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Isle of Man The Sound and Cregneash

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The Sound is the southernmost tip of the Isle of Man and overlooks the Calf of Man and the even tinier Kitterland.

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This is the place to come and watch for seals, basking on the rocks of Kitterland. You may be lucky and also see dolphins and basking sharks.

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The Calf of Man is in the care of the Manx Wildlife Trust and has a small bird observatory. There has been a successful programme to eradicate rats which arrived after a shipwreck and decimated the bird population. Local boatmen run trips from either Port Erin or Post St Mary and it is possible to stay in bunkhouse accommodation on the island.

The actual tip itself is a fairly flat grassy plateau, surrounded by rugged cliffs. The long distance footapth, Raad Ny Foillan, follows the coast from Port Erin to Port St Mary.

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The Sound Visitor Centre and cafe, opened in 2002 at a cost £1million pounds, is designed to have little visual impact with its long low building and grass roof.

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The Calf of Man and Kitterland are separated by a narrow but treacherous strip of water known as Calf Sound. Many ships have been wrecked here. The most famous was possibly the Lily which ran aground on Kitterland in 1852. Her cargo included 60 tins of gunpowder bound for Africa. During the salvage operation, this exploded killing 29 men. The explosion was heard 20 miles away. They are commemorated by a memorial in Kirk Christ churchyard.

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On the headland overlooking the sound is the lovely white Thousla Cross. This commemorates the bravery of Manxmen who went to give aid to a French schooner, Jeaune St. Charles" which was sailing to Londonderry in 1858. Two of the crew died but four mariners were rescued after clinging to the Thousla Rock during a south westerly gale.

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Also overlooking Calf Sound, is the Percy Cowley memorial. A simple stone pillar, this commemorates Deemster Sir Percy Cowley, an influential and foresighted Manxman who was instrumental in setting up the Manx National Trust.

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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Creneash

Set on an upland pasture over looking the Sound and Calf of Man, Cregneash is an isolated settlement of small crofts each owning a few acres of land. It was a hard life dependent on fishing, subsistence agriculture, weaving and quarrying.

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Its very isolation at the tip of the Isle of Man meant the Manx language and the old way of life survived here well into the C20th. Cregneash has been promoted as a tourist attraction since Victorian times.

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Electricity didn’t arrive until 1938 and running water in the 1940s. Before then, the villagers were dependent on wells for water. The central well in the village was used for washing, with those on the outskirts being used for drinking water.

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Many families left the village during the C20th, Some cottages were left derelict, others were pulled down with their walls forming field boundaries. A few, like Crebbin’s Cottage were let out as holiday homes.

When Harry Kelly died in 1935, his family gifted his cottage to the Manx Museum and it was open to the public in 1938 as the first open air folk museum in Britain. Deemster Percy Cowley, who is recorded by a memorial overlooking the Sound, championed the need for a Manx National Trust and began to acquire land around Cregneash. The Karren farmstead was acquired a few years later, as an example of an unmodernised traditional Manx farmstead with farmhouse, stables and cowshed. Now the Manx National Trust owns over 300 acres of land and ten buildings. There are still a few privately owned buildings but there are rigorous restrictions placed on what can be done with them.
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Buildings originally had turf walls with a thatch roof. Later walls were built of stone found in the fields or from outcrops on Meayll Hill, and held together with clay mortar. Walls were whitewashed. The slate for the lintels of the windows, doors and hearth came from quarries on Spanish Head.

Roofs were lined with turf cut from rough grassland and laid across the rafters with the soil side down, thus forming the base for the thatch.

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There are no reeds on the island, so the villagers had to use straw left over from the harvest. Unlike modern varieties of wheat, this had very long stalks. The thatch was held in place by hand twisted ropes made of straw. These were anchored to small protruding stones in the walls called bwoid sugganes. Unlike the walls, these were never whitewashed as the lime could rot the straw rope. The thatch needed replenishing every three years.

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Floors were made from compacted earth. Clay soil was mixed with lime or brick dust, crushed bones, blood, milk and manure to form a hard wearing surface. This never completely dries out, staying dust free and never cracks. However, rugs can’t be put on it.

The cottages were typically two rooms. Thie Mooar, or big room was open to the rafters, and had an open hearth.

