I must start by saying thanks to Jasmin for inviting me to write something about my magical island home.
For those who may not be familiar with its location, it is roughly midway between England and Ireland, 33 miles long and 12 miles wide. It is especially well known for the world famous TT motorcycle races.
Historically it was a strategically important centre in the days when Viking kings referred to it as their throne from which they ruled the Kingdom of Man and the Isles, a kingdom that reached from the Irish Sea to the North Atlantic Ocean. The Vikings established their parliament, known as Tynwald, in 979 AD, making it the oldest continuous parliament in the world. Though Tynwald makes the Island’s laws, those laws still need to be approved by the British parliament as the Island is a crown dependency.
Scenically, the Island is a microcosm of the British Isles. Stunning coasts, mountains, verdant meadows and plains along with a network of first class roads making travel a joy, But this was not enough for the Manx in the 19th century, they needed an income, tourism was the answer. Hotels and guest houses sprang up, mostly in Douglas, in the late 1800s. Many of them still offer accommodation for visitors but many more converted to apartments to meet the rapidly growing demand.
For over a century, the main source of revenue came from tourism. In the 1950s, the population of Britain considered a holiday in the Isle of Man as going abroad, in fact advertising posters, stated “Come abroad to the Isle of Man” and by golly they did. In those days, as many as 50,000 spent happy holidays on the Island. To cater for those visitors, the biggest names in show business did summer season shows. The decline in tourism began in the early sixties when cheaper packages to continental destinations with sunnier climates attracted Brits abroad.
The Island now depends on events, such as the TT and specialist holidays for walkers and cyclists to attract people and the economy is boosted by the finance industry. Despite the decline in tourism, the Islands economy is stronger than ever thanks to the financial industry. The Isle of Man is now home to some of the biggest names in finance and to avoid having to import workers to run these new businesses, our educators prepared students for this field. As a result, the Island now has the lowest unemployment rate in the UK.
The island has been the birthplace to many famous people and in more recent years, the brothers Gibb, the Bee Gees proudly referred to their birthplace and childhood on the Island. Following international fame, they each bought homes on the Island in the seventies and they did not mind admitting that tax perks was the driving force behind that decision. Robin Gibb bought a beautiful house near Peel, a house he loved and visited right up to his sad demise. His wife, Dwina, has retained that home and uses it several times a year.
I have lived in the USA, South Africa and various places in the UK but no matter where I lived, I was always drawn back to the Isle of Man. No matter how cosmopolitan you may be, live here for a couple of months and the magic will hold you here – but what is that magic? It is indefinable, you’ll have to visit and experience it for yourself.
There are many websites where you can see beautiful pictures of the Island and learn about its people and customs. One of them is Jasmin’s website www.isleofmanreisen.de. That is the only travel agency in Germany specialising in the Isle of Man as a holiday destination.
If you have any specific questions about the Island, fill in the form here and I will do my best to answer them for you.
– Bernie Quayle –