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


In the Isle of Man, as elsewhere, many customs and superstitions, as well as much weather-lore, have attached themselves to the different seasons of the year. Both the Celts and Norsemen, before the introduction of Christianity, held high festival at the beginning of summer and winter, the mid-winter and mid-summer feasts being more especially of Scandinavian origin. When Christianity was introduced, its ministers, unable to do away with these feasts, wisely adopted their periods as Christian festivals, and so they have continued semi-pagan in form till the present day. Such ancient observances as perambulating the parish bounds, were also christianised by being associated with Divine worship ; and the wells, which the people were wont to visit, were dedicated to the Saints and Martyrs of the Church. After the Reformation, the practice of visiting these holy wells, and of frequenting the tops of the mountains at Lammas, was denounced as superstitious and wicked, but in vain, as, even at the present day, it can scarcely be said to have altogether ceased.

The various customs and superstitions will be considered in the order of the Calendar

January 1, New Year’s Day, formerly called Laa Nolick beg, “Little Christmas Day,” was the occasion for various superstitions . Among these was that about the “first foot.” The “first foot,” called the qualtagh in Manx, is defined as follows by Kelly in his Dictionary: ” the first person or creature one meets going from home. This person is of great consequence to the superstitious, particularly to women the first time they go out after lying-in.” The qualtagh (he or she) may also be the first person who enters a house on New Year’s morning. In this case it is usual to place before him or her the best fare the family can afford. It was considered fortunate if the qualtagh were a person (a man being preferred to a woman), of dark complexion, as meeting a person of light complexion at this time, especially if his or her hair is red, would be thought very unlucky. It is curious that the superstition in Scotland is the exact reverse of this – i.e., to meet a light complexioned person was fortunate. If the qualtagh were spaagagh, or splay-footed, it would be considered very unfortunate. It was important, too, that the qualtagh on New Year’s Day should bring some gift as if he or she came empty-handed, misfortunes would be sure to ensue. To meet a cat first on this day was considered unlucky. It was supposed to be necessary to exercise great care to sweep the floor of the house on New Year’s morning from the door towards the hearth, so that the dust should go towards the hearth, for, if this were not done, the good fortune of the family would be considered to be swept from the house for that year.

It was formerly the custom for a number of young men to go from house to house on New Year’s Day singing the following rhyme

Ollick ghennal erriu, as blein feer vie;
Seihll as slaynt da’n slane lught thie;
Bea as 
gennallys eu bioyr ry-cheilley,
Skee as graih eddyr mraane as deiney;
Cooid as cawryn 
stock as stoyr.
Palchey puddase, as skeddan dy-liooar;
Arran as caashey, eeym as roauyr;
Baase myr lugh ayns ullin ny soalt,
Cadley sauchey tra vees shin ny lhie,
Gyn feeackle y jiargan, cadley dy mie.
A merry Christmas, and a very good year to you;
Luck and health to the whole household,
Life, pleasantness and sprightliness to you together,
Peace and love between men and women;
Goods and riches, stock and store.
Plenty of potatoes and herring enough;
Bread and cheese, butter and beef.
Death like a mouse in a barn haggart,1
Sleeping safely when you are in bed,
Undisturbed by 2 the flea’s tooth, sleeping well.”
1 The meaning of this is, probably: may death,
when it comes upon you, find you as happy and comfortable as a mouse in a well-stocked barn2 Literally without.”

Nothing should be lent on this day, as anyone who does so will be lending all the year. In old times, when tinder and hint were used, no one would lend them on this day.



January 6, or Twelfth-day, was the thirteenth or last day of Yule in the Northern Calendar. It was one of the days on which no one might borrow fire, but had to purchase it. After the introduction of Christianity, it became a Church festival in commemoration of the Manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles. Bishop Phillips, in the Manx Prayer Book 1 written by him early in the seventeenth century, calls it Shen lail chibbert ushtey, ‘old feast-day of the water-well,’ the meaning of which is not clear. It was formerly a day of much festivity in the Isle of Man, being called Laa giense ‘dance or revel day.’ Among the games then played were “Cutting off the Fiddler’s Head,” “The Lackets,” and “The Goggans.”

