Read part 1 HERE (intro to Isle of Man, where I stayed), part 2 HERE (Snaefell, Laxey Wheel, The Sound, Point of Ayre), part 3 HERE (Castle Rushen, Peel Castle, Old Grammer School) & part 4 HERE (Bradda Glen, Cregneash village & ancient churches).
I took these images with an iPhone 6.
Just like how my brother always has a “McDonald’s” wedged in his travel itinerary to mc-conquer the spectrum of patty flavours and combos across the world (well, you can tell a lot about a nation through their taste in Macs), mine could possibly be “The Museum/Heritage anything”.
My brother, who had visited Isle of Man before me, had perfectly described it as “a place where if you visit the museum they don’t just show you the history in pictures and paper but actually friggin have the place that still stands today and you can touch it.”
The Isle of Man Manx Museum is where you’ll hear of King Olaf and Sigurd the dragon slayer like you stepped inside a Game of Thrones museum…except that it supposedly depicts real life.
The seemingly ordinary facade that could easily pass off as an old church, greeted us with old paintings and silverware at the entrance of the gallery, as we stepped in to seek shelter from the light drizzle on a typically chilly 17-degree morning.
After which, we ventured deeper to find ancient stones, history of hunter-gatherers, the rise of its political era, vikings and modern settlement.
PAINTINGS & MEMORABILIA
Once upon a time, people actually communicated by hand like this. “O His Excellency Sir Peter” has all dwindled down to a single letter called “Dear”. Probably in Times New Roman 12. Justified. With Autocorrect.
The Manx flag symbol. Very “Mother of Dragon”-ish.
A SLICE THROUGH TIME: ANCIENT STONES
Here we saw remnants of ancient relics from millions of years ago kept away in rows of glass cabinets.
Remember the cartoon Flintstones? Well, the earliest evidence of their arrival in Isle of Man dates back to the Mesolithic (middle stone age) period, after the island separated from the English coast in 8000BC.
That’s where “Flint” came about, because it’s a form of rock commonly used for manufacturing blades and tools and they occur naturally on the island in abundance.
This piece of trough was found at Ballakaighen, Germany, in a boggy area on a small watercourse. Although it could be easily mistaken for some tree log in our local McRitchie reservoir, radiocarbon has helped archaeologists date such troughs to circa 2000B.C. Apart from transporting things, wooden troughs were also used for boiling meat at cooking sites from the bronze age to medieval times.
A typical Viking fighting kit would consist of shields, spears, axes, swords and knives, but they also had an eye for fine detail. Many of the artefacts show intricate decoration, which changed over the years as the patterns show influences from parts of the world that they travelled to and traded with.
RETRO ISLE OF MAN IN 1920s
In a more modern era of the 1920s, Isle of Man was marketed as an ideal getaway island where many single ladies in fluttery swimwear hooked up with smirking men. Apparently many got pregnant over one summer! Well, if the men then looked like Chris Evans in Captain America… wee-o-weet.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & POLITICS
The Manx sword of state is a symbol of the oldest continuous parliament in the world and it is still used at every sitting of the parliament known as the Tynwald. There have been 3 swords of states through the ages. This is the second sword, the first is still used by Tynwald in the parliamentary process when they meet each month and on Tynwald Day in July. The third sword is lost since the 1790s when the Lord of Mann sold his rights to the British crown.
A TIME OF VIKINGS & DRAGONS
“THE DRAGON CROSS”: Each face of this cross slab shows a cross set on a circle. Both crosses have a tapering shaft, and a ring decorated with plait-work. The regular plaits break into looser interlace lower on the shaft. The panels to either side are filled with interlace, which traps dragons with gaping jaws, pear-shaped eyes and long tails. The slab is rounded at the top, and tapers towards the foot to fit into a socket stone.
“THE LAST MANX VIKING KING”: Bearing the design of a sword beside a cross, this is the grave cover of Magnus, the last king of the Viking dynasty of Mann and the Isles. It is recorded that he died at Castle Rushen (which I blogged about in the previous parts – link at top of the post) in 1265.
Viking swords were made from iron. Over the centuries between their burial and recovery, ground conditions caused much of the iron to corrode. Sword blades and scabbards have fused together, whilst softer materials have been lost forever. But modern technology can help shine light on old techniques. Despite their immediate appearance, the swords retain much of their fine detail with the help of X-ray machines.
The last section was like a screen grab from the movie “Night at The Museum” with preserved inhabitants. Despite plenty of natural landscape, there are no wild predators in the entire Isle of Man, and neither do they cut the trees. Therefore, uncle Steve told me that if they want to build houses they usually import the wood from surrounding nations.
Manx cats are born without tails!
Of course, we didn’t leave the museum without some mandatory souvenirs, but here’s a tip: walk across to downtown Douglas and you will probably find the identical items at a slash off the price. There are many purveyors of touristy knick knacks dotted all across the island.
Address: Kingswood Grove, Douglas, Isle of Man IM1 3LY, United Kingdom
Admission fee: Free
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm