Report by John Slater
This was quintessence of Peter Kelly. This is more than could be said of his laptop that had just ‘blown up’ or the spare he had acquired that sulked and wouldn’t respond to our blandishments. Luckily, the Centenary Centre technical staff managed to get the show on the road and all went splendidly.
There were very few empty seats in the theatre so our audience must have been well over one hundred and this was before we learned that Peter had brought a wonderful array of sandwiches and cakes from a previous event he’d attended! These ensured the Atholl room being full at refreshment time. Heritage can be nourishing for the body as well as the soul!
Peter’s presentation was based upon a series he had produced that had been published as a series of monthly magazines in 1999 anticipating the Millennium of 2001. The photographs had not been widely published before and had required a great deal of work, often on cracked, Victorian glass photographic plates by Manx National Heritage’s I-Museum. Thank goodness they have been brilliantly saved!
I failed to keep up with all 147 pictures showed us, complimented by his legendary witty, fascinating commentary but I tried to catch the span and flavour of this extraordinary evening.
We began with the opening of the original Noble’s Hospital that is now the Manx Museum. We saw the early galleries, including the stained glass window commemorating the Manx national poet, T.E. Brown, complete with a vase of fresh flowers. Why is he no longer honoured in this way we mused.
We saw pictures of King William’s College from the mid 19thc one featuring a horse drawn combined mower/roller. A rare aerial shot taken by a military observer suspended from a naval airship underlined how vulnerable these observers were, being shot at over enemy territory in the 1914 – 18 war.
So we scampered through time and places all over the Island. Glen Helen in 1876 with its thatched buildings, Highland cattle that had been imported, thrived and exported for profit, a so-called convict hulk moored on Douglas Quay, the ill-fated Ellan Vannin that sank with such loss of life, in the Mersey estuary in a great storm, the building of Injebreck Reservoir, the glorious interior of St Mary’s Church, Castletown before it was ripped out. I believe Sir John Betjeman wrote, “When I arrived, they were burning the pews.” Does the Lake District or Cotswolds hold their built heritage in such contempt?
A stunning array of pictures from the building of Chicken Rock lighthouse, a vast replica of Nelson’s ‘Victory’ and St German’s Church before the loss of the vast spire with tower rebuilding impressed. This building had a troubled youth with the west window being blown out and the roof destroyed in a great gale in 1903.
The cathedral and its remodelled grounds are the subject of our next event. Meet at the main door at 7.30pm on Wednesday, 12th July when the Dean, Nigel Godfrey, will give us a conducted tour. We’ll have a chance to learn about this remarkable project, discuss future plans and make a real contribution. The 20th c. gardens to the south of the cathedral and the remarkable story of the church on the Island complete with accurate, replica crosses and even a keeill are waiting to be explored. As for the wonderful labyrinth! A chance to become really enthusiastic and perhaps, pleasantly surprised!