taking our culture forward

Frank Cowin RBV is well-known in Manx historical circles for his unbounded knowledge of the Manx landscape and its stories, as well as for his decades of dedication to many of the Island's historical societies, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the Scouts.

The conversation starts with his childhood, growing up a Douglas boarding house on Clarence Terrace. Born in 1935, Frank grew up during the Second World War, surrounded by the internment camps and military training camps of Douglas. Highlights of these years included the entertainments of ‘Saving’s Week’, when they were treated to spectacles such as mock German tanks being blown up on Douglas shore, and his visits to Port Grenaugh to stay amongst friends. He recalls the bonfires lit on the shore to celebrate VE Day in 1945, though his own experience was marred by an unfortunate run-in with an unexploded firework!

With a full scholarship to King William's College, Frank developed an interest in history, with a particular passion initially for architectural history. He soon joined the Isle of Man Antiquarian Society and led his first guided walk around the Chasms at the age of only 16! Inspired and encouraged by friend and Director of the Manx Museum, Basil Megaw, Frank furthered his knowledge of Manx history.

However, it was Frank's involvement with the Scouts which was perhaps most influential in his life at this point, leading to experiences and an approach to life he could not have had otherwise. After his National Service stationed as a ground radar fitter in Germany, he returned to the Island and became a scout leader, which soon had him organising tours and activities around the Island. His research and in-depth knowledge was noticed by the Liverpool University Continuing Education Department, who invited him to deliver courses on various aspects of Manx history. It was during this time, whilst building up his career as a surveyor, that he got involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards and he guided the Isle of Man's first group of young people to their Bronze Awards.

Frank’s interview not only offers a fascinating insight into Douglas and the Isle of Man in the 1930s and ‘40s, as well as some key moments and figures of recent Manx history, but it also gives us a glimpse into the life and passions of one of the most influential figures of Manx historical studies of the past half century.


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  • Interview with Frank Cowin RBV, 26/10/2022