The Change House on St Michael's Mount
Winter months can be very quiet on St Michael's Mount - but this one has been particularly busy for our Change House co-ordinator, Mik. Find out about the history of the Changehouse, it's current use as a hub of communication and the visitors who take refuge in the harbour when the winter storms hit the bay.
Please tell us a bit about yourself and what your role is on the island has been?
I started working on the island in 2007, with my first role being as a volunteer, but after only two shifts I was asked if I would like a part-time job. I started by manning the checkpoint, welcoming people prior to their visit up to the castle. In those early days I also worked in the Island Shop and over in the old Manor Office stores for Shirley, our Retail Manager. I began working in the Change House in 2010, one day a week on a Sunday. In 2014 I left my post at checkpoint and began working part-time in the Change House, which I did until the start of the 2017 season. When Bob, our long-standing island resident and keeper of the Change House, retired I took over the role of Change House coordinator, which I now do Monday to Friday for ten hours a day.
Could you explain to us a little bit about the Changehouse and what its function is?
The Change House has had a varied life! It was once The Sugar Loaf Inn, one of the islands three pubs, and in the days when tin and copper were exported from the island, it was a toll house where traders would pay a fee to bring their product into the harbour to be loaded onto the ships. Nowadays, it is the centre of communication on the island. In the summer months my office can get very busy, from answering the phone and making radio announcements to talking with the public. There were times last season when I had two first aid shouts going on at the same time so being organised is very important. When I’m not working, other people have to fill in and they are all trained to do so by me.
What are the different aspects of your job in the Changehouse on St Michael’s Mount?
My role in the change house is varied, for example, I book contractors, island staff, islanders and official visitors onto transport or ferry boat to and from the island. I am the person who coordinates any first aid shouts, arranging people to attend the incident and sometimes calling 999 to arrange an ambulance - on occasion, this means contacting an air ambulance. I have to make sure any official visitors and contractors sign in to make sure in an emergency we can track them down. I also book stores to come over to the island and sort out all the post which comes across and put that into the relevant post boxes which are located in my office. In the summer, I have the enjoyable job of taking visitors on the village tours, where I discuss the past and present stories of the island.
How have the winter months been so far on the island?
In the winter months life here can get very quiet, with few visitors to the island, however it provides the opportunity for me to write three new village tours for the coming season, and I am also currently writing a new training programme for new and existing Change House staff.
This winter we have a lot of contractors here carrying out essential building work and repairs, such as work on the castle terraces the extension of Island Shop - which is getting a complete refurb. Each contractor needs to be signed in and out in case of any emergency.
The peace and quiet when the causeway is closed is one of my favourite things, the island has a different atmosphere when there is no one else around, and lately, getting into work we have been blessed with the visit of seals which come onto the island just outside the office to rest.
What are the best parts about working on St Michael’s Mount?
The best parts of working here for me are varied. I love the views which, with the weather, constantly change, and being a keen photographer, means working on the island has its benefits. I also enjoy the challenging role I have in the workings of island life, which are always different from day to day.
Where would you say is your favourite part of the island, and why?
I think the garden is my favourite place to be. It has an atmosphere much different to the rest of the island and to me seems the most peaceful place here.