William Kennish Memorial Stone Shipped!

Image: Peel, Isle of Man, Saturday February 20th, 2017 prior to the crating of the memorial.
Bob Stimpson Matthew Gregson Roy Moore
Author and Trustee Monumental Mason Trustee and Kennish Great x 4 nephew

I am very pleased to be able to confirm that the William Kennish Memorial Trust completed raising the £5,000  ($6,200) target in the past week, and this saw the 350lb memorial stone completed, engraved, crated up and shipped out of Douglas on February 20th to the UK from Douglas Isle of Man.

The commemorative dedication service at Green Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn NY will take place on Sunday 19 March 2017 at 11:00hrs starting in the cemetery chapel, and concluding at the graveside. This will be the 155th anniversary of William’s death. The Honorable Steve Rodan, President of Tynwald, will be attending the ceremony in Brooklyn, and the Trust is hoping for confirmation of both Royal Navy and US Navy representation at the ceremony.  

A Memorial Ceremony program can be downloaded from  www.william-kennish.com/KennishMemorialCeremony.pdf

NAMA members and anyone with a Manx connection are all  very warmly invited to join the wider Kennish family descendants attending the ceremony – we are hoping for good weather as it’s a 3/4 mile walk from the chapel to the graveside and only limited transportation will be available!

Posted in History, USA

Funds Secured for William Kennish Memorial

 As the worldwide achievements of Manx men and women continue to bring international recognition for the Isle of Man, Bob Stimpson and Roy Moore have successfully joined forces, as trustees, to raise funds for a memorial to be dedicated to one of the Island’s most prolific inventors.

The campaign’s success has now secured shipment of the stone for cutting before transfer to Manx Memorials for specific work on the grave-marker’s inscription by Matthew Gregson.

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 new ideas 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.

But the William Kennish Memorial Trust, established on the Isle of Man, hopes to change this situation, inviting donations which will be used to provide an appropriate memorial stone as a fitting conclusion of his life.

The trustees will need to raise in the region of £5,000/US$7,000 for the project, which will include shipment of the headstone to New York. A brief dedication ceremony will take place on the one hundred and fifty fifth anniversary of William Kennish’s death on the 19 March, 2017 at Green Wood Cemetery.

There are a number of ways of donating to this fundraising scheme, such as by PayPal, bank transfer or cheque, with those contributing £25/US$30 or more entitled to receive a special commemorative booklet of the occasion. Those who wish to donate with US dollars are requested to contact Dana (Deke) Kennish Smith in the first instance at deke@dksic.net.

Further information about William Kennish can be found at www.william-kennish.com, or by reading Bob Stimpson’s book William Kennish -Manninagh Dooie – True Manxman.

If you have any queries please contact donate@william-kennish.com or go to www.william-kennish.com/donate.

Valerie Caine

© February 2017

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in History

Clarion call to all loyal Manx wherever you are. Save Ramsey Pier!

Image: Ray Collister, with permission.

We are writing to you as we hope that though you may live far away, you may keep strong links with your Manx roots, and will be happy to hear that one of the iconic landmarks of the Island has a real chance at last of being restored.

This iconic structure was built in 1886, designed by the foremost naval architect of the Victorian era – Sir John Coode, as one of his last works.  It is the 6th longest pier in Great Britain at 684metres long.  Sir John also built and advised on harbours in Australia, New Zealand South Africa and all over the UK.

For 100 years the pier functioned as a dock for smaller shipping, a landing point, and an unparalleled recreational asset where people came from all over the island and beyond to ride on the little train, fish from its bays, and enjoy the superb view of the northern plain which borders the sea front of Ramsey and Maughold Head.

Over the last 20-30 years Ramsey has been a bit in the doldrums.  Parliament St seemed to be full of empty shops, the Mooragh Park looked rather dejected, cold and windswept – and the Pier sat forlornly empty and abandoned.  Various attempts were made to work out what to do, both by individuals (The Friends of the Queen’s Pier) and by the Government, who carried out an island-wide questionnaire on what should become of the iconic landmark. An overwhelming majority supported the view that the Pier be retained but until last year, nothing happened.

However, I am delighted to let you know that  – at last! – a group of retired engineers, naval officers and general Pier enthusiasts have by pure will power managed to convince the Government that something can be done.  In the last year they have set up a Charitable Trust (The Queen’s Pier Restoration Trust) with all its relevant officers, bank accounts etc, They were then authorized to undertake a full structural survey of the pier.  By October every bay, strut and plank had been examined, filmed and structurally assessed. Amazingly the cast iron legs are still in good condition, and though many of the girders will need to be replaced, it is a relatively easy task.  Even much of the 150 year old teak planking is still in excellent condition!  The railings, and some of the smaller artifacts are still safely in storage in Jurby.

