A dedicated group of supporters gathered at the memorial to the S.S. Ellan Vannin, placed by the Manx Heritage Foundation (now known as Culture Vannin) on the quayside at Ramsey to take part in the annual Service of Remembrance, to mark the anniversary of what is probably one of the greatest maritime disasters in Manx history.

The event was organised by Ramsey Town Commissioners, with a brief introduction by Deputy Chairman, Luke Parker, followed by opening prayers from Father Brian O Mahony of Our Lady, Star of the Sea and St Maughold Church where there is a plaque to commemorate two stonemasons who were working on the church and subsequently died on the Ellan Vannin, and the observation of one minute’s silence.

The short service concluded with a reading of the names of crew members of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and passengers who died aboard the Ellan Vannin as it foundered near the Mersey Bar, en route to Liverpool on the 3rd December, 1909.

In conclusion, wreaths were laid on behalf of Ramsey Town Commissioners and the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company before closing prayers by Father Brian O Mahony.

Those gathered at the quayside in Ramsey, from whence the Ellan Vannin sailed, counted descendants of those who perished on that fateful night, including one young boy descended from seaman Thomas Corkish.

Meanwhile in the USA, Robert Ramsey Benson (grandson of seaman John Benson) watched the service from his home with his daughter.

A video of the event is available now on the Ramsey Town Commissioners Facebook page.

Further information about the sinking of the Ellan Vannin is available from Richard Stafford’s book of the same name which can be purchased through Culture Vannin’s website.

Valerie Caine

© December 2019


The Isle of Man has an extensive and proud historical link with the North West of England through the busy port of Liverpool, serving a need for migration, employment, transport of goods and latterly an important connection for onward travel.

But the port represents much more than this to people on the Island as we continue to foster a long held affinity.

This tangible link with the Isle of Man has recently been brought into sharp focus with the need to shift the position of our current terminal building to a new site, after many years alongside the iconic Royal Liver Building. The move has been required after it was revealed that a new cruise liner terminal would be situated on that site, which has provoked questions about its re-assignment and cost.

A one-day exhibition about the on-going project, staged in Liverpool, invited the public to learn more about the proposed scheme, with an opportunity to raise any concerns.

Held in the magnificent RIBA North Building, based at the appropriately named Mann Island on Liverpool’s waterfront, the event was jointly hosted by the Isle of Man Government’s Department of Infrastructure, Aecom (Consultants and Engineers) and The Manser Practice, a firm of architects with offices in London and York.

There’s no doubt that the current terminal facility in Liverpool is tired and jaded and would welcome an upgrade, but the Isle of Man Government’s proposal centres on an ambitious, modern replacement designed to meet the needs of the twenty first century traveller. The proposed site is located at Prince’s Half Tide Dock, some eight hundred metres north of the current terminal, a location which has evolved since the early nineteenth century.

With substantial regeneration dominating the Merseyside landscape, the new terminal will be positioned within a residential area which is home to some eight hundred people in surrounding apartments, some of whom raised their own concerns with representatives at the exhibition. Many were assuaged, but others remained un-assured.

Several diagrams and images adorned the walls, portraying the vision of the Isle of Man Government for the site, which lies in the desire to organise the flow of both vehicular and passenger traffic in a seamless fashion; avoiding congestion and bottlenecks. The overall design is, appropriately, distinctly reminiscent of a sailing vessel and incorporates a number of local references – with external and internal signage proposed in both Manx Gaelic and the English language. The distinctive triskellion, instinctively linked with the Isle of Man, will also be used to visual effect using Manx colours. Meanwhile, the terminal itself will be constructed mainly of glass and zinc in an effort to create a bright and reflective building. A deliberate choice of material to withstand the rigours of a waterfront setting, the use of zinc is also additionally reported to be a nod towards the Island’s now defunct mining industry.

It’s proposed that passengers will be filtered around the perimeter in an efficient manner, with a clear view of the vessel at all times and up-to-date facilities for the travelling public. Additionally, the main building is perceived to be a high quality pavilion constructed sensitively for use in a designated World Heritage site.

In the meantime you can view an inter-active visual image of the proposed terminal in a short clip on the Isle of Man Government’s Youtube channel.

Since publication of this article the cost of the project has increased and completion date extended.

Valerie Caine

© November 2019

(Courtesy of Business 365)

With an estimated forty percent of languages around the world said to be in danger of extinction, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 2019 as the International Year of Indigenous Languages, in order to raise awareness of the potential threats to their future but also mobilise people into action for their preservation.

