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The Laair Vane Mystery

Fri, 03 Jan 2020

A mystery remains unsolved from the traditional Manx Christmas celebrations this year:

Who was the Laair Vane?

This white horse, with papier-mâché head and a body covered in a white sheet, was seen a number of times at Manx events in December, but it remains unknown who was behind it.

James Franklin of Culture Vannin says:

“We have no idea who it was, but this appearance of the Laair Vane is the return of an anarchic and wonderful part of the traditional Manx Christmas.”

Records dating hundreds of years describe festive meals being interrupted by this ‘White Mare’ – as the Manx translates. It would snap its jaws at the guests and cause a playful ruckus until it was chased out.

This was how it made its surprise appeared on the streets of both Ramsey and Douglas this year.

The Laair Vane (or 'Laare Vane' as it is in the historical accounts) first appeared at the Ramsey performance of the White Boys, a 200-year-old play about saints fighting, dying and being resurrected to dance and sing. The horse surprised actors and audience alike by trotting into the play after the concluding sword dance.

The Laair Vane grew more confident by the Douglas performance, where it trotted in to sniff at the actors as they played dead saints strewn on the ground. Perhaps the biggest laugh of the performance came when one unfortunate person was caught unaware by the horse and let out a loud scream which had actors and audience laughing alike.

The Laair Vane was also seen at Hunt the Wren in Ramsey, where it cantered around the dancers.

On both occasions the horse appeared unannounced and disappeared without warning, not speaking to anyone.

James Franklin says:

“It is marvellous that someone has decided to revive this Manx tradition. They appeared to have great fun with it and we hope that we will get a chance to see them again next year, whoever they are!”