taking our culture forward

Norma was born in 1941 in Douglas and lived, until the age of seven, on Christian Road in Douglas in the only house on the road that didn't take in visitors. Her father worked for the family removals business which was based around the corner on Princes Street and their lives revolved around that area and especially the Bucks Road Methodist Church that they attended regularly.

Norma has many detailed memories of these early years, of the 'hurdy gurdy' man stopping outside the house to play tunes, of mistaking 'Mount Havelock' for Hell, of a bonfire being built in the middle of Christian Road for bonfire night, of hiding in a cupboard when the air raid siren went off, of a hundred children sitting on stages as high as the ceiling for the Bucks Road Anniversary and the boys folding their hymn sheets and aiming them at the organist below along with making friendships at the Sunday School that have lasted a lifetime.

Later on, Norma went in to teaching, becoming headteacher of the newly built Anagh Coar School where she remained for twenty five years, enjoying the freedom of taking the children out each week in the summer and very much encouraging an interest in Manx history and traditions. Alongside of Annie Kissack, together, they and many other talented teachers put on performances based on Manx stories and folklore. Although living in central Douglas, Norma's grandmother eventually moved in with them, bringing with her many dialect words, stories and 'charms'. Norma's mother was sent to the Colby glen when Norma was just a year old to get garlic to rub on a sty that had appeared on Norma's eye, the sty was cured by the next morning, years later, sweeping the crossroads and rubbing the dust in to her seriously ill mother's legs seemed to start a quick healing process and Norma talks about experiences such as these and how superstitions seemed to sit happily alongside a strong religious faith for many Manx people. Norma's Uncle was the well known poet and head teacher W.T. Quirk and she recalls his 'operettas' which they performed regularly, her memories are vivid and colourful and a delight to listen to. From religious assemblies to a ball of fire rolling in front of her car and over a hedge, an interview of extremes!

This interview was conducted by Katie Newton on 28 September 2020.


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  • Interview with Norma Cowell, 28/09/2020