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

Workshop Highlights Valuable Resource for Budding Genealogists at the Manx Museum

A recent workshop organised by the Isle of Man Family History Society in conjunction with Manx National Heritage, proved very successful with sixteen members of the organisation taking the opportunity to learn more about recent innovation within the Reading Room and Library and Archives at the Manx Museum.

Society member Sarah Christian, who also works in the Reading Room, took charge of the afternoon workshop, guiding everyone through various resources readily available, such as manuscripts, online data and printed material.

Once the presentation was completed, members split into three groups, and together with two of Sarah’s colleagues, explored different areas, including use of digital equipment and new film readers, accessible information located in the Reading Room and a fascinating tour of the Manx Museum’s archives, kept over several floors in specially controlled conditions.

The long established Reading Room at the Manx National Heritage is a veritable treasure trove for any budding genealogist, with a tantalising array of card indexes and database records, as well as diaries and memoirs prepared for the online catalogue. Photographs, prints and plans are also available together with the revealing Folk Life Survey, periodicals, pamphlets, scrapbooks and availability of deeds. The now well established iMuseum online, particularly with its remarkable, historical newspaper collection, has proved to be an invaluable resource and is freely available at the museum, or from the comfort of your home using a tiered payment system.

Additionally, it’s also possible to use Find My Past at no cost, which may reveal new lines of enquiry, or confirm previous beliefs.Sarah explained the growing resources available on the ‘Familysearch’, website including unindexed images of probate records (wills).

At the close of the session there was an opportunity to speak with staff, continue with on-going research, or take refreshment at The Bay Room Restaurant situated within the Manx Museum building.

If you would like to join the Isle of Man Family History Society please contact them at

Valerie Caine

© August 2018

Peel – a Hot Spot for Family fun this Summer!

With summer in full swing, one of the hot spots for family fun and entertainment is going to be Peel, including the town’s annual carnival, a new exhibition commemorating internment and the perennial traditional boat weekend.

The exotic Viva Brasil dancers, providing a flavour of Rio de Janeiro, will be making a welcome return to Peel Carnival after their very successful Island debut in 2016, joined this year by the Manchester based band Panfire, street performers Splat (who will also be holding a circus skills workshop) and members of the Norwich based Louise Hamilton Trust with their life-sized knitted garden in a marquee on the beach. There’s also over £1,000 to be won in competitions – including a new fancy dress class for dogs!

History buffs can also step into the Leece Museum, where there will be a free exhibition of photographs and memorabilia, about the Peveril Internment Camp, which was based at the northern end of the town during World War II. It became known as the fascist camp and was immortalised by daring escape efforts, (including a well planned tunnel on Peveril Road) and a riot within the camp itself after an aborted sea escape by three fellow internees.

But for those who like messing about in boats, the Peel Traditional Boat Weekend is a popular event in the west, where they can enjoy local hospitality. There’s a boat building competition and race down by the harbour with cash prizes available, Parade of Sail, and an art exhibition and sale of merchandise in the local Sailors’ Shelter on East Quay this weekend.

Valerie Caine

© July 2018

Centenary of the Manx General Strike Commemorated

Strike Committee

With the centenary of the Manx General Strike due to be commemorated in July, the story brings into focus some of the deprivation suffered by local people at that time and the strenuous efforts of those who formed trade unions to push for reform.

As the working class began to emerge during the nineteenth century, responsibility for the poor, sick and elderly was firmly placed within the family, with assistance from the church where necessary. But a rapid growth in population overwhelmed their work, which was later undertaken by a proliferation of what became known as ‘friendly societies’.


The first recorded attempt to form a trade union on the Isle of Man was in 1821, but it wasn’t until the turn of the nineteenth century that serious attempts were made to organise sections of the working class into a positive force. During 1917 efforts were made to organise a union of general workers against a backdrop of an unprecedented rise in the cost of living and an undefined working week; attracting considerable support.

There was a tangible stirring of discontent with the Island’s Governor, Lord Raglan, the previous year, when he opposed the introduction of pensions for the elderly and direct taxation. This was an unpopular decision and during the Tynwald ceremony of 1916 he was confronted by placard wielding demonstrators demanding his resignation, and famously struck by a grass sod thrown by a member of the crowd.

The Island’s First Pensioners

Their anger was further fuelled by the Manx government’s refusal to implement a flour subsidy for Island bakers in parity with England. A temporary equality was agreed after protesters applied pressure, but it’s termination did little to dampen their anger. Lord Raglan decreed that a fixed price should be applied, but local bakers threatened closure, protesting that they couldn’t produce bread at this price.

This action then set in motion a series of events which ultimately brought the Isle of Man to a grinding halt.

Tynwald Protest

A strike committee was appointed with representatives from local unions, and a thousand people gathered outside government office to announce an impending strike which affected the Island 3rd – 5th July, 1918. Its success lay in skilful organisation which rapidly halted key components of daily life. Schools, shops, offices and factories were shut down and cargo workers ceased work. The strike committee did allow fishing boats to land their catch at a price fixed by them and food shops in poorer districts opened for limited hours. Tram and rail services were non-existent, and although there was a boat in the morning, it didn’t return.