The completed survey has recently been handed to the Government, who have already moved to begin reconnecting water, power and drainage to the Gate House, and they have promised a decision on our request for a 5 year lease to undertake the full restoration of the pier using largely volunteer labour and a major fundraising effort to obtain the needed replacement materials  – by March this year.

We cannot start full scale fundraising until this undertaking is signed and sealed – but we need funds to begin the restoration as soon as we get the permissions.

We write to ask if you could help us through your members generosity, but only to be paid once the lease with the Government is signed?  We are confident that with this, and with other money that is being collected on island, we should have enough straight away to begin restoring the gatehouse, building the gantry to remove defective girders, and for purchasing the necessary raw materials so that we can begin the work on the Pier itself as soon as the weather is suitable.

A large board will be erected at the entrance to the Pier which will commemorate any donations of £1000 and over.  Individual planks and girders can also be “purchased”, and small plaques with donors’ names which will be made by the Manx Disabled Workshops, will be fixed to a beam running along the edge of the pier walkway.

Tourism is going to be more and more important to the Isle of Man, and this restoration of an iconic landmark will greatly boost the progress of Ramsey and the Northern Plain into becoming a Gourmet Destination of choice – great restaurants, cafes and gift shops have sprung up recently.  Plans for the Pier include a Victorian style coffee shop on the first bay – a battery run train running the length, a multipurpose hall at the far end for concerts, parties, docking facilities for smaller yachts and boats, and of course – lots of space for angling, including a facility for selling the catch – much needed now we longer have a fishmonger in Ramsey.

Please be part of this great public effort and register your willingness to help us – in however small a way.   Of course if you – or your children, could come over and spend a few months working with our volunteers in the workshops, in the replacing of defective elements or in cleaning down and repainting the good parts, you would be hugely welcome!

With very best wishes

Tom Durrant


Queen’s Pier Restoration Trust

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/queenspiertrust

Website/donation page:  http://www.ramseypier.co.uk






Posted in History

Making Celtic Connections at one of Glasgow’s Biggest Festivals

 If there’s one way of shaking off those winter blues, it’s undoubtedly a visit to the hugely successful Scottish festival Celtic Connections, where musicians linked to the Manx music scene showed ticket holders just how vibrant the trad scene is on the Isle of Man.

Based in Glasgow, this annual folk, roots and world music festival attracts more than two thousand musicians from across the globe, for eighteen days of festival fusion and the pick of a staggering three hundred events. The festival is renowned for its strong ethic of collaboration and having an almost instinctive ability to select some of the world’s finest singers and musicians for this annual event.

Many Manx performers have been able to take advantage of this winning formula, and this year proved no exception. Adam Rhodes, Tom Callister and Jamie Smith are all well known musicians on the Manx circuit and appeared in Glasgow under various guises.

The Unusual Suspects, incorporating all three music maestros, is a long standing, transatlantic combination, which derives its influences from a myriad of musicians; some of which are linked to more mainstream names such as Elton John, Wham and Tower of Power. The current team stems from a powerful performance at the Nova Scotia based Celtic Colours Festival, after which they were subsequently invited to Glasgow, where they slipped in a selection of original and traditional Manx tunes during their performance at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Additionally, Tom and Adam made a further appearance at the recently built RSNO Theatre as part of a new line-up called Ímar. Said to be Glasgow’s hottest new folk property, their sell-out concert doubled as a perfect opportunity to launch their debut album Afterlight.

Adam told Manx Tails, “It’s always an honour to be asked to perform at Celtic Connections, and this year even more so!  It was amazing to play with the Unusual Suspects again, with such a fantastic line up of musicians from both sides of the Atlantic, it’s an experience I’ll never forget.  Then launching Ímar’s debut CD at a sold out gig a few days later, what a great week!”

Ímar will also be performing at the Centenary Centre in Peel on the 14th April, before heading off on an extended tour of the UK and Ireland.

During 2015 the Celtic Connections festival secured the Art and Culture Award at the Inspiring City Awards ceremony. The awards were created to celebrate the people and organisations of Glasgow, with the ceremony organised by the Herald and Glasgow’s Chamber of Commerce in association with People Make Glasgow.

Videos of both The Unusual Suspects and Ímar are available on YouTube.



Valerie Caine

© February 2017

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in Culture

Candle-lit Concert Boosts Funds for Knockaloe Project

A local charity, challenged with the task of establishing a new project in the village of Patrick, recently held a special candle-lit musical evening to help raise funds for their vision regarding the World War I internment camp previously based at Knockaloe Moar Farm.

