Misty-eyed: An Island Sheep Farmer

The UK might well be one of the richest, most developed countries in the world, but that doesn’t mean that we as a country don’t still struggle with our health.

Despite the NHS being one of the largest organisations in the world, employing some 1.3 million people, there are still many isolated, rural parts of the country, where our healthcare system can’t quite reach.

Since 2010, there has been an agreement in place between the Isle of Man Health Service and the National Health Service granting reciprocal, free healthcare to all residents that fall ill whilst visiting the other’s country.

Before this time, healthcare was a little more limited on the island.

Until 1907, there was only one hospital on the entire island. At the time, with 56,000 people living on the island, the need for a separate facility in the Northern section of the island was desperate, however the island required substantial funds to make this a reality.

These funds would eventually be found, but in rather tragic circumstances. The Ramsey Cottage Hospital, consisting of 10 beds and 2 cots, opened in 1907 funded with money from the Trustees of HB Nobel’s Estate after the death of a four-year old child, who died from appendicitis whilst making the trip to the Southern Noble’s Hospital from Ballaugh – a 15 mile distance, no doubt made more more difficult without the use of automobiles. Even with both hospitals modernised and complete, inhabitants of the Isle of Man still struggle to reach the healthcare services that they need today.

Jeffrey Folkestone is a dairy farmer on the Isle of Man, where he grazes his micro-herd of 30 Ayrshire cattle over 50-acres of rugged, yet fertile, land.

Jeffrey (or Jeff to his mates down The Railway Inn) has been living on the Isle of Man since he was a baby. An evacuee from the bombings of World War II, both of his parents were lost during the conflict, making the Isle of Man the only home that he has ever known. Raised by foster parents (the dairy farmers who he inherited the land from), Jeff hasn’t left the island since he was brought there by ferry in the hectic midst of 1944, as such he’s become something of a local legend.

Around 83,000 people call the Isle of Man home today, a number that was a lot smaller when Jeff first made his dramatic entrance to what has been his home for over 70 years:

“Back then, things were a lot different. Island life was much more rural and idyllic as it is today. Tourists visiting today always say how ‘traditional’ everything feels, if only they could have seen how we were living back in the 60s!”

Although Jeff has spent the entirety of his life on the Isle of Man, he’s going to have to leave this year for the first time if he wants to continue to work and live independently. For the last 20 years, Jeff has been living with cataracts. What he assumed was a perfectly natural degeneration of his eyesight, was found by his GP to be two cataract. The progressive clouding of his eye has left him with severely limited eyesight, which has impacted his capabilities as a dairy farmer. Although his family argue that, at the age of 73, he is too old to be working anyway – Jeff has spent his whole life working and wishes to continue.

With his cataract surgery booked in at a private hospital in Liverpool, all the costs that Jeff accrues on the trip over and back will be covered by the Isle of Man government – a token of thanks in return for a lifetime of contributions to the island’s economy.