Ella shows her Best Side?

Mysteries of Motorhome Life no. 26: Why is it that we never head to a launderette until we’ve run out of socks (and pretty much everything else) and can put it off no longer? There’s nowt like lugging three weeks’ of washing into a launderette to make us (briefly) regret our habitual laziness….

Thankfully the launderette in Peel is right on the promenade and there’s even a bench on the opposite side of the road with a view of the beach and the castle:

Mark has decided that SOK’s bike rack is an appropriate place to hang his denim shorts (for a final air) and his precious “don’t put those in the tumble dryer” $5 Walmart shirts. Is this what people mean when they talk about “investment” items of clothing?

We did come across something slightly odd in the launderette: the tumble dryers only take English £1 coins. The Isle of Man is a self-governing Crown dependency and it issues its own currency (including its own £1 coins; you’d have thought that if anything, the machines would only take Manx £1 coins).

English banknotes and coins are accepted on the Isle of Man, though ATMs (other than at the airport and ferry terminal) only dispense Manx banknotes. Our strategy (as you don’t want to be taking Manx money off the island) was to arrive with a stash of English banknotes. We’ve been withdrawing and spending Manx banknotes throughout our stay. With just under a week until we leave, the Manx banknotes are now running out and we can switch back to our stash of English ones; all we have to do then is make sure we spend any Manx currency that we’re given as change.

Most of the Isle of Man coins look identical to the UK ones other than the words “Isle of Man” in small print on the front and a different design on the back; it’d be easy to spend them back on the mainland. The one exception is the Manx £1 coin.

Back in March 2017, the UK switched to a new 12-sided £1 coin in order to reduce counterfeiting. Prior to the change, an estimated 3% of the £1 coins in circulation in the UK were fake. The Isle of Man Government decided in their wisdom that they don’t have a big problem with counterfeit £1 coins over here, and so the Isle of Man kept the old-format £1 coin.

2017 UK £1 coin (left) and 2017 Manx £1 coin (right):

This means that the Manx £1 coin has the same size, weight and colour as the old UK £1 coins. Whilst in the Isle of Man, I appear to have “accidentally” spent my last old-style UK £1 coin (which I found two days after the shops in the UK stopped accepting them last year) 😉 I have no idea whether it was a real one or a counterfeit one 😂

Back on the mainland, there was a bit of a faff for a while when the new coins came in and supermarket trolleys, vending machines etc all had to be updated to take the new £1 coin instead of the old one. Surely the launderette in Peel could have easily obtained coin mechanisms set up for the Manx £1 coins rather than putting up an “English £1 coins only” sign? or are they worried about ending up with all those counterfeit UK coins?

One other thing struck me about the Manx £1 coin: the image of the Queen is different to that on the UK coin. There have been five images of the Queen on UK coins over the course of her reign; the image on the Isle of Man coin isn’t one of them…. I have to say that I think the image on the UK coin is more flattering than that on the Manx coin. The Queen has a stand-in, Ella Slack, who for the last 30+ years has taken the place of the Queen during rehearsals for important events. Ella Slack is from the Isle of Man. Conspiracy theorists among us might suspect that, in a shocking act of defiance to the British Crown, the Manx government has put the profile of Ella Slack rather than the Queen on their £1 coin? Treason! Only joking (I think).

Laundry done, it was time for chips. You may recall that we visited the Magpie Café in Whitby in February this year (👍👍👍) followed by Stein’s Fish & Chips in Padstow in April (👎). Mark had decided that we should try the Quayside Fish & Chip shop in Peel, which he remembered as being good, during our trip to the Isle of Man.

… and very good it was too (👍👍). Not as good as the Magpie but streets ahead of Rick Stein. We’ve done well for food in recent days (those who know us will know that we don’t eat out often). We were invited to a barbecue on Sunday night (thanks Viv & Deb 😍), then it was fish and chips on Monday evening followed by a pub meal with Viv & Deb on Tuesday evening. Much more of this and Mark might start to forget how to wash up!

We’ve managed to fit some educational tourism into the last couple of days in between our various eating expeditions. St Patrick’s Isle, linked by causeway to the town of Peel, has a long history.

Remains of a Bronze Age settlement have been found on the island, and it is the spot where St Patrick is said to have first landed on the Isle of Man in 444 AD.

Early monastic buildings on the site include an Irish-style tower ( a good look-out and also a place to take refuge from raiders) and St German’s cathedral (second photo):

The island was fortified in the late 11th century during the period of Viking rule in the Isle of Man. King Magnus Barefoot (also known as “Magnus Barelegs” but not, as Mark insists on calling him, “Magnus Barearse”) had swanned in from Norway and taken charge of the Isle of Man following a period of local unrest. He built a hall on St Patrick’s Isle, a forerunner of Peel Castle as we know it today, then went off and invaded Ireland, getting himself killed in the process. Not many Vikings seem to have died in their beds 😉

We can confirm that St Patrick’s Isle is a great location for a castle, with views West across the Irish Sea to Ireland and North to Scotland. From here, the rulers of Mann would have been able to keep a close eye on the transportation superhighway that was the Irish sea at that time and would have had plenty of warning of any approaching trouble.

