The blossoming of early snowdrops often provides a lifeline into better days, with early birds scouring sheltered gardens and country nooks for signs of change in the final days of winter.

But one of the most popular venues for sighting this delicate, but yet robust little gem, is Dalby House, situated close to the village of the same name on the west coast. It’s an annual event organised by a successful team from St James Church in Dalby, which, with the kind permission of Mrs Clarke, allowed a large number of afternoon strollers to sample the delights of her private grounds. There was a rich display of snowdrops upon entering the driveway, but it’s the sheltered woodland at the rear of the property which was awash with an explosion of ethereal beauty. It was a heart-warming experience which couldn’t fail to lift the spirits of those who strolled nonchalantly amongst the blooms. Different varieties of snowdrops have been cultivated over the years at Dalby House, some of which were available for sale on the day.

This was followed by a sumptuous afternoon tea back at the church (something for which they’re renowned) amongst good company and lashings of tea and cake in front of a welcome open fire.

Valerie Caine

© March 2019

The Celtic festival season bursts into life this weekend with Cwlwm Celtaidd, a family-friendly festival which retains strong links with the Isle of Man and presents a packed weekend programme of concerts, dances, workshops, street displays and legendary bar sessions in the seaside town of Porthcawl.

Returning after a year’s hiatus to assess the festival’s future strategy, Cwlwm Celtaidd has gone into partnership with TRAC Cymru, an initiative which promotes and encourages the participation and development of the folk music scene in Wales.

Manx group Perree Bane, who will attend this year’s festival, has forged a long term relationship with organisers of the event, presenting a striking presence with their colourful costume adapted from historical record, and often seen at local events. Based in the south of the Island, the group’s name is taken from the Manx Gaelic words for ‘white jacket’, which partners the Loaghtan wool trousers worn by the men of the group.

Although still firmly linked to its home town of Porthcawl in South Wales, a further major change for the festival is a move into the Hi Tide Resort and Complex, which first opened its doors in 1947 as a beach shop with refreshment stalls, but has developed into the borough’s top cabaret and function venue.

Cwlwm Celtaidd also provides a great opportunity for an early, seasonal break – combining local amenities and outdoor pursuits with the richness of a fast-paced and rewarding festival.

Valerie Caine

© March 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Following an enquiry from Sam about the Mary Weller award at Yn Cruinnaght, Chloë Woolley tells us she had a root in her stock/archive boxes cupboard at work at Culture Vannin, and, unlike the silver cup she had in mind, discovered . . .

She thinks it had been stored in the attic of Ramsey Town Hall and passed to Culture Vannin a few years ago. Now the LMS committee will need to discuss its future. Members’ ideas welcome.

It’s interesting that the plaque at the bottom says: Yn Chruinnaght Solo instrumental 11 years and under
Winners were:
1996 Kate Collister
1998 Lindsey Skillicorn
1999 Lindsey Skillicorn
2000 Kirsty Kermeen
And the final winner was
2003 Tom Callister Wafer (who has now gone on to be a well-known fiddle
player with Imar and Barrule!)

On the back it says Hand Carved C. Jefferson 1989

Sam Weller

 

Brad Prendergast and the source of his Manxness, his mother, Florence.

The popular quiz that features in the quarterly magazine of the London Manx Society for March has been won for the third time running by an overseas reader of Manx descent. After successive wins for Richard Moore of Durban, South Africa, originally from Kirk Michael, it’s the turn of Brad Prendergast of Chicago Manx Society who is also a vice president of the North American Manx Association. His prize is £20 of fuel kindly donated by Mylchreest Car Hire when he rents one of its vehicles next time he is at Ronaldsway. It was a close run thing. He beat one of the regular London winners by getting his answer to the editor one hour ten minutes faster.

 

The questions

  1. The House of Manannan is to be found in (a) Castletown, (b) Douglas, (c) Peel, (d) Ramsey?
  2. Cashtal yn Ard is a (a) natural rock outcrop (b) Neolithic tomb (c), 9th century fortress, (d) 17th century army training area?
  3. Castle Rushen clock appears on the Manx coin of the denomination (a) 10p, (b) 20p, (c) 50p, (d) £1?
  4. The Orchid Line runs in (a) Ballaugh, (b) Castletown, (c) Douglas Head, (d) Port Soderick?
  5. The missing Mary Weller Yn Cruinnaght award for Solo instrumentalist 11 years and under was found at (a) Andreas Village School, (b) Gaiety Theatre, (c) Manx Museum, (d) Ramsey Town Hall?

The answers: C B B A D

The saga of the missing Yn Cruinnaght award had featured in a 2018 edition of the magazine. We have posted the tale above.

Manx National Heritage is proud to announce a special collaboration with York Archaeological Trust, which will see internationally significant objects from the Isle of Man go on display at JORVIK Viking Centre.

The items to be featured include the Pagan Lady’s necklace, excavated on the Isle of Man from the Pagan Lady’s grave at Peel Castle, which is one of the richest Viking Age female burials outside of Scandinavia.

