David Cretney’s column: Remembering some of the giants of past Manx politics

Monday 11th April 2022 4:01 pm
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This column first appeared in the Isle of Man Examiner of April 5, 2022

In two parts, this week and next I reflect on Tynwald from 1985/86.

In March 1985 following the death in office of Arthur Quinney Bernie May was elected aged 43 to the House of Keys for North Douglas.

In April 1985 Peter Karran, Lionel Morrey and myself were elected to fill vacancies caused by the election to the Legislative Council of Arnold Callin, Norman Radcliffe and Mattie Ward.

Peter was, I think, the youngest member ever elected at age 24.

Sir Charles Kerruish had been elected in 1946 aged 29 and I took my seat aged 31.

Also in 1985, James Harris Kneale, aged 68 and brother of Victor, was elected in a by election in Garff caused by the election of Edgar Mann to the Legislative Council.

I thought at the time that Tynwald mostly comprised older people. So I took the opportunity to check.

In the Keys Sir Charles in 1985 was 67, Clifford Irving was 70, Victor Kneale was 67, Willie Quirk was 70, Don Maddrell 65 and the members in their 30s were Tony Brown, Charles Faragher, Clare Christian and Allan Bell, in their 40s Noel Cringle, Dominic Delaney, Miles Walker, David Moore, Roger Payne, David Martin, Charles Cain, Adrian Duggan, David Cannan, and in their 50s Walter Gilbey, and Lionel Morrey.

In the Legislative Council Mattie Ward was 72, Arnold Callin 60, Norman Radcliffe 53, Edgar Mann 58, RJG (Ian) Anderson 59, Jack Nivison 75, Eddie Lowey 47, and Betty Hanson 67.

In politics there are often cheap shots taken at those who went before by potential candidates or those elected.

But, looking back now, there is no question in my mind that some of those I served alongside – after being a Douglas town councillor for only about 18 months and then into the House of Keys – included some real political giants.

We need to remember that traditional mass-market tourism had been in decline since the mid to late 1960s and the island had to reinvent itself, as it has had to do several times in the past.

It can’t be said too often in my opinion but in 1985 there were 3,500 people out of work from a lower working population, which was still very seasonal and required winter work schemes for the many unemployed.

It was clear therefore that a sharp focus was required in building an economy in conjunction with both sides of industry and to build reserves, which at that stage were almost non-existent.

Many of the Tynwald members had real-life experiences of the difficult times the island had faced with many people leaving their island home.

So now I am a similar age to those who I worked alongside. I think we were fortunate to be able to call upon this group of people determined to generally work together and put aside differences for the joint aim promoted by the island’s first Chief Minister in 1986, Miles Walker, of a prosperous and caring society.

I believe the inclusion of Manx Labour Party members in his cabinet certainly had a positive influence in relation to fairness and equality, a theme continued to the present day.

Just to finish for this week on this subject to which I will return next week, let’s look at a couple of the more senior members at that time.

Sir Charles Kerruish was an MHK between 1946 and 1990 representing Garff.

He was Speaker between 1962 and 1990, the longest in any Commonwealth country, and President of Tynwald between 1990 and 2000.

Clifford Irving was elected in each Douglas constituency other than South Douglas.

In 1955/56 North Douglas, in 1956/62 West Douglas, in 1966/81 in East Douglas and 1984/86 West Douglas going on to serve as an MLC between 1987 and 1995.

He had a real flair for tourism, including the scheme which achieved media attention far and wide that offered a massive cash prize for the first person to find a mermaid!

Plenty more to follow about the early to mid 1980s members in Tynwald to follow.

.......

Thanks to those readers who contacted me in relation to 60s 70s 80s music following the item last week.

One of my Manx sporting heroes, John Cannell, the six-times Parish Walk winner rightly pointed out that we all have records that remind us of where we were or what we were doing at a particular time.

For John, then representing the Isle of Man in the 1970 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, Mungo Jerry had a big hit with In the Summertime and it evokes memories for him. It sold 800,000 copies in the UK and over a million in the USA, as well as being the number one single in at least 18 countries.

I was at the Games as well, though only in a spectator supporter capacity.

Do you have a favourite DJ from over the years?

Tony Blackburn receives mixed reviews indeed I’m told he played Mungo Jerry on his Sounds of the Sixties show despite it being released in the following decade!

An annoying habit for many is the DJ talking over or cutting short a record.

I’m told Tony has been known to mix up the Seekers and New Seekers!

By contrast John and many others are avid followers of the Chris Williams Carnaby Street sixties show on Manx Radio on a Saturday morning.

Chris and I must get together again sometime soon to do a sixties v seventies show.

Who remembers Stu Lowe and his Golden Oldies show?

Another winner with listeners, always full on action packed get up and dance music just like his discos at The Cave, Lido, down south and elsewhere!

..............

The present most unstable world situation leading to greater inflationary pressures than witnessed in many years is a concern for many.

The extraordinary gas and electricity price increases and in other everyday necessities such as basic foodstuffs on top of the pandemic, which in itself was unprecedented in living memory, are causing distress to many.

From families with young children, those just above the benefit system but by no means in a comfortable position to the squeezed middle of very hard working families all struggling to make ends meet.

Then older folk whose pensions or savings can not possibly keep pace with inflation.

Historically this latter group have been most reluctant to seek assistance. In 2022 we simply should not have people being forced into making decisions about ‘heating or eating’.

A good friend told me that he had witnessed older people counting their pennies to afford ‘close to sell-by date reduced-price food’.

Another example was of a pensioner in a local library where he stayed all day to save on his heating bill.

We have a tradition of a closeknit caring community and in the present situation this could not be more apposite.

Each year at Christmas I have made a call to keep an eye on your neighbours.

At that time loneliness can have an even more detrimental effect than normal. I think the combination of negative factors currently facing the world, and which are felt on our beautiful island, makes such an initiative timely.

If you have older residents who live nearby please try to call past to make sure they are coping. It only takes a few minutes and it is a most worthwhile thing to do.