taking our culture forward

From motorbikes and trains, to fairies and mermaids, Bill Quine’s early years in Andreas, Ballaugh and Michael offer a fascinating insight into a unique Manx childhood.

Although his father’s RAF posting meant that Bill was born in Scotland in 1943, he returned to the Isle of Man at the age of two, when his father took up farm work at Knock-e-Dooinney, Andreas. Living at Gat-e-Whing, Bill vividly recalls his great-uncle, who taught him ‘everything about the fairies.’

Indeed, Bill’s earliest memory is of sitting on the brooghs at Rue Point when his uncle went down ‘to talk to the mermaids.’ Three-year-old Bill was amazed when dark shapes swam up to his uncle and seemed to listen to him, before swimming away again…

At the age of four, Bill’s father took a job as a maintenance worker on the Manx Northern Railway, based in turn at both of the two Orrisdale gatehouses. His father’s work along the line is described in detail, including hanging off the sides of Glen Wyllin and Glen Mooar bridges to paint them, and the hated job of unloading coal at Ramsey harbour.

Meanwhile, Bill’s mother had the job of opening and closing the gates for the railway, as well as maintaining the signals for the trains. Fascinating, humorous and tragic stories emerge from this side of his parent’s life.

The TT features strongly in Bill’s early years, with the smell of Castrol R still lingering over his memories from Rhencullen and Bishopscourt. The evocative depictions of early-morning practices and hearing the sounds of the first bikes into Kirk Michael are a treat, though they are weighed against the terrible story of witnessing the death of a rider only yards away from where he sat.

The happy memories of Ballaugh school, and the wonderful Miss Mary Cannell, are retold fondly. Instilled in him at this time was Bill’s life-long connection to Manx culture, particularly through the poetry of Cushag.

The conversation concludes with a number of stories linked to Manx folklore or the mysterious. These include a fairy field with a standing stone, the bloody results of cutting a tramman tree, the Bishopscourt gardener greeted by an angel at his death, and the remarkable account of being visited by his own father a day or so after he had died.

This short interview offers a wealth of insight into the Isle of Man and Manx life 70 years ago.


This interview with Bill Quine was conducted by James Franklin on 14th March 2024.


When you click play on one of the interviews below there will be a slight delay as the audio file is downloaded. Large files or slow internet connections will increase the length of this delay.

  • Bill Quine interview by James Franklin (14 March 2024)

More Photos

  • Tom, Vannin and Bill at Gat-e-Whing
  • John Spencer Quine, Bill's father
  • Margaret Fox Bellingham, Bill's mother
  • Bill Quine on his first day of school
  • Bill Quine at Ballaugh School in c.1951
  • Bill Quine with some of his beloved pets
  • Orrisdale No.1