Holy Trinity Church, at the heart of the village’s community, became the venue for a concert of music performed by the local, early music group Hartes Ease, who delighted everyone with a range of songs and tunes.

The programme of music reflected the many international links with the camp, which included almost twenty four thousand so-called ‘enemy aliens’ inside twenty three compounds, which were guarded by four thousand soldiers. The concert was intersected by English, Dutch and Manx compositions, with members of the audience enjoying glasses of gluhwein and bite-sized confectionery associated with some of the internees’ countries of origin.

The charity’s aims are to re-tell the multitude of human stories connected to the camp, which became an important part of the Island’s history, but was almost entirely stripped bare upon the cessation of what was known as the Great War.

It’s a long term project which will encompass other matters such as village life, and provide descendants with assistance as they attempt to seek details about either internees, guards, or villagers.

The old school rooms, situated opposite the entrance to Knockaloe Moar Farm, have been ear-marked as the focal point for this project. Built in 1877, but relinquished as an educational facility during the mid 1980s, the building is, however, still utilised for a variety of community activities.

A great deal of information has already been collected, but organisers would be delighted to hear from anyone who can add to their database. Although this information is currently offline, it is possible to request a search on a one-to-one basis, but may take some time to process.

Members of the project can be contacted at info@knockaloe.im

Alternatively, you can view some of their current work at www.knockaloe.im, or read about their activities on their Facebook page.

(Photos courtesy of knockaloe.im)

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in History

Annual Award Presented to the Michael Players

   This year the annual Reih Bleeaney Vanannan (Manannan’s Choice of the Year), presented by Culture Vannin, has been awarded to the hard working Michael Players, who, during a period of more than sixty years have brought their unique presentation and promotion of Manx dialect theatre into the community.

The idea of reviving the tradition came after World War II when Miss Mary Cannell began producing plays for the Manx branch of the Celtic Congress. They were also produced by Mrs Edna Cooil and enjoyed occasional tours beyond the fringe of Kirk Michael, where they were based. However, the main focus for the Michael Players is the annual Oie’ll Verree, held at the Ebenezer Hall in the village, a traditional gathering featuring music, dance, recitation and other entertainment, before closing with the much awaited dialect play.

Director of Culture Vannin, Dr Breesha Maddrell, said, “The Michael Players are not just performers, though; they are sole guardians of the most important collection of Manx dialect play manuscripts anywhere in the world. With over sixty plays currently being transcribed, their collection is larger than any other archive. Key members are also involved in the recent formation of the Manks Dialect Group, which aims to celebrate and share some of our unique speech patterns, to show how language shapes who we are and how we think.”

It is particularly appropriate that the Michael Players should receive the award this year, in light of the centenary commemorations for Sophia Morrison, whose very own Peel Players brought the definitive Manx dialect plays to a wider audience; taking their inspiration from the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.

The presentation of the award at the recent Manks Concert at the Centenary Centre in Peel was made by the newly appointed Chair of Culture Vannin, the Hon Chris Thomas MHK.

This was his first official engagement, commenting, “Recognising the Michael Players in this way is wonderful acknowledgement not only of the safeguarding of a tradition by a community through the decades, but also celebration of a sense of place through the performance of culture. We wish the Michael Players every success in inspiring future generations as the current generation seems to have been inspired.”

Manannan’s Choice of the Year, or the Reih Bleeaney Vanannan, is an annual cultural award from Culture Vannin made to an individual, or group, who has made the greatest contribution to the Island’s cultural heritage. The nominees come from a wide variety of backgrounds, working to promote and support language, literature, art, music, dance, history, education and the environment, and many more. The Michael Players received a cheque for £500 and chose the Manks Dialect Group as the recipient of a second cheque for a further £500, which goes to a nominated cultural cause.

To find out more about the work of Culture Vannin, or to see the Michael Players in action performing The Dumb Cake in 2014 see www.culturevannin.im

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Culture

Local Song Chosen for Pan-Celtic Festival Competition

 This year’s Arrane son Mannin (Song for Mann) competition took place at the Masonic Hall in Peel, where supporters gathered to hear a number of entries, from which just one would be chosen to represent the Isle of Man at the annual Pan-Celtic Song Contest in Ireland.

Sponsored by Culture Vannin, who also generously donated £300 prize money for the winner, the evening was interspersed with a variety of entertainment; including Scran, Matt Kelly, John Kilgallon, Manx Gaelic choir Caarjyn Cooidjagh and the Matt Creer Band.

