With Peter Killey unable to come to talk about the history of the IOM Fire Brigade, we were greatly indebted to Pat Skillicorn for stepping into the breach at short notice, and for giving such an interesting talk.
Using her own family history, Pat showed how that fitted into the broader social history and events of the period, and in particular the development of housing in Ballasalla and Janet’s Corner. It gave a really engaging insight into the interplay between wider historical events and the local and personal environment.
During the Second World War, the existing airfield at Ronaldsway was greatly developed as a Fleet Air Arm base, commissioned as HMS Urley. As Pat pointed out, in view of the low profile and low regard in which the Manx language was held at that time, it was perhaps surprising that it should be named for the Manx word for the eagle. In order to accommodate people involved with HMS Urley, Nissen huts were built at Janet’s Corner (where the former cinema building is still maintained as a link with the past) and also at Clagh Vane in Ballasalla.
With the return of soldiers from the war (including Pat’s father from Burma) housing was in short supply. Pat’s family was one of those housed in a Nissen hut in Clagh Vane. She has subsequently followed the development of other housing on the site in Ballasalla – marked by a tree which she planted outside the family’s home (picture below left), and which still grows today alongside more recent developments on the site (and just visible on the left hand side of the picture below right).