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.: Manx tartan
Mrs Athenboggle QuirkThe Manx tartan was invented in 1890s after a long-running battle between the ladies of the Island about who could dress the most stylishly on Tynwald Day.

At the annual ceremony in St John’s, it became fashionable for women to wear larger and larger hats to outdo each other. The picture was taken in 1885 and shows Mrs Athenboggle Quirk, who was married to Ayre MHK Fuartangle Quirk.

But the practice had to be regulated after 1887 after a fresh breeze sprang out of the West halfway through the procession of the worthies to Tynwald Hill from the Royal Chapel.

The scale of the hats was out of all proportion to the ability of the human neck to resist, and the wind took hold of the enormous pieces of millinery.

The result was tragedy – eight ladies dead from snapped necks caused by the wind and weight of their hats, and another fifteen seriously injured.

In the aftermath, the more sensible men of Tynwald passed a resolution strictly controlling the size and weight of hats that may be worn on the Island’s national day.

The laws survive to this day, making it illegal for a lady to wear a hat ‘whose highest point doth stand more than three handspans above the highest point of the eyelash’.

In response, the Laxey Woolen Mills created the Manx tartan, a mixture of green, blue, gold, purple and white, and sold a variety of hat designs in the fabric.

Officially, the colours were chosen to fit the following rhyme:

Blue for the Sea,
Green for the hills,
Gold for the gorse,
Purple for the heather,
White for the cottages.

But some Victorian wag quickly adapted the poem and has this alternative version published in the Mona’s Gazette letters pages:

Blue for the mood,
Green for the seasickness,
Gold for the banks,
Purple for the writing of TE Brown
White for the Island bled dry by the English

Although the original poem did survive to the present day, the latter is more widely used in the Isle of Man to describe the tartan pattern.

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Written at 16:12 by G
5 comments | links to this post

Blogger babooshka said:
"You haven't been off island have you?

As usual another superb post.Wonder if the wearing of tartan would be banne in fightlife"

Blogger quintarantino said:
"Ok, this is a good post but where is your SKY WATCH?"

"Yes, my friend, where is the shot about SKY WATCH FRIDAY!!!??


Blogger ami said:

Blogger Tung Nguyen said:

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.: Derby Castle Ballroom
Derby Castle BallroomThe Derby Castle Ballroom in Douglas was the Isle of Man’s largest hall for gatherings until its closure in 1955.

It was a huge, grand and elegant hall, built in the early 1800s as a party room for guests of the Duke of Derby who held lavish banquets there.

As the aristocracy of the Isle of Man faded, so their property fell into the hands of private businesses, and the ballroom became a popular dinner and dance venue.

But on August 6, 1955, the ballroom’s owners made a dreadful mistake. It wasn’t unusual for more than one party to be held in the room at the same time (given its size).

That night, the room had been booked for functions by two historic Manx organisations… the Isle of Man Society for the Wives of Wall Builders and the Manx Institution of the Wives of Isle of Man Doormakers.

Both were deadly and bitter rivals after a disagreement in 1843 between the wife of John Quilliam, a wall builder, and the spouse of Derek Quine, a doormaker. Both were in trades that considered the other a waste of time, and their wives took similar views of each other.

Jennifer Quilliam and Edna Quine detested each other with a ferocity that ensured each time they met a reporter from the Mona’s Gazette would come away with a fine story for the gossip or social column.

That night in August was to be no different, although nobody knows exactly how the altercation began. Some say Jennifer trod on Edna’s dress whilst dancing, others say Edna tripped Jennifer during a foxtrot.

Either way, both ladies were soon yanking at each other’s hair and ripping each other’s clothing – locked into a mortal battle royale on the sprung wooden dance floor. Within minutes, their fellow wives had joined the fray, leading to the worst rioting in the Isle of Man since the Duke of Athol introduced the infamous Speaking Tax three hundred years earlier.

The police were called, and eventually separated the ladies using dogs, batons and the butts of their service revolvers. Nobody faced any criminal charges over the incident as it was unclear who had done what to whom… but the ballroom was closed down a few days later by a special sitting of Douglas magistrates. It remained empty and unused until its demolition in the 1980s.

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Written at 15:20 by G
3 comments | links to this post

Blogger allie said:
"i am so happy that you commented on my "Van Gogh" photo because it enabled me to find your fabulous blog. what a great read!"

Blogger babooshka said:
"Sounds like a night in fightlife. Society ladies fighting, no maybe not. well yes at the masonic lodge when allowed in.

You might want to check out your technorati. I linked your blog and namechecked in a post, but don't think the authority has been added to yours."

Blogger Chrismannion said:
"Are your years correct ? However it is a marvelous story."

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.: Rats and Longtails
RatsThe Manx gaelic language of the Isle of Man is unusual because for a thousand years it had no letter M.

In the early days of Christianisation, the letter was considered unlucky because it was number 13 in the alphabet and the more religious and superstitious types felt that made it ungodly.