Local performers were invited to submit a newly composed song (including both tune and lyrics) in Manx Gaelic, and a panel of judges were faced with four entries vying for top place, which was subsequently clinched by Biskeeyn Brish, with their powerful rendition of Nagh Abbyr Shen. The aforementioned Matt Creer Band also won £50 and has been invited to represent the Island in the festival’s traditional song competition in Carlow during April, with their song Ny Boallaghyn Shoh.

Other entries included Christa McCartney (Daunseyr Goll-Twoaie) and Jedoonee Bagoon (Cadley).

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Culture

Commemoration Events for Sophia Morrison

   The centenary of the death of Manx cultural champion, Sophia Morrison, was commemorated with a number of events organised by Roy Kennaugh, including local organisations Mec Vannin, the Celtic League, Yn Ҫheshaght Ghailckagh (Manx Language Society) and the local branch of the Celtic Congress.

First off was a small gathering at the Morrison family plot within Peel Cemetery, where Sophia was laid to rest at the age of fifty seven. A number of speeches pre-empted a wreath-laying ceremony by her grand-nephew Thomas Crellin Morrison Frost, before returning to the Methodist Church in Atholl Street in Peel for a well attended talk about Sophia Morrison’s life by Dr Breesha Maddrell. This was followed by a ‘Manx tay’ in the Guild Room next door.

During the evening a packed Centenary Centre enjoyed a Manks Concert, which brought the day’s commemorations to a close. Many of the groups and individuals performing here represented much of the work adopted by Sophia, including recitation, music, poetry, dialect and the Manx language.

Involving entertainers of all ages, this included a final opportunity to see the Manx dialect play The Charm, initially performed at what was originally the Centenary Hall in 1912 by the Peel Players.

But there’s also a chance to look at a small exhibition about Sophia Morrison from a local perspective, at the newly refurbished exhibition room within the Leece Museum on East Quay in Peel. It’s a perfect introduction to her life and work in a relaxed setting and continues until the 18th February – 10.00am until 4.00pm Tuesday to Saturday.

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Culture, History

Wonders of Mann

A leisurely wander around the Isle of Man can often be a journey of self discovery, but some of the assorted curiosities and landmarks which flourish across the length and breadth of the Island often raise many questions.

Some of them may well be answered within the pages of a new publication entitled Wonders of Mann, which reveals more about a selection of both man-made and natural curiosities. Lavishly illustrated with stunning photography, the book has been compiled by Charles Guard who has brought together many of the curios which fascinate him upon his travels.

His choices reflect aspects of geology, wildlife and history, encouraging readers to seek out some of the more extraordinary, and sometimes eccentric, features on the Isle of Man; ranging from lighthouses and towers to hill forts and churches.

Complemented by a brief description of each subject and, where applicable, a little of its history, this glossy paperback may well reveal unknown aspects of the Island and hopefully encourage you to seek out some of these inspiring novelties.

Available from Island bookshops or from www.culturevannin.im priced £12


Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in History, Nature

Manx Dialect Play Attracts Full House at Annual Oie’ll Verree

    The annual Oie’ll Verree held in Michael village on old Christmas Eve is a perfect opportunity to enjoy a Manx traditional, country concert; with a packed house indicative of its continuing success.

Tucked away in the old Ebenezer Hall, this much anticipated event was organised by the local branch of the Celtic Congress in latter years, but the baton has now been passed on to the Michael Heritage Trust. Today it’s a pot-pourri of acts and entertainment, adjusted a little from the original concept, which historically focused on the singing of lengthy carvals (Manx compositions typically based on Bible tracts) once the church service was finished.

The event has an uncanny ability of attracting younger performers as well as some of the more mature stalwarts, which bodes well for its future.

Compéred by the (youthful) Zoë Cannell, the first four acts reflected this successfully with a wide range of entertainment, with junior Manx dance group Skeddan Jiarg, a dialect recitation by John Kaighin, up-and-coming music group Scran and magician Lexi Watterson. Followed by the current Manx Bard, John ‘Dog’ Callister, a keen audience was treated to a Manx dialect sketch by J. Cooil, entitled The Choir Practice, before the young Field brothers introduced music on a classical theme.

But after the presentation of the annual Yn Gligyr award by Michael Commissioners for service to culture in the local community, an expectant crowd settled back to watch the main event – the much anticipated Manx dialect play.

The Michael Players have a rich collection of original plays to choose from, including The Charm, re-enacted here and written by Christopher Shimmin in 1912. It’s a favourite which has been aired a number of times over the years, but never loses its popularity.

And with a number of actors deciding to hang up their bonnets and flat caps for the final time, after many years of devoted service, it was re-assuring to see that the plays had successfully attracted some younger performers.

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Uncategorized