A society called the Isle of Man History and Antiquarian Society (also known as the Isle of Man Field Naturalists’ and Antiquarian Society) was established in 1868. The group’s objectives included the discussion of natural history matters, excursions to important archaeological sites and presentation of various academic papers. Another significant objective of the society was to form an ‘Insular National Museum in Douglas’ (the Manx Sun, 13 November 1869). The society was managed by a council which consisted of a president, vice president(s), treasurer, secretary and six ‘ordinary’ members. The first president was English geologist Edward William Binney (1812-1881). Further information on this society is limited (it disbanded for reasons unknown), thus additional research is required.
The current Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society (IOMNHAS) was founded in 1879 by a group of like-minded academics on 23 December at 64 Derby Square, Douglas. The group was headed by Philp Moore Callow Kermode (1855-1932), self-taught naturalist and archaeologist. The society’s objective was the advancement of knowledge of natural history and cultural development in the Isle of Man. Members were also encouraged to participate in active field and research work. Officers of the society consisted of a president, vice president, treasurer, secretary, librarian and editor. Its first president was naturalist Edwin Birchall (c.1819-1884) and Philip Moore Callow Kermode (PMCK) was the first secretary. IOMNHAS’s activities consisted of summer excursions and winter meetings where papers relating to the field of study were discussed.
IOMNHAS published various papers on Manx related topics in its own journal, the Transactions of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society 1879 to 1882, Yn Lioor Manninagh (the Manx Book) 1880 to 1906 and the Proceedings of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society 1906 - ongoing. As membership and antiquarian interests increased, pressure was put upon the Isle of Man Government to legally preserve the Island’s antiquities such as crosses, prehistoric monuments, cairns, ruins, tumuli and small movable objects of antiquarian interest. A committee was established, including various IOMNHAS members (such as PMCK); resulting in the Manx Museum and Ancient Monuments Act, 1886. In 1885 PMCK and fellow IOMNHAS member, Revd Ernest Bickersteth Savage (1850-1915) presented Spencer Walpole (1839-1907), Governor of the Island (1882-1893) with a draft act for the preservation of wild birds. By 1887 the Isle of Man Wild Birds Protection Act was established. Good working relations between PMCK and marine biologist Professor William Abbott Herdman (1858-1924), University College, Liverpool helped establish the Port Erin Marine Biological Station in 1892 which went on to become an important centre of marine studies in the British Isles.
A further objective of the society was to witness the establishment of a National Museum, which became a reality in 1922. PMCK was appointed the museum’s first director and over the ensuing century many society members provided the institution with valuable library, antiquity and natural history resources. Presently the IOMNAS remains a popular group with over 500 members. The society continues to expand the Isle of Man’s natural history and antiquarian knowledge.