The Isle of Man: A Trip to 1950s Ellan Vannin in Stereoscopic 3D

A Brief Recap on VistaScreen

Ellan Vannin, the native Manx for the Isle of Man, is the subject of today’s post. And VistaScreen‘s primary photographer, Stanley Long, provides the stereographic photos. While for those of you who regularly read this blog (and don’t just skip to the pictures) it will come as no surprise that this little upstart Anglocentric stereography outfit is our purveyor today, for those that are new, here’s a quick guide:

Long and the Spring Brothers founded VistaScreen in 1956 to focus primarily on British topics. The Isle of Man, of course, is not British, but it also wasn’t a long journey. Long, not only a part-owner, but a lazy dude in general, didn’t like to travel far. So it’s a bit surprising that this set counted among the first 20 sets produced by the company. This is Series 32 – placing it within those 20 sets, numbered 20-39. What – if anything – constitutes Series 1-19 seems to be lost to time.

So we’re going to see something surprising about the Isle of Man stereoviews. They’re pretty darn good by Stanley Long standards! Long would later take completely half-assed series like “Dogs” and “London Zoo“. He’d go on to create fascinating but architecturally terrible series like “Blue Grotto Aquarium“. And of course, he made many series on boring topics that are only interesting from a historical perspective – I’m looking at Heathrow Airport here. But today’s views are genuinely well-taken – as if Long actually spent some time with his subject. Perhaps there was more of a drive to make the first 20 series great; the other that we’ve looked at – “Locomotives” – was also awesome.

Ellan Vannin – The Isle of Man

A Brief History of the Island to 1765

Humans have lived on the Isle of Man for at least 8,000 years. However, it was not until the 5th century of the common era that Manx culture began in earnest. (‘Manx’ as an adjective basically means “relating to the Isle of Man”. ‘Manx’ as a noun refers either to the Gaelic language which we’ll get to presently, or to the people of the island collectively.) For a few centuries, Ellan Vannin was captured by Norway, before it was ceded to Scotland. It changed hands between England and Scotland more times than a football in a match played by tots.

The Isle of Man eventually fell into private hands; it became a large fiefdom of the Atholl family. However, it was largely self-governed. And to the more entrepreneurial Manxmen of the day, it was a treasure trove. The island became a haven for pirates and smugglers – according to the British. However, the Manxmen saw what they were doing – namely, charging Manx customs to ships which docked at its ports, and then exporting the goods on a merchant-by-merchant basis – as simple common-sense commerce. Finally, the British were fed up. The island was officially “revested” into the Kingdom of Great Britain by the Revestment Act 1765.

The Status of the Isle of Man

Many – myself formerly included, until starting to research this post – are under the misapprehension that the Isle of Man is a part of Britain, much like the Isle of Wight. It is not; it is a dependency, like the Channel Islands. However, unlike the Channel Islands, it is part of the EU customs and VAT area. Since the EU didn’t exist in the 1950s, however, we won’t get into the Isle’s EU designation nor potential Brexit repercussions. In any case, while its defense is the responsibility of the United Kingdom, it is self-governed.

The Tynwald & Politics on the Island

While Queen Elizabeth bears the somewhat odd (given that she’s a Lady) title “Lord of Mann”, the Tynwald holds the real power over the affairs of Ellan Vannin. The Tynwald is the oldest continuous parliamentary body in the world. It’s also one of the coolest, just from the few hours I’ve spent reading about it. It consists of two bodies: The House of Keys (HoK), akin to the House of Commons in that it’s directly elected, and the Legislative Council, which is more like the House of Lords. While there are two political parties on the island, they hold very little sway. The Liberal Vannin party holds two seats in the HoK, and the Manx Labour party hold one on the Legislative Council. Everybody else is independent. People vote for other peoples’ ideas – not their party affiliations.

Since this isn’t a political blog, I’m not going to go too heavy on politics, but here are just a few ways that the Isle of Man has a better political system than most countries I can think of. The voting age is 16, and any citizen may vote. Ellan Vannin was the first place on Earth where women could vote in national elections – in 1881. To run for office, you must have established residence on the island for a minimum of three years.

The population of Ellan Vannin is 84,287 – or half the population of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. However, in 2016, there were no murders on the Isle of Man, as opposed to 20 in Crown Heights. They must be doing something right! Perhaps that’s why a survey found the island to be the best place in the British Isles – and 12th best in the world – to live.

Gaelg – Manx Gaelic

To me, one of the most fascinating things about the Isle of Man is that its native tongue is a zombie language that grew out of Primitive Irish, and has been continuously spoken since around the 5th century of the common era. And it’s on the rise. Manx – or Gaelg within the language – saw its last native speaker die in 1974. One of the three Goidelic languages to split out of the Celtic pathway, Manx almost died out – but for the Manxpeople’s stubbornness.

While Irish and Scottish Gaelic have continually been taught between generations for over a millennium, Manx almost died completely. It was declared a dead language by UNESCO as recently as 2009 – despite the fact that over 1,000 Manx speak it as a second language, and it is still taught in schools. Today, it’s becoming downright trendy, partly due to social media. (This disproves my theory that social media like Facebook is pretty much good for nothing.) There are now two weekly broadcasts entirely in Manx on the radio. The only analogue I can even think of for a zombie language like this is Caló, an Iberian Romani hybrid language that has seen a resurgence amongst Spanish and Portuguese Romani.

I know, I know, enough information, let’s get to the 3D photographs

While I could go on with cool things to say about the Isle of Man, I’ll save those for the other two VistaScreen sets captured on the island. (Knowing Stanley Long, they were likely captured on the same trip – though they are also both of good quality. Perhaps he spent a whole weekend? I don’t think the man was capable of producing three nice sets in a day.) Suffice it to say that these are better than many VistaScreen series that were shot later. They, in combination with spending the better part of the day researching the Isle of Man (I’d planned on spending 2 hours max, but kept getting sucked in) really make me want to visit Ellan Vannin. Hopefully, one day I will. And hopefully, you find these as enjoyable as I did.


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: