Shennaghys Jiu Festival Celebrates Twenty First Anniversary!

   Here on the Isle of Man, the annual Shennaghys Jiu festival will be celebrating its twenty first anniversary (30th March – 2nd April). Predominantly based in Ramsey (with a special concert in Peel on Sunday afternoon), organisers are planning to highlight a wide range of local talent in conjunction with a continuous development of the festival atmosphere.

Building on the success of previous years, new festival goers and families are encouraged to sample some of their popular events during the Easter weekend. A visit to the festival’s website reveals an extensive list of exciting performers from the length and breadth of the Island, as well as visiting groups from Ireland and Cornwall.

A special part of Shennaghys Jiu, however, is the regular art display highlighting the work of local school children, which will be open to the public from the 26th March at Ramsey Town Hall.

Organisers of the festival would like to take this opportunity of thanking Island Aggregates, Corlett’s, Culture Vannin and Ramsey Town Commissioners for their continued support.

Valerie Caine

© March 2018

Get Creative this Month with the Embroiderers’ Guild on the Isle of Man!

The Get Creative Festival ( 17th to 25th March, aims to shine a light on all the fantastic cultural activity which takes place across Britain, encouraging everyone to have a go at something new and imaginative.

During the festival, the Isle of Man Branch of the Embroiderers’ Guild will be holding a Celebrate Stitch Day from 10.00am until 4.00 pm on Saturday 24th March at St Andrew’s Hall, St Ninian’s, Douglas.

Entrance is free, with demonstrations of silk-flower making, stuffed ribbon coasters, redwork, free machine stitching, hand stitching and other types of needlework, with the opportunity to join in too. Members of the Young Embroiderers will also be at the event, so children will be welcome if accompanied by an adult. Mananan’s Cloak, made by the Embroiderers’ Guild to mark the Millennium will also be on display, together with lots of information about workshops which will take place during the next few months. Details of both these and past workshops can be found on the blog (

Membership of the Guild offers opportunities to learn a wide variety of techniques (guided by experts) with examples of work produced by current members at previous workshops also on display during the day.

Refreshments will be available, together with a raffle, sales table of books and various needlework supplies. Further information is available from the Chairman, Marilyn Cullen, on 843325 or

Valerie Caine

© February 2018

Holy Moly and the Crackers Lift the Roof of the Centenary Centre!

  There was a feverish, expectant ripple amongst the audience at the Centenary Centre as they awaited the phenomenally talented band Holy Moly and the Crackers, but before this everyone was thoroughly entertained by local singer/songwriter Rhiannon Jade. Her soulful rendition of original compositions (except for a Bob Dylan piece) revealed a new name to watch in the future, with a powerful projection and excellent diction reverberating around the recently decorated entertainment centre, which fell silent in tribute to her undoubted talent.

Meanwhile, Holy Moly and the Crackers made their Manx debut at the Centenary Centre and were an instant hit with ticket holders, who found the urge to dance irresistible – and who can blame them!

Bringing a wild blend of folk and contemporary rock to the stage, their first visit to the Isle of Man was the start of a keenly anticipated European tour, treating everyone to a wide variety of musical influence and some powerful songs from their original repertoire. All of the band’s musicians revealed their own individual talents on the night, but special mention here for gifted fiddle player and vocalist Ruth Patterson. Their infectious enthusiasm all but lifted the roof off the old Methodist hall and inevitably prompted a well deserved standing ovation.

Also available during the evening was a bonus sale of just part of the extensive music collection of the late and much missed music promoter Jonno Gollow, bequeathed to the Centenary Centre. Funds from the sale will be put towards the cost of a new mixing desk and if you missed out on the night there’ll be further opportunity to purchase some great music at future events at the Centenary Centre.

Valerie Caine

© March 2018

Species that you might be surprised to find on the Isle of Man

The Isle of Man has a rich abundance of wildlife, and as the Island’s only ‘all animal’ rescue centre the ManxSPCA deals with some unusual species that have gone native, including peafowl and wallabies.

Both of these species were introduced to the Island and so they are not indigenous, but they have been living wild in the Manx countryside for so long now that they are accepted by most people as being an integrated part of the eco-system.

Facts and figures about peafowl are a little vague, as birds have escaped from private collections over the years and bred successfully. They are native to India and so one might be forgiven for thinking that the Manx climate would not suit them, but they have clearly adapted and their numbers are growing.

We have more information about the origins and numbers of wallabies on the Island, though. in 1989 eight wallabies dug under their enclosure and escaped from the Island’s Wildlife Park. They bred successfully in the following years, living discreetly in the undergrowth of the Island’s plantations and wetlands. The current population is thought to be around 200.

A common myth about the Island’s wallabies is that they suffer from blindness due to inbreeding. Research undertaken three years ago used camera traps, which are small camera boxes that can be attached to a tree or post and capture videos when triggered by movement. The cameras took over 1,000 videos of wallabies in the Ballaugh area, where the population is most dense, and many hundreds of videos were sent in by members of the public via a specially created Facebook page. A very small minority of these wallabies appeared to have any blindness, and when individuals did appear to be blind (presenting as a cataracts-like milky layer on one or both of their eyes) the problem was usually accompanied by other ailments such as an inner-ear infection, characterised by a tilted head. Given that it is likely there have been more escapes over the years than has been reported, it is probable that the gene pool is much larger than just the genes from the original escapees.

The diversity of Manx wildlife may be surprising to some, but equally surprising is the fact that several mammals that are commonplace in the UK do not live on the Island. These include the fox, the badger and the squirrel. But there are plenty of smaller mammals and at the ManxSPCA’s rescue centre in Foxdale you will always be able to see hedgehogs, rabbits and polecats that are in need of care before they are released back into the wild. You can see lots of photos and videos on the Society’s Facebook page, and more detailed information about the charity on its website –


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Welsh Group ALAW to Make Their Manx Debut at the Centenary Centre

Image by Paul Michael Hughes Photography

Welsh folk super group ALAW (melody in the Welsh language) will shortly be making their debut concert on the Isle of Man at the Centenary Centre in Peel next month.

This inspiring trio, which draws particularly on their Celtic heritage, is originally from South Wales, and brings together three exceptionally talented musicians; namely Oliver Wilson-Dickson, Dylan Fowler

and Jamie Smith.

Oliver explained, “Most of our music is Welsh – Wales has a fantastic variety of distinctive and beautiful melodies. I have played on the Isle of Man with Mabon and The Devil’s Violin and always take the opportunity to have a look around and, of course, go to the pub to play some Manx tunes!”


Jamie Smith is noted as one of the UK’s finest accordionists and writers of new acoustic music, developing into a folk musician specialising in the music of the Celts; presenting rare tunes and songs from areas such as the Isle of Man and Galicia. He also fronts the international Celtic Band Jamie Smith’s Mabon, featuring his original compositions which are also available in his book Tunesmith. Jamie has now made his home in Peel on the Isle of Man, latterly playing music with the Manx trio Barrule. He commented, “I grew up playing Welsh music and it’s great to be able to share that music here in my new home. The Centenary Centre is a fantastic venue for folk music and the audience is always up for a good time.”

Dylan Fowler looks to his Welsh heritage for inspiration, but also draws upon contemporary European jazz and his extensive collaboration with musicians in India, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Finland, Norway, Canada, Germany and Italy amongst others. He has also developed a reputation as an international solo guitarist, releasing albums on the German label Acoustic Music Records.

Oliver Wilson-Dickson, who also plays with The Devil’s Violin and Jamie Smith’s Mabon, regularly collaborates with storyteller Daniel Morden, is a well known session musician and performs in the house band on the Welsh TV programme Noson Lawen.

All of the trio have travelled to festivals and concert halls in many lands, but they are particularly excited to be playing on the Isle of Man.

Jamie added, “We like to take our audiences on a journey and include sets we have collected from our travels around the world.”

ALAW is currently touring with their new album Dead Man’s Dance, which has attracted broad, critical acclaim.

Their up and coming gig at the Centenary Centre starts at 8.00pm on the 3rd March, tickers priced at £14.00 (adults) £8.00 (under 18s/students) available from Celtic Gold, Shakti Man, Thompson Travel and Noa Bakehouse, or


Valerie Caine

© February 2018

Snowdrop Walk in Dalby Raises Funds for Charity

   Despite plummeting temperatures, a good number of people braved the elements to visit Dalby House to see a wonderful display of snowdrops, which bloomed in abundance along the driveway and at the rear of the house, where they were more sheltered from the bitter, winter gales. A limited supply of potted snowdrops were also for sale but rapidly purchased by early visitors to the event.

As we head expectantly towards the close of winter, the gentle but resilient snowdrop springs eternal as a signal of hope for better days, subtly providing moments of joyfulness and optimism for those eagerly looking towards the coming season.

But there was some much needed warmth to be had at St James’ Church in Dalby, where everyone gathered in the schoolroom for a keenly anticipated afternoon tea and a welcome opportunity to thaw out in front of a roaring fire.

Additionally, there was a chance to purchase from an excellent selection of Fairtrade goods, partake in the raffle and, for a lucky few, buy a surplus of home-made scones to take home.

Proceeds from the event, after costs, will be split between Dalby Church Restoration Fund and this year’s chosen charities Bridge the Gap and the Koru Hospital Fund.







Valerie Caine

© February 2018

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Manannan’s Choice of the Year Awarded to Phil Kelly

This year’s Reih Bleeaney Vanannan (Manannan’s Choice of the Year) has been awarded by Culture Vannin to local man Phil Kelly, recognising almost fifty years of work in teaching, promoting, publishing and developing online resources for the Manx language by one of the cultural community’s most unassuming leaders.

His long held enthusiasm for, and dedication to the language, which he discovered as a student, provided a vital contribution to the survival and development of Manx Gaelic. He is a founder member of Banglane Twoaie, the Northern branch of Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (the Manx Language Society) and also helped record Manx speakers during the 1970s.

As a teacher Phil played a significant role in the success of the Manx language which is still relevant and became the second Manx Language Officer for the Department of Education, producing many valuable resources. Additionally, Phil also produced learning material for beginners, organising and participating in evening classes for all ages at Michael Football Clubroom in the 1990s. He also visited and supported many Oieghyn Ghaelgagh (Manx-speaking evenings) and conversational classes around the Island.

His publications include Fockleyr Gaelg-Baarle, A Guide to Mann’s Placenames and Manx Usage, but he was also instrumental in re-printing many short stories in the Manx language during the 1970s, with kind permission of the authors.

He was always keen to see how technology could be adapted for language learning, and his pioneering work with material online, or in conjunction with apps, has made its mark. Phil’s creation of an online dictionary allowed free and greater access to Manx vocabulary, but his Manx Bible site, (developed with Ffynlo Craine), makes one of the most important texts in the Manx language accessible and searchable at the touch of a button His dedicated website (which is no longer active) also gathered together learning resources which had never been available online before.

Described as ‘an unsung hero of the success story of the Manx language’, this year’s award to Phil Kelly has been recognised as a deserving and fitting recognition of the work and dedication that he has placed into the development of the Manx language during the last half a century.

A spokesperson for the Reih Bleeaney Vanannan selection panel, comprising representatives of Culture Vannin, the Isle of Man Arts Council, Manx National Heritage Trustees, Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh and Yn Chruinnaght, commented, “His pioneering attitude to the use of technology to help produce and share resources for the language was exemplary. By publishing and teaching, he has left a rich archive and an important legacy for future generations.”

The Reih Bleeaney Vanannan trophy was awarded to Phil Kelly at a private ceremony at Culture Vannin’s headquarters in St John’s, where he nominated the Manx education charity Mooinjer Veggey to receive a cheque for £500. Mooinjer Veggey runs nurseries using the Manx language at Braddan and Ballasalla, Possan Cloie (parents and tots) and the Manx language primary school based in St John’s – Bunscoill Ghaelgagh.

