Tony Blair is Manx...or perhaps not!
I was a little taken aback last week to see a billboard outside the newsagents in Purt le Moirrey with the headline 'Tony Blair is Manx' on it. Closer examination of the actual article in the paper, however, suggests that the headline should have read, 'Tony Blair isn't Manx'.
I'm not entirely sure, even if it were true, why we would want to advertise this fact but the headline seems to be suggesting that because someone's distant ancestor - and in the case of the former UK Prime minister his link was a Paul Bridson born in 1693 - they might then lay claim to the title, Manx. To be honest Tony Blair may be many things but we can safely say that he's not Manx!
You may also have read recently of the interesting DNA research on the origins of those with 'Manx' surnames'. Just as I feel a little uncomfortable claiming Tony Blair as one of our own (and who wouldn't!) I don't really go in for the Manx DNA thing either. What would it show? A genetic disposition to mull over something for a long period of time, an intrinsic sense that things are bad but likely to get much worse, a deeply embedded capacity to complain about boat travel to and from the Island!
Nope. If Manxness is to mean anything it probably needs to encompass a non-genealogical appreciation of who we are and more importantly a firm awareness of where we are going.
In this sense I'm more in tune with the Scottish poet, Kathleen James, who refers to an inclusive identity in the following way, "come all ye", the country says. "You win me, who take me most to heart".
I'm not as articulate as that but I've always felt that Mannin belongs to those -regardless of genealogy or birth- who feel that sense of belonging; perhaps best illustrated in my opinion by that strange sense of longing and belonging when returning to Mannin on the boat!
Given that Tony Blair is unlikely ever to be on the Ben my Chree sailing from Heysham he'll have to make do with the thought that a very distant ancestor was Manx. Poor Tony but given the isle of Man's often poor international reputation it's probably best that we don't claim him as one of our own anyway.
If you'd like to learn the Manx for, 'Gosh, I didn't know Tony Blair was from Ronague', then we'll be running a 10 week introduction to Manx class on a Saturday afternoon in St Johns from the end of April. Let me know if you're interested.