David Cretney column: Some memories of the TT

Monday 13th June 2022 10:54 am
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I have been involved in a few things during the TT, most notably playing my part as one of the marshalling team at Ballaugh Bridge after missing the first couple of sessions as I was off island.

How good it was to catch up with friends with whom I have worked for at least 16 years.

We have a number of local marshals who live in Ballaugh and Kirk Michael and others who regularly join us from across the sea.

After not having a TT race fortnight since 2019 it was really good meeting up again and exchanging stories.

Since the last event I had seen my friends from the local area of Ballaugh Bridge only a handful of times, so to get together with our shared passion and interest over the hours we spend as a team at this famous TT landmark was time well spent.

During practice week there was a report of a dog loose in the village and Chris Roughley, our sector marshal, went to investigate. There was indeed a dog which must have got out and he was able to relocate it safely to its owners.

This isn’t the only story including Chris and a dog!

Some years ago a window on the side of The Raven pub adjacent to the bridge was open during one of the sessions and a dog was looking out of it.

Chris took the initiative to position himself under the window which was just as well because the dog decided to launch himself out of the window and fortunately he was caught after at least a six-foot drop by Chris in his outstretched arms. It’s not only cats that have nine lives sometimes!

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For many years when I was a Tynwald member I had the pleasure of inviting TT visitors and others to come and visit the various historic chambers in the longest continuous parliament in the world.

A number of nationalities have taken a visit and learnt something of our tricameral system.

We have the directly-elected House of Keys, the Legislative Council elected by the Keys to scrutinise and review legislation with the final decision rightly falling to the House of Keys after they have considered any points raised by council.

Then the unique part of our system is that both branches meet together in the Tynwald chamber for policy and money votes.

This year we welcomed a large group of French visitors to Tynwald during practice week.

Now I am retired Sarah took on the responsibility for conducting the tour with myself as assistant!

Many of the visitors had never been to the island before and as well as enjoying the racing were also taken aback by the beauty of our island, its history and heritage and the friendly welcome offered by our population.

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When I was ‘Minister for Fun’ between 1996 and 2006 I introduced a system of recognition of loyalty awards.

A number of TT visitors for example had been keen supporters of the races for 40, 50 or even 60 years and I would host a modest ceremony where recipients would receive an engraved tankard to mark the occasion.

This meant a lot to the visitors to show they were appreciated and it was lovely when walking through Strand Street with the dogs early one evening to be recognised by a group of visitors who informed me they hadn’t been to the island for at least 10 years but remembered that little recognition of how important their loyalty to our world-famous road races had been simply rewarded.

It’s often the little things that make the lasting impression.

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A few final TT memories for now.

When I was a young boy I like lots of others would go around collecting empty pop bottles and returning them to the shop to be given a few pence back as deposit.

My chosen location with the likes of David Clucas and James Crennell was the shop at the bottom of Bray Hill adjacent to Stoney Road where they both lived.

An early and effective scheme of recycling the Downward’s and Qualtrough’s bottles which encouraged the concept of an award for doing the right thing. I was also a cub and scout with 5th Douglas, St Thomas’s on Derby Road.

I remember 1st Douglas at Demesne Road and 10th Douglas at St Ninian’s and I’m sure there must have been other troops at the time.

Several things remain firm in my memories of that time.

Our leaders were Stan Hunter and Henry Brew, camping at Baldwin at Easter time where, because I was not a Catholic, I was able to have fish fingers and sausages on Good Friday, ‘Bob a Job’ week where in order to fund raise we would take on any chores house to house around where we lived and, in the TT context, I remember working on the clocks and as a runner on the TT scoreboards. I do hope when a longer term solution is found that this long standing tradition will be reinstated.

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More fond memories of bakers have shown up in my postbox!

John Cashen remembers George Kelly at the top of Summerhill Road behind the shops in the early 1960s.

Trevor Owen was able to tell me about some bakers in Peel including Holgate’s, Quirk’s, Kneen’s and two in Douglas Street – Benny Kelly’s and Carine’s – the latter opposite where the post office is now and former further down towards the Market Square just before the Legion Club.

Lots of votes still coming in for Bateson’s meat pies! I’m told that Quirk’s in Onchan was operated by Aggie and Reenie Roberts.

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I caught up for a long-overdue haircut recently at The Barber Shop in Church Road Onchan.

The long standing proprietor is Gary McDowell, who I remember well as a very accomplished and long standing drummer with bands on the island such as Road House, Jygsaw, ‘The Nelson Sound and Whisky Mac.

He had many interesting stories about supporting the top UK bands of the Day in The Palace Lido, Whispers and many other venues over the years.

This in turn got me thinking about his trade.

Barbers are generally people in whom you can trust and confide.

They speak to so many different clients through their work and become much more than a short back and sides, square cut, mullet, feathered, crew cut purveyor into a friend, rather like a good radio voice! Who remembers Isle of Man barbers’ shops long since gone?

Here’s your starter for 10 … Stan Lowey was he Bathurst Street or/and Windsor Road?

Willie Black is a long-standing barber in that area.

Was it Mr Walmsley in Nelson Street?

I remember sitting on a board on top of the barber’s chair for a ‘basin’ haircut! Who remembers Leucios in Circular Road or Tommy Reed on Railway Station hill. Let’s have your feedback and memories please!