The Cutting of the Fiddler’s Head is described by Waldron as follows :—” On Twelfth-day the Fiddler lays his head in some one of the wenches’ laps, and a third person asks who such a maid or such a maid shall marry, naming the girls then present one after another, to which he answers according to his own whim, or agreeable to the intimacies he has taken notice of during this time of merriment. But whatever he says is as. absolutely depended on as an oracle ; and if he happens to couple two people who have an aversion to each other, tears and vexation succeed the mirth. This they call Cutting of the Fiddler’s Head, for after this, he is dead for the whole year.” The Lackets, Legads, or ‘ valentines,’ was the name of a game which was played as follows —A mainster, or master of ceremonies, was elected, who then proceeded to appoint a legad to every man of the party from among the girls present in the following words : Eaisht-jee, as clasht-jee, as cur-jee myner; ta N. as M. legadyn son y vlein shoh, as ny sodjey, my oddys ad cordail. Moylley as soylley, jingey as pronney daue, &c. ” Listen, and hear, and give heed ; N. and M. are valentines for this year, and longer, if they be agreeable. Praise and joy, peace and plenty to them, &c.” (The remaining words are lost) Doubtless, the appointments of the mainshter who probably had a shrewd idea which of the young people were attached to each other, were the cause of much merriment. It would seem that these entertainments were usually held at a public-house, whose landlord would be elected as the mainshter. After the legads had all been appointed, the whole party sat down to supper, each man paying for his own legad, or valentine. During the supper the laare vane, or white mare,2 was brought in. This was a horse’s head made of wood, and so contrived that the person who had charge of it, being concealed under a white sheet, was able to snap the mouth. He went round the table snapping the horse’s mouth at the guests who finally chased him from the room, after much rough play. A similar custom is mentioned by Dr. Johnson as taking place on New Year’s Eve, in Scotland One of the company dressed himself in a cow’s hide, upon which the rest of the party belaboured him with sticks. They all then left the house and ran round it, only being re-admitted on repeating the following words, which are still preserved in St. Kilda: “May God bless this house and all that belongs to it, cattle, stones and timber. In plenty of meat, of bed and body clothes, and health of men, may it ever abound.” Each then pulled off a piece of the hide, and burnt it for the purpose of driving away disease. The Manx custom was probably formerly the same as this.

The Goggans, or Noggins, were small mugs filled with symbols of various trades, thus – water, for a sailor ; meal, for a farmer, &c. These were laid in front of the hearth, and then, when the girls had gone outside, they were changed. The girls were then brought back, and, according to the goggan they laid their hands upon, so was the trade of their future husband.

It was supposed that the weather on the twelve days after “Old Christmas Day,” indicated the weather of each month in the following year.


Posted in Culture

Isle of Man Post Office issues sheetlet celebrating Team GB’s unprecedented success at Rio 2016

Isle of Man Post Office has released a very special celebratory sheetlet as a part of its Team GB Rio 2016 stamp collection which marks the team’s record breaking performance at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad that took place on 5th – 21st August 2016 in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The sheetlet was issued on 21st October 2016.

A record number of countries participated in many sporting events at this year’s Games. More than 100,000 people were directly involved in the organisation of the Games, including 70,000 volunteers, and 10,500 athletes from approximately 206 countries from around the world. Rio 2016 was an extraordinarily successful Olympic Games with an exceptional performance from Team GB who won more podium places than ever before at a Games on foreign soil and became the first nation to win more medals in the Games immediately after hosting, with 65 won at London 2012.

To celebrate this victory Isle of Man Post Office has issued a vibrant celebratory sheetlet featuring high definition images of Manx competitors, Tim Kneale, who came fourth in the men’s double trap, just one point behind the bronze and Olympian, Mark Cavendish, who achieved silver in the Men’s Omnium event. It also incorporates the colours of the Union Flag and likewise Team GB – red, white and blue along with the four Team GB stamps each featuring a different sporting event of the Games – cycling, athletics, gymnastics and swimming.

Commenting on the sheetlet Tim Kneale said: “I am a bit blown away at the fact I’m on this sheetlet in the Isle of Man, something I never thought I’d see. It’s great to get the recognition for the Isle of Man as well as at the same time wave the Manx flag at the biggest sporting event in the world.”