The strikers were now in a commanding position, having taken the government by surprise, and those who resisted the demands of the strike committee received short shrift. A request for members of Tynwald to be allowed to travel to the annual Tynwald ceremony was put to the strike committee, but Lord Raglan postponed the event fearing disorder and demonstration. Stranded visitors also approached the Governor for assistance to travel home, including asking for a warship, but their requests met with no action.

Lord Raglan confronts crowds on Tynwald Day

The matter was finally resolved when the Governor met with the Legislative Council and it was agreed to restore the ‘ninepenny loaf’ with immediate effect. The imposition of local income tax and pensions followed.

There were repercussions for some strikers, but ultimately Island trade unions and political labour representation was strengthened.

Lord Raglan resigned his position as Governor on the 17th December, 1918, citing ill health.

Author and historian, Dr John Callow, expanded on the theme of the Manx General Strike during an absorbing lecture at the Manx Museum Lecture Theatre, where he probed deeper into the subject and emphasised the extraordinary success of the event.

A limited edition First Day Cover commemorating the centenary is available from Isle of Man Stamps and Coins at £15.

Valerie Caine

© July 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Rare Isle of Man P50 microcar sells for £49k at auction

A rare microcar manufactured in the Isle of Man in the 1960s has been sold for £49,500 at a UK auction.

The P50 three-wheeler, made in 1963 by Peel Engineering, went under the hammer at Brightwells in Leominster, Herefordshire.

Only 50 of the 49cc cars were ever made, with fewer than 30 thought to remain.

An immaculate example was sold at auction in the US in 2016 for a world record $176,000 (£120,000).

The car’s previous owner bought it for his daughter in 1978 and was used at village fetes and for her A-Level art project.

Read more here.

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Manx Celtic Festival Celebrates Fortieth Anniversary!

Yn Chruinnaght celebrates its fortieth anniversary this year and organisers are inviting everyone to come and mark the occasion at various venues in Peel, alongside a line-up of some of the best performers of Celtic music, song and dance, both at home and abroad.

The opening night at the Centenary Centre kicks off with a concert including several Manx winners of this year’s BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. This was a pivotal moment for local, traditional musicians, whose outstanding talent was publicly acknowledged outside of the Island, leading to a greater awareness on the world stage. It will include harpist Mera Royle and Ímar featuring local boys Adam Rhodes and Tom Callister, as well as fellow band member Mohsen Amini, who was crowned Musician of the Year.

But there’s a coup here for music lovers, with confirmation that Irish music superstars Altan will close the festival with a special concert to celebrate more than thirty years in the music industry.

Sandwiched between these events will be a steady stream of top-flight performers from Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Brittany, along with an extensive variety of local groups. It’s a great opportunity to experience the diversity of music that the Island has to offer, including the Manx Gaelic gypsy/jazz fusion of Clash Vooar, talented siblings The Lawrences and an inter-Celtic duo combining the talents of Ruth Keggin and Malcolm Stitt.

A packed programme of events, centred largely around Peel, also includes outdoor performances from both local and visiting groups, family-friendly ceilis (featuring Breton group Glaou and a Welsh contingent led by Ceri Evans) and a weekend gathering of free entertainment, sessions, workshops, crafts and children’s activities based at the House of Manannan. Additionally, there will be several lunchtime gigs at Noa Bakehouse in Douglas.

And there will also be two days of educational concerts in the Centenary Centre as part of their packed schedule, which it’s hoped will inspire eight hundred local school children to learn more about the Island’s traditional music scene.

Yn Chruinnaght (The Gathering), founded in Ramsey by Mona Douglas in 1978, is a volunteer led/not-for-profit organisation, which is recognised as one of the longest-running Celtic festivals in the world.

Concert tickets for the festival (11th – 15th July) are available now from Celtic Gold, the Centenary Centre, or the festival office, including a special online only all concert festival pass and a family ceili weekend pass.

Organisers of the festival would like to thank Culture Vannin, the Isle of Man Arts Council, Year of Our Island 2018, Culture Ireland, Thornton Associates, the Scott Dickinson Charitable Trust for their sponsorship and Manx National Heritage, Department of Education, Sport and Culture, Peel Town Commissioners, Department of Enterprise and Noa Bakehouse for their support.

Keep up to date with what’s happening with Yn Chruinnaght on Facebook and Twitter and buy tickets for events at, or phone the festival office on 07624 302200

Valerie Caine

© July 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Launch of New Book of Manx Tunes for Bagpipes

This unique publication was recently launched at the Masonic Hall in Peel as part of a weekend of workshops organised by Island based Ellan Vannin Pipes and Drums.

Entertainment during the evening was provided by members of the Ellan Vannin Pipe Band, visiting piper Finlay MacDonald and Island based Scottish guitarist Malcolm Stitt.

Produced by Culture Vannin, Piob Vooar – Manx Music for Bagpipes, features thirty local songs and tunes and is seen as a useful addition to the repertoire of both solo pipers and pipe-bands.