Valerie Caine

© February 2018

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)


Eminent Feminist Dr Pankhurst Encourages Islanders to Pull Together in Memory of Manx Pioneer

Continuing an historical, family legacy can be viewed by those lingering around the outside of the circle as labouring, challenging, or even unnecessary, but Dr Helen Pankhurst carries her public mantle with a quiet, but dignified determination.

Female emancipation can be divisive and empowering, in equal measure, but it is something which holds generations of the Pankhurst family together, despite forays into other social areas. As an active feminist herself, Dr Pankhurst spreads her time liberally between international development and women’s rights, but also works as an adviser for CARE International and as a trustee of Action Aid.

Having studied at Edinburgh University, Sussex University and Vassar College in New York, Dr Pankhurst now divides her time between Ethiopia (where her radical grandmother Christabel made a new life) and the UK.

Closer to home, Dr Pankhurst has had a growing awareness of her Manx connections, but it was her daughter Laura who dug down into the genealogical ridges to discover more about their links with Sophia Craine of Lonan and other Manx relatives. And although her visit to the Isle of Man last year was brief, Dr Pankhurst was able to visit Sophia’s birthplace and lay flowers at her grave in Braddan New Cemetery.

We can be sure that Sophia’s influence proved to be a catalyst in her descendants’ future work. Upon her marriage to Richard Goulden, Sophia lost her right to vote when she relocated to Manchester, (the Isle of Man was the first country to give (some) women the vote in 1881) but despite raising eleven children still had energy to fight the injustice of slavery and women’s suffrage. And it was, of course, Sophia who sowed the seeds for social change in the mind of her daughter, Emmeline.

Dr Pankhurst’s recent visit to the Island was organised by The Friends of Sophia Goulden, a local group striving to raise a statue of the Manx woman, which, according to Dr Pankhurst, will not only serve as a commemoration, but remind us of what can still be achieved on our own doorstep.

The concept of female emancipation is nothing new, but at some point this was eroded. Locally there is evidence of four women in Garff who cast their vote in 1700 and it’s widely acknowledged that Viking women enjoyed a more equal footing with their men folk in their daily lives. We pride ourselves as being the first country in the world to allow women the vote in 1881, (albeit with restrictions) but the need for continued progress and stability is ongoing.

Dr Pankhurst believes that globally there is much work to be done, but this need not exclude the Isle of Man. Although she clearly sees empowerment as by far the best way forward, neither does this preclude men from taking up the cudgel of feminism. They too can play their part, speak out about discrimination and use their power to reverse the tide of inequality.

Dr Pankhurst commented, “Although contemporary society has seen positive change, misogyny and patriarchy doesn’t serve anybody. Men need not be silent witnesses.”

Cultural, institutional and social change are all required, and with the upsurge in popularity of social media there has never been a better time for women to engage in campaigns and support each other, but as the world adjusts to radical change it also brings fresh opportunities and new problems in its wake.

If it hadn’t been members of the Pankhurst family, undoubtedly others would have emerged to pursue political equality, but in Dr Pankhurst’s opinion there’s nothing like doing this together, taking courage from female pioneers of previous generations.

But when we’re doing this, let’s remember the pivotal role of a pioneering Manx woman – Sophia Craine.

Valerie Caine

© February 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Manx Family Links Emmeline Pankhurst to the Isle of Man

With the commemoration of women in Britain securing the vote dominating news coverage today, it’s also an opportunity to explore the lives of the women who fought for democracy, but a Manx link with the powerful Emmeline Pankhurst may hold the key to her personal vision for women’s suffrage.

Sophia Jane Craine, the mother of Emmeline Pankhurst, baptised in the parish of Lonan, was the daughter of William and Jane Craine and often referred to as ‘a bright, attractive, good-looking young woman’. During Sophia Jane’s early childhood the family lived in the Strand quarter of Lonan parish, her father a shoemaker.

Likely an only child, the Craine family moved to Tynwald House, 3 North Quay, Douglas, where they ran a lodging house and home-schooled their daughter.

