New website with easier-to-type address



No, you didn’t go to the wrong page – this is the North American Manx Society.  We recently changed to a new hosting provider and a new format that will let more people provide content.  It is based around a blog, with the addition of a menu bar to take you to other webpages for NAMA and the regional societies.

The website name was easy to remember, but cumbersome to type – especially on a mobile phone.  To remedy that, we have shortened it to  The old website name will still work, but it will re-direct to the new one, as will and

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Nautical Museum yields new secrets

P1090001Archaeologists have recently completed work on the 18th century dock at the Nautical Museum in Castletown.  The dock was built about 230 years ago by George Quayle (1751–1835) for his boat the Peggy, centrepiece of the museum and one of the oldest surviving wooden sailing boats in the world.  It was created by excavating into the limestone bedrock and protected by high walls, with an entry through an arch – now filled with masonry – still visible from the other side of the harbour mouth.

In February 2014 Manx National Heritage began excavation of the dock to enable the removal of the Peggy from the boat cellar in which she had been entombed for two centuries.  Work ceased after six weeks once sufficient space had been created to allow the Peggy to be craned out and removed to a special facility where she is currently undergoing conservation and repair.

The current phase of work at the Nautical Museum was designed to reveal the arrangements for closing off the entrance to the dock.

MNH archaeologist Andrew Johnson explains,

“Two years ago we could see that there were timbers across the mouth of the dock, but we could not be certain if they had been placed there as part of the work to block the entrance when the dock went out of use, or if they formed a gate.  We knew from old photographs that there had once been a pair of gates on the outside of the entrance – remnants survive even today – but we couldn’t agree if an arrangement involving two sets of gates was likely.  The trouble with docks of this age is that most have since been destroyed, altered or modernised out of all recognition, so we have very little to compare it with.”

Excavation revealed that the timbers were indeed part of a gate, which was raised and lowered into place and slotted into a frame fitted with sluices to let seawater in and out.  Now that the gate has been revealed and recorded, it has been covered over again with a protective wall of sandbags whilst a permanent arrangement to protect it from the flow of the tide is designed.

Andrew continued:

“The more we delve into the buildings at the Nautical Museum, and the more we research the documents that survive from Quayle’s life, the less I am surprised by what we discover.  George Quayle was an exceptional individual who seems to have been incapable of doing the ordinary when a more interesting or sophisticated solution offered itself.”

The Nautical Museum is open daily throughout the summer until 30th October from 10am to 4pm.

Although the Peggy is currently away for conservation, the museum highlights the personal story of George Quayle and his family, showcasing previously unseen objects uncovered in the archaeological excavations and allowing visitors to see the recently discovered dock.

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Manx Performers Support their Antipodean Cousins in Lorient

After the Island’s phenomenal success at last year’s Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival, which put the Isle of Man firmly on the map for hundreds of thousands of visitors to the event, Manx officials and entertainers will be mixing with their antipodean cousins at the start of this month.

It has been ten years since Australia was designated as the honoured country, but with substantial emigration from countries such as Scotland, Ireland and the ILorient Inter-Celtic Festival 2016sle of Man, approximately half of its population can lay claim to Celtic roots.

Independent of Britain since 1901, Australia has become home to one of the largest Celtic Diasporas in the world, leading to a multi-cultural, cosmopolitan society, incorporating not only newcomers to its shores but the Aboriginal tribes.

The festival itself first appeared in 1971 under the title of the Festival des Cornemuses (Bagpipes Festival), offering a diverse programme of music and entertainment during a six day event, but in 1976 this was changed to the Lorient Inter-Celtic Festival (FIL). And although the various Celtic traditions and cultures still form the cornerstone of the event, organisers are also open to change, cross-fertilisation and evolution of the event; with an eye fixed resolutely on its future.

Manx performers this year will be the successful Mec Lir, dancers Ny Manninee (accompanied musically by Birlinn Jiarg) and local singer/songwriter Matt Creer, complemented by a Manx Pavilion offering a selection of items which will be organised by Peter Young.Matt Creer (2)

They will be rubbing shoulders at this inter-cultural exchange with internationally known artists such as Joan Baez, The Corrs and the undisputed master of Celtic music Alan Stivell. A number of Australian entertainers will include singer, composer and guitarist Archie Roach, who is also recognised as a symbol of the fight against discrimination of the Aboriginal people.