The publication includes well-known favourites such as Ellan Vannin, Mylecharaine’s March, Eunyssagh Vona and the Manx Fishermen’s Evening Hymn; together with more recent compositions like Kinnoull and Irree ny Greiney, which is popular with Scottish pipe bands.

Well known piper Finlay MacDonald commented, “This is a truly refreshing collection of tunes adapted for pipes from the Manx tradition, with a subtle and considered touch. The airs and lullabies are so simple and beautiful, capturing the essence and beauty of our shared folk traditions whilst retaining their unique voice. There are some very spritely dance tunes and exciting melodies which give a great insight to the Manx style.”

Transcribed and arranged for Highland bagpipes by a graduate of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and a highly respected piper, David Shedden, it was edited by Dr Chloë Woolley, with additional assistance of Finlay MacDonald (Head of Piping Studies at the National Centre of Piping in Glasgow), Paul Davenport and Ellan Vannin Pipes and Drums.

David Shedden has played with many of Scotland’s top bands, including Boghall and Bathgate Pipe Band and the Scottish Power Pipe Band. He now works as a freelance performer and piping tutor and was a finalist in the BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year 2018.

Piob Vooar (bagpipe) is available now (priced at £10) directly from Culture Vannin, or from both book shops and museum shops across the Island.

Further information from

Valerie Caine

© June 2018

Judging: YOUTH AWARDS 2018

Message from Anne Minay, Douglas, Isle of Man

Once again I was very pleased to be asked to be one of the judges of the NAMA Youth Awards for 2018.  The other judges were Professor Ron Barr, Frances Hampton and Shelley Moffitt of the Department of Education, Sport and Culture and Aimee Corlett from the World Manx Association.

There was a good number of entrants across all the categories and it was a pleasure to listen to the selection of music accompanying some of the nominations and the art portraying aspects of Manx life was very varied. 

The judges receive details of each nomination in advance and all the entrants lead very busy lives, combining school work with contributing to charity and promoting the culture and life of the Isle of Man. NAMA should be very proud to be supporting these inspiring young people and encouraging their commitment to the Manx community.

After some considerable debate winners were decided and the awards will be presented in the Barrool Suite of the Legislative Buildings on Friday 6thJuly by long time supporter and friend of NAMA, Alex Downie, OBE.



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Click on this link to register for the 2018 Convention in Victoria, BC

NAMA Convention Registration Form 11-30-17  (Word File) THIS BLUE LINK WILL OPEN THE REGISTRATION FORM – JUST PRINT IT OFF AND COMPLETE ONE PER DELEGATE. MAKE YOUR  CHECKS FOR REGISTRATION OUT  to North American Manx Association.”  Or click here for PDF. NAMA Convention Registration Form 11-30-17

The official hotel of the 2018 convention is the Hotel Grand Pacific. Convention dates run Evening Thursday, June 21st – Evening Saturday, June 23rd.

Convention Itinerary

Thursday June 21, 2018

12:00         Board Meeting

18:30         General Meeting and Buffet Dinner


Friday June 22, 2018

9:45            Orca Spirit Whale Watching, Adventure in Zodiac (if registered)

10:00         Orca Spirit Whale Watching, Sight-seeing larger vessel (if registered)

13:30         Tea at the Fairmont Empress (if registered)

20:00         Evening snack in conversation in 1st Vice President’s suite

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Praying the Keeills Week Celebrates Mann’s Ancient Chapels

   Now in its thirteenth year, Praying the Keeills Week (Goaill Padjer ec ny Shenn Chialteenyn) provided a week-long programme of events designed to celebrate the Isle of Man’s Celtic heritage, with an opportunity to visit some of these ancient chapels which are located across the length and breadth of the Island.

An extensive programme offered a variety of walks together with a coach tour and an illustrated lecture, but this year there was also an opportunity to see examples from the Methodist Modern Art Collection, currently being exhibited on the Island.

A keeill is the local name which describes a Christian chapel, many of which were built between the eighth and twelfth centuries, the earliest buildings constructed with sods of earth and rarely larger than three metres by five metres internally. Others, however, were far more substantial, but constructed with stone. Typically some of them were surrounded by a walled graveyard, and often a well would be situated nearby.

It’s estimated that there may have been in the region of two hundred of these Christian stations at one time, but there are now only about thirty five with visible remains, often found on farmland.

A keeill might be used as a family chapel, a wayside shrine, a place of retreat or hermitage.

Excavations, where permitted, have unearthed memorial crosses and other decorative items, which were subsequently re-housed in local parish churches. But with a number of them facing an uncertain future, some of these artefacts have been released into the care of Manx National Heritage.

Praying the Keeills Week was organised by a group of people from local churches, presenting an opportunity to put aside the hustle and bustle of a contemporary world.

Both prayer and meditation were of importance to those who worshipped at these places in times past, which were believed to be what might be described as ‘thin places’; where believers could draw close to God.

Valerie Caine

© May 2018