The Calf of Man (part Two) – a talk by Dessie Robinson

by Bill Quine

Our usual scribe, John Slater, was unfortunately unable to attend this event as he has just returned from the U.K. having undergone heart bypass surgery – we wish you a speedy recovery John, though I personally think this was a rather extreme measure to take in order to avoid our Peel and Foxdale elections; congratulations to our Treasurer Ray Harmer M.H.K. on his success!

Normally John can convey the atmosphere of the audience in the hall onto paper with ease – co-opted to this task at hour zero, I will attempt to put down my own impressions of how I enjoyed the evening – this is an account of my night on the Calf.

Dessie’s soft Manx accent carried me across with the cattle at slack tide, a good strong swim for even the fittest, but I made it and the effort proved worthwhile. The heady smell of honeysuckle and heather as the visions on the slides flashed up before my eyes and Red Admiral and Monarch butterflies fluttered about their chores, together with hosts of industrious bees, who, I was told, fly back and forth across the Sound to the Calf’s pollen rich plants. The Fuchsia – known in Manx as God’s Tears – was a bright image on my retina, as was the wild Cottage Rose and the Orchids, the latter apparently proving a delicacy with both the Loughtans and the rabbits.

Next I explored the many varieties of fauna; birds of all shapes, sizes and colours, a real kaleidoscope which included Owls, Linnets, Hen Harriers, Peregrine Falcons, Kestrels and Cuckoos – there was even a Horned Eagle Owl which Dessie was at pains to explain was not a native but rather had escaped from captivity in Foxdale for a holiday and a rich feed from the Calf’s abundant stocks!  I was pleased to hear of the growing numbers of Manx Shearwaters returning to the island (I believe that these are one of the longest living seabirds, some known to have survived for over fifty years).

I experienced Dessie’s fear of becoming the male ornithologist’s play-pal for his duration on the Island  as they were the only two residents and he was asked one evening to strip to his underpants, and this after being told to lie down and crawl through copious guano to ring Razorbills; his fears were unfounded however as, like Dessie, the ornithologist was a ‘bird fancier’ and only wished to check for ticks and fleas.

Other tales of embarrassment were related but I will not include them here; I would suggest you try to catch one of Dessie’s talks for yourself – Well done Dessie, Good Value!

Our next event will take place on the 21st October, again at the Centenary Centre, starting at 7:30 pm prompt when Andrew Johnson (from MNH and from Peel) will give a talk on ‘Keeils of the Island’ – a popular speaker, ensure you come early.