On Monday this week we celebrated Tynwald Day here on the Isle of Man and this year was particularly special because Her Royal Highness Princess Anne came as guest of honour to preside over the Ceremony, which attracted a large crowd to St. John’s.
Despite the cloudy weather forecast for early on Monday morning, the weather was actually perfect for the open air service. For those that are not familiar with our Tynwald Day proceedings, it is the Isle of Man’s National Day on the 5th July each year and members of the Manx Parliament gather on Tynwald Hill in St. John’s, in order to publicly proclaim the laws both in Manx Gaelic and English.
Basically, any new laws that have received Royal Assent need to be promulgated on Tynwald Day, and if any Act of Tynwald is not promulgated within 18 months of passage then it ceases to have effect.
There was also a hint of sadness for me personally in respect of this year’s celebration, but more on this very special Tynwald Day in a moment….
As for my own activities this week – I think this is only the second or third time in this administration that I just feel absolutely physically and mentally exhausted at the moment, and I am desperately looking to take a couple of days off to recharge the batteries before the House of Keys election campaign really kicks in.
I know from speaking to a number of Tynwald colleagues they feel the same at the moment, and I guess that same feeling is being felt across the island. All of that said, we should never forget that many families and businesses are still under extreme financial pressure, anxiety and concern for the future, which is just one of those long lasting legacies from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Anyway, as for the weekend it was somewhat of a rollercoaster ride as we should have been welcoming my younger brother and his family to the island on Saturday lunchtime. This would have been my brother’s first trip back home for 19 years, and his three children have never actually been to the island.
Ellen and I were very excited that our two nieces (13 and 9) were given special permission this year from the President of Tynwald, in order for them to take part in the Tynwald Day celebrations. Although the girls have never been to the island they have been researching Tynwald Day, the Manx Parliament and the Isle of Man for a few weeks now.
However, before travelling to the Isle of Man the family undertook several lateral flow tests, which were giving mixed results. Just to be 100% sure they had Covid-19 tests done in the UK. Unfortunately one of them came back positive, and the result was only received an hour or so before they were due to jump in a taxi at 8am on Saturday, which was heartbreaking news for the family.
Unfortunately, most flights to the island on Saturday were also delayed, so even if they had made their scheduled flight, they might have missed their Covid-19 tests at the Grandstand on Saturday afternoon….
It really was an unlucky chain of events, especially when this is the second time that this trip had been re-organised. Let’s hope it will be third time lucky next year, even if doesn’t include Tynwald Day.
This suddenly meant that our weekend opened up, so Ellen and I headed to Cycle 360 for breakfast on Saturday morning, and it was good to meet with our very good friend Lisa, who had a similar idea before doing some shopping.
Just time to grab some shopping ourselves before I headed into Onchan village towards 11am to support the “20mph is enough” campaign, which is being led by a group of concerned residents, which has the full support of both Onchan MHKs.
I know the Department of Infrastructure is already working on a project to introduce a default speed limit of 20mph in residential areas, but the main concern is the road through the village, along with the crossing points near the Commissioners office and on the Whitebridge Road.
Unfortunately, the traffic going through the village continues to increase year on year and far too many people are not stopping at the crossing points, which is a serious concern and a risk to life. Hopefully, the Onchan MHKs, the support group and DOI can find a suitable solution, but a simple solution is for all drivers to be more mindful when approaching the crossing points in and around Onchan.
As for the rest of Saturday it was spent working on various projects and trying to get on top of department work. On Sunday most of the morning was spent at the kitchen table working on the election, which was just frustrating because I couldn’t get anything to work.
On Sunday afternoon it was the Tynwald Garden Party, but we had already given our apologies because we were hoping to spend time with the family. However, in the end we headed up the hill to the Abbeylands Chapel just behind our cottage, in order to take part in a very special service of celebration for Olive Dobson who has been playing the harmonium for services at Abbeylands for 80 years, which is unbelievable.
Olive has also done 50 years playing the organ at the Onchan Methodist Church each Sunday. The small Chapel was packed for a wonderful service in celebration of a truly remarkable lady.
A big thank you to Marion, Keith and the other volunteers for all the organising and for the fabulous refreshments after the service – they definitely bake the best cakes…..
Monday was all about Tynwald Day, which was delayed by an hour in order for Her Royal Highness Princess Anne to attend. With my nieces unable to travel to this year’s event, my mum and her friend Marie joined Ellen and me.
This meant that we arrived in St. John’s for around 10.15am, which gave me an opportunity to take a walk up to the Tynwald Hill and to catch up with a few friends and colleagues etc.
We had to be in the robing room for 11.15am and at 11.40am there was a minute’s silent before Her Royal Highness Princess Anne was introduced to Members of the House Keys, Legislative Council Members and other guests, which included a very light handshake for each member and brief conversation.
From there it was a short procession to the Royal Chapel for the service, which I have always enjoyed, especially the hymns that raise the roof. Once the service finished the Superintendent of the Police called members forward for the procession to Tynwald Hill, which also include a moment’s pause near the War Memorial, in order to form a guard of honour together with the Band of the Royal Air Force College for Her Royal Highness to pass through.
