By John Slater
What a very special evening this meeting of Peel Heritage Trust proved to be! When I walked in half an hour before the start, nearly every seat was taken. Eventually, everyone was packed in for what was billed as, ‘Nostalgia in Sound and Pictures.’
The Trust had long been concerned that we were building up a written and pictorial archive but not the spoken word. Manx Heritage Foundation generously made a digital sound recording system available to us, and this has been put to very good use as this evening demonstrated. Ten years ago, Bill Quine, recorded a conversation between Harrison Quirk and his sister Phyllis Long. The two of them reminded each other of what life was like when they were children, and talked about the many characters who lived in Peel. The Quirk bakery, their fishing boat, a family coal yard, the Viking Festival and lots more are giggled over in this unscripted conversation. Vic Bates had put together a wonderful selection of pictures covering Peel, largely from the 1920’s onward.
Anthony Quirk introduced members of the family from several generations who were present: Audrey, Harrison’s widow, most of their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. These were from the Island and further afield.
The family had a couple of bakers shops. Harrison was born over the one in Patrick Street. These were closed when they bought the one in Michael Street.
Naturally, the conversation ranged to and fro as memories were triggered. Their freedom, as children, to wander at will had only a couple of restrictions – the dub up the River Neb and the groin. Boys might be seen swimming in the nude, there!
Their bakery was one of three that supplied bread to the large internment camp. It had to be at least one day old, as internees would eat more fresh bread! Harrison still had his camp permit.
Harrison was famous for his amusing tales. He recalled one occasion when a woman suspected of stealing butter by putting a pound under her hat, was invited into the bakery and asked to sit down. They just chatted to her as the butter warmed up and ran down her face and over her clothes. Nothing was said about this but that ended the thefts!
The Corrin Home didn’t have room to cook their Christmas turkeys, so Harrison did it for them in the hot bread ovens. Other people heard about this and they would cook up to thirty every Christmas. Apparently, it was down to luck if you got the same one back!
Along with the rest of us, the great regret was the loss of the railway. This still impacts heavily on the west of the island. The east and south are well served but Peel, the fastest growing centre, has no rail links at all – just traffic problems!
A second run through of the slides produced a host of questions and memories. It felt like a large family reunion!
Our next meeting is our AGM on THURSDAY 15th February at 7.30pm in the Centenary Centre Atholl Room.