The 1989 recipient of the Reih Bleeaney Vanannan was the late Constance Radcliffe MBE, who made an enormous contribution to Manx society, as a teacher, writer, historian and musician.
Constance was a native of Ramsey. Her father was Alex Curphey, a coal merchant. Her mother was a Kewin from Maughold and Constance was a first cousin to Sir Charles Kerruish. Constance was educated at Ramsey Grammar School, then Liverpool University before becoming a teacher of Latin and History. She first taught in the north east of England before returning to teach at the Buchan School and Ramsey Grammar.
She was a brilliant scholar who left no stone unturned, whether researching family history or parish records and she was generous with her knowledge, always willing to help others research their Manx roots. With her late husband, Bill, she authored a series of meticulous works chronicling the past: A History of Kirk Maughold, Ramsey and Maughold Place-names and Kirk Bride – A Miscellany. She continued her research and writing after Bill’s death in 1984 and produced Ramsey 1600-1800 followed by Shining by the Sea – Ramsey 1800-1914. It is often said that she could bring the past alive without compromising on accuracy or detail. In addition to her major works, Constance wrote booklets on ‘The Big Snow’ and the history of Ramsey and District Cottage Hospital.
Constance was keen to preserve the Manx dialect and in Heritage Year (1986) brought out a tape recording of the poems of Cushag (Josephine Kermode), Kathleen Faragher, T E Brown, Juan Noa and Hilda Cowin. She was optimistic about the future prospects for Manx culture, remarking: ‘I don’t think we have anything to fear, so long as Manx people and residents pursue it and keep it alive. To me, every year is heritage year.’ Them Oul' Times. Poems by Cushag was published in 1993, making Kermode's work more widely available again.
Outside of teaching and academia, Constance’s interests were wide-ranging. She was accompanist for the Cushag Choir, shared organist duties at Kirk Maughold, was a keen RGS Old Scholar, Citizens Advice counsellor and belonged to the Antiquarian Society and Maughold WI.
Constance received the MBE in 1996 for her contribution to Manx culture and died on 6th January 2004 aged 82. Anne Craine MHK said that she was ‘a remarkable lady’.