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The smaller room was used as a bedroom and had a loft above where the children slept. This was reached by a ladder and a fishing net was often hung across to stop young children falling off. Windows were small, so walls were whitewashed to reflect all available light.

Later some cottages were extended by adding an extra storey. In cottages like Crebbin’s Cottage, this was done by extending the loft across the full width of the cottage to form bedrooms which were reached by steep stairs up to a hatch. This allowed the downstairs bedroom to be used as a parlour.

Others like Church Farm, Cummel Beg (now the visitor centre) and Creg-y-Shee (now the cafe) were extended upwards with a second storey and new roof. The last two were also given larger windows and pebble dashed exterior giving the impression they are much later.

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In the C20th, more modern houses were built along the main road above the village. Some still have the original cottages next to them.

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The villagers were part time crofters growing a few crops (oats, barley and wheat along with potatoes and turnips) on small parcels of land. Fields were small, with hedges giving shelter from the winds and the only fertiliser was dung from the animals.

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The crofters would have kept the traditional Loaghtan sheep as these were ideally suited to rough upland grazing. Their wool produced a very strong hard wearing cloth, but it had a short staple making it more difficult to spin. The Loaghtan fell out of favour and, by the start of the C19th, was being replaced by Scottish black face sheep as their fleece had a longer staple. Every house had spinning wheel. Wool was taken to Silverburn to be washed and carded and then came back to be woven by one of the five hand weavers in the village.

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They may have had a cow for milk and kept a few hens and sheep. Many had a part share in a fishing boat and the men fished in the summer months leaving the work on the croft to the wives and children. Any spare milk, butter or eggs were sold at the local market. Turf for heating and cooking was cut on Meayll Hill and was a communal activity.

All farm work was done by hand although horses were used for ploughing and, again, these were shared in exchange for other work.

Meals were very simple and cooked over the open peat fire, either on a griddle or a large metal pot hanging from a chain in the chimney.

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The fire was kept burning all the time and it was regarded as bad luck to let it go out. Embers to start a new fire could be obtained from neighbours. Breakfast and the evening meal were usually porridge and a small bowl of porridge was left out overnight for the fairies. The mid day meal was either herring and potatoes or else a stew made from a bit of meat and lots of vegetables boiled up over the fire. Bonnag, an unleavened bread made from flour and buttermilk and cooked on the griddle, was a good filler.

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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Cregneash cont - Harry Kelly's Cottage

Harry Kelly (1852-1935) was one of the last Manx speakers on the Isle of Man. Professor Marstranbder from Norway made three trips to the island between 1929-33 to record Manx culture and language and spent time talking and listening to Harry Kelly and making recordings of him. Open air folk museums had already been established in Norway and this prompted the idea here.

When Harry Kelly died in 1935, his family gifted his cottage to the Manx Museum and it opened as the first Open Air Museum in Britain in 1938. The cottage had belonged to Harry Kelly’s parents and grandparents and was, even then, 50 years out of date. Most of the contents seen today belonged to Harry Kelly or his family.

It is a typical Manx Cottage with whitewashed walls and thatched roof.

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The door leads into the main room, Thie Mooar, with its large open fireplace.

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Walls were whitewashed every year. Small cupboards set into the wall by the fireplace were for storing things like salt that needed to be kept dry.

The dresser was the showcase of family affluence. The display items also acted as 'currency' as they could be sold or bartered in times of hardship. Cups were always hung facing inwards to keep good luck in the house. The grandfather clock was also a status symbol.

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The bedroom leads off Thie Mooar. Hanging above the door is a Crosh Cuirn, a good luck charm.

May Day was the period between the death of winter and the rebirth of summer and was regarded as the time witches and fairies were at their most dangerous. A wooden cross was made from two rowan sticks which had to be broken off by hand and tied together using sheep’s wool gathered from the hedgerows. It was believed to be a powerful charm against evil spirits and had to be replaced every year.

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Harry Kelly bought the bed at a farm sale on the Calf of Man. It was originally a four poster bed but proved too large to get into his cottage and had to be cut down.

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The room has a small open grate, but is sparsely furnished with a home made chest and hooks for hanging clothes.

