, “The Tides of Manaunaun”, using the Irish spelling of Mananan’s name, but it’s the same guy.

It sounds very mystical, as intended.  Here is the composer’s description:

In Irish mythology, Manaunaun was the god of motion and of the waves of the sea. And according to the mythology, at the time when the universe was being built, Manaunaun swayed all of the materials out of which the universe was being built with fine particles which were distributed everywhere through cosmos. And he kept these moving in rhythmical tides so that they should remain fresh when the time came for their use in the building of the universe.



Royal Manx Agricultural Show Attracts Bumper Crowds to Knockaloe Farm

Despite unwarranted worries about the weather, crowds flocked to this year’s Royal Manx Agricultural Show, which attracted lots of visitors through the gates at Knockaloe Farm in Patrick on both days, to the delight of organisers.

With much on offer to suit everyone’s taste, it was a great opportunity for sightseers to familiarise themselves with some fabulous local food and drink and enjoy a wide range of entertainment. It’s also a good time to chat face to face with local farmers and learn more about the livestock brought along for annual competitions, culminating in the Grand Parade and the selection of the Supreme Champion at the close of the event.

The main entertainment ring sported an extensive programme, including lurcher racing, classic car and vintage tractor parades, sheep dog demonstrations and the Jez Avery Stunt Show which drew onlookers throughout the event, as well as the popular Spike Milton’s Teme Timbersports who used a separate arena.

This long standing event is a highlight of the Manx calendar, and with a whole day (or two) to fill there was ample time to wander amongst various trade stands and glimpse some of the wonderful work presented by local craft workers.

There was also plenty for youngsters to see across the site, including some fabulous birds and animals in the much loved (if somewhat noisy) Fur and Feather tent, kittens for cuddling and rides on the funfair before heading for the ubiquitous ice cream van.

Local producers were out in force, deservedly showing their wares at the Manx Food Court and selling much of it to customers old and new, with other locally sourced food available elsewhere on the show ground.

But the nearby Farm and Garden marquee also presented the unmistakable skills of those who can turn their hand readily to growing fruit, vegetables and flowers, as well as domestic cooks and bakers hoping for prizes in a sometimes hotly contested arena. Categories included such delights as home-made bread, succulent drop scones and cakes, luscious butter and jam and a whole host of cordials utilising all the great benefits of a Manx harvest.

Valerie Caine

© August 2018

Archibald Knox Headstone in UK Commemorates Centenary

Few of the distinctive headstones designed by Manx designer Archibald Knox will be found outside of the Isle of Man, the best known being that created for Arthur Lasenby Liberty for whom the gifted Manx designer worked for several years. But a lesser known memorial, behind which lies a tragic story, resides in a quiet, Lancashire churchyard in its centenary year.

Carved in Welsh slate by Thomas Quayle, the headstone is dedicated solely to the memory of William Edward Callister who drowned at sea in 1918 and was a science master at the Douglas Secondary School in Park Road, but grew up in Onchan. The Callister family is linked to the Knox clan by marriage.

The story begins, however, at lunchtime on the 15th August, 1918, when William Callister and his five year old son Will headed out from their home towards the cliffs below Onchan Head to hunt for crabs; popping into Gell’s grocers shop on Broadway to purchase biscuits for their outing. Neither of them returned by tea-time, as expected, and his wife, Annie, assumed they had visited her father in law, also of Onchan. But as the evening wore on her concern for their welfare grew and a search was made for the thirty seven year old man and his young son.

At 11.00pm Sergeant Cowley of Onchan discovered Callister’s coat, a pair of shoes belonging to the boy and some sandwiches on what is known as the Chair Rock, situated below the Howstrake Golf Links. The child’s wooden spade was also recovered. The search was resumed the following morning, but nothing was found. It was almost one week later when the school attendance officer, A. J. Cormode, made a shocking discovery. Searching amongst the rocks he found the body of the young boy in an inlet not far from where the other items were discovered. With the help of J. Skillicorn, also of Onchan, they retrieved the boy’s lifeless body, which was taken to the Douglas Bay Hotel pending an inquest by the Coroner, J. S. Gell, when death by drowning was confirmed.