This was followed by a short service on Tynwald Hill to the promulgate laws, which I have already mentioned. Back to the Royal Chapel for a sitting of Tynwald in order to do the Captioning of the Acts before the formal photograph outside with the Princess Royal.
This year’s Tynwald Day ceremony finished for around 14.15, which gave us time to look around the fair and some other activities happening on St John’s fairfield. We finally got home just before 16.00, but we only had enough time to get changed before heading to Government House for “Beating Retreat” in which Her Royal Highness received the general salute from the RAF band.
Again, the weather was perfect and the RAF band were simply fantastic. At 19.00 we left Government House, in order to drive down to the Villa Marina for the President’s Dinner. A lovely event, which comprised dinner and various speeches from the President, the Speaker and the Guests. We finally got home for around 23.30 after a very long and emotional day in many ways.
I say an emotional day because we know that we will be saying farewell to the Governor, the President, the Chief Minister and the Clerk of Tynwald, along with several other Tynwald colleagues.
For those standing for re-election in September, we just don’t know if that was also our final Tynwald Day as members of the Manx Parliament. For me personally I don’t believe there is a greater honour placed upon an island resident than being asked to take a seat in the Royal Chapel on 5th July before walking onto Tynwald Hill on behalf of the island and your constituents.
It really is hard to describe the pride I feel, especially when I am able to share those very special moments with family and friends.
As for Tuesday I was able to stay at home, but it was still a very busy day. Most of the morning was spent trying to catch up on department work and other correspondence, and Tuesday afternoon was spent going through two very heavy agenda packs for the DEFA meetings scheduled for Wednesday.
I also spent a lot of time on the phone especially in the morning to help deal with a number of constituent issues. That said, Ellen and I did manage to get out for a small walk just after lunchtime, which was just the tonic I needed.
As for Wednesday, it was all about DEFA but before those meetings I went into the office shortly after 7am, in order to catch up with other department work, along with continuing to research and review all the work undertaken in the past 12 months as the Children’s Champion before writing to the Chief Minister, in order to give him an update.
Just before 9am I drove down to St. John’s for a very long policy and strategy meeting, which had over 29 items for discussion so no wonder the meeting didn’t actually finish until around 13.30.
Some of the topics discussed included Peel Marina Dredging, Single Use Plastic, King Scallops, Wildlife Act, Dutch Elm Disease and Pest Control. A long meeting, but still a lot of useful discussions on a number of difficult topics.
A short break to grab something to eat before the Department meeting got underway at 14.00, but the agenda was relatively light so I managed to get home for 15.30, which gave me time to catch up with correspondence and a couple of missed phone calls.
I then headed to Ballasalla to play snooker, which started at 18.00 and I managed to get home just after 20.00 in order to watch the semi final of the European Football Championships, which England won 2-1 after extra time.
On Thursday I headed into the office just after 6.30am in order to try and clear my desk before taking a couple of days off over the weekend. A lot of small jobs undertaken just to clear my desk.
At 9.30am I had a meeting with the DfE motorsport team, in order to continue to look at the visual identity of the TT that forms part of a larger review of the event.
From there it was down to the Sea Terminal for a Divisional Waste meeting, which lasted just over an hour. Back to the office to catch up with a couple of missed calls and emails before a further Tynwald members workshop.
The workshop got underway just after 13.00 and again members and officers split into smaller groups, in order to ensure comments and concerns from members were captured.
There were two workshop sessions, the first one looked at any adjustments to the current exit framework, and this included children, international travel, vaccination status, charging and visitors to the island, which includes any cruise ship visitors.
The second session looked at the summer period, which included unrestricted travel, schools returning and any contingency plans. Two very difficult workshops, because each element of the discussion has a serious effect on different sections of our society, which makes these decisions so difficult.
I was able to leave the office just after 15.30, but once home I started to put together around 250 letters that I wanted to send out before the weekend. I was still working at 20.00, but I actually took my final call at around 21.45, which was with the DOI Minister, Tim Baker, MHK as we discussed a number of issues.
As for Friday, I was looking to take the day off but it didn’t really go to plan. I was up from 6.30am putting together the final few letters, which will go out to 250 constituents over the weekend, which forms part of my House of Keys General Election campaign.
Just after 9.30am I needed to call into the garage for a quick repair, the post office to deliver the letters and into Office World to purchase an office desk. Once home I still had a lot of work to get through and just after 13.00 I needed to go into the office, in order to finish off the letter to the Chef Minister in respect of my Children’s Champion role.
I was able to take a couple of hours off in the afternoon, in order to cut the grass and get a few other jobs done at the house.
On Friday evening there was a farewell reception at 18.30 for His Excellency Sir Richard and Lady Gozney in the Barrool Suite at the Tynwald Building before they leave the island next month.
Just before finishing, I have to mention the new bronze sculpture on Douglas Promenade, which features Maurice, Barry and Robin better known as the Bee Gees. Some people have already criticised the cost, which is around £170,000 but I personally think it will be a great addition to the promenade.
As for Covid-19, we currently have 71 active cases on the island but fortunately no cases in hospital.