Celtic Culture & heritage

Interview with John Callow on Illiam Dhône

We put the following questions about Manx nationalist and political martyr Illiam Dhône to acclaimed historian John Callow. For more information on Illiam Dhône and the historical context in which he lived, read our introduction to Illiam Dhône.

1. Why do you think Illiam Dhône took the actions that he did and which eventually led to his execution?

John Callow on Hango Hill, where Illiam Dhône was shot

The English Civil War (1642–1651) had placed enormous strains upon the Manx economy and society. The island had been militarised to an unprecedented degree, with the creation of new state of the art artillery forts and gunpowder mills. Conscription was used for these building projects and for sustaining the Earl of Derby's war effort. In addition, the Earl had sought to overturn inheritance law, limit farm leases, and re-assert the centralised control of Stanley authority in almost every aspect of Manx life. The balance between lord and tenant was dramatically redrawn on the Isle, in favour of the rich and the powerful.

It was no surprise, therefore, that there was discontent: or that a rebellion had been attempted before, in 1643. What was surprising, not least to the Stanleys, themselves, was that the rising of 1651 was led by one of their own clients. However, it really shouldn’t surprise us that Illiam Dhône was moved to act in the good of his island home.

He knew full well what could happen to a native Gaelic society when it was visited by English invasion. Tales of (and refugees from) Ireland at the time of both the massacres of 1640 and the Cromwellian conquest of 1649 would have been the source of frightening rumours and first-hand accounts of the cultural and physical devastation wrought by the total collapse of Charles I's government.

Biography of John Callow

John Callow at Manx Quaker burial ground

John Callow is a writer, screenwriter, and historian, specialising in Seventeenth Century politics and popular culture. He is the author of 9 books including: 'The Making of James II' (2000), 'Witchcraft and Magic in Sixteenth and Seventeenth Europe' (co-author with Geoffrey Scarre 2001), 'King in Exile' (2004) and 'James II -The Triumph and the Tragedy' (2005), 'Change the World' (2010), 'The Art of Revolution' (2011), and 'GMB at Work - The story behind the Union' (2012). He is working on a new cultural history of witchcraft, 'Embracing the Darkness' to be published in 2013 by I.B. Tauris.

John is of Manx descent and alongside his books he is the author of the article 'The Limits of Indemnity: Sovereignty and Restribution at the Trial of William Christian (Illiam Dhone)' (Seventeenth Century, vol.XV. no.2) and a forthcoming study of Illiam Dhone's work at the heart of Lord Fairfax's administration of the Isle of Man, 1652-60. He has appeared in numerous television programmes, including 'Find My Past' and the 'One Show'.

Biography of Peter Berresford Ellis

Peter Tremayne

Peter Berresford Ellis, Celtic historian and novelist, author of the international bestselling Sister Fidelma historical mysteries under his pseudonym of Peter Tremayne, became a prominent advocate of Pan-Celticism in the 1960s. He joined the Celtic League in 1966. Born in Coventry, Warwickshire, in 1943, he was the son of an Irish journalist. While his mother's paternal family were an old English one, her mother was of a Breton family. "With Irish, Breton, Welsh and Scots uncles and aunts as well as the English, what else could I do but be interested in the Celts?" he has often quipped.

Leaving College Peter went into journalism, and eventually helped Brendan Mac Lua (1935-2009) launch the Irish Post newspaper in Britain in 1970. Peter was deputy editor. He later became editor of weekly magazine in London before returning to higher education. As well as a first class honours degree in Celtic Studies, a master's degree in the same subject, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. In 1987 he received an Irish Post Award in recognition of his work.

The same year was inaugurated a Bard of the Cornish Gorsedd mainly for his ground breaking work The Cornish Language and its Literature (Routledge, Kegan Paul, 1974) which was used for many years as a text book for the Cornish Language Board.  He took the Bardic name of Gwas-an-Geltyon (Servant of the Celts).

Owain Glyndŵr

Owain Glyndŵr (c.1349-c.1416) was the leader of a Welsh revolt against English rule between 1400 and 1409. Years of attempts to subordinate the Welsh to the English crown and harsh rule had created a climate ripe for popular revolt.  Owain Glyndŵr was well placed to lead this rebellion. He was charismatic and directly descended from Welsh aristocracy and royalty.

Owain Glyndŵr's dispute with his neighbour Lord Grey of Ruthin, a close ally of Henry IV, sparked the revolt. After Owain Glyndŵr’s attack on Ruthin and other towns in north Wales Henry led an army into Wales and Glyndŵr’s lands were confiscated.  Owain Glyndŵr and his forces embarked on a successful campaign of guerrilla warfare which developed into conventional battles. As he started to score ever more impressive victories Owain Glyndŵr’s fame spread throughout Wales. He drew increasing support from the Welsh eager to throw off the yoke of English rule.

Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival 2012

Manx Food Theatre

Be environmentally friendly, buy local and support Manx farmers and food producers. That was the clear message that came from the Isle of Man Food and Drink Festival held at Knockaloe Farm on the Isle of Man on the weekend of 22nd and 23rd September 2012.

The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849 by Cecil Woodham-Smith

Famine Memorial Dublin

The horror of what is casually referred to as the "Potato Famine" is meticulously chronicled in the superb and immensely readable "The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849", by Cecil Woodham-Smith. The first paragraph sets the tone: "At the beginning of 1845, the state of Ireland was as it had been for nearly seven hundred years, a source of grave anxiety to England. Ireland had first been invaded in 1169; it was now 1845 yet she had been neither assimilated nor subdued. The country had been invaded not once but several times, the land had been conquered and redistributed over and over again, the population had been brought to the verge of extinction – after Cromwell's conquest and settlement only some half million Irish survived - yet an Irish nation still existed, separate, numerous and hostile."

Yn Chruinnaght 2012 - Celtic festival

Watch highlights of this year's Yn Chriunnnaght - the eight day Celtic festival on Isle of Man. Artists came from all the Celtic nations and beyond, including such internationally renowned artists as Rua Macmillan from Scotland and Forzh Penaos from Brittany. Performances were held at venues across the island, both inside and out.

Tynwald Day 2012

Transceltic.com's Alastair Kneale reports from Tynwald Day 2012 with a series of short videos. We hope they give you a flavour of some of the Tynwald Day festivities. This is our first attempt at making videos for the site. We hope you enjoy watching! All the videos are also available on our new YouTube Channel "transceltic", to which you can subscribe.

Review of War Horse

The release of Steven Spielberg's film 'War Horse', based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo of the same name has met with worldwide acclaim. This follows the stunning theatre success in London and Broadway where it won five Tony's. War Horse has been nominated for Best Picture in the 2012 Academy Awards.

The First World War is the setting for this story of loyalty between a young conscript and his horse. It brings to mind the importance of remembering the men and women who have fought and died in war, but also the brave and vital efforts of the animals that served alongside them. In the First World War, while ten million men perished, the death rate amongst warhorses was proportionately higher with some eight million killed on all sides. Countless mules and donkeys also perished. Only sixty thousand of the one million horses sent from Britain to France returned. Many suffered horrific deaths from wounds, thirst, starvation, disease, exposure and exhaustion. All participants in the War used animals, including Cavalry Units from Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States of America.


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