Three Legs of Knockaloe, A Farming Dynasty – Pat Newton, 21.5.14, by John Slater

To mark Peel Heritage Trust’s 25th year, we began the meeting with a celebratory draw. All paid up members were entered without charge and there was a numbered ticket for each. The first drawn out of the hat received £25.00 and there were four additional prizes of pairs of tickets for  ‘The Green Fields of France’ on the 8th or 9th August. Doubtless, we’ll have further celebrations but this surprise event got us off to a jolly good start.
The Green Fields of France’ is the brainchild of Bill Quine. It is a moving presentation centred on the First World War with appropriate music, costume and drama to mark this awful event. Tickets are now on sale at the usual outlets for the Peel Centenary Centre. Given the role that Knockaloe played in the wars, housing thousands of aliens, there is a powerful link with the subject of our speaker’s presentation.
Pat’s meticulously researched and prepared Powerpoint presentation about the farms Knockaloe Mooar and Knockaloe Beg, in separate treens but within the same succession of families had us in a spin! My pen all but caught fire, closely followed by my brain as person after person, success after success and tragedy after tragedy followed in rapid succession. Other farms on the island as well as in Cumbria were interwoven in a complex tapestry.
This remarkable history of the development of the farms, families involved and the agricultural advances made, often on an inadequate budget, cries out for a book.
The story seemed to begin in 1651 with the Radcliffe family. In no time, progress was hindered by disputed wills. This seems to have been a recurring theme – something we’re often reminded about by solicitors advertising on Manx Radio!
It was about 1751 when Bishop Wilson leaped onto the scene. He wanted financial help to build Patrick church. One of the Radcliffe family became vicar and then Vicar General. In 1787 the last of the Radcliffes died.
Parrs of Peel brewery suddenly became involved in 1792. To general distress, the whole brewery was washed out to sea in a storm. Once again, we’re reminded that extreme weather is not unusual.
Other farms and families came onto the scene by one way or another – Quirks of Ballavarghar (Ballavar), Chadwicks, Christians of Scarlett, the Taubman’s of the Nunnery estate which included Nunnery Howe, Wallberry and Upper Howe, all regarded as ‘model’ farms because of their updated form of agricultural management.
Knockaloe had grown to a sufficient acreage to justify its own steam – threshing mill. These were eventually rendered obsolete by mobile, steam threshing teams going from farm to farm. The old chimney survives.
As fortunes changed, properties had to be sold off. Interestingly, Pat has just been contacted by a Quirk from New South Wales, a possible relative of the late Barton  Quirk and others already mentioned.
In the mid 19th c. Corrin appears to run the farm. He was principally a net manufacturer with fishing boats. He is, I think, remembered by Corrin’s Tower.
In 1903, Army Volunteers arrived for training. Who, at that time, would have envisaged the Hell of carnage of two world wars and the part this land would play in housing aliens on both occasions.
Somehow, the imaginative and experimental approach to farming has lived on, despite all the trials and tribulations. Even horse and other agricultural shows have survived family dramas and world crises!

Our next meeting is on Wednesday, 18th June at 7.30pm in the Centenary Centre. It has the intriguing title, ‘One of Our Badgers is Missing’. Katie King of MNH will explore this and other stories from the heyday of Manx Tourism.