It’s claimed that most of these are indigenous languages, which in turn is said to put both the culture and knowledge systems to which they belong at risk. Additionally, these people can often be isolated both politically and socially which is reflected by their geographical location, history, culture, language and tradition.

The Manx language was famously declared extinct recently by UNESCO based upon the death of the last native speaker, Ned Maddrell, in 1974. But after an outcry by some of the estimated six hundred active speakers, including pupils from Bunscoill Gaelgagh (the Manx speaking primary school) UNESCO revised the Island’s language status to that of a living language.

In many areas the state of an indigenous language is believed to reflect that of its people, where it identifies origin or membership in a community – as well as the ethical values of their ancestors. However, unlike some countries the Manx language, which has successfully embraced modern technology, has received positive support from government, in conjunction with the countless volunteers who have devoted their time to keeping the Island’s native language alive.

Recognition of language instability is, however, growing, with a belief that a country’s language should be recognised as a strategic, national resource for development and reconciliation, with the ability to foster and promote local culture, customs and values; ultimately adding to the rich tapestry of global, cultural diversity.

The recent publication of Poems from the Edge of Extinction: An Anthology of Poetry in Endangered Languages by John Murray Press, on National Poetry Day, has also focused attention on this situation. Borne from the Endangered Poetry Project, this revolutionary publication, edited by Chris McCabe of the National Poetry Library, has brought together fifty poems from across the world where language has been identified as endangered, and includes a contribution from the Isle of Man by Bob Carswell, entitled Duillagyn Ny Fouyir or The Leaves of Autumn.

With one of the world’s seven thousand languages reported to be disappearing every two weeks, this anthology (with accompanying English translation and commentary) aims to preserve and reclaim voices which would otherwise die.

Chris McCabe said, “This book has grown from a simple idea I had in my role as National Poetry Librarian – to collect poems spoken, or written, in endangered languages throughout the world, which would help to document our understanding of how poetry exists globally.”

The anthology, which includes contributions from both new and established poets, identifies some of those languages perceived to be endangered and offers a unique insight into the culture of those vulnerable languages through the voices of their writers.

Valerie Caine

© November 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

There’s a further treat in store for those dedicated readers who have been following Maria Darnoult’s series about the Waverley family, with the third volume, entitled Discord, now in print.

Based on a dramatised version of real events, there’s a brief resume at the beginning of the book to refresh those who may need a gentle reminder about what happened in Maria’s previous novels, Face the Music and Crescendo; which introduced us to the scandalous relationship of William Waverley and Hannah Corlett, their subsequent wedding and the antics of their family and friends.

Now expecting their first child, the newly married Waverleys continue to receive disapproval from those living in Castletown, as the book digs deeply into the lives of the Waverleys, as well as their friends and neighbours, using the Isle of Man as a backdrop for the saga.

A foray through the pages of Discord also permits the reader to lift the veil of Elbie’s complex love life and her European travels, a potentially bigamous marriage and a bolt from the blue for the newly married Hannah Waverley.

Booklovers can follow the parochial movements of the south side family, as they attempt to unravel the life of the innocent servant girl, Maud, and deal with the fate of the sailing vessel, Bessie Arnold.

Available now, priced £9.99 from outlets across the Island, further information about forthcoming books in this series can be found at Maria’s website – www.mariadarnoult.com

Valerie Caine

© November 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

If you’re looking for a gift with a local flavour which also helps the on-going work of an Island charity, then here’s the opportunity to pop into any branch of Crossroads Care to pick up your copy of next year’s calendar and their Christmas cards.

The charity’s beautifully illustrated calendar, entitled As Manx as the Hills, has been designed by local artist Felicity Wood and depicts a number of original designs alongside a selection of Manx expressions. They have been chosen specifically for their relevance to the Isle of Man, using a mixture of well-known phrases and other which are a little more obscure – with explanations also provided. This year’s Christmas card design has been taken from the calendar.

Felicity, who has been associated with Crossroads Care for eighteen years, specialises her work by developing a modern twist on Celtic design using a range of medium, including clay and watercolour.

Her work has raised thousands of pounds for the charity.

Crossroads Care is an independent Manx charity which provides support to all carers and individuals with care needs, regardless of disability, illness, or age, and is currently the leading provider of both practical and emotional support for carers living on the Isle of Man – with a view to improving their lives.

Both the calendar and cards can be purchased from the charity’s main office at Eden Park, or from any of their local shops. Alternatively, purchasers can phone 673103 or contact mfaragher@crossroadsiom.org.

