Public meeting to discuss southern heritage trust

Professor Hugh Davidson, with Port Erin bay in the background

Professor Hugh Davidson, with Port Erin bay in the background

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A public meeting to discuss the establishment of a Rushen and Twin Ports Heritage Trust will be held in Port St Mary town hall at 7.30pm on Thursday.

Port Erin, Port St Mary, and the rest of Rushen parish are unusual in not having local heritage trusts, despite their interesting history and many local heritage experts, said Professor Hugh Davidson, who is driving the initiative.

‘By contrast, Castletown, Peel, Ramsey, Laxey and Lonan, Kirk Michael, Foxdale, Onchan, Ballaugh and Patrick all have heritage trusts.’

Professor Davidson and his wife Sandra first dreamt up the idea when Port Erin Commissioners asked members of the public to come forward with suggestions.

A small steering group, comprising Professor Davidson, the three Rushen MHKs, Phil Gawne, Laurence Skelly and Juan Watterson, and Port Erin Traders’ chairman Steve George was established.

Meetings with the local authorities and traders’ organisations in both ports have been held as well as with other ‘knowledgeable’ people and groups such as Rushen Rotary, Manx Heritage Foundation and Manx National Heritage.

The objectives of a heritage trust in the area would be: to create a ‘destination’ or series of temporary and permanent locations, to attract visitors to and across Rushen, from on and off island; to stimulate, record, communicate and showcase memories of the ports and Rushen’s past; and to activate community involvement in investigating and displaying the local heritage and history of both ports and the rest of Rushen.

A total of 10 Heritage Activity Teams would be formed – led by members of the public – which would focus on different areas such as the story of the sea, the story of the land, the built environment, people and culture, Second World War internment and tourism.

The teams would develop ideas for portable ‘pop up’ museums that can be placed at any public places, such as railway stations or church halls, to display the heritage of that particular field within the area.

Long term, it is hoped that the heritage trust would, by 2020, have two permanent locations, one in each port.

But there would still be mobile ‘pop-up’ museums as well, since they stimulate local energy and innovation.

But for any of it to happen, the public needs to embrace this and drive it forward, he said, and they can show their interest at the public meeting.

‘We will see the level of interest at a public meeting, if not there is no point,’ he said, adding: ‘It’s important to retain, celebrate and showcase our heritage which is interesting and needs to be refreshed to bring in visitors who will get to know both ports and shop there.

‘It will become a destination attraction and make both more attractive and create visits and build community involvement. I hope this will build and build, it’s up to the public if they want to come to the meeting.’

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