taking our culture forward

Marion Shimmin: A biographical sketch

Mon, 01 Jul 2019

Despite being the Isle of Man's first female MHK, little of great depth has been written of Marion Shimmin. After meeting with Kate Matthews, Marion Shimmin's Great Grandaughter, we received this short biographical sketch of the politician, adapted by Kate from something written by her aunt, Jannis Shimmin. As it is a biographical sketch of greater length and detail then anything we have come across before, we post it here for others to enjoy and learn from. It is posted with thanks to Kate Matthews:


Marion was born in Manchester in 1879. Her father, Edward James Fallows was an engineer, specialising in industrial machinery and her mother was Caroline Hutchinson who had a special interest in classical music.
Marion was the second of five siblings who all survived into adulthood.
Her father was asked to work in an industrial complex in Russia at Lodz (now in Poland) and the family moved there for 3 years in 1885.
Marion trained and qualified as a music teacher in Manchester and taught for two years in Salford. She joined the Temperance movement as it provided a platform for her growing concerns about the appalling social consequences for families when the main breadwinners often spent their entire wages on alcohol.
She campaigned against what is termed today as domestic violence, and visited slum areas in Manchester and Liverpool seeing and then writing about the squalor and grinding poverty.
Her parents, although not openly against her growing political views, encouraged her to take a musical “break" in Vienna(!), where in 1904 she met Christopher Robert Shimmin.
Her views exactly matched those held by C.R. Shimmin, in fact he had spent time in Liverpool painstakingly reporting and mapping the insanitary slum accommodation for the working classes.
Marion and Christopher married at St Aidans Church, Bamber Bridge, Lancashire on 17th September 1906 and then settled in Peel where she tutored and taught music at the Old Methodist school in Tynwald Road.
They had two sons; John, whose middle name was Fallows, and Ffinlo.
Marion supported and helped to get Christopher Shimmin elected as MHK three times and encouraged him to expose unfair practices against the working people of Peel. Especially injustices which affected women and children; namely food prices, fraudulent weights and measures, education and low wages on the boats.
Her commitment to improve the quality of life for ordinary working people was recognised for, after the death of Christopher in 1933, she herself was elected as MHK for Peel.
This was not a sympathy vote but one which recognised her integrity and strength of character and her determination to try and effect change.
Although softly spoken and soberly dressed her sons spoke of the fun which she brought to the family. She could raise the tempo by lively fiddle music and by playing popular tunes on the piano. Stories of her ability to cut through red tape if necessary were many and various. As an instance, when in 1940 when her son John (Jack) was on leave, he had forgotten that he had promised to collect her and take her to a Tynwald meeting, not wanting to miss any business she jumped in the car and, without any known skills, drove to Douglas. Apparently afterwards she didn’t know what all the fuss was about!
She was enormously proud to be part of Tynwald and took her role as the first woman member very seriously.
She told her sons that she regretted not being Manx and was most knowledgeable about Manx culture and the special historical context of the Isle of Man in the British Isles.