Edmund  Southworth, Director of Manx National Heritage and Chairman of the Destination Viking Association said:

“Working with other organisations is a vital part of our work in promoting the Isle of Man’s Viking cultural heritage. We are proud to be part of the wider community of heritage sites and museums who promote understanding of the Vikings in Europe and worldwide. The Isle of Man and York are part of the Council of Europe’s Viking Route of Cultural Heritage and our collaboration has grown over several years”.

The burial of the Pagan Lady over a thousand years ago is important because it illustrates the high status of some women in an age traditionally associated with male dominance.  Her pagan burial within an already established Christian cemetery is also significant, indicating a willingness to share a special place.  The necklace has previously featured in the BBC and British Museum Series ‘A History of the World in 100 Objects’.

Mr Southworth continued:

“The necklace will be displayed alongside other artefacts from the Pagan Lady’s burial including a large amber bead, miniature pestle and mortar and a fossil ammonite charm, which we are delighted to share with our partners at JORVIK”.

The necklace and artefacts from the Isle of Man go on display at JORVIK from now until August 2019.

To coincide with the display of the necklace, representatives from Manx National Heritage will be speaking at a number of events in York including the ‘2019 Viking Festival’, ‘Follow the Vikings Roadshow’ and the final best practice seminar of the Creative Europe project.

 

Image: Pagan Lady’s Necklace on display in York. Manx National Trust.

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With the rise in feminism and raised awareness of the environment dominating the headlines, advocates may look towards an inspirational leader to guide them through their campaigns, but historically St Bridget, who has links with the Isle of Man, may well tick all the boxes.

Believed to have been born near Dundalk, County Louth, in the mid fifth century, St Bridget (Brigid (Irish) Breeshey (Manx)) is a much celebrated figure in Ireland, typically remembered for establishing an abbey and church in Kildare on a site now occupied by St Brigid’s Cathedral. However, confusion arises with similarities to a goddess of the same name and many believe she is a merging of two people, sitting on the boundary of pagan mythology, Druidism and Christian spirituality.

St Bridget, whose feast day is celebrated on the 1st February, is said to have held a unique position in the Irish church and society of her time, and as Abbess presided over the local Church of Kildare and was leader of a double monastery for both men and women.

Stories and legends abound about St Bridget, but what emerges is a portrait of a strong and gentle woman, a powerful leader, good organiser, skilful healer and a wise spiritual guide, who presents what is termed the feminine face of God. Often depicted as a peacemaker, this has been immortalised in the St Bridget’s Cross, a token of goodwill between neighbours after a local quarrel. A version of this may also be found on the Isle of Man.

The timing of her feast day sits perfectly with the celebration of spring, new life and St Bridget’s natural attunement of the seasons and cycle of nature. She was often referred to as the Saint of Agriculture. She has been designated a patron of many things, from chicken farmers and fugitives to printing presses and sailors, but the list also includes babies, children whose parents are unmarried, dairy-maids, infants, midwives, milk-maids and nuns.

Although time blurs the edges of historical record, it’s widely reported that St Bridget visited the Isle of Man as a young girl to receive the veil from St Maughold, although other sources place this ceremony elsewhere. At this point she is said to have founded the Nunnery, near Douglas, ultimately dissolved during the sixteenth century, but historians have been frustrated by lack of reference and a long term dependency on traditionary evidence.

However, there’s no doubting that she was a popular saint on the Isle of Man. You’ll find her name on both a northern parish and its church and seven ancient keeill (chapel) sites, as well as the aforementioned nunnery. Her effigy is also said to be represented on the ancient cross close to the churchyard at Kirk Maughold and on the armorial bearings of the Manx diocese. St Bridget’s Chapel, probably dating from the twelfth or thirteenth century, on the Nunnery estate survived, becoming stables before re-established as a place of worship from the late nineteenth century until 1998, when it was deconsecrated.

Meanwhile an old custom practised on the eve of St Bridget’s Day on the Isle of Man involved gathering a bundle of green rushes, standing with them on the threshold of the house and inviting the saint to visit; ensuring peace and plenty for the coming year. Some might also sweep out the barn before placing a bed, chair and table with bread and cheese, a lighted candle and a quart jug of good Manx ale in expectation of the desired visitor.

A Manx folksong, collected by Mona Douglas from Mrs Bridson of Glen Maye, entitled Invocation to Saint Bridget, readily underpins this tradition.

Valerie Caine

© January 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Local six-piece band Clash Vooar (Big Groove) has been breaking new ground on the Manx music scene with their extraordinary powerful mix of songs, tunes and languages, which has been described as Manx Gaelic gypsy jazz blues, with their debut album hot off the press,

Featuring jazz enthusiast Dave McLean on bass and keyboard wizard Anglin Buttimore, an unmistakable feature of the talented line-up is the distinctive sound of lead vocalist and songwriter Aalin Clague, who also introduces the mellow note of the cornet to selected tracks. She’s accompanied on vocals by another well-known composer and flute player Breesha Maddrell and ukulele performer Rob Cain (all from the Manx electro-folk band Moot) and drums exponent Danny Kneale. And there’s a guest appearance from Jack McLean (Scran) on accordion.