This year’s festival will follow a tried and tested format, allowing visitors the opportunity of sampling the diversity of a contemporary, Celtic scene, but will also celebrate three major events. The first celebration is in respect of the seventieth anniversary of the founding of Sonnerion, an organisation which has been working to uphold Breton music and encourage musical creativity. AdditionMec Lir (Courtesy of Phil Kneen) 1 (2)ally, organisers will pay homage to the centenary of the Easter Rising in Ireland with a concert entitled 1916:Visionaries and their Works. Closer to home, the festival will also celebrate the three hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Lorient, which grew around the East India Company and was named after one of the first ships to be built in the company’s shipyards – Le Soleil d’Orient.

Affectionately known as the ‘inter-Celtic capital’, the event attracts three quarters of a million visitors annually, has been recognised as France’s biggest festival and has recently been awarded the prize of Best French Urban Festival for the second consecutive year.

Valerie Caine

© August 2016

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

(Photo of Manx group Mec Lir courtesy of Phil Kneen)

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Douglas Bay Horse Tramway Celebrates 140th Anniversary

As the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway reaches its one hundred and fortieth anniversary, debate still rages about its future, although many of the issues raised during recent discussion are reflected throughout its long history.

Requiring an Act of Tynwald, the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway was created by entrepreneur Thomas Lightfoot in 1876, after he retired to Douglas. A Yorkshireman bDSCF5057y birth, Lightfoot’s other notable achievements included the first Woodhead Railway Tunnel.

Opened without ceremony on the 7 August, 1876, the new tramway adhered to certain regulations, including no less than six double journeys per weekday, a maximum fare of 3d and the use of animal power only.

Investment in its development amounted to £7,000 – £8,000, but bDSCF7040y late summer in its opening year the tramway was already carrying eight hundred to nine hundred passengers during a fourteen hour day.

Unfortunately Lightfoot’s other ventures drained him financially, which forced him to sell the system to the Isle of Man Tramway Limited in 1882. New passing loops were added as the service continued to expand, a double track was laid five years later and passenger numbers continued to rise; dented briefly during a very wet summer in 1889.

Thomas Lightfoot died in 1893 aged seventy eight and was buried in Onchan churchyard, but the popularity of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway continued unabated. Enhanced by the service provided by the Douglas and Laxey Coast Electric Tramway Company between Douglas and Groudle, passenger numbers increased to almost one million in that same year.

Resold to the Douglas and Laxey Coast Electric Tramway Company the following year for £38,000, its popularity soared, reaching one million six hundred thousand passengers in just one year.

The collapse of Dumbell’s Bank gave Douglas Corporation the opportunity of purchDSCF7178asing the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway (and the now defunct cable tramway) for £50,000 in 1901.

By this time a double track had been put into place, a scheduled service ran in the winter and concern about wages prompted a one day strike.

Rumours of closure persisted at various intervals and requests by the Manx Electric Railway to electrify the line (to offer passengers a complete journey between Ramsey and Victoria Pier) were rejected.

Although simplified to a seasonal service in 1927, the Victorian transportation system attracted a record two and a half million passengers, but decades later a declining holiday trade took its toll.

The fleet consisted of Winter Saloons, bulkhead Toastracks, Sunshades, Fully Open Toastracks and All Weather Cars (affectionately referred to as ‘tomato boxes’) and in celebration of the system’s eightieth anniversary all eighty tram horses paraded toDSCF1445 the Victoria Pier.

World events and impending social reform may yet provide a catalyst for the potential return of a sustainable tourism industry, initially developed by many Victorian entrepreneurs, but will this include the preservation of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway?

Valerie Caine

© August 2016

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

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Come to Peel for Family Fun this Weekend!

Peel Carnival Poster 2016 (Large)If you’re looking for somewhere vibrant, family-friendly and entertaining at the beginning of August, then you nViva Brasil Poster (Large)eed look no further than the west coast of the Island, as the town of Peel prepares for its annual carnival and the Traditional Boat Weekend.

There’s more of an international feel to this year’s Peel Carnival, with the introduction of Viva Brasil, an exotic troupe of feather-clad, costumed, Brazilian samba dancers, who will be promoting the event and joining the popular afternoon parade.

Another coup for the festival will be the appearance of well known puppeteer and model maker Steve Allen, who will be fronting a number of workshops in schools situated in the west of the Island, in a bid to encourage youngsters in creation of models and props to be used in the Grand Parade. Recognised for his work on the film Labyrinth, Steve is best known for his creative characters on both TV and film, working with the Muppets creator Jim Henderson and EMI Studios, and recreating characters from Fraggle Rock, Thunderbirds, Star Wars and those latter day stars Wallace and Gromit.

