Flitters: A Manx tradition for Good Friday

Thu, 22 Mar 2018

A traditional Manx custom for Good Friday is being revived thanks to a new film recently released online by Culture Vannin.

Similar to other nations, the Manx traditionally marked Good Friday by eating shellfish. But this general tradition has a particular twist on the Isle of Man.

Breakfast on the Island on this day once had to consist of flitters. The popularity of this shellfish (known as ‘limpets’ in England) was phenomenal, as E. Kermode reported in 1885:

“large numbers of both sexes wended their way to the rocky shores and creeks, particularly round the south and west coasts of the Island, for the purpose of gathering flitters.”

The cooking of the flitters was then rather unusual on this day, as no iron could be used at all, out of respect for the nails which were used to nail Jesus to the cross. So, instead of in a pot, the flitters were cooked in their own shells in the embers of the fire.

Online & Educational Resources Officer at Culture Vannin, James Franklin, commented:

“Traditions like this are important in many ways in our Island today. Of course, these sorts of customs connect us to the past and to nature. But perhaps more importantly, it offers us a way to be more Manx; to connect to the Isle of Man and to feel that little bit more connected to the place we call home.”

In order to demonstrate and explain the tradition, Culture Vannin teamed up with Manx Bushcraft and Survival and Food for Free Isle of Man. A film was then made with Ebo, James and John gathering, cooking and enjoying what turned out to be very appetising seafood.

Importantly, the film also shows the trick of how to get the flitters off the rock (with a stick, suddenly!)

The film in available amongst other Manx Year resources online: