Sites & Stories


Written by Sara Goodwins

Twelve Manx attractions, a short story set in each and twelve sets of factual information.

“The Isle of Man is becoming increasingly involved in aerospace technology and is fifth after China, the US, Russia and India in the race to return to the Moon.”

Sites & Stories, page 90

Visitors to the Isle of Man are often surprised by how much there is to see. With two castles – one is obviously a spare – the oldest parliament in the world, a wildlife park, the world's biggest working waterwheel, Britain's first living museum, etc., the choice, if not quite endless, is at least very varied.

But with its historical richness, the island, as befits its Celtic heritage, also has a wealth of folklore. Manannan, the old sea god, covers Mann in his cloak of mist to hide it from his enemies. St Trinians Church is still roofless after 300 years of being haunted by a grumpy buggane. The little people are still acknowledged by drivers over Fairy Bridge on the A5.

We decided to celebrate two aspects of Manx culture in one book. Each of the twelve chapters covers a different attraction around the island. Some, such as Castle Rushen, the Douglas Corporation Horse Trams, Peel Castle and Cregneash are well known. Some such as The Braaid, the Great Union Camera Obscura, The Grove and the Milner Tower are perhaps less familiar.

Facts and illustrations about the individual attractions sit alongside a short story set in each. The fiction is accurate as regards place although, as it includes murder, haunting, and a visit from a UFO, perhaps less accurate regarding events. Or perhaps not…?

So, if you prefer fact or fiction or read a little of both, there is something here for everyone. We hope you like the result.

Titles are funny things

Some titles spring up ready-made, but some are more elusive. We had terrible trouble with this one.

We wanted the title to reflect the two halves of the book. The idea is easy to understand, but surprisingly difficult to describe. Each chapter is devoted to a different Manx attraction, with the first half fiction and the second half fact. But we couldn't find a title which summed up the idea.

Three alternatives have appeared on our website at different times. We started off with 'Thereby Hangs a Tale' but soon got rid of that one; it raised more questions than it answered. Then we thought of 'Fact and Fantasy' but fantasy in fiction terms usually conjures up the idea of wizards, werewolves or talking planets. One or two of the stories might fall into that category but by no means all of them. Eventually, we plumped for Sites & Stories which at least has the benefit of being accurately descriptive.

Still, we're not alone. Scott Fitzgerald toyed with a number of titles, including 'Under the Red, White and Blue' before his famous book became The Great Gatsby. Joseph Heller's Catch 22 started life as 'Catch 18'. And T.S. Eliott seriously suggested The Waste Land, should use a quotation from Our Mutual Friend as its title. His famous poem wouldn't have had nearly the same gravitas entitled 'He Do the Police in Different Voices'.

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