Sound Archive, The Late Barton Quirk

by Bill Quine

As a trust dedicated to Peel’s heritage, we realised, some years ago, that we had access to many photographs, artefacts and articles but no sound archive. Speech and music were totally neglected. The progressive loss of people who spoke naturally in Manx dialect was particularly concerning. Help in securing suitable recording equipment from what is now Culture Vannin made this possible.

Having started to build up a collection of recordings, the next challenge was to make them available to a wider audience. The evening meeting, last year, featuring Harrison Quirk and family was so successful that were asked to continue, with Barton Quirk, farmer at Raby, near Glen Maye requested as next subject.

Roy Christian, a friend, formerly of Peel with our own Bill Quine as sound engineer did a sterling job in 2008.The whole event was a struggle as Barton was nearly blind, had lost his legs and was housebound. Amazingly, he sounded very cheerful throughout and was clearly enjoying the experience.

During the interview, splendid pictures of the farm and surroundings were displayed on the big screen of the Centenary Centre. These were taken by Bill Quine and Vic Bates. They were much appreciated, as most of us had no idea about the extent of the farm and its idyllic setting.

One objective had certainly been achieved – Manx dialect – live! One’s ear was soon tuned in but I, for one, wished that I had been there at the time to clarify some of his fascinating tales and digressions.

An early topic of conversation was about a ship called the Clan McMaster that had gone aground on the Glen Maye side of Raby. It seemed that the crew were saved with the help of a rope to the beach.

Barton’s grandfather was an engineer on Brunel’s Great Eastern, the ship used to lay the first cable between Britain and America. It seems that his engineering talent was applied to raising sea wrack up the beach with the aid of a specially designed horse mill with two trucks travelling on adjacent rail tracks, speeding up the process no end.

We were treated to reminiscences about various locals included the famous talking mongoose. Barton was of the opinion that this was an illusion created by the daughter, Voirrey, throwing her voice so that the mongoose appeared to be speaking. For a while, the British press sensationalised the experience.

Interestingly, it appeared that cattle were imported from Ireland by fishing boat. Just compare this to the present day with all livestock tagged and recorded and strict animal transport regulations.

We were interested to hear about various aircraft crashes in the war, including the propeller of one becoming embedded in a window of Patrick School!

Our next meeting is the very important AGM .in the theatre of the Centenary Centre, Wednesday 20th February at 7.30pm. We will review the past year and, with your help, set the course for our 30th year. Refreshments will be followed by a special event!