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Interview with Gordon Cottier about Rushen Abbey as a tourist attraction

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Date(s): January 1998

Scope & Content: Gordon Elsworth Cottier talks to John Beckerson about his memories of Rushen Abbey as a tourism attraction. He talks about his schooldays watching tourists arriving by coach and how he made a chart of the details of all the coaches; how the abbey opened for season at Whit with a church fete; how he learned to dance as a young man on the open air dance floor where Harry Wood’s band played; up to 40 coaches parked outside; Belle Queen Hotel, Port St Mary hiring bicycles for tourists to cycle to the abbey; popular employment and courting venue for locals; Navy station huts during the Second World War; Shimmin’s Gardens and Silverdale; tourism declining when continental holidays started in the 1960s.

Gordon mentions that he started work at the abbey in the late 1970s when the garden centre there was owned by Mr Noble and the manager was Ron Kelly. He talks about people who worked at the garden centre; Abbot’s Inn; how the last café was built on the old dance floor and Abbot’s Inn became The Academy; remembers behind the Tower a grave open for display and the coffin with a glass lid (skeleton supposedly of a Manx king); the other tower had a sign listing all the Manx kings and the museum was in the old Abbey Guest House; visitor book signed by King Haaken of Norway; strawberries and cream and teas at the Vinery where they sold grapes; early 1950s when there was a turnstile and a kiosk where Esther Bridson worked; putting green, peacock pens, bowling green, jam shed, office, coach house, Vinery, aviary, flowers and fruit trees, souvenir kiosk, café, dance floor; smell of jam making.

He tells an amusing story about a rumour they used to put turnips in the jam; how when water pipe went through Abbey wall it was rumoured that a dentist took teeth out of skulls unearthed during pipe laying. Other stories, including about Alma Oates and staff, the Davisons, the Inces and Cyril Kinvig, the Simcocks who ran the abbey, William Cubbon. He describes jam factory built at Exhibition at Belle Vue; Tommy Crellin and the gardeners; how people used to dodge in under the fence to pick gooseberries; price was sixpence entry and threepence for children including all the attractions; Lhon Dhoo choir singing at the abbey; and what a peaceful place it was to sit.

Administration / Biographical History: Gordon Elsworth Cottier was born 29 September 1936. John Beckerson, researcher, born 1974.

Language: English

Extent: 24 min. 15 sec.

Item name: cassette tape

Collection: Sound Archive

Level: ITEM

ID number: SA 0414

Access conditions: All reasonable attempt has been made by Manx National Heritage to trace and request permission (where needed) from the copyright holder(s) in this sound recording. If however you think you are a rights holder then please contact Manx National Heritage.

Subject tags : #UOSH


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