Maxine Cannon, Isle of Man Stamps & Coins General Manager said: “Team GB’s performance at Rio 2016 was remarkable and we are pleased to present this sheetlet which celebrates the success of the team who won an incredible 67 medals!”

“The Isle of Man Post Office along with the rest of the Island were proud of Mark Cavendish and Tim Kneale’s achievements at this year’s Olympics and of course the rest of the Team GB athletes.”

“We were delighted to have produced the stamps in recognition of our participation in this truly wonderful sporting event and of course being the only GB postal administration to do so.”

To view the special sheetlet and to order please visit

– See more at:

Posted in IOM Post Office, Sport

Islanders Gather for Annual Illiam Dhone Commemoration

An extensive crowd gathered at Hango Hill, situated between Castletown and Derbyhaven, for the annual ceremony commemorating the execution of William Christian (Illiam Dhone) on the 2nd January, 1662 (or 1663) for his part in the Manx rising of 1651 against the Derby family, who held the Island for the Royalist cause.

Organised by the local branch of the Celtic League and nationalist party Mec Vannin, the anticipated speeches at the event began with Bernie Moffatt, followed by Chris Thomas MHK (currently Minister for Policy and Reform) and chair of Mec Vannin Mark Kermode; who gave the second speech in Manx Gaelic. At the close of proceedings Jemima Caine, the daughter of Daphne Caine MHK, laid a wreath at the site before the crowd dispersed to further commemorative events, a religious service held at Malew Church, and a music session at the historic George Hotel in Castletown.

It’s thought that the ill-fated Illiam Dhone (dark-haired William) is buried beneath the chancel in Malew Church and that his execution may well have taken place in a field adjoining the point of commemoration.

The ruin currently on Hango Hill, which forms a backdrop to the event, is the remains of a late seventeenth century summer house, constructed on the instruction of the Derby family and known as Mount Strange, in recognition of the title of the Derby heir.

Copies of the speeches by both speakers are available within the publication Yn Pabyr Seyr, available at .

An in-depth analysis of the life of Illiam Dhone, written by Manx author Jennifer Kewley Draskau, is available in a number of Island bookshops, or by contacting .

Valerie Caine

January 2017

(Courtesy of the Southern Chronicle)


Posted in Culture, History, Uncategorized

Mollag Ghennal Hits the Right Note in Peel!

The long-running Mollag Ghennal has been a favourite crowd puller at a variety of venues, but this year the annual event was held in the Masonic Hall in Peel, retaining its winning formula of providing some of the best acts in both traditional and new music.

Along with the familiar harmonies of Manx Gaelic Choir Caarjyn Cooidjagh were stalwarts of the local trad music scene – Malcolm Stitt, David Kilgallon, Jamie Smith, Isla Callister, Daniel Quayle and Matt Kelly, but it was also an opportunity to introduce some new ideas and innovative musical arrangements; using a fresh approach and some up and coming and talented musicians, such as new kids on the block Scran. Usual hosts the Mollag Band also departed from their typical, distinctive style of music, singing a selection of popular songs from recent decades in Manx Gaelic, as part of their new Manx Pop Project. Additionally, new outfit Clash Vooar (Big Groove) presented some well-known faces, who picked up a selection of Manx tunes, songs and original compositions and bestowed them with a refreshing, jazzy texture.


Valerie Caine

© December 2016


(Courtesy of the North Western Chronicle)

Posted in Culture, Uncategorized

Island Celebrates St Stephen’s Day

Although other cultural pursuits may have lapsed, the annual procession of dancers, singers and musicians gathered for the traditional Hunt the Wren, travelling through the streets and lanes of some of the main towns and villages of the Island.

In the midst of the bush hung an unfortunate wren, these days not killed specifically for the purpose, but a bird who has met a natural death, or a simile. Those donating to charity were rewarded with a choice of coloured ribbon (rather than a feather), in the hope of attracting good luck for the following year, and particularly useful in the event of shipwreck, or the presence of witchcraft.

