15 January 2016 - 'Emigrants Lament' with Keith Teare
The guest speaker Keith Teare presented his talk on a sad song his father, Danny, used to sing all the time –“An emigrants Lament”.
Danny loved to sing no matter where he was but Keith has not been able to find any record of this song being published so he has researched it himself. He only had one verse and a chorus to work on, beginning:
"My Mother she stood on the Liverpool Dock with her handkerchief over her eyes, And when the ship sailed out of the dock, it was then she began to cry....In 1890 Keith's grandfather, Willie Teare, sailed on the SS Serena to America via Cobh as a miner and in 1893 he married Mary Cannell. He later returned to the island and the family farm at Slieu Whallian, Foxdale, seemingly having made some money.
There'll be no one to welcome you home."
Keith could not find any more about the song for several years but eventually Googled it and found 3 more verses submitted by Mary Ward Utterback of Illinois, America. She had found it among some old family papers but did not have the tune, so Keith was able to send that for her daughter to sing. Mary added a fifth verse with a happy ending after returning to her homeland, Ireland.
"As family joined family, new cousins too, no longer strangers afar, I found myself back to that land of my birth, There was someone to welcome me home."With the help of several people the song was sung at a Homecomers' Service, a year after Mary unfortunately died in 2013. Keith has found one other Manx family who knew the song but would love to hear of any others anywhere in the World. He suspects that it originated in Ireland as it has an Irish lilt to it. The audience enjoyed joining in with the song throughout the talk.
19 February 2016 - 'Stranger than Fiction' with Hampton Creer
Hampton Creer made a welcome return for his talk, Stranger Than Fiction. Through an ancestor who was possibly Jinny the Witch Hampton, he has been looking into all reports concerning alleged witchcraft. The subject has largely been hidden in the records. In England the topic seems to have emerged with the Pendle Witch trials and the unsettled times of the Spanish Armada, Henry V111's break with Rome and the Gunpowder Plot. In the 1500's the island held its first trial, that of Alice Keys who was charged with charming rather than sorcery. With Lord Stanley often away, legal matters became muddled, but Alice and her partner were burnt at the stake. In 1618 Margaret Quane and her son were also burnt after charming a man who died and her husband accused them of murder.
In the 17th century, it was easy to blame women who acted to help the sick if the patient died and this apparently happened in the case of Margaret. Subsequently the Church decreed that such a sentence was not to be carried out again. Accused people would be imprisoned in Castle Rushen and by 1696 twelve prisoners on death warrants were deported to Jamaica instead atlhough it was likely they perished on the way there.
Hampton's ancestor, Joney Lowney, revelled in her status as a charmer but she was one of the deportees who didn't survive. There really were no Manx witches, just women desparate to eke out a living by trying to charm and cure both people and animals. The Manx have tended to be superstitious and there are many examples of this. Today medicine would explain the cause of death and nobody would be called a witch. Rolling witches down Slieau Whallian is rarely mentioned in Manx records. Charles 1 was responsible for revoking the witchcraft laws.
18 March 2016 - 'Memories' with Peter Kelly MBE
We enjoyed the welcome return of Peter Kelly with his presentation of old photographs bringing back ‘Memories'. Most of the photographs, dating from 1930 to 1970 were rescued from a fire at the Isle of Man Times Office. With his usual humour and knowledge of architecture and people, Peter took us through the years many of us remembered. During the 1930s we saw the old buildings down the harbour, through Strand Street and along the promenade as well as the TT Grandstand at Nobles Park and the building of Pulrose Estate. Post-War we saw a show at the Gaiety Theatre, art classes at the art school and the International Cycling races. In the 50s there were street parties for the Queen's Coronation, a fire damaged King William's College and Westminster Garage was built for Mr. Mahon. Entertainments included the bathing beauties at the Villa Marina and Soldiers in Skirts in the theatre. The nurses' home in Westmorland Road was built and and there were visits by the Queen and the Queen Mother. On to the 60s and the Rolling Stones and Tom Jones played at the Palace Lido, the Howstrake Hotel burnt down and the Wild Life park opened. In the 70s we first saw tetra packs for milk, Sayles shop closed, a new block was built at Noble's Hospital, Great Meadow held an anniversary of the Derby, the Spinners appeared at a concert in Peel and Pam Ayres left the island after living here for several years. This is only a swift resume of all Peter had to show us.
15 April 2016 - 'Onchan, My Home' with May and Alan Moore
When May's father was 26 in 1911, he emigrated to Australia to work on sugar plantations and then fought during WW1 with the Australian forces. In 1919 he married May's Mum in Brisbane but it was too hot for his bride so they came back to Hilberry. May was born in 1928 at Clypse farm, one of twin sisters for her two older brothers but unfortunately her twin died at 17 months. When at school she walked in to Onchan but they moved into a boarding house, without electricity, in the village when she was nine. One of her teachers, Mildred Spencer recently died aged 101.
