Last week I went to the Isle of Man for a second time and enjoyed myself thoroughly. Everywhere I went I encountered the distinctive Manx flag: a triskelion of three armoured legs with golden spurs upon a red background.
In my view, the Isle of Man has the second-best flag in the British Isles (after Y Ddraig Goch of course). It is a striking feature for any visitor that comes down to us in heraldic use since the Middle Ages.
Last year, I saw its earliest known use on the medieval churchyard cross, now moved inside the church at Maughold. This is a good example of modern identities and their symbols being rooted in the medieval past, even though the flag itself dates back only to the 1930s.
It is notable to see how it is used in so many touristic but also public contexts to denote identity and affinity to the island. There is also a prominent sculpture across from the Arrivals section of Ronaldsway airport (pictured above).
This use of the treskelion includes graves and other memorial contexts, including the Fairy Bridge discussed in a previous. : a topic for another post methinks!
Then there are those utilised in mortuary environments: I visited the new extension to Maughold cemetery and saw numerous examples of the motif utilised on gravestones. Evidently, and I would suggest far more than other nations in these islands, a flag is going onto graves to connect people to place. Here are a few examples:
Manx flags are not just to be seen on the island; they are to be acquired and taken away.
I bought a Manx flag and a fridge magnet for the family home.
My kids were fascinated by it and I used it as a point of reference to discuss Manx geography, history and culture. More importantly, they wanted to know answers to the following questions:
- How did it walk? My son attempted a demonstration;
- How did it see where it was going? I had no answer and suggested that it just guessed or might knock into stuff a lot: hence the need for armour;
- It has three groins, so how does it pee? In all directions I suggested and the armour would make it more difficult;
- How does it poo? I said I didn’t know, but a colleague has subsequently stated the obvious answer: like poo hitting a fan..