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Percy Radcliffe

Epithet: MHK, MLC, farmer and horseman (1916-1991)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: From ‘New Manx Worthies’ (2006):

When Percy Radcliffe was a boy his father moved from Ballamoar to the Kella Farm, Sulby Bridge, which is still in the family. Having worked on the farm, he took over its running shortly after his marriage. Apart from his considerable success as an agriculturist, he became closely involved with outside farming interests, initially as a committee member of the Young Farmers and of the Isle of Man Agricultural Marketing Association, and later as an official of the Farmers' Club and the Royal Manx Agricultural Show. It was during his year as president, in 1962, that his powers of organisation were first subjected to the public gaze. The 'Royal Manx', though it is usually held in August, has had its share of poor weather conditions, but it was generally agreed that the 1962 overnight gale was the worst in living memory. Daybreak revealed that almost every marquee and tent had been blown down but, under Percy's leadership, by opening time all was ready to proceed as normal. Perhaps it was a suitable trial for a coming politician.

In 1963 a vacancy occurred in Ayre, and Percy was returned to the House of Keys in the resulting by-election, retaining the seat at the next three General Elections, following which he was elevated to the Legislative Council in 1981. For two decades he exerted a powerful influence on Manx affairs. Shortly after his arrival in the Keys, he was elected to the Local Government Board, and in 1966 was appointed chairman, a post he was to hold for ten years. The LGB was the supervisory body over all local authorities and their borrowing, water and drainage, public health and safety, milk supplies, rural and urban housing schemes and improvements, fire services and tourist accommodation, indeed a large slice of Island life. Through an act of 1946, the LGB had taken over the duties of the late Development Board, now delegating its responsibilities to one of its subcommittees, styled as the Planning Board. All of this was of the utmost importance in view of the rise in the population, caused partly by the influx of new residents. Appropriate measures had been passed, such as the General Development Act 1965. The government could authorise agreements with developers, including financial and other concessions, and providing for control of certain developments leading to the building of many new houses and the extension of industries, right up to the end of the century. More than anything, the LGB demanded strong and effective leadership. Percy gave it that as he was courageous, firm and very well-informed.

After being in the thick of all this activity, Percy Radcliffe was at the Treasury, as chairman of the Finance Board, from 1976-79 when Manx coins were first manufactured at the Pobjoy Mint. Finally he became chairman of the Executive Council, known as Exco, and therefore chief minister in all but name from 1979 until his retirement in 1985, when he was invested with the CBE.

As a young man Percy took part in local badminton and rifle leagues, but as one brought up when horses were still an integral part of the work on the farm, it was natural that horses of all kinds became his abiding passion. To see him driving a smart horse-and-trap in the harness class round the show field became for many people the highlight of the Royal Manx.

A fortunate encounter with Princess Anne occurred when he was her host on one of her visits to the Island. She expressed disappointment at the absence of a Riding for the Disabled scheme on the Island and, as she boarded a plane at a wet and wind-swept Ronaldsway Airport, she turned around and shouted over the gale, 'Don't forget, Mr Radcliffe, get cracking!' Mr Radcliffe did not forget and did get cracking, gathering together a group of friends, helpers, and like-minded horse-lovers such as Arthur Caley of Bride. From small beginnings at the Kella an organisation was set up, still flourishing at the beginning of the 21st century at the riding school on Ballanard Road near Douglas, in tandem with a related branch at Arthur Caley's farm where twice a week ponies and traps are driven round country lanes. This is partly organised from Radcliffe Villas on Glencrutchery Road, a completely unsought but entirely appropriate memorial to Percy Radcliffe, and now an integral section of the disabled complex at Eastcliffe.

Percy was a resilient character and a firm and adroit negotiator. Short and stocky in stature, he exuded personality with his direct disarming manner and smile; these often helped him to get his own way whatever the obstacles. He died in 1991 after a very painful illness, being nursed at home by his devoted family, and is buried in Lezayre Churchyard.

Biography written by Henley Crowe.

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.404-5.)

Culture Vannin


Gender: Male

Date of birth: 14 November 1916

Date of death: 4 December 1991


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