May clearly remembers the WW2 years when their house in Royal Avenue West was commandeered for internees. Their furniture not required by prisoners was stored in the Derby Castle. May can name all the shops in Onchan at the time. They eventually returned home to find their house in quite a state and their suite recovered, but in the same material as all those which had been stored. She and Alan married 62 years ago and their lives have revolved around the church and their social life around the Parish Hall.
Unfortunately the power presentation failed so Alan showed their own pictures he had taken off their walls to illustrate May's memories. These included Kate's Cottage, Majestic Mansion, Groudle Glen Toll House, a Fur and Feather Show at Derby Castle and Florrie Ford at the theatre. It was a lovely account of a life spent happily in one area.
17 May 2016 - 'The Big Press Run ' with Frank Cowin
Frank Cowin's talk entitled "The Big Press Run" was an account of the Press Gangs on the island in 1798. The law enabling the impressing of men into the services originated in the 14th century. In the 18th Century volunteers were sometimes sufficient to man a ship but on other occasions, such as the commissioning of a new ship or one brought back into service, they needed more men. In the 1760's to 80's many ships came into Ramsey and Douglas and Manx men would be persuaded, bullied or kidnapped. Fishermen, Fencibles and soldiers were supposed to be exempt but this was not always adhered to. Men used to take to the hills to avoid the press and women were known to attack the gangs. Conditions were poor in the navy although there could be rewards if a treasure ship was captured as the booty was shared out. However if the captain got £5,000 a rating would only get £1. In 1798 The Spider cruised near the island and in August picked up 2 men from Douglas and 5 off ships near Port St. Mary. Later they picked up “a quantity of men” ending with a total of 70 from the Irish Sea. One was Thomas Callister who kept a diary which recounted his voyages on various ships to the Mediterranean and back, then out to Jamaica and Cuba, returning to England in 1802. In 1812 he built his own fishing boat and his crew were exempt from impressment. Other Manxmen ran but Radcliffe Symons is known to have died in service. Frank is still working on this project so we look forward to more in the future.
19 August 2016 - 'Ancient Mann' with Dr Andrew Foxon
The guest speaker on 19th August was Andrew Foxon who leads Tours around historic Manx sites since retiring from Manx National Heritage. He began at the very beginning with the world 390 million years ago and the limestones which now form the island forming in the southern oceans then migrating to the equator 90 million years later. Matter from the land masses washed into the sea to form other Manx rocks and there is evidence of volcanic action at Scarlett. There are also remains of algal reefs. 9,000 years ago Europe was one mass but Ireland, the Scottish islands and, eventually the island, were separated by melt waters by 6000BC. Humans arrived during the latter period. Recent excavations at Ronaldsway Airport have revealed artifacts of a Mesolithic hunter gatherers’ house, one of the best in Europe and other sites throughout the island show the progression of its inhabitants. By 3,500 BC men were domesticating animals and growing crops. Burials from cremations to burials are found in many sites as are huts and forts from South Barrule to Spanish Head and the Braaid spanning Bronze Age, Celtic and Norse. The ship burial at Balladoole covers Norse and Christian customs. There are keeills all over the island and many holy wells and stone crosses. It is well worth visiting such sites and it is good to be reminded of our rich heritage.
September 2016 - 'A Tour Round the Calf of Man' with John Wright
The guest speaker, John Wright, follows many aspects of local history and he has taken a keen interest in the Calf of Man. He took us on a visual tour of sites on the Calf from the farmhouse where a bull was once kept. In the 1890’s rabbits provided a profit of £50 after paying the rabbit catcher. It was also advertised as a pub at one time. The smithy was used by the lighthouse keepers until it fell into bad repair and the slates were removed. Robert Louis Stevenson’s father worked on the land based lighthouses which illuminated the Chicken’s Rock before its lighthouse was built in 1868. Until 1928 semaphore was used to get a relief keeper then the Examiner donated a radio for entertainment and communication. Visitors to the island were discouraged as they sometimes took popguns to shoot the birds so a gamekeeper was employed. There was a lime kiln near South Harbour and the building is now used by bird wardens watching storm petrels and Manx shearwaters. In a cave near Cow Harbour is a cave where the names W. McIntosh and Redfern appear with dates. In 1651,during the Civil War a fort repelled 3 parliamentary ships with cannon but they later returned and took the island. In the 1770’s people building a sod hedge found a piece of an 11th century cross, the Calf Crucifixion, but the rest of it had never been discovered. The last farmer left in 1958.