Culture Vannin has awarded a top honour to Fiona McArdle.
The Reih Bleeaney Vanannan 2023 recognises her lifelong commitment to and continued involvement in so many facets of Manx culture.
Culture Vannin's director, Dr Breesha Maddrell, said: 'There is hardly a sphere of cultural life that hasn’t been touched by Fiona’s passion, time and expertise – from Manx language, music and dance, to history and heritage, festival and society committees, community activities, and radio presenting.
'She has represented the Isle of Man internationally at festivals and conferences, and is a wonderful and knowledgeable ambassador for everything Manx.'
Nominations talked of how much Fiona has both contributed to and achieved for Manx culture, history and heritage over a sustained period, and on a voluntary basis.
They highlighted in particular her commitment to the culture and language, which meant that countless people of all ages have benefited from her teaching and willingness to share her knowledge and talents.
Dr Maddrell said: 'Fiona is someone who makes things happen, often behind the scenes, and without seeking anything other than the reward of the activities themselves.'
Through Fiona’s professional life as a teacher, and later education officer at Manx National Heritage, she worked to raise the profile of the Manx language and Manx history in particular.
At a time when Manx was not taught officially in secondary schools in the 1980s, she led a voluntary Manx language club at lunchtimes, then a singing and dance club as well, entering pupils for competitions in the Guild and Yn Chruinnaght, producing Manx concerts, and in 1989 taking a group ‘Crosh Vollan’ from St Ninian’s High School to Lorient in Brittany to represent the Isle of Man at the Festival Interceltique.
During that time, she was the driving force behind the production of Skeealyn Vannin, archive recordings and transcriptions of native speakers of Manx, as well as the Manx Language Bibliography.
She helped with the development of a curriculum for Manx history, and taught thousands of children through workshops and events. She is a multilingual Blue Badge Guide who has devoted time to train others, whilst welcoming thousands of visitors to Manx shores.
'Fiona is perhaps best known as a wonderful Manx speaker, teacher and singer, leading classes in her free time for many years at Thie ny Gaelgey in St Jude's,' said Dr Maddrell.
'She is a committee member of Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh, the Manx Language Society. She has organised immersion trips to the Calf of Man for speakers and learners, and as both a solo singer and member of Cliogaree Twoaie Manx Gaelic choir, she has contributed to recordings and performances here and in other countries.'
Fiona led the dance group Bock Yuan Fannee for many years, teaching Manx dance to both adults and children, and is the founding organiser of the Douglas Hunt the Wren community gathering.
Festivals and events have always been at the heart of her voluntary work, too, and she has served on the committees of Yn Chruinnaght and the Pan-Celtic Festival, arranging the annual Arrane son Mannin competitions.
She organised the annual Cruinnaght Aeg youth competitions, and now acts as an adjudicator for its successor, the Manx Folk Awards.
In 2015, Fiona was invited to give a lecture in French about the Isle of Man as part of the 2015 Year of the Isle of Man and Cornwall at Festival Interceltique de Lorient in Brittany.
The RBV Panel says it was delighted to make the award to Fiona McArdle for a contribution that is significant and enduring, to someone whose legacy has touched the hearts and lives of so many people and will do so for years to come.
The Reih Bleeaney Vanannan or Manannan’s Choice of the Year is the Isle of Man’s highest cultural honour, awarded by Culture Vannin, and decided by a selection panel which is made up of representatives from Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh, Yn Chruinnaght, Manx National Heritage, Isle of Man Arts Council and Culture Vannin itself.
The presentation was made in the Millennium Room in the Tynwald Buildings, and Fiona nominated Manx Birdlife and Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh as the recipients of £250 each.