Peel Traditional Boat Weekend (1)These additional highlights will take place alongside all the usual favourites, such as fire-eating, juggling, acrobatic sideshows and the popular Manchester based Caribbean steel drum band Panfire. Also new this year will be an Hungarian dance group, which will join the spectacular Chinese Lion dancers and the local drum band SambaMann, who traditionally lead the parade from the House of Manannan.

But if you’re looking for something a little more relaxing, then the twenty sixth annual Traditional Boat Weekend may be just the ticket.Peel Traditional Boat Weekend (3)

With thirty five to forty boats expected to dock in Peel during the first weekend of August, the usual format will be adopted, including Parades of Sail (weather permitting) on both days during the weekend. It is hoped (although unconfirmed at this stage) that all four surviving Manx Nobbies, Gladys, White Heather, Aigh Vie and Vervine Blossom, may join together at the port for a regatta.

Organisers also welcome the return of local sponsor Bushy’s Brewery to the event, which is viewed by entrants as ‘the best in the Irish Sea’, due to the town’s charm and hospitality.

DSCF0150 (2)One of the highlights of the weekend is the Quick and Dirty Boat Building Competition, to be held on Saturday on the tongue in Peel. This is a challenging team exercise, with a view to building a boat using a limited supply of materials and equipment, after which they race across the mouth of the River Neb. Prize winners of both the best designed boat and the race itself will be invited to nominate a charity of their choice for their winnings.

The Sailors’ Shelter (across from Fenella Bridge) will be selling complementary goods throughout the weekend.

Further details of both events available from their Facebook pages.


Valerie Caine

© August 2016

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)


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Manx National Heritage receives First World War donation

MNH Digital Image LibraryManx National Heritage Chairman Tony Pass and Curator of Social History Matthew Richardson were on hand at the Manx Museum today to receive a donation of a carved bone paper knife, made in Knockaloe Camp on the Island by a German prisoner in 1916.

The donation was made by General Sir Lawrence New, on behalf of 6 Military Intelligence Battalion who are on the Island this week as part of a British Army recruitment drive for The Army Reserve.

The week-long recruitment drive concludes on Sunday with a display by the Red Devils on 31 July at 19:00 at the war memorial in Douglas.

The Army ReIvoryKnife_0013serve is an integral part of the UK Armed Forces and offers a wide variety of careers for both soldiers and officers, with over 200 different roles available. There are just under 500 Army Reserve units and sub-units across the country and anyone from the age of 18 upwards can apply to join. The Army Reserve typically trains for one night per week and at weekends. In many cases, Reserves also attend an annual two week training exercise.

Matthew Richardson commented:

This is a lovely item which we are delighted to receive. Although we have quite expansive holdings of material made by prisoners in Knockaloe, we don’t have anything quite like this object, so it is important in that it adds depth to our collection. 

The timing of this donation is also very fortunate in that we are now building up our military history collections, ahead of a new gallery redevelopment project in that area.  We are seeking to examine all aspects of warfare and military service in the past 250 years, including those who have gone willingly or unwillingly to war, those who have been bystanders, and indeed those who have opposed conflict 

We are especially interested in hearing from Manx people who served in Korea, the Falklands, Northern Ireland, the Gulf or Afghanistan, and who may have memories or memorabilia which they wish to share with a wider audience. We would also be interested to hear from those who have been affected by conflict in other ways, or who have protested against it”.

Manx National Heritage plans to open the new military and conflict gallery at the Manx Museum in just over two years’ time.  If members of the public feel that they have material which would be of interest to visitors, please contact Matthew Richardson on 01624 648053 or email: .


  1.  Staff Sergeant Rodney Rouchy, Major Daz Rawcliffe, Matthew Richardson and Tony Pass of Manx National Heritage, Sir Lawrence New, Major Espie, Corporal Dineen and Lance Corporal Davies of 6 Military Intelligence Unit.
  2. Bone Handled Knife carved at Knockaloe by German Prisoner of War, 1916.


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New developments at the Grove Museum in Ramsey

P1000585 Manx National Heritage is now putting the finishing touches to some new developments at the Grove, the former family home of the Gibb sisters outside Ramsey.