The calendar is priced at £6 with a pack of ten Christmas cards costing £4.


Valerie Caine

© November 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

With the festive season on the horizon and the uplifting sound of music and song to warm our winter evenings, there’s an opportunity to enjoy a magical, Manx Christmas at the Gaiety Theatre in Douglas.

Manannan’s Winterfest, which made a successful debut at the same venue last year, will showcase a range of talent from across the Island (and one or two from further afield) who will represent a cross-section of top performers from a number of genres.

To be hosted by the one and only Dot Tilbury, the evening will feature the London based Manx opera singer Kate Dowman (who will be performing at Buckingham Palace on the previous day) and local girl Mae Challis – hot foot from a five-week recording session in London.

It’s an opportunity to celebrate Manx Christmas traditions with some of the Island’s finest exponents of classical, folk, brass and choral music, with a little added local humour and drama. This will include the outstanding young singer and actress Alexandra Slater, the award-winning Scottish harpist Rachel Hair and the legendary Michael Players RBV, who will entertain the audience with a rare Manx dialect play.

Other entertainers during the evening include contemporary dancer Rebecca Cooil, local pianist Gareth Moore, the Manx Trinity Academy of Irish Dance, the Ballacottier School Choir, the Manx Youth Band and Manx Concert Brass; topped with Manannan’s House Band which brings together traditional musicians David Kilgallon, Kirsty and Katie Lawrence and Malcolm Stitt.

Valerie Caine

© November 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

It is said that the Cornish have a long history of expressing their distinctive identity, with a steadily increasing identification and promotion of a Celtic dimension since the late nineteenth century, and there’s no better way to experience this than the annual festival known as Lowender Peran.

Set up to encourage recognition of Cornwall’s heritage, there’s a long list of Manx performers who have strengthened links with the festival during many years of participation. This year the Island will be represented by two very distinctive sets of entertainers, who are well known for supporting a whole range of festivals both at home and abroad.

Mark Lawrence is an accomplished guitarist who enjoys playing a range of styles on both acoustic and electric guitars. He is known for both composing his own tunes and reframing traditional ones, but is heavily influenced by other genres such as the Beatles, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, John Doyle and Arty McGlynn. This merging of influences has subsequently led to Mark’s current project – a fusion of folk, blues, jazz and classical music played on acoustic guitar. He’s a long-time supporter of Lowender Peran and is very much looking forward to performing at this year’s festival.

Additionally, the traditional Manx dance group Ny Fennee (The Heroes in Manx Gaelic), based in the north of the Island, will also be taking centre stage at Lowender Peran. Founded in 1980, and under the leadership of Juan Garrett and Sue Jaques, this dynamic, young set of dancers are well known for putting their own stamp on traditional Manx dances, accompanied by their own musicians both on and off the Island. Consisting of forty members of all ages, Ny Fennee – easily identified by their colourful costume – regularly partake in local competitions, such as Dance Mann, where they have won the traditional dance section and also placed runners-up within overall group performance.

The festival itself is, at its core, renowned for its dance displays and energetic ceilidhs – providing an opportunity for pageant, colour and identity.

But if you’ve left your dancing shoes at home, there’s ample opportunity to sample other aspects of the festival, including music and song, story-telling, workshops, sessions and the Cornish language; with an outreach programme to several schools across Cornwall. You’ll also be able to slake your thirst with a variety of Cornish beers and embrace a Cornish Gin tasting session.

If time and energy allow, visitors to the festival, now based in The Hotel Bristol in Newquay, may also enjoy some of the area’s stunning coastal scenery, or a visit to Truro to see Cornwall Cathedral, one of the most iconic buildings in the county, tour the Royal Cornwall Museum, or brave the Atlantic surf.

Valerie Caine

© October 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

With new and exciting ideas in the pipeline for the redevelopment of the basement displays in the Manx Museum, it will bring to a close the much-loved Folklife Gallery, which has been on permanent display since the 1950s and remains largely unchanged.

The Folklife Gallery is a gentle reminder of a bygone age on the Isle of Man, evoking memories of a mainly rural setting.

By far the largest display is the quarterland farmhouse, based on the northern style, which by and large, incorporates beach stones and a slate floor within its design, reflecting differences in building materials in comparison with the south of the Island. The unpretentious farmhouse, furnished with a host of domesticity, and gathered from a range of sources, was initially placed into position in 1938, allowing visitors an opportunity of viewing two distinct building styles. The other, of course, being Harry Kelly’s cottage at Cregneash which opened during the same year.