Sophia Jane married an aspiring Manchester warehouseman and ardent Liberal, Robert Goulden, at Kirk Braddan in 1853 and relocated to her husband’s hometown; it’s assumed that they met when he lodged with her family. Sophia Jane’s mother moved to Christian Road, Douglas, before settling at Strathallan Crescent in the town.

Sophia Jane Goulden was kept busy bringing up a large family, for the most part at Seedley Cottage, Pendleton, Salford. Sylvia Pankhurst recalled, ‘…..grandmother, brought up on a Manx farm, was the typical old-fashioned bustling housewife, working amongst her maids, in a household producing its own butter and bread, jams and pickles……’

It was, however, her great-grandmother, Jane Quine, who was a farmer’s daughter from Jurby.

Her sister Christabel, remarked, ‘…..grandmother, born in the Isle of Man, gave mother her sea-blue eyes, her healthy, finely balanced constitution, her spirited courage, her portion of the enterprise that scatters Manx folk far in the world and gives them good success in their undertakings. The peaceful, open-air life was the best preparation for the exacting and energy-spending life in store for her……’

Sophia Jane was a passionate feminist, who gave her blessing to the work undertaken by her family, accompanying Emmeline to suffrage meetings in the early 1870s. But she was also quick to criticise her daughter.

In 1878 Emmeline’s parents bought 9 Strathallan Crescent, Douglas, formerly the home of John Morrison, her step-father, and used as a holiday home, where the Goulden family spent summers exploring lanes and glens, visiting their grandmother, (who plied them with soda cakes) and listening to Robbie Craine, a relative learned in Manx folklore and a well-known, local character.

Both of Emmeline’s parents died in Douglas, and are buried in Braddan Cemetery – Robert in 1892 and Sophia Jane in 1910, after a bout of double pneumonia.

But although enfranchisement of women, who fulfilled certain criteria, is generally accepted as being established on the Isle of Man in 1881, there is evidence that progress took place much earlier, when four women from Maughold and Lonan were amongst the voters of Garff in 1700.

(Images courtesy of Isle of Man Stamps & Coins and the Isle of Man Family History Society)

Valerie Caine

© February 2018

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Oie’ll Verree at Kirk Michael Brings in the Crowds

   The annual Oie’ll Verree, which can still be found in a number of rural settings, takes the form of a concert and remains at the forefront of Manx life as a community event, but the occasion at Kirk Michael was tinged with sadness after the news of the sudden death of Roy Kennaugh, who was one of its most dedicated proponents and organisers.

Held as usual at the Ebenezer Hall in Michael village, the venue was packed with an expectant crowd, looking forward to a good evening of entertainment, but before proceedings got underway tributes to the late Roy Kennaugh were given by John ‘Dog’ Callister and a member of Michael Heritage Trust.

Local singer Dilys Sowery provided a gentle start to the evening, in partnership on this occasion with accordionist John Kaighin. This was followed by Deborah Taubman and Mary Faragher with recitations of historical Manx poetry, including that of the legendary T. E. Brown, and a little magic from Giles Beaumont. The first half concluded with some superb music from harpist Mera Royle and a selection of traditional dances from northern based dance group Ny Fennee.

A short interval, which included the presentation of the award Yn Gliggyr to a resident for their work in the parish, was then followed by the main event, which was the eagerly awaited dialect play, presented by The Michael Players RBV and produced by the late Roy Kennaugh.

This year’s play was The L’il Smook by the prolific J. J. Kneen, a comedy based on the exploits of Mrs Qualtrough’s endeavours to stop her husband from smoking and was the prize winner of the 1913 Yn Çheshaght Ghailckagh play competition. Recognised as the greatest Manx linguist of his generation and one of the most important scholars of Manx subjects, J. J. Kneen was awarded a Knighthood from the King of Norway.

Proceedings closed with the singing of Arrane Oie Vie (goodnight song) and a hearty home-made supper.

Valerie Caine

© January 2018

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)