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Trafalgar Commemorative Exhibition 'Launched' by Sir Paul Haddacks 26 October 2005

    Manx National Heritage’s new temporary exhibition ‘The True Glory’ was launched in true naval style last Friday, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, by Lieutenant Governor Vice-Admiral Sir Paul Haddacks. Sir Paul inspected the displays which include the uniform, telescope and other artefacts of Manx Trafalgar hero John Quilliam, and declared the exhibition was ‘splendid’. Sir Paul Haddacks

    ‘The True Glory’ examines the part played by Quilliam, the most famous Manxman to have participated in the Battle of Trafalgar, and other Manx seafarers such as Captain William Kelly of HMS Illustrious, who took part in the capture of Cape Town, Thomas Callister, a Manx speaking sailor who as Yeoman of Signals in HMS Captain travelled to the West Indies, and Midshipman Peter Heywood, who after surviving the mutiny on the Bounty went on to have a distinguished naval career. They were among some 3,000 Manxmen and unknown number of Manx women who took part in the wars with revolutionary France.

    The exhibition charts various aspects of naval life in this turbulent era, including the feared press gangs which visited the Isle of Man on several occasions to take men away to serve at sea, often for years at a time. The harshness of shipboard life is reflected in displays covering the food which sailors ate, the punishment which they suffered, including flogging with the dreaded cat o’nine tails, and aspects of naval surgery. A beautiful piece of scrimshaw work testifies to the fact that sailors also had time to idle away whilst not on duty. The sights and sounds of a naval battle are also brought to life alongside an array of weapons which sailors would have used in battle including a cannon, and smaller weapons such as a Blunderbuss, muskets, pistols and swords.

    Rare artefacts on view include a Naval General Service medal, one of only five awarded to Manx sailors for the Battle of Trafalgar, and a dagger belonging to Heywood, who once lived at the Nunnery. The Naval General Service medal was awarded to John Cowle of HMS Temeraire, who was born at Bride. He lost his arm at the Battle of Trafalgar and was thereafter known as ‘Hook’ Cowle. Of the five Naval General Service medals awarded to Manx sailors this is the only one now known to exist and is presently in the ownership of Mr Charles Barkla of Kelso, Scotland, a direct descendant of Cowle. Mr Barkla heard about Manx National Heritage’s appeal for the medal and offered to loan it for the exhibition.

    There is also a case containing fascinating artefacts recovered from HMS Racehorse, built in 1806, which sank after striking rocks off Langness. Parts of a musket, and a beautiful brass belt plate of the Royal Marines are among the objects on show.

    Since opening, the exhibition has attracted a steady stream of visitors keen to discover more about the part played by Manx sailors at Trafalgar and at other naval actions, and about the conditions in which they lived and fought.

    Curator of Social History, Matthew Richardson commented:

    “This exhibition offers a glimpse into the world of Manx sailors in the Napoleonic Wars, from the press gangs which raided the Island to recruit them, to the food which they ate, the weapons which they manned, and the injuries which they sustained. It is chilling, for example, to look at the surgeon’s knives and saw, with which he would have amputated the shattered limbs of men wounded by deadly cannon fire.”

    ‘The True Glory’ can be viewed in the Temporary Exhibition Gallery at the Manx Museum, Douglas, until 1st April 2006. The Manx Museum is part of the award-winning story of Mann and is open Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm. Admission is free.

    26th October 2005

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