Two of the upstairs rooms have received a make-over, which has allowed Manx National Heritage curators to explore some new themes at the site. The former Toy Room, which had not been re-displayed since 1984, has been renovated and re-presented as the Servant’s Room, whilst the toy displays are now housed in the adjacent Child’s Room, which also explores the wider themes of Victorian childhood both for the Gibb girls and those from a poorer background.

Curator of Social History Matthew Richardson commented:

P1000561“It marks a new departure for us to look at the lives of the servants at the Grove, as most of our attention in the past had focussed upon the Gibb family themselves. However, a small picture of a sailing ship scratched into the Toy Room window long ago by a maid has always intrigued me, and I wondered what life might have been like for her. The new Servant’s Room attempts to answer some of the questions visitors have about life below stairs”.

In another recent development, Manx National Heritage has installed a solar-powered Sound Bench at the Grove. Whilst seated on the bench, visitors can select extracts from a 1974 audio recording of Miss Janet Gibb, the last of the family to live at the house.

Matthew added:

Some of the recording clips are very poignant, particularly Miss Gibb’s memories of her childhood at the Grove, and of Ramsey as it was in the years before the First World War. Even some of our staff at the house had not heard Miss Gibb’s voice before, so this new installation adds extra depth to our interpretation of the Grove.

The house and gardens are open 10am to 5pm daily until Sunday 4 September, and 10am to 4pm daily from 5 September to 30 October 2016.

Image Captions:


  1. The newly displayed Toy Room at the Grove
  2. Sailing ship scratched into the Toy Room window at the Grove long ago by a maid


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Save the Dates! NAMA Convention 2018 and Board Meeting 2017


Our next Convention will be held June 22-24, 2018 in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada at the Hotel Grand Pacific.

For the interim Board meeting follow these details from Katy Prendergast. Hotal

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Chris Killip – Isle of Man Revisited

DSCF3375 (2)Currently teaching at Harvard University, internationally famous photographer, Chris Killip, recently returned to the Isle of Man for the opening of a new exhibition of his work at the Manx Museum, and to present a sell out talk about his life and work.

His seminal work The Isle of Man: A Book About the Manx, published in 1980, captured a view of Manx life which was soon to disappear, focusing on a rural community through the lens of a plate camera, and the stark black and white images, with which Chris Killip made an indelible mark in the photographic world.
Born in 1946, whilst his father was landlord of the Highlander Inn at Greeba, Killip freely admits that academia was not for him, but upon moving to Peel, after his father became landlord of the White House, he felt that the town moulded him. He speaks lovingly of his childhood and his fondness for the fishing port.
Having worked briefly at Moore’s Kipper Yard and in the Island’s hotel industry, Killip travelled to London in order to pursue a career in photography, inspired by an image taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson and bolstered by his earnings as a beach photographer.
He finally secured a job as an assistant in the Chelsea studio of Adrian Flowers (one of the most successful advertising photographers of the day), but it was a visit to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1969 that proved to be Killip’s Damascene moment.
Returning to the Isle of Man in that same year, Killip worked in his father’s pub at night and photographed during the day; developing his work in his mother’s walk-in linen cupboard. Described elsewhere as ‘a dour, unflashy exploration of the photographer’s cultural roots’, it was this work which became The Isle of Man: A Book About the Manx
During 1975 Killip relocated to England, where his revealing images of the austerity riven north east resulted in the publication of In Flagrante and the Cartier-Bresson Award in 1989.
Later, he was commissioned to photograph the workforce of the Pirelli factory in Derbyshire, before being head-hunted for his role at Harvard University. But for the people of the Isle of Man, his most poignant work is likely to be his initial foray into publishing.
Killip set aside those images for thirty years, but recently re-evaluated them, culminating in the current exhibition and his recent publication Isle of Man Revisited.
Although a number of photographs have been changed and others added, it’s clear that Killip has re-awakened a host of memories. They convey many things about the hard-working, rural Manx people of that time – poverty, simplicity, acceptance and, for some, contentment.
Killip (who now lives in the US) has moved on, but so have the people of the Isle of Man, as they strive to balance an older way of life with the influence of a contemporary world.
His exhibition at the Manx Museum offers a welcome opportunity to examine his work on a more personal, emotional level and can be viewed until the 30 July, 2016.
Killip’s book, Isle of Man Revisited, is available from the Manx Museum shop and various Island bookshops priced at £40.
Valerie Caine
© July 2016

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

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Rushen Heritage Trust Summer Exhibition

 A recent exhibition organised by members of Rushen Heritage Trust, focusing on the hey-day of tourism in the south of the Island, attracted a large number of visitors to Port Erin; many of whom reminisced about those halcyon days.

