The Peel Car Turns 50

Sep 11, 2014 by

Long before the Prius or the Smart Car, a small company on the Isle of Man was producing the Peel car, a three-wheeled, energy efficient microcar. 

In the early 1960’s, the Peel Engineering company began making the Peel car, with fiberglass construction—a pioneering use of that material— at a facility near Peel Harbor on the Isle of Man (IOM).  The P50, the first model of the Peel car, rolled out in 1964 , was produced for just a few years, but it is still highly popular with collectors and car fans around the world.


Designed as a city car, the Peel car P50 was advertised as capable of seating “one adult and a shopping bag”.  The vehicle’s only door was on its left side, and equipment included a single windscreen wiper and one headlight. The available colors were Daytona White, Dragon Red, Capri Blue and Sunshine Yellow.  The 1963 model retailed for £199 when new (about £1,400 in 2010, or $2,200 USD).

50 of them were produced, and only 27 of them are known to be still in existence.



The Peel Trident featured a clear bubble top, red or pale blue paint and either two seats or one seat with a detachable shopping basket.   This Peel car was marketed as a “shopping car” and said to get 83 MPG.  Approximately 82 Tridents were produced between 1964 and 1966.  TIME magazine has the Peel Trident on its list of the 50 Worst Cars of All Time, noting

“The Trident is a good example of why all those futuristic bubbletop cars of GM’s Motorama period would never work: The sun would cook you alive under the Plexiglas. We in the car business call the phenomenon “solar gain.” You have to love the heroic name: Trident! More like Doofus on the half-shell.”


Peel car peel trident

1965 Peel Trident, the two seater Peel Car


IOM was once ruled by Vikings and has a unique blend of Celtic and Viking culture, place names and government structure.  Thus, it should come as no surprise that the next Peel car to be made had a Viking name.

The Peel Viking Sport, which was soon renamed the Peel Viking Minisport, debuted in 1966.   About 22 examples are thought to have been built before production ended in 1970, and only seven are believed to still exist.


1964 Peel Car Peel Viking

1964 Peel Viking, a Peel car worthy of Emma Peel


2014 is the 50th anniversary of the intro of the Peel cars and IOM held a big celebration last month.

The Peels to Peel Festival was organized by Peel car owners and enthusiasts in partnership with The Manx Transport Museum:


The IOM post office joined in by issuing a special limited edition stamp depicting the micromini cars.


peel car anniversary stamp

Commemorative stamp set issued in honor of the Peel car’s 50th anniversary


The Peel P50 was and still is street-legal in the UK, as well as the US, surprisingly.  The Manx Peel car still holds the record for world’s smallest production car.

The original company has been out of business for years, but an English company (also called Peel Engineering) began producing replicas in 2011.  That’s right, you can now CUSTOM order your own Peel car–with prices starting at $21,530. Take a look at this little purple number designed for Cadbury’s Joyville campaign:


FYI: the ORIGINAL Peel cars, depending on condition, can command prices of $100,000 and more at auctions.

Too hefty a sum for such a tiny car? Maybe, or perhaps paying that much for a Peel car is just a worthy amount for a rare piece of Manx heritage.

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The Fires of Beltane

Apr 28, 2014 by

Beltane is the ancient Gaelic fire festival of Spring, traditionally observed midway between the Spring equinox and the Summer solstice, and equivalent in importance to the festival of Samhain for the Celts. It was widely observed in some form throughout the Celtic lands, especially in Ireland , Scotland and  the Isle of Man. Both days were times when the veil between this world and the Otherworld, the land of the aos sí , became thin, allowing travel between the two realms. Ritual bonfires were lit for purification of livestock and homes, an all night communal event.  Beltane was also a fertility festival, marking the beginning of the summer planting season and the creation and birth of new plants and animals.

Although most Beltane rituals had died out by the early 20th century, the festival has made a comeback in recent years, especially among Celtic neopagans, Celtic Reconstructionists and Wiccans.





Like Samhain, Beltane ritual involved fire, specifically large bonfires that were sacred and used to purify and protect homes and farm animals. Cattle were driven between two bonfires  or over the embers and smoke as a means of protection from bad fortune and to encourage growth in the coming months. People would walk around the bonfires or jump over them for the same reasons, hoping to to ward off bad spirits and ensure good fortune in the coming season; fire from the ritual bonfires was brought home and used to light new fires in the hearth, with the belief the Beltane fire would purify the home and bring prosperity and good health to the family.





Today, Beltane is usually observed on May 1st each year, although in the ancient world there was no set date for the festival. The ancient Celts held their Beltane rituals when the hawthorn trees began to bloom, or on the full moon nearest that time.  The hawthorn tree held a special place in the lore of Ireland, where farmers would plough around the trees rather than dig them up, for fear of angering the fairies who were thought to live in and under the trees. Legend said that hawthorn flowers could heal a broken heart, but the flowers were never to be brought inside the home because to do so would invite illness, bad luck, even death to enter the house.


Blooming hawthorn tree and spring lamb, County Mayo, Ireland

Blooming hawthorn tree and spring lamb, County Mayo, Ireland


In Scotland, Edinburgh holds a large Beltane Fire Festival every year on Carlton Hill, an event that is more of an arts and music festival than a strict interpretation of the traditional Scottish Bealltainn rituals.  The event is hugely popular, drawing crowds from around the world to watch the arrival of the May Queen and the Green Man, whose dance symbolizes the fertility aspect of the ancient fire fest.



One of my favorite Beltane songs from Scotsman Ian Anderson and his group, Jethro Tull:

Have you ever stood in the April wood
And called the new year in?
And while the phantoms of three thousand years fly
As the dead leaves spin?

There’s a snap in the grass behind your feet
And a tap upon your shoulder
And the thin wind crawls along your neck
It’s just the old God’s getting older

And the kestrel drops like a fall of shot and
The red cloud hanging high a come, a Beltane
A come, a Beltane….

Beltane, Jethro Tull


Lá Bealtaine sona daoibh!  Happy Beltane to All! 

(Irish Gaelic)

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It’s NOT Halloween, it’s Hop-tu-Naa on the Isle of Man

Oct 29, 2013 by

On the Isle of Man, October 31st is celebrated as Hop-tu-Naa, an ancient Manx tradition that predates Halloween. As with Samhain, hop-tu-naa marks the end of the harvest season, the onset of the cold, dark days of winter, and the start of a new year.

Manx Hop-tu-Naa Turnip Lanterns

Manx Hop-tu-Naa Turnip Lanterns

This is old Sauin night; Hop-tu-naa
The moon shines bright; Trol-la-laa…

Shoh shenn oie Houiney
T’an eayst soilshean; Trol-la-laa…

from The Hop-Tu-Naa Song

The name “Hop-tu-Naa” (pronounced hop two nay) is a derivation of the Manx Gaelic phrase  “Shogh ta’n Oie”, meaning “this is the night”.  Like Hogmanay in Scotland, hop-tu-naa is a Celtic festival in honor of the new year,  “Oie Houney”, but the Manx fest has not been moved to January, as has the Scottish fest.  Manx people continue to ring in their Celtic New Year on the eve of October 31st, just before “mee houney”, Manx for November, begins.

Some Manx hop-tu-naa traditions are similar to Halloween customs.  As with American trick or treaters, Manx children today don disguises and happily go door to door in search of sweet treats.  They may also bring along their carved turnip lanterns–pumpkins are a New World luxury that would have been too expensive to purchase, even if available, so turnips(called moots or swedes) became the practical choice for hop-tu-naa revelers about 100 years ago.  I can tell you from personal experience that carving a turnip is MUCH harder than carving a pumpkin, and requires a good deal of commitment to your art.



In the old days, children would sing the Manx Gaelic Hop-tu-Naa Song (see above), as they roamed door to door, seeking apples, salted herring, old coins or other goodies. Sadly, the song is rarely heard sung in Manx these days, but recent efforts to increase Manx Gaelic use throughout the island may give the Hop-tu-Naa Song a rebirth. I searched in vain for a video or sound clip of the song being sung in Manx.

Another musical  hop-tu-naa tradition involves singing a song about a local lady, Jinny the witch, as the children go from house to house. Not to be confused with just any old Halloween witch, this Jinny is unique to the Isle of Man and predates  Halloween by several centuries. She lived  in the town of Braddan and was tried for witchcraft in the early 18th century, for using magic to shut down the local corn mill.  Fortunately for her, local authorities did not have the same zealousness for punishing witches as was seen in 18th century Scotland and America.  Jinny was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment, fined £3 and made to stand at the four market crosses dressed in sackcloth–not fun, but much better than being burned at the stake.



There are numerous versions of the Jinny the Witch song, but a common one has the following lyrics:

Hop-tu-Naa, Tra-la-laa
Jinny the Witch flew over the house
To catch a stick to lather the mouse
Hop-tu-Naa, Tra-la-laa
If you don’t give us something we’ll run away
With the light of the moon.


Here is short video from the Manx Heritage Center in 2011, showing some of the dancing, music and activities traditionally associated with hop-tu-naa–watch for the little guy dancing with a candy cigarette in his mouth:


To learn more about the Isle of Man:

The Isle of Man: Portrait of A Nation, John Grimson, 2010 ISBN-10: 0709081030

Manx Heritage Center

The Folk-Lore of the Isle of Man: Being an Account of its Myths, Legends, Superstitions, Customs & Proverbs(Forgotten Books), A. W. Moore, 1891,
ISBN-10: 1605061832

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The Short Story of the Isle of Man

Oct 8, 2013 by

What a lovely, short book on the history of the Isle of Man!

Sometimes, reading the complete history of a nation seems too daunting to undertake, and the reader either moves on to a less wordy synopsis or skips the history altogether. A. W. Moore, a Manx antiquarian, historian, linguist, folklorist, and former Speaker of the House of Keys in the Isle of Man, was well aware of the lack of enthusiasm shown to lengthy historical tomes, but he also wanted Manx children to know and appreciate their Celtic heritage.


The front cover of 'The Story of the Isle of Man' by A. W. Moore. This book was first published in 1901 as a shorter introductory history of the Isle of Man, in contrast to his two-volume 'History of the Isle of Man' published in 1900. It was meant to function as a school textbook for younger children. This is the front cover of the hard-backed 1902 second impression. Flickr by Manx Literature and Culture

The front cover of ‘The Story of the Isle of Man’ by A. W. Moore. This book was first published in 1901 as a shorter introductory history of the Isle of Man, in contrast to his two-volume ‘History of the Isle of Man’ published in 1900. It was meant to function as a school textbook for younger children. This is the front cover of the hard-backed 1902 second impression.
Flickr by Manx Literature and Culture

Moore’s nationalist pride thus led him to write “The Story of the Isle of Man” in 1901, approximately 150 pages long, as an accessible primer on Manx history that could be used by children and teachers on the Isle of Man.

Born on the Isle of Man in 1853, Moore learned to speak Manx Gaelic(native name Gaelg or Gailck, pronounced [ɡilk] or [ɡilɡ]) at an early age. He studied the language, which British authorities viewed with strong disapproval, collecting vocabulary and tracing its linguistic origins. In 1899, he founded the Manx Language Society and became its first president.

Another, equally strong passion of Moore was the recording and preservation of the lore, history and traditions of the Isle of Man. Concerned about the lack of a comprehensive history for the island, in 1900 Moore wrote “A History of the Isle of Man”, which was published in 1900 in two volumes (reaching 989 pages). This book is still considered the primary text for the history of Isle of Man.

“The Story of the Isle of Man” was published one year later, during Moore’s tenure as Speaker of the House of Keys, the lower house of the Isle of Man legislature. There is a slight political tone to the book, which emphasizes the constitutional and legal aspects of Manx politics as the impetus for its history, rather than key influential individuals, as he had done in his history of the island.
The preface delineates the author’s goal for his book:


What I intend to do in this Book is to tell you
something about the history of the Isle of Man, or
Elian Vannin, as it is called by Manx-speaking
people. I shall try to show you how in ages long
past one race of people after another came across
the sea to settle in our island ; how in time the
descendants of these various races became one people,
the ancestors of the present inhabitants ; how Manx-
men used to live in former times ; and what have been
the most important changes in government, religion,
laws, and social conditions, which our country has
undergone, and by whom these changes were brought
to pass.

Although the history of which I am going to
speak is only the history of a little island, and not
that of a great nation like England or France, it is,
nevertheless, very important to us Manx people,
because this little island is our own country….


The full text of Moore’s book is available for free online:

Because the book has several illustrations, I think it would be worth the effort to track down a vintage copy on Ebay or a used book source, to add to your Celtic library.
If Kindles or tablets are your preference, Amazon has an eBook format, currently under $2, as well as the paperback and hardcover editions:
Google has the eBook format available for free:

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May 2, 2013 by

The Children of Pride , the Adhene: These are the fairies of the Isle of Man – the word means ‘themselves’ in Manx Gaelic. They were easily offended when called by the wrong name or by invoking them; extremely malicious when they thought themselves wronged by humans.

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Mar 30, 2013 by

Illiam Dhône (14 April 1608 – 02 January 1663) was a Manx nationalist and politician who was executed by firing squad at Hango Hill in the Isle of Man on 2nd January 1663. The name Illiam Dhône translates from Manx to English as Brown William the name given to him because of his hair colour. His name in English was William Christian. Illiam Dhône was appointed Receiver General of the Isle of Man in 1648. At the time of the Civil War James Stanley 7th Earl of Derby was a loyalist supporter of King Charles I. In 1651 he left the Island to fight for the English King against the Parliamentary forces. He was captured and his wife Countess Charlotte de la Tremouille hoped to try and negotiate her husband’s release by holding out against the surrender of the Island’s garrisons. However, Illiam Dhône in an act known as the Manx Rebellion gave up her remaining forces to those of Parliament who at the time had besieged the Island. James Stanley had by this time been executed. On the restoration of King Charles II in 1660 the 8th Earl of Derby and only son of James Stanley and Countess Charlotte de la Tremouille returned to the Isle of Man. He accused Illiam Dhône of treason despite the issue of a general pardon granted by Charles II. At his trial many members of the House of Keys who refused to condemn him were replaced by those that would. His execution was carried out on 2 January 1663.

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Mar 27, 2013 by

Snowy sheep on the Isle of Man

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