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Above the bedroom is an open loft where children would have slept. Harry Kelly was unmarried, so this would have been used for storage.

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cont...
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Cregneash cont - Church Farm

Also referred to as the Big House, Church Farm was the largest and wealthiest farm in the village, owning 40 acres. It was lived in until 1979. This was originally a single storey cottage like Harry Kelly’s but was extended in mid C19th, when the family came into money. Two rooms were added in front of the original cottage and it was extended upwards by building a second storey above them.

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The old barns were demolished and replaced by a large stone barn with a stable for three horses and cowshed. The cows were brought inside on the 12th November until 12th May. Upstairs was a threshing machine, powered by horses.

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Hens were allowed to roam freely and there is a small thatched hen house with nesting boxes.

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The small outside toilet, Thie Veg, is next to the ash pan from the kitchen. Contents were mixed with the ash and spread on fields.

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Next to it is the pig sty.

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The kitchen was still the focal point of the house, although a cast iron range replaced the open fire. The family could afford to buy coal which was expensive as there is no coal on the island and had to be imported. The range was used for heating water in a small tank beside the fire as well as for cooking.

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Again there is a large display dresser.

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The beaten earth floor has been replaced by concrete with peg rugs. The floor and walls are painted a bright red. The Family were able to afford oil for oil lamps, and no longer needed to whitewash walls to reflect all available light. The red colour was originally made by adding ox blood to the whitewash, another sign of wealth.

The parlour was the best room and only used for important guests, or on a Sunday when it was used for church services before St Peter’s Church was built. It has a small fireplace with tiled surround, prints on the walls and a harmonium

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The rear of the house is the original cottage and has a dairy with a cold slab for butter making.

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The scullery was used for the weekly wash and also had an open hearth in the corner which was used for boiling up animal feed.

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Above were five bedrooms or store rooms.

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Eleanor

1000+ Posts
Cregneash cont - Other buildings

The Karren Farmstead is a typical example of a small unmodernised traditional Manx farmstead with farmhouse, stables and cowshed.

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The buildings are not open, apart from the cowshed opposite Harry Kelly’s cottage. The mock udder is genuine, and was used to teach the girls how to milk.

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Crebbin's Cottage was modernised in the 1930s and was let out as a holiday house.

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The loft was extended across the length of the house to make two bedrooms, reached by a steep staircase off the hall and through a trap door. The open fireplace has been replaced by a fireplace and cold running water and a sink installed. There were no cooking facilities.

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Near the entrance to the village, one of the cottages with a slate roof served as a Smithy with a carpenter’s workshop attached.

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At the other end of the village is Ned Beg's Cottage.

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Edward Faragher or Ned Beg Hom Ruy (1831-1908) was a Manx poet and the last native writer in Manx and was responsible for preserving a lot of the old legends.

He was born and worked in Creneash as a fisherman before moving to Liverpool, where he worked in a safe making factory. It was in Liverpool he began to write poetry. He returned to Cregneash around 1876 and worked as a fisherman while continuing to write poetry and hymns in both Manx and English, but received little attention or recognition in the village.

In late C19th, Ned Beg met the German folklorist Charles Roeder, who immediately recognised the importance of Ned Beg as a source of folklore and cultural knowledge, as well as a speaker of Manx Gaelic. Roeder ranked him as "one of the best vernacular conversationalists extant in the Island." Roeder sent Ned Beg notebooks to fill up with folklore yarns. Although the value of his work was not recognised in the Isle of Man, his importance was gradually being recognised off the island and some of his work began to appear in print. If it had not been for Roeder and Ned Beg, much of this folklore would have been lost.

Conditions were so bad in Cregneash in 1908, that Ned Beg was forced to leave the island with his son. He died 18 months later in Derbyshire.

The cottage now has information about Ned Beg, Manx culture and language as well as recordings of Manx speaking.

St Peter's Church was built by the people in the village in 1858 on land given by the diocese. It still belongs to the diocese and holds regular services. Previously, parishioners had to walk two miles to the parish church of Kirk Christ near Ballafesson.

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Initially only the chancel was consecrated so the nave could be used as a school, although this didn’t last very long.

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The small stained glass inserts have images of a Manx scenes.

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The cross outside was erected to celebrate the Millennium.

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