Situated in St Catherine’s Church Hall, a stone’s throw from Port Erin Bay, the organisation’s volunteers had brought together a wealth of information and memories describing how visitors entertained themselves in Port Erin, Port St Mary and beyond.

The main thrust of what was on offer revolved around an extensive array of outdoor events, which afforded visitors a range of activities to keep them rooted in the south of the Island.

These were simpler, less complicated times, when they were more inclined to relax in a deckchair on the beach, or challenge a member of the family to a leisurely game of ‘pitch and putt’.

Paddling pools and Beach Missions kept the younger generation busy, whilst their elders may be more inclined towards a game of bowls, or a round of golf.

Boating, fishing, bird watching (the feathered variety) and cycling were also great favourites, along with special excursions to the Calf of Man and exciting coach trips to other Island destinations.

The once popular Traie Meanagh open-air baths, situated in what was advertised as one of the sunniest and most sheltered creeks in Port Erin Bay, attracted scores of spectators to watch talented divers perform at the sea water pool.

Both Port Erin and Port St Mary are also remembered for their selection of hotels such as The Belle Vue and the Balqueen, amongst others, and a range of eateries to satisfy hungry visitors; the most well known probably the distinctive Collinson’s Cafe, now in private ownership.

Chapel Bay, Happy Valley and Port St Mary Town Hall also figured in the exhibition along with the picturesque Breagle Glen and Bradda Glen.

Valerie Caine

© July 2016

(Courtesy of the Southern Chronicle)
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Strongest Ever Line-up for Island's Annual Celtic Festival!

With a strong focus on top quality Celtic music, Peel’s Centenary Centre will be the hub this July for the Island’s biggest Celtic festival Yn Chruinnaght (The Gathering); celebrating everything Celtic from music and dance to language and crafts.

The festival programme includes a diverse range of entertainment, including mellow singer-songwriters and fast and fiery dance tunes, with energy, attitude and talent from Dublin’s finest folk miscreants Lynched, Welsh superstars Calan, exceptional Cornish singer-songwriter Kezia and Brittany’s delightful An Tri DipoP.

But in addition to these visiting acts organisers will also welcome an all-important, über-talented line-up of performers from the Manx music and dance scene, including internationally acclaimed Manx singers Christine Collister and Ruth Keggin.

Committed to ensuring that the next generation is fully connected to the Island’s rich Celtic heritage, Yn Chruinnaght has teamed up with Sure to provide two mid-festival, sell-out, school concerts in the Centenary Centre. Children are, however, welcome throughout the festival, especially during the popular ceili and the many outdoor events. New for this year will be free sessions suitable for pre-school children and their parents, as well as an after-school ceili for those of primary school age.

Now that the event is firmly based in Peel,  talented Manx artist and illustrator, Alice Quayle, has been commissioned to develop a festival design which celebrates a number of key points related to the town. Alice commented, “The unique selling point of Yn Chruinnaght is that it’s now based in Peel…this means that if you visit you don’t just get music, there’s the seaside, castle, ice cream, kippers, seals, narrow winding streets, pubs, etc. – a whole seaside experience!”

You will be able to see some of Alice’s work when she joins other gifted Manx artists and producers for an Artisan Craft Fair in the Corrin Hall, where you can also learn the art of Pictish ribbon interlace and key pattern design in two workshops fronted by Greg Joughin. Advance booking for the workshops is essential – email

And in a ground-breaking innovation this summer, Yn Chruinnaght can be heard on Manx Radio’s AM service on Saturday 16 July for a unique mix of music and discussion, with a refreshing Celtic twist.

But the festival will also feature the usual formal and informal performances (both indoors and outdoors) from the Island’s many talented musicians, singers and dancers including Perree Bane, Ny Fennee and Birlinn Jiarg; together with the current Manx bard Stacey Astill.

Yn Chruinnaght is a not for profit event, supported by Culture Vannin, the Isle of  Man Arts Council, Sure, Mannin Group, Paradise and Gell, Conister Bank and Shoprite.

Tickets available now (including money saving Gig Passes) both online and at the usual Centenary Centre outlets.

For further details visit or phone 302200.

Valerie Caine

© July 2016

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)
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