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From Paying Guests to Prisoners 27 July 2005

    With the commemorations marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War still very much in our minds, Manx National Heritage has launched a new display at the Manx Museum which explores the history of the internment of women on the Isle of Man from 1940 to 1945.

    Drawing from the rich seam of the National Archives at the Manx Museum, as well as interviews and gathered artefacts, the display concentrates on the impact of female civilian internment at Port Erin and Port St Mary. Its title ‘From Paying Guests to Prisoners’ refers to the transformation of the boarding houses and hotels of the area which were used to accommodate the women, married couples and families.

    Female InterneesManx National Heritage Archivist Wendy Thirkettle explains:

    “Internment was introduced by the British Government as a means of controlling the perceived threat of enemies within the state who might spy for, or have allegiance to, Germany and its allies, and later Japan. For the women who held the wrong citizenship or credentials in the spring of 1940 and the months which followed it meant an enforced stay of up to five years on the Isle of Man”.

    While the voices of the internees and their experiences are very much in evidence, the aim of the display has been to tell a more complete story by also focusing on other people caught up in the process. This has been made easier by dipping into the papers of both a Camp Commandant and Methodist Minister which are held in the National Archives at the Manx Museum. Their photographs and ephemera help to personalise the display panels whilst other evocative material documents the experience of residents of Port St Mary and Port Erin as well as examining the role of the Marine Biological Station.

    Wendy continues:

    “This display will be available for the next sixteen months but it has been mounted to complement the forthcoming packed weekend of events from 5 – 7 August in Port Erin entitled ‘Wire and Wool’. Organised by the Isle of Man Arts Council, the programme has attracted ex-internees who will be returning to their enforced Island home. Manx National Heritage is delighted to support this initiative and members of our staff will be on hand to assist with any enquiries”.

    ‘From Paying Guests to Prisoners’ is to be found at the entrance to the Manx National Heritage Library, Manx Museum, Douglas until the end of December 2005.

    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 of charge.

    27th July 2005

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