But of the boy’s father, described as a well-built man of active habits and calm bearing, there was no trace. He was said to be familiar with the coastline, skilled in crabbing and a strong swimmer.

Some weeks later his body was discovered in the River Ribble, together with a letter which all but confirmed his identity, later affirmed by the dead man’s father who travelled to Lytham mortuary to identify his son.

For reasons that remain unclear, William Callister was buried at St John’s Church, Lytham St Anne’s in Lancashire, but it was architect Jos. E. Teare, on behalf of the Freemasons, who instructed Thomas Quayle to carve the Manxman’s headstone. William Callister was the Worshipful Master of the Spencer Walpole Temperance Lodge at the time of his death, which accounts for both the Masonic insignia and lodge number represented at the top of the headstone.

The local stonemason quoted £35 for the work and carving of the headstone, delivery to its destination, erection and churchyard fees – with an additional charge of £1 for the cutting of an incised cross on the back of the stone.

Meanwhile, his young son was buried in Braddan Cemetery alongside his maternal grandmother and subsequently his grandfather, Joseph Cretney of Ballanard Farm. Joined later by his mother, Annie Cain Callister, who died in 1968, his father’s death is also recorded here.

William Callister senior (an Onchan schoolmaster) was also laid to rest under a Knox designed stone carved by the Quayle family in Douglas Borough Cemetery.

Further information about Archibald Knox available at

(Photos courtesy of Louise Piscina)

Valerie Caine

© August 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Centenary Centre in Peel to Host Two-Day World Music Festival

The Centenary Centre has earned a well deserved reputation for providing countless shows of top-class entertainment since it first re-opened the doors of the old church hall built in 1877, but this year the venue will play host to a special two-day festival. Organised in association with the One World Centre and Manx Radio, this will be a unique opportunity to enjoy several bands bringing a rich, global rhythm to the Isle of Man.

Held as part of the ongoing Year of Our Island initiative, the Centenary Centre will open its doors to the West African sound of Baka Beyond and the Latin/Bhangra of the Angel Brothers, both returning to the venue after a few years absence. They will be joined by the Soothsayers (Afro dub reggae), Sheelanagig (Balkan fun and grooves), The Vera van Heeringen Trio (Americana) and the Island’s very own Clash Vooar (Manx Gaelic/Jazz and folk roots grooves). Dancing at both events wholeheartedly encouraged!

A free event has also been organised, noon – 5.00pm, within the grounds of Peel Cathedral on Saturday 8th September, with a plethora of events suitable for the whole family. This includes live music, dance displays on the newly completed Labyrinth, food samples from countries around the world and children’s activities; together with a free belly dance workshop and a free African singing workshop. If wet all outdoor events will be transferred into the cathedral.

Meanwhile representatives of the various communities living on the Island will also be on hand to demonstrate aspects of their own home culture.

Tickets for both concerts (7th and 8th September) are available now, priced at £25 each, from Celtic Gold, Peter Norris Music, Corlett’s Jewellers, ShaktiMan, Thompson Travel or direct from Early bird combined tickets for both concerts priced at £45 also available online now.

Valerie Caine

© August 2018




Manx Musicians Bring Local Colour to Breton Festival

If you’re looking for a vibrant, colourful festival which brings together our friends and neighbours from the Celtic nations, there’s nothing better than the long-running Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival in Brittany, now in its forty eighth year and going from strength to strength.

Following city centre construction work, many of the festival venues have been modified, with new space made available for several pavilions and a layout for a Celtic artwork exhibition in the local square.

The Breizh Stade is now home to the Village Celte des terres, where visitors to the festival can enjoy snacks and refreshments; specialising in meat and cold cuts. For the past four years the Breizh Stade has become a focal point for the Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival, hosting Breton sports and games, musical entertainment with cercles and bagadoù, and the second category National Bagadoù Championships, as well as the pipe bands and drumming championships.