It encapsulated a life which was already rapidly disappearing.

There’s long been a rumour that the spectre of a young child appears in the bedroom of the farmhouse, thought by some to be an urban myth, but if you know otherwise Yvonne Cresswell, a curator at the Manx Museum, would be delighted to hear about your experiences.

Farming life inevitably dominates the basement, an extension of the Manx Museum built during the 1930s, interspersed with historical curiosities, such as the Ballafreer sundial and reminders of Arthur Caley, the so-called Manx Giant, which have their own stories to tell. There’s also an opportunity to look inside a fisherman’s hut, glance at a typical old-style dairy and appraise the old-fashioned corner shop which sold everything you could possibly need, and was once a common feature in every village. And students of fashion can also enjoy a small selection of the museum’s extensive wardrobe, covering the nineteenth century.

But life moves on, with Manx National Heritage currently at the feasibility stage of redeveloping the basement into a new TT gallery – dealing with nostalgia in a contemporary setting. It’s a lengthy project, viewed as having international importance, with a potential opening date of 2022 (subject to change), displaying memorabilia as well as motorbikes and highlighting different strands of the TT which assist the smooth running of the event.

It’s seen as a good opportunity to re-interpret this area of the Manx Museum and engage visitors with objects using new technology, as a way of displaying another side of Manx identity.

Some of the objects currently displayed in the Folklife Gallery will be re-assigned elsewhere amongst the Manx National Heritage sites, with others cared for in storage until such time as they too can be re-instated in future displays.

The Folklife Gallery currently remains untouched, but for those who wish to have a final, nostalgic visit, will close in January of next year.

Valerie Caine

© October 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

(Since publication of this article a petition to save the Folklife Gallery has been launched at www.change.org)

The Island’s largest free festival of heritage and cultural events, known as the Isle of Man Heritage Open Days, has blossomed since its inaugural year which included just three events and this year celebrates its tenth anniversary, with a burgeoning list of events scheduled for two weekends during October.

Heritage ‘Open Doors’ events have been firmly established in both the UK and Europe for several years, but it wasn’t until 2010 that Manx National Heritage decided to test the water with a local version during the month of October (so as to avoid the Manx Grand Prix) with a view to acting as an extension to the tourism season. It began tentatively with the opening of the fisherman’s cottage at Niarbyl and the magnificent Civil War fort situated on St Michael’s Isle, which are both in the care of Manx National Heritage and generally closed to the public.

Both events were a resounding success, which paved the way for future open days totalling almost eight hundred individual events straddling walks, tours, buildings and other activities and including virtually twenty thousand participants during a decade of free events.

Both local people and visitors eagerly embraced the idea, with more members of the Heritage Forum coming forward with new ideas as years progressed, with a programme of events now issued during September covering both bookable events and drop-in sessions.

Organiser of the annual event, Katie King, said “Isle of Man Heritage Open Days is a true partnership project, working with a network of knowledgeable and passionate guides who volunteer their time to inspire, educate and highlight the history, culture and architecture the Isle of Man has to offer.”

The event is funded by Manx National Heritage through the auspices of the Manx Museum and National Trust Charitable Funds.


Valerie Caine

© October 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Held at the Great Meadow estate by kind permission of Mr & Mrs Riggall, this year’s Southern Agricultural Show was once again plagued by demanding weather conditions, but organisers carried on regardless – with a few re-adjustments to the programme.

A much respected annual show, its well supported from across the Island and beyond but despite the necessity of adapting its schedule to suit a more contemporary audience, has retained its core values of agriculture and rural life.

The Southern District Agricultural Society’s first event took place in fields adjacent to Billown Mansion in Malew during 1914 and Great Meadow in 1920 before moving to various venues around the area of Castletown, returning permanently to Great Meadow in 1973 and developing into a two-day event during the early 1990s.

It attracts some of the best of the Island’s livestock, and also holds competitions for horses, dogs, poultry and small animals. Additionally, others competed for prizes in classes for confectionery, crafts and produce. The main trophies of the event were presented to winners by the Chief Minister, Mr Howard Quayle MHK and Mrs Lorraine Quayle. Shoprite offered a mouth-watering hamper filled with local produce to the winner of the Trade Stand Treasure Hunt and artists were encouraged to produce a piece of artwork based upon their personal observation of the show. The winner will have the opportunity to see their work featured on next year’s publicity for the event and collect a prize of a return journey for two passengers and a car courtesy of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company.

Valerie Caine

© August 2019