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A Momentous Year for Manx National Heritage’s Workshops for Schools 18 May 2007

Tudor TimesBoth Tudor and Victorian periods of the Island’s history were the subjects of a series of Manx School Workshops at Castle Rushen and the Old Grammar School, hosted by the Education Services Department of Manx National Heritage.

The workshops, which were fully subscribed by the Island’s primary schools, were momentous occasions, celebrating exactly 500 years since Lord Thomas Stanley, the Second Earl of Derby, was recorded as visiting the Island in an historic writing known as the Manx Traditionary Ballad. Children attended to act as serfs, or medieval labourers in preparation for Lord Stanley’s visit.

The children were taught a play inspired by the Manx Traditionary Ballad by Castle Jester for the occasion, Julie Anne Denton. Pupils played characters such as The Celtic Sea God Manannan, St. Patrick, Viking invaders led by King Orry and of course the great Lord Stanley himself, who was delighted with the occasion, particularly the entertainment that followed, which included joke tellers, dancers, jugglers, sword swallowers and drum beaters.

The hard-working serfs prepared a banquet of the finest ingredients from the Island: trout pasties with kippers, a capon with sops and sweet meats to follow. All these delicacies were on the table before Lord Stanley began his meal by washing his hands in a carefully prepared bowl of rosewater, before choosing his food tasters to make sure his food was not poisoned.

On this special day a monk from Rushen Abbey visited the castle to talk with the children about the Chronicles of the Kings of Mann and the Isles and how scribes wrote down many things that happened on the Island during the time of the Vikings.

Just a few yards away within another ancient building, the Old Grammar School, pupils from the Island’s Primary Schools went forward some 400 years in time to the Victorian period. The children experienced what life was like in a Victorian classroom, including learning the three “Rs”, whilst being reminded in no uncertain terms of what was expected of them regarding courtesy and manners.

After their lessons and drill the children were rewarded for all their hard work by playing with yo-yos, diabolos and other wooden Victorian toys.

The series of special workshops were the direct result of an ongoing partnership between Manx National Heritage and the Department of Education, who signed a landmark agreement in May 2004 creating a formal co-operation framework between the two government agencies.

Since signing the agreement, four qualified primary school teachers have been seconded by the Department of Education to accommodate the ever-increasing demand for Manx National Heritage school workshops.

Linda Winstanley, a seconded teacher currently working on the Manx National Heritage workshops, said:

“The Manx National Heritage workshops are a refreshing and rewarding experience, but also challenging because you have to make instant judgements and adapt your approach to each class. No two groups are the same and the workshops certainly keep you on your toes!”

Education Services Officer Anthea Young said:

“The series of special workshops at Castle Rushen and the Old Grammar School were fully subscribed by the Island’s Primary Schools and have proven to be a tremendous success. It is fantastic to see the benefits of the positive working relationship between Manx National Heritage and the Department of Education, particularly the seconded teacher programme, which has been extremely successful and indicative of the high standards of quality teaching present on the Isle of Man”.

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