With the installation of the Village Celte within the stadium, everyone benefits from a growing entertainment and activities sector, drawing crowds for a variety of performances from brass bands, Bagadig groups, Plijadur du Bagad and even board games.

One of the highlights of the festival is the extensive Grand Parade, drawing together three thousand five hundred musicians, pipe bands, bagadaù, cercles and bandas de gaitas in traditional dress to parade through the crowded streets of Lorient. Featuring two hundred concerts and performances, twelve stages and four thousand five hundred artists, this annual festival attracts well in excess of seven hundred and fifty thousand festival-goers.

Recognised as one of Europe’s largest festivals, the Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival is a fantastic inter-cultural exchange which penetrates both borders and identities – bringing together those from the Celtic Diaspora.

Although every Celtic nation is represented at the event, this year the focus will be trained upon Wales, recognised culturally for its musical heritage, which flourishes through its choirs and the triple harp, as well as traditional music, alternative folk and a burgeoning pop/rock scene. It’s little wonder that it earned the title of The Land of Song during the nineteenth century.

Many Welsh performers have visited the Isle of Man to entertain here, with a number of Manx groups reciprocating with their own musicians, dancers and singers.

But a local contingent will also be heading towards Brittany in order to fly the Manx flag, which includes The Lawrences, a highly talented trio of musical siblings, who between them play whistle, cello, fiddle, keyboard and guitar. They will be joined by A’Nish, featuring Ruth Keggin and dancers Gráinne Joughin and Ali Carroon. Peter Young’s hard-working team of volunteers will also include Island singer/songwriter Matt Kelly and musician Caitlin Bennett, who will also be squeezing in some performances at the Manx pavilion.

Valerie Caine

© August 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Keep an Eye on David Swinton’s New Exhibition at The Hodgson Loom Gallery in Laxey

The current exhibition at the Hodgson Loom Gallery, situated within the Laxey Woollen Mill, features some unusual work this summer entitled The Eyes of the House, by former local artist David Swinton.

He has exhibited at the Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, the Laing and the Royal Watercolour Society as well as a number of solo presentations in both the UK and the Isle of Man.

During the 1990s alone, David produced ten exhibitions which reflected his talent for painting, calligraphy, illumination, hand-writing and associated arts, which toured museums and art galleries throughout Britain – with the assistance of the Arts Council Touring Exhibitions Service.

A former school teacher at Ballakermeen High School, David also received a number of commissions, which include the falcon plaque in the Isle of Man Bank, a svelte, bronze within the Villa Marina and several sets of stamps for Isle of Man Stamps and Coins. More recently his illuminated map of Kerrowgarrow Farm was officially handed into the care of Manx National Heritage, to be publicly displayed in the near future.

His work follows that of other family members, who clearly influenced David; more particularly his grandfather, Dan Watson, who worked with lino blocks, engraved wood and in water-colour, and his mother, Gabrielle Swinton, a professional, botanical artist who paid much attention to detail.

Although he usually paints in a broader fashion, David soon realised that the works currently displayed at the Hodgson Loom Gallery demanded extra detail, so as to express their full character. He worked from tonal sketches and several photos of each subject, which were based on ideas from the UK, Crete, Spain and the Isle of Man during the past eighteen years.

It was his grandfather, meanwhile, who influenced the title of his latest exhibition, and the long term visualisation of both doors and windows as ‘the eyes of the house’. David also revealed that he has enjoyed painting this body of work more than any other in recent times.

Also included with the exhibition is a panel showing the water-colour techniques David favoured for the paintings on display and a helpful list of colours from his palette.

Now retired, David has been selected as Artist in Residence for several schools within Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Norfolk during the last ten years, utilising paper sculpture, wood-carving and concrete for commissions and school workshops. A solo show of water-colours at the Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery during 2016 also proved to be a best-seller.

His current exhibition at the Hodgson Loom Gallery closes on the 11th August, 2018.

Valerie Caine

© August 2018