Well-known writer, charity campaigner and poet Michael Cowin, better known to all as Pullyman, died earlier this week, aged 80.
Famous as the poet and personality ’Pullyman’, who turned to writing poetry after contracting Parkinson’s Disease, Michael Cowin won the hearts of many and charmed more with his verses, newspaper columns, books and his cheery, genial and generally unflappable outlook on life.
His friends and fellow writers paid tribute to Michael, with many praising his many achievements in the later years of his life, including selling out the Gaiety Theatre and raising thousands of pounds for the Parkinson’s Disease charity, of which he was a great supporter.
Having grown up in the newly-built Pulrose estate, he worked most of his life on Strand Street before retiring, living in Onchan with his wife Irene, who he affectionately christened ’Brown Eyes’ in many of his columns and poems.
He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease just shy of his 70th birthday and, despite the debilitating nature of the illness, decided to take up writing.
After turning his hand to poetry, he began to frequent Open Mic nights, run by Hazel Teare, who went on to become his right-hand-man as he launched himself into the world of book publishing, charity work, stand-up performance, public speaking and, eventually in 2014, taking on the writing of a regular, weekly column in the Island Life section of the Manx Independent.
He has left a body of work consisting of more than 100 poems, a book of his poems, scores of small poetry pamphlets, a charity calendar, produced in 2018, which featured people such as the Bishop, then Chief Minister Howard Quayle, the Lt Governor, John McGuinness and more sat astride his famous ’Pullyman One’ mobility scooter and a collection of his Manx Independent columns.
Hazel said that, once he got over his initial nerves about reading in public, there was no stopping him, which led them to scale unimaginable heights.
’Mike used to say that he had a little voice inside him, encouraging him to do things, which is how the "Pullyman and Friends" nights started,’ said Hazel.
’One day, he went into the Peel Centenary Centre on a whim and asked, there and then, to book the place for the whole night.
He was asked what kind of show are you putting on, and Mike said "I don’t know yet!"
’That was the first Pullyman and Friends night. From there we then went to the Erin Arts Centre and then the Gaiety in 2016.
’When he booked that, I think Irene almost had a nervous breakdown, but we sold it out. It was the first time a poetry show had sold out the Gaiety.’
’His Parkinson’s never stopped him. He was determined not to be seen as an invalid and I never saw himself as ill. He was just such a force of nature.’
Fellow poet Bill Strutt also paid tribute to Michael.
’Mike just gave you that belief and confidence to do things,’ he said.
’He had a huge effect on the poetry scene in the Isle of Man. He made it become something bigger and gave so much encouragement to others to give it a go.
’To do the things he has done, for as long as he has, with the kind of weight he has had to carry, is nothing short of miraculous.
’If I remember him for anything, it will be the people crying with laughter, the faces as people listened, the pleasure he brought people and his "can-do" attitude, especially in the face of his Parkinson’s, which he never let rule him, which was incredible.
’I will miss him dreadfully. He was a friend, a confidante, a teacher, and there will be hundreds of people who will miss him just as much.
’As long as we keep his poems, then he will live on forever.’
The funeral will take place on Friday, December 3, the day before his 81st birthday, at the Douglas Crematorium at 2pm, followed by a wake at the Pinewood Hotel in Pulrose.