It’s all over by noon, after which a feather (or ribbon) is deemed to be worthless. Why mid-day is the subject of discussion, although E. Kermode remarked in his unfinished manuscript, Celtic Customs, that of course by this time the unfortunate bird is almost featherless.

But later everyone headed for the front green at Tynwald Hill for the start of the local game of Cammag.

Revived in recent years, this annual skirmish involves teams representing both the north and the south of the Island, but has few rules. It’s a game of three halves and a singular focus on a sometimes elusive ball, known as a crick, with an historical relationship with shinty, hurling and hockey.

The game was followed by the now traditional music session at the Tynwald Hill Inn, where everyone could relive the game, discuss technique and plan next year’s strategy.

Valerie Caine

© December 2016

Posted in Culture

Native Speakers of Manx Gaelic recalled by Brian Stowell

Meeting the native speakers. A series of videos produced by the Isle of Man newspapers. Listen in Manx and English.

Posted in Culture Tagged with: ,

Sophia Morrison – The First Curator

sophia-morrisonManx National Heritage is pleased to announce the opening of its latest exhibition ‘Sophia Morrison – The First Curator’, at the Manx Museum on Saturday 10 December 2016.

‘Sophia Morrison – The First Curator’ is being staged to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Sophia’s death and celebrates both her work and her tremendous contribution to Manx culture. She is best known as the author of ‘Manx Fairy Tales’ and was a leading member of the Manx cultural revival.

Over a hundred years, many people would have known Sophia Morrison as the daughter of the local grocer in Peel and possibly as a hard-working member of various Manx societies and groups. But Sophia Morrison was much more than that. She cared passionately about what it meant to be Manx and helped record and identify all the different features that made up Manx culture. She was a Manx patriot and cultural nationalist, a leading player in the Celtic Revival throughout the Celtic world, not just on the Isle of Man.

Sophia Morrison was also an avid collector and recorder of all things Manx, whether that was the Island’s language, its folklore, tales or music. She was also a dedicated speaker and campaigner for the Manx language as well as an enthusiastic author and publisher of various Manx publications. She was also a good friend and mentor to many people and helped support and encourage others to become as passionate as herself in recording, preserving and promoting Manx culture in its many forms.

Following her death in January 1917, many people felt that a ‘light’ had truly gone out and that the Manx Cultural Revival had lost one of its greatest supporters and champions. Others felt that the greatest tribute that could be paid to Sophia Morrison was for everyone to continue her work and maintain her legacy into the future.  As a result, Sophia Morrison’s work did not end in 1917 and many of her successes continue to grow in significance and importance through to today.

Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (The Manx Language Society), of which she was a founder member, continues to flourish and many Manx speakers still learn Manx using her cousin’s First Lessons in Manx. The Manx language is now taught in all the Island’s schools and a generation of children have been taught through the medium of Manx at the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh in St Johns.

Sophia Morrison’s most important legacy was possibly one that even Morrison herself did not recognise at the time – her young prodigy Mona Douglas. Mona Douglas would spend her life bringing the Island’s culture to new audiences and inspiring successive generations to make it a truly living and vibrant culture.

Sophia Morrison’s legacy lives on in all those inspired by the organisations she helped form and the work that she wrote. Most importantly, her legacy continues to inspire us all today.

Yvonne Cresswell, Curator of Social History says:

The more that I have looked at the life and work of Sophia Morrison and the various aspects of Manx cultural life that she championed and campaigned for, the more fascinated and amazed I have become. For an individual who was so naturally shy, Sophia Morrison was a truly inspiring individual who made things happen through years of hard work and dedication and a passion for all things Manx.

Whether Sophia Morrison wanted to encourage people to cook traditional Manx food or join one of the Manx singing or language classes that she helped start, it was never enough just to preserve the past – Sophia Morrison wanted to help shape and create a vibrant future for Manx culture. She really did ‘record the past to create the future’ and was a woman who wanted to make things happen.

Discover more about her efforts, her passion and what made Sophia Morrison a major force of the Manx cultural revival at ‘Sophia Morrison – The First Curator’.

The exhibition is on display at the Manx Museum, Douglas, until 6 May 2017 and will be accompanied by various events over the forthcoming months. Admission is free.