In recent times, the letter has been reinstated, but this was part of the reason the Isle of Man was named Ellan Vannin rather than Mannin for so long.

Another popular superstition is the refusal by Manx people to say the word “rat”. This came about in the 1600s after the Duke of Athol, Sir Methadonia Athol, was due to be awarded a knighthood.

He travelled to England to receive his honour from Queen Elizabeth I and returned in triumph.

Sir Methadonia left his ship anchored in Douglas Bay and clambered into a boat to be ferried to shore by the crew.

As he drew near, it became apparent most of the population of the Island had gathered to greet him, and he stood on the prow of the boat, waving vigorously.

Disaster struck as he stepped from the boat to the landing jetty, when he inadvertently trod on a rat which bit his foot.

Yelping in pain, he stumbled, tripped, and fell face-first into a barrel which was waiting to be taken to the ship.

He broke his nose, and, under ancient Manx law, no man with a facial disfigurement was allowed to be a ruling member of the nobility. Sir Methadonia was forced to step down and hand the Dukedom to his eldest son Tastingio.

From that day forward, it’s been considered unlucky for any person to say the word “rat” in the Isle of Man. Upon hearing the word uttered, it’s customary to tug a forelock, knock on wood and whistle.

Instead, you can say "longtail" or "skippo".

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Written at 16:06 by G
1 comments | links to this post

"Intriguing. I love the rat fact - I remember reading somewhere that in Gaelic culture, physical disfigurement prevented taking on leadership positions. Isn't there a myth about a maimed man who's hand was replaced with a silver one to go around this rule? I might be wrong, but it sounds familiar."

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.: The Running of the Welshman
The Running of the WelshmanOf all of the customs and ancient holidays ever celebrated in the Isle of Man, the most notorious was the Running of the Welsh.

It was outlawed early on in the 1900s but had been marked each May 9 for a hundred years or so.

Legend has it that a Welsh invasion fleet foundered off the coast of Port Soderick during the Viking reign of the Island, and only one of the Welsh warriors managed to make it ashore.

He was quickly spotted and chased Northwards across the Island to Laxey where he was finally captured and executed.

Each year, the worthies of the Isle of Man would gather on the summit of Snaefell with high-powered rifles, while one of the Welsh prisoners in the Island’s jail was forced to run along the Mountain. The gathered gentlefolk would each attempt to shoot him or her – and a reward of a hundred guineas was offered to anybody who could score a hit.

The prize was never won – the distances involved were huge and the odds of hitting the moving target was very slim indeed.

But the event fell into disrepute after a Welsh politician was falsely accused of public drunkenness and sent to jail. He claimed he’d been framed and had been sent to jail solely to provide a Welshman for the ceremony.

The ensuing legal case showed deep levels of corruption within the Manx legal profession, and the holiday was outlawed.

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Written at 15:34 by G
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.: Knockaloe Camp
Henry the Hat's Knockaloe Post OfficeKnockaloe Camp was set up in the Isle of Man in 1914 to house British citizens who were judged to mentally unstable to join the army and fight in World War I.

The site, in the West of the Island, was chosen because it was hidden away in a deep valley between two high hills which were covered in dense forests. The huts to contain the prisoners were built on a flat piece of cleared land, and the camp was given its own railway station.

No track was laid to the station, however, and no trains ever ran there but the internees were told the next locomotive would arrive soon and they were encouraged to wait on the platform where they were more docile and manageable.

The camp was a test site for many psychoactive drugs which were given to prisoners to judge their efficacy. It wasn’t unusual, as one Peel police report put it at the time, to see internees ‘talking to flowers, barking like dogs and attempting to flee from satanic pebbles’.

The Manx government was initially reluctant to set up the camp, but was given huge amounts of money from the UK government as part of the deal. This was used to set up many facilities in the camp to make it appear like a normal town, although as the disturbed inmates were allowed to design it whilst under the influence of mind-altering substances, it bore little resemblance to any sort of town that’s been seen before or since.

In the picture is Henry the Hat, a popular and well-known inmate who set up the camp’s Post Office. He was instrumental in the postal service which allowed inmates to send internal mail to each other – the government would not, however, allow them to send or receive mail from outside the camp.

Henry the Hat was known for his inability to judge size or perspective and often wore huge oversized flat caps. When he set up the first postal service, he was asked to design stamps and came up with a series of A4 sized postage stamps.

These can be seen clearly in the photograph and would have been illegal under Manx law because they weren’t sticky on the back, had no portrait of the Queen, and often contained tiny, printed swear words.

Today, Henry the Hat’s stamps sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds at auction, and in 1998 Sotheby’s announced one had broken the world record when his original design for the ‘Mona’s bastard Isle’ stamp sold for £8.2 million.

After the war, the camp was closed down and the Manx government found itself in charge of hundreds of mentally ill and incapable people who had nowhere to go. In response, the Isle of Man set up a new town in Upper Foxdale and housed most of the population of Knockaloe there. Many of those still live in Foxdale to this day.

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Written at 14:58 by G
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