The head of Manx National Heritage is set to retire.

MNH has begun the search for a successor to Edmund Southworth, who joined as chief executive in 2009.

He is due to retire in April at the age of 65.

His successor will be in charge of a charitable organisation with a £6m a year turnover and responsible for looking after some of the island’s best loved landmarks and landscapes including Laxey Wheel and Peel Castle.

The job is being advertised with an annual salary of between £88,698 and £97,411.

Mr Southworth said: ’I’m in the delightful position of leaving a very successful organisation at a time of my choice.

’I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. We’ve a fantastic team and I hope I’ve been able to make a difference.

’I’ve had a really good relationship with my chairman and trustees and I’m leaving with mixed emotions. I will miss it but it’s time to move on.’

Mr Southworth arrived in August 2009 shortly before VAT bombshell hit the island.

He said one of the fundamental challenges over the last 10 years has been to make MNH more financially sustainable.

’As government funds reduced we’ve had to make up the difference through retail income and accommodation,’ he said.

A good example has been the restoration of Yn Thie Thooit thatched cottage at The Lhen into holiday accommodation.

This has proved very popular for staycations during the pandemic.

’It was very damp, hard to let and been empty for several years .We transformed it from a liability into an asset,’ he said.

Preston-born, he had previously worked as county museums officer for Lancashire County Council and before that spent 20 years at the National Museum in Liverpool.

He said the biggest challenge during his time at MNH has been the ’growth in expectations from the community as to what we can and should be doing’.

’More and more people want digital services,’ Mr Southworth said.

’They want us to look after more and more buildings, be open for longer and to provide educational facilities and resources.

’They expect a better quality of service with cafes and shops, wonderful toilets and buildings that should be accessible.’

Indeed, during his tenure he has overseen the phased refurbishment of many of their assets including Castle Rushen, Rushen Abbey, the House of Manannan and the Manx Museum.

’It’s been quite an intensive period. We’ve also gone on-line with a lot of things such as the i-Museum,’ he said.

He said it was a conscious decision to make the digital newspaper archive free of charge during the pandemic.

It has proved a valuable tool for people researching local and family history.

’It provided something to do in the lockdown, it’s all to do with mental health and well-being.’

Mr Southworth has accepted a position as trustee with the York Archaeolgical Trust.

He said he had no immediate plans to leave the island but added: ’Never say never.

’This is a wonderful place to live and I would like to see more.

’My family are in the UK but Covid has changed everything.’