Posted in Culture, History, Manx National Heritage

‘Bronze Age burial reveals its long held secret’

staarvey-farm-pommelArchaeologists studying Neolithic and Early Bronze Age human remains in the Manx Museum collection for the ‘Round Mounds of the Isle of Man’project have made an exciting discovery.

Contained within a box of cremated bones excavated in 1947, osteologist Dr Michelle Gamble, discovered a collection of small bone objects that had not been noticed by the excavators. The bones had been buried almost 4000 years ago at Staarvey Farm in what is now German parish, Isle of Man.

The site was excavated by Basil Megaw (1913-2002) who was director of the Manx Museum (1945-1957). Mr Megaw had been contacted by the farmer who had hit a large stone during ploughing. Excavations revealed a stone-built cist (a box made out of stone slabs) containing fragments of burnt bone, two flint tools, and two Collared Urns (Bronze Age pots) buried upside-down. But it is only now that the bones have been studied in detail.

Dr Gamble said: “there was a large quantity of cremated bone from this site. The first step of the osteological analysis is to clean and sort the bones, so that we can determine the number of individuals present and any age or sex information. Within this burial, we have four skeletons, very fragmented and mixed together – 2 adults, one of which is a male, an adolescent, and an infant. The bone objects were burned as well and mixed in with the cremated human remains.”

Dr Chris Fowler, co-director of the Round Mounds of the Isle of Man project, said:

“I opened my email to find a photograph of an extremely rare Bronze Age object – a bone pommel from a bronze knife. This would have been fitted to the very end of the hilt. There are only about 40 surviving knife and dagger pommels of this period from the British Isles, and none have been found on the Isle of Man before – so I was very excited!

The size and shape suggest it was once attached to a small knife which archaeologists call a ‘knife-dagger’. Knife-daggers have been found buried with both males and females. Several other bone objects were found amongst the cremated bone. One is a burnt bone point or pin. A recent study of such objects found that few showed evidence of wear on the tip, suggesting that these were not tools, so it will be interesting to examine the end point of this example closely to see if there is evidence of use wear. It is perforated at the other end so may have been attached to clothing or a head covering. Some of the other objects may be burnt bone beads, and there are four enigmatic worked bone strips which we are still working to understand. 

The objects may have been worn by one or more of the dead as they were placed on the funeral pyre, or may have been placed by the dead on the pyre by mourners. It is possible that there were multiple episodes of burial in the cist, but we do not know how many of the individuals were buried at the same time and with which objects or how many cremation events took place.

The burial itself is fairly unusual among contemporary burials we know of from across Britain and Ireland. It is rare to find cremated remains buried in both a Collared Urn and cist – it was typically one or the other. There are records of about 50 similar burials of cremated remains discovered in a cist and containing a Collared Urn across Ireland, Scotland, northern England, and particularly Wales, and we are comparing the Staarvey burial with these at the moment.”

Allison Fox, Curator: Archaeology, Manx National Heritage, said:

“The reassessment of finds from earlier excavations is always worthwhile.  The finds can be the only parts of the original monuments that survive and although not every artefact was looked at in great detail at the time, they were catalogued and preserved.  Modern scientific techniques can now give a lot more information about these finds, but so can the low-tech approach of a skilled pair of eyes examining the finds in detail.”   

Round mounds are found through the British Isles and in Continental Europe. In the British Isles the earliest round mounds appeared in the Neolithic period, after c. 3800 BC. More were built periodically over the next 2500 years or so.

The current project aims to investigate what these sites and their associated burials, people and artefacts can tell us about life on the Isle of Man and interaction with other communities across Britain, Ireland and potentially beyond. It includes analysis of the landscape location of the mounds, geophysical survey at several sites, and re-analysis of both previously excavated remains and records of previously destroyed or excavated sites.

The project, which began in September, is directed by Dr Rachel Crellin (University of Leicester) and Dr Chris Fowler (Newcastle University) and has received funding and support from Culture Vannin and Manx National Heritage. Culture Vannin funded the examination of the human remains and are also supporting a series of workshops for school children that will be delivered by Michelle and Rachel in 2017 across the island.

For more information about the project please visit:



Posted in History, Manx National Heritage