Peel Castle as we see it today was completed by the construction of a curtain wall and other fortifications over subsequent centuries, right up until the English Civil War. Among the most interesting finds here from archaeological excavations in the 1980’s were seven pagan burials dating to the 10th century AD, all discovered within an established Christian graveyard near the cathedral. The most extraordinary of them is known as the “Pagan Lady”, a high-status female. Among her grave goods was a fabulous necklace of 73 glass beads sourced from a wide area ranging from Italy to the Baltic, evidence of the impressive extent of Viking trading links. We saw the necklace in the Manx Museum in Douglas two years ago and we’re planning to go back later this week for another look.

Peel also houses the House of Manannan, which is a museum that has very few artefacts but instead takes you on an audiovisual tour right the way through Manx history, narrated by the sea god Manannan, from Celtic times right up to the modern day.

One physical item that they do have on display is Odin’s Raven, a 2/3 replica of the most famous Viking ship ever found (the Gokstad Ship, dating back to 850 AD). Odin’s Raven sailed from Trondheim to Peel in 1979 to celebrate 1000 years of Tynwald, the Manx Parliament.

The mixed Manx / Norwegian crew spent over 30 days at sea in the open boat, tracing the standard Viking route from Trondheim South along the Norwegian coast then across the North Sea to Shetland, down to Orkney and then South along the West coast of Scotland to the Isle of Man.

Some of the exhibits in the House of Manannan were in definite need of repair. On one of the upper levels, for example, is a series of rooms telling you about a range of topics including the fisheries in Peel and their associated industries (boatbuilding, netmaking etc), smuggling, and seafaring. In each, you have a brief introductory video by Manannan, then you can choose between four different stories by touching an item (“touch the wine bottle to hear the story of….., touch the scroll to hear the story of …. etc).

We heard some really interesting tales, for example the story of the Manxman who was first lieutenant under Nelson and steered his flagship Victory into the Battle of Waterloo, and the story of the Manx teenager who hid below decks during the Mutiny on the Bounty and was later sentenced to death as a mutineer before being reprieved and allowed to continue to serve in the Royal Navy. Disappointingly, one or two of the four stories in each room failed to work. In some cases the PIR sensor on the item you had to touch wasn’t working; in others, the light came on but the video still didn’t play. So we never did find out about Manx involvement in the evacuation from Dunkirk…..

We DID discover another fantastic Manx seafaring story whilst in Peel. Behind the bench on which we’d eaten our fish and chips was a plaque:

We found out more in the small Leece Museum in the town centre.

When the passenger liner Lusitania was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-Boat off the coast of Ireland in 1915, the only other vessel in the vicinity was the Wanderer, a 45-foot fishing boat from Peel in the Isle of Man. Most of the Manx fishing fleet from Peel and Port St Mary was employed in the Kinsale mackerel fishery off the coast of Ireland during the spring and early summer of each year. Mackerel fishing was typically done at night, but on that particular day, the Wanderer had gone back out to fish during the daytime too.

When the crewman on watch alerted his colleagues that the Lusitania was sinking, the Wanderer’s skipper immediately ordered the helmsman to steer direct for the scene of the disaster, three miles away, his reported words being “Go for her, be British”. They took four boat-loads of survivors aboard the Wanderer and provided them with whatever they could: food, clothing, and even a bottle of whisky. They then took another two boats from the Lusitania on tow. In total, the Wanderer assisted over 150 of the 764 who survived the disaster (from a total of 1962 on board).

The crew members were all awarded medals by the Manx Society of Manchester for their efforts, presented at the annual Tynwald ceremony in July 1915.  Later, it turned out that a lawyer in Peel had received funds from an anonymous donor in the United States with the instruction that these were to be used to fund the construction of a fishing boat in Peel for William Ball, the Wanderer’s captain (who did not own his own fishing boat at that time). The boat was duly built, named the Aigh Vie, and launched in 1916.

A bit of internet research reveals that the Aigh Vie has recently been restored in Connemara, Ireland (more information and photos here) and is looking fabulous. We’ve added a post-it to our Ireland Planning Map to remind us to look out for her when we’re in the area in a few weeks from now.

 

5 comments

  1. We’re just on our way up the west coast of France en route to Ireland. Good tips in here! We’re more underplan than over planners which is catching us out this last week. All good fun

    Like

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