Colin Jerry

Year: 1991

Colin Jerry

The recipient for the Reih Bleeaney Vanannan in 1991 was Colin Jerry. Colin was a primary schoolteacher, musician and Manx speaker whose contribution to Manx culture was ‘extensive and staggering’.

Colin was born in Sussex and first visited the Isle of Man in the 1940s when his father was stationed at RAF Jurby. His long-held ambition to move here permanently was fulfilled in the late 1960s when he was offered a teaching post on the island. He quickly immersed himself in Island life and made an enormous contribution to Manx music during the forty lives that he lived here. Though his first love was New Orleans Jazz (he played trumpet for some years with the Island’s Garff City Stompers), he had wide musical interests and he and his wife Cristl soon immersed themselves in traditional music. Colin was a founder member of Bwoie Doal ('Blind Boy' - a tribute to blind musician and singer Tom Kermode of Bradda), who were one of the most influential groups in the early days of the revival in the 1970s.

An uillean piper and whistle player, he led sessions at the White House in Peel, and organised visits by Manx musicians to Celtic festivals such as Lowender Peran in Cornwall and Lorient in Brittany.

He was responsible for creating Kiaull yn Theay 1 and 2 (‘Music of the folk’), highly accessible resources which hold transcriptions of songs and tunes from the Clague-Gill manuscripts, Mona Douglas and other sources. These attractive and inexpensive editions are often referred to as ‘the yellow book’ and ‘the red book’ are widely used in all of the Island’s schools, as well as by musicians in many countries. Colin later produced Kiaull Vannin, another excellent source for Manx musicians.

He was a gifted Manx speaker who wrote his own songs and translated many others from English. Together with John Kaneen he produced A Garland for John Clague: A New Book of Old Songs. His own collection of songs (both original and translations) Angels, Soldiers, Lovers and Other Folks appeared in 1993. His stories and writings in Manx appear in publications such as Skeealaght.

After a discussion with Mona Douglas in 1975, Colin founded the group 'Bock Yuan Fannee’ to revive the Mylecharaine’s March dance. The name stuck, and the dance group, now mixed, is still going strong.

Colin's determined stance, as well as his sheer hard work, did much for the flowering and development of traditional music in the Isle of Man. He sadly passed away in December 2008, but his legacy certainly lives on.