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

Image: Ray Collister, with permission.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With very best wishes

Tom Durrant


Queen’s Pier Restoration Trust

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Posted in History

Making Celtic Connections at one of Glasgow’s Biggest Festivals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valerie Caine

© February 2017

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in Culture

Candle-lit Concert Boosts Funds for Knockaloe Project

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Members of the project can be contacted at

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

(Photos courtesy of

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in History

Annual Award Presented to the Michael Players

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Culture

Local Song Chosen for Pan-Celtic Festival Competition

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

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

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

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

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Culture

Commemoration Events for Sophia Morrison

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

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

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

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

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

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Culture, History

Wonders of Mann

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

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

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

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

Available from Island bookshops or from priced £12


Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in History, Nature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Uncategorized

Service of Remembrance Marks Anniversary of Ellan Vannin Tragedy

   The sinking of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company’s vessel Ellan Vannin in 1909 proved to be the worst day in the company’s history, but despite time’s intervention this tragic event remains deeply etched in the memory of many Manx people.

Recognised as the oldest mail steamer in the world at that time, the ill-fated Ellan Vannin began life as a paddle steamer, bearing the name Mona’s Isle II before her conversion to a twin screw steamer. She was mocked by some, although Manx Sailors regarded her as the safest vessel afloat, bestowing her the colloquial name Li’l Daisy.

A veritable workhorse, the Ellan Vannin departed from Ramsey in the early hours of the morning of the 3rd December upon her regular journey to Liverpool with an assorted cargo, fourteen passengers and twenty one crew members. Prepared for an estimated journey of seven to eight hours, the Ellan Vannin set sail in typical stormy, winter weather with Captain Teare, a cautious master, at the helm.

Unfortunately the weather deteriorated rapidly, with hurricane force winds challenging the vessel as she ploughed determinedly towards the English coastline.

She reached the Bar Lightship where the waves reached twenty four feet in height, but sank in the waters of Liverpool Bay. There were no survivors and only seventeen bodies recovered. Word of the disaster soon reached the Island, where thousands of people waited for news and social events were cancelled. At the suggestion of the Lieutenant Governor, Lord Raglan, the Ellan Vannin Disaster Fund was instigated, boosted by a generous £1,000 donation by the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company. Fundraising events around the world contributed much to the fund, and by the spring of 1910 stood at almost £13,000.

The Mersey Docks and Harbour Board raised concerns that the wreck was a danger to shipping, and was subsequently blown up on the 6th April, 1910.

Captain Teare’s actions in the teeth of the storm were criticised by some, and the subsequent official report issued by the Board of Enquiry concluded that the Ellan Vannin had been sunk by heavy seas. The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, however, believed it was the result of a collision.

The recent Service of Remembrance, held at the vessel’s memorial on Ramsey quayside and organised by Ramsey Town Commissioners, began with the commissioners’ Deputy Chairman Luke Parker, before the vessel’s tragic story was recounted by Lieutenant Lee Clarke RNR AFRIN (Secretary for the King George Fund for Seafarers – Seafarers UK). Prayers were led by Father Brian O’Mahony, followed by observation of a minute’s silence and the naming of both crew and passengers by John Watt (Commercial Director of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company), together with Mrs Margaret Brown and Mrs Jill Dunlop; great grand-daughters of First Mate John Craine.

Wreaths were laid by representatives of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company and Ramsey Town Commissioners, with closing prayers by Father O’Mahony.

Warm wishes were extended to Harry Edmondson, who had played a significant role in keeping the story of the Ellan Vannin in the public eye, but was unable to travel to the Island for the event due to ill health.

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in History

Remembering Sophia Morrison

With the approaching centenary of the death of Manx pioneer Sophia Morrison, it’s a good time to evaluate her achievements and review her remarkable legacy.

Born in Peel during 1859, Sophia had many siblings and was the daughter of well-respected, local grocer, merchant and fishing fleet owner Charles Morrison and his wife Louisa née Crellin. Sophia was gifted in music and language by her teenage years she was well read in European literature, possessed a working knowledge of Italian, Spanish, Irish, Scots Gaelic and was fluent in French.

Although she grew up in an English-speaking household, Sophia soon became a fluent speaker of Manx Gaelic, due, in part, to regular contact with native speakers.

Despite her shy disposition, Sophia possessed a natural flair for communication, particularly in written form, but also initiated Manx language classes with friends, and became a founder member and secretary of Yn Ҫheshaght Ghailckagh (The Manx Language Society) as well as the founder and editor of its journal, Mannin.

Committed to the collection and promotion of Manx culture, Sophia also took on the roles of honorary secretary of The Guild, vice president of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society and masterminded the T. E. Brown Day across Island schools.

Immersing herself in what was clearly a passionate undertaking, Sophia went on to become actively involved with the growing pan-Celtic movement, was consulted on the question of Manx national dress and inspired others undertaking similar work to herself. Respected by many for her vocation and influenced greatly by her friendship with the German folklorist Charles (Carl) Roeder, she remained in contact with a number of well-known antiquarians and became an important figure in the development of Anglo-Manx dialect and theatre, most notably with the Peel Players, who raised a lot of money for the Manx Language Society through performances of plays written by Christopher Shimmin and Josephine Kermode (aka Cushag).

Sophia became a prolific writer upon a number of local topics, although she is largely remembered these days for her iconic publication Manx Fairy Tales, with a later edition illustrated by Archibald Knox. More recently, the book has been translated into Manx Gaelic.

One of her final tasks, however, focused her attention upon collecting material for an Anglo-Manx dictionary, instigated by the celebrated historian A. W. Moore, but subsequently completed by Edmund Goodwin and Sophia, although not published until 1924.

Ill health dominated Sophia’s final years and she died of cancer on the 14 January, 1917. Crowds attended her funeral at Peel Cemetery, where members of the Peel Players bore her coffin to the family grave.

Back in her home town, a magnificent, inscribed memorial bookcase was presented by her family in 1934, and subsequently housed alongside a bas relief portrait in the Sophia Morrison Reference Room (built in 1952 with financial assistance from the Carnegie Trust) in the Ward Library.

A number of events have been organised jointly by Mec Vannin and the local branch of the Celtic Congress to commemorate this centenary on the 14 January, 2017, including a wreath-laying ceremony at her graveside at 1.30pm, followed by a talk about Sophia’s life at 2.30pm by Dr Breesha Maddrell at the Guild Room (opposite the Centenary Centre), Atholl Street, Peel – admission free. At 7.30pm there will be a Manx concert at the Centenary Centre continuing the theme of Sophia Morrison, including poems written by Cushag (a close friend), supporting musical acts and a performance of the Manx dialect play The Charm, written by Christopher Shimmin and performed by the Michael Players, but initially performed at this venue by the Peel Players in 1912.

Tickets priced at £5 available from Celtic Gold and Shakti Man, or reserved at

Manx National Heritage’s exhibition entitled Sophia Morrison: The First Curator will reveal more about her life story and runs at the Manx Museum until 6 May, 2017.

Valerie Caine

© January 2017

(Courtesy of Manx Tails)

Posted in Culture, History