 Members of the band have performed independently at a host of worldwide festivals, with music from Clash Vooar and Moot recently featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme Notes from a Musical Island, but in this incarnation have already notched up several successful performances at local festivals.

Presenting a selection of re-imagined, traditional music and original songs, Clash Vooar specialise in idiosyncratic storytelling which has its roots in Manx folklore, but successfully locks in prog rock keyboard, jazz inflection and evocative samples mastered by Rob Cain.

This exciting and revolutionary album unleashes a freedom of expression which has been unequivocally shaped by the band’s diversity with sound and experimentation, taking Manx music into an exciting new era.

Further information about Clash Vooar is available on their Facebook page.

 Valerie Caine

© January 2019

(Courtesy of Manx Life)

Local quartet Drogh Yindys was selected to represent the Isle of Man at the annual Pan Celtic International Song Contest in Letterkenny, County Donegal, during the local heat Arrane son Mannin at the Masonic Hall in Peel recently.

The song Yn Faageyder (Leaving Thee) focuses on leaving the Isle of Man, and as a group Drogh Yindys has a number of connections to Kirk Michael on the west coast; including singers Jo and Juan Callister, his sister also named Jo on whistle and fellow musician Katie Lawrence on keyboard. The song was originally composed in English by their father John ‘Dog’ Callister and translated into Manx Gaelic by Phil Kelly, both of whom are also connected with Kirk Michael.

The local heat, Arrane son Mannin (Song for Mann), provided a great chance for Island musicians to present an original song in the Manx language, encouraging diversity and innovation amongst singer/songwriters.

As well as the competition itself (with prize money sponsored by Culture Vannin) a large and enthusiastic audience enjoyed a varied evening of Manx entertainment, including BBC Radio 2 Young Musician of the Year Mera Royle, local singer/songwriter Matt Creer and the Manx Gaelic choir Caarjyn Cooidjagh.

Valerie Caine

© January 2019

The annual candle-lit, musical evening held in Holy Trinity Church in the parish of Patrick, has now become an established event on the Manx calendar, with entertainment provided by local early music group Hartes Ease.

They were introduced by Alison Jones, one of the stalwarts behind the emerging Knockaloe Visitors’ Centre, which will provide a focal point for descendants of those incarcerated in the Knockaloe Internment Camp positioned across the road from the church during World War I, and those seeking history of the camp, which, at its peak, housed approximately twenty five thousand internees and guards. Poignantly, she also pointed out that as the camp wasn’t de-commissioned totally until the autumn of 1919, a number of internees were obliged to spend the festive season of 1918 behind barbed wire.

The programme provided by Hartes Ease largely included music from the Mediaeval period, with one of them, Ein Feste Burg, linking events with one of the many novels written by famous Island novelist Sir Hall Caine. Entitled The Woman of Knockaloe, the story is based upon the love story of a Manx girl and a German internee.

After refreshments the repertoire of Hartes Ease included two Manx tunes, Ushag veg Ruy and Ec ny Fiddleryn ayns y Nollick, arranged by one of their musicians Cristl Jerry. One of her ancestors was interned within Knockaloe Internment Camp.

All money raised during the evening will be donated towards the on-going work of the Knockaloe Visitors’ Centre, which will be up-and-running from March this year.

www.knockaloe.im
www.iomearlymusic.net

Valerie Caine
© January 2019

Organised by Michael Heritage Trust, the traditional Oie’ll Verree held at the Ebenezer Hall in the village follows a tried and trusted format, which in the age of contemporary entertainment can still muster a full house.

Members of the audience were welcomed by the Chair of Michael Heritage Trust, David Corlett, before returning compére, Zoë Cannell, took to her feet to act as lynch pin between the varied acts on the programme.

The evening always gets underway with a rousing rendition of While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night before all eyes turned to the stage for a night of Manx entertainment. Music, recitation, song and dance dominated the programme, with Erin Loach and Paul Costain providing several local songs in both Manx Gaelic and English, Kirsty and Katie Lawrence captivating the audience on fiddle, whistle and cello, and some of the youngest members of the dance group Skeddan Jiarg stepping out onto the compact stage. They were joined by Marilyn Cannell on piano, who also provided an improvised song, self-penned poetry from the current Manx Bard Annie Kissack and Zoë Cannell and a selection of magic tricks with Island magician Lexi Dernie.

The annual presentation of the award Yn Gliggyr was made during a short interval to Mike Clague, before The Michael Players RBV presented the Manx dialect play In the Doctor’s Waiting Room written by J. E. Q. Cooil during the 1950s; a perfectly crafted comedy which concentrated on the varied suggestions as to how a pan might be released from the head of a small child – with a twist in the tail.

But the evening closed as ever with the aptly named Arrane Oie Vie ( Goodnight Song) and a sumptuous home-made supper.

Valerie Caine

© January 2019