Spending most of my early years growing up in Andreas, I call myself an ‘Andruss’ man, our family moved to the Garey in Lezayre in 1959 when I was 10 years old. I think the early years and the places you explored as a child have the greatest impact on your memories later in life. Fortunately for me they were wonderful days and, as I remember it, long hot summers! (oh for nostalgia). We would go on school walks and I believe that people knew more about nature. The plants and creatures that were to be seen in the fields and hedges also they seemed to be in greater profusion so there was always someone that you could ask questions, for example ‘What’s that tree or that butterfly, that bird?
The flower that prompted my quest turned out to be Kidney Vetch, a short growing plant of the vetch family with yellow flowers and what appears to be ‘fluff’ or numerous hairs in amongst the flowers. This plant always makes me smile when I see it. The actual first flower I identified using the book was Rosebay Willowherb. This was growing alongside the site hut where I was having my lunch following the book purchase; this too gives me a little kick. Every spare moment from then I would be out looking for more flowers and trying to identify them from the pictures in the book. Anyone who has tried this will agree with me that they look very different on the page. This is when I started to visit Mr George Quayle of Lezayre who became my mentor and a very good friend. George was wonderful! Most times he would tell me what it was and also where I had found it. Ballaugh Curragh played an important part at this time as well because it is a haven for a huge number of plant species.
Around this time I also became interested in both photography and Manks Gaelic. The Manks classes were organised by Mr Phil Kelly of Rheynn Cullyn. Regarding photography, it wasn’t long before I started to gather a growing number of flower photographs. They weren’t very good in the early stages, but Mr Dennis Reed, who had a photographic shop in Ramsey, was very helpful and supplied me with lots of useful information. With his tips and ideas I started to get better and better. I started to put together an album and write all the relevant information alongside the picture. It was then, when I wanted to add the Manks names to the photographs, that I found that many of the flowers I had photographed had no Manks names. I decided then that I was going to do something about it.
My starting point was to use D.E.Allen’s book A Flora of the Isle of Man. I put his complete Latin list of plant species from the Island into a computer followed by the English and then the Gaelic. While working at the Museum, where the ‘machinery’ was far more sophisticated I found that there were thirty four A4 pages of Latin names and only twenty seven pages of Gaelic. With help from Dr Philippa Tomlinson from the Curragh who checked the Latin I was able to approach Mr Chris Sheard who works for the Heritage Foundation as a translator and creator of words to fill in the numerous spaces. With his tireless work we were able to go to The Copy Shop in December 2007 and the book A Manks Flora was born.
The book is basically set out in four parts. Each of the first three parts are the language lists, in these, the three separate languages, Manks, English and Latin each take turns of being the first on the list followed by the other two. The final part is a glossary of most of the Gaelic words used to create the names, this is complemented by a pronunciation guide.
In case my use of the spelling of Manks is being questioned. Firstly, ‘Manks’ is the old way that it was spelled, secondly, there is no ‘X’ in the Manks alphabet, and thirdly I am a just plain cussed!!
ISBN 978-0-9558087-0-8 Published in 2007 by Moddey Publications, Kirk Michael £10. This book gives a full list of Gaelic names for the flora of the Isle of Man and is an invaluable guide to finding and pronouncing Manx plant names.