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Port Jack Glen


About the time that the Howstrake Estate Act was to be put before Tynwald, the Douglas Bay Estate company offered two parts of Howstrake as areas of public recreation. One of these was the brows below Sea Cliff Road where the Douglas Bay Apartments now stand, and the other was the marshy ravine which is now Port Jack Glen. This act of philanthropy may have been designed to foster a good corporate image but, as the areas in question were unsuitable for building purposes, this gesture, if such it may have been, was to cost the company little. However, these areas had to be vested in a local authority and the only suitable existing one at that time was the Douglas Town Commissioners, as neither the Onchan Parish, nor the Onchan Village commissioners were incorporated until 1894 and 1895 respectively.

The fact that the ownership of the glen was vested in the Douglas Corporation was to prove a bone of contention over the years. In 1908 a proposal was put to the village commissioners in the hope that a committee consisting of the Governor and of Members of the Keys for Middle be formed to look into the question of ownership. Onchan, naturally enough, resented the lack of control over this part of its administrative area and argued that Douglas was failing to develop or maintain the glen. Douglas countered this with a complaint that the residents of Onchan were using the glen as a dump for their rubbish and stated that it was the responsibility of the Commissioners to put a stop to this. A few years later it was Onchan's turn to keep the animosity going. The complaint was that Douglas was failing to lock the gates of the glen at night, a condition of their ownership, and this was an affront to public decency! In August 1913 the Commissioners brought up the failure of the Douglas Corporation to maintain the fence around the glen. Police Sergeant Cowley reported that, at night time when the glen was supposed to be closed, he had "..found it necessary to shift half a dozen couples out...who if not full of beer were certainly full of love..".

The glen remained in its natural state of undergrowth, gorse and rock. Depositing of rubbish there evidently continued, for in 1935, a bonfire got out of control. The entire glen was ablaze and the fire brigade was required to extinguish it. This incident lead to a complaint that the main's water pressure, for which Douglas was responsible, had been insufficient. Douglas was furious over this criticism and blamed the Onchan fire brigade for connecting their standpipe to a three inch supply rather than to the proper water mains and the result was that the water system was sucked dry by Onchan's fire appliance.

In the 1930s Onchan was granted a 21 year lease of the glen. The Examiner stated in September 1937 that the commissioners had discussed plans for its development and, at about that period, a start was made in landscaping it. Eventually, in 1959, ownership of the glen finally passed to Onchan. In the 1960s, advantage was taken of government sponsored "Winter Work" schemes, designed to alleviate seasonal unemployment, and the glen was transformed into the pleasant, well-tended area that exists today.

In 1992, a fair was held in the glen to celebrate the centenary of the designation of the glen as a place of public recreation. The Onchan Silver Band performed and there were stalls and attractions including a Punch and Judy show. The Mayor of Douglas was present and the "Hundred Years War" with Onchan's neighbour was acknowledged to be ended.