This month marks the centenary of one of the finest, most pioneering writers the island has ever produced. If you haven’t heard of him, you’ll have watched something that’s been influenced by him.

And he’s probably scared the willies out of your parents or grandparents.

Nigel Kneale was born on the 28th of April 1922. He was actually born in England, but hey, so are a lot of very good people. His family, however, was as Manx as bonnag and grumbling, and when he was six, they moved back to the island.

After studying at St Ninian’s High School, he began a career in an advocate’s office on Athol Street. This wasn’t exactly floating his boat, and after getting the chance to read one of his own short stories, ‘Tomato Cain’ on BBC Radio, Kneale relocated to London, to start a new career, as…..an actor. He actually did OK as an actor, including a season at the Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

However, Kneale kept the writing running in tandem with his thesping, and eventually, this became his main work.

The 1950s was a very good time to get into television, as it was becoming the dominant media very, very quickly. In 1950, there were only about 350,000 TV sets in the whole of Britain. By 1960, they could be found in three out of four homes in the country. The internet was a slow burn compared to telly. Kneale first achieved wide acclaim with The Quatermass Experiment. This was a runaway success for BBC television which was growing like topsy in the months after the Queen’s Coronation.

Over six episodes The Quatermass Experiment told the tale of Professor Bernard Quatermass investigating a British mission into space. Only one member of the crew made it back alive, and he…..isn’t quite himself. Nigel Kneale always claimed to be uninterested in science fiction, but as a canny writer he followed the money after his initial hit, with an adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984. In a situation that seems unimaginable in today’s TV world, this was broadcast live and wasn’t recorded for posterity.

When it did the 1950s equivalent of going viral (various MPs trotted out the usual “ban this sick filth” line until Prince Philip told reporters that he and the Queen had watched it and both thought it was bob-on) and there was a demand for seeing it again, they had to rebuild the sets, rehire the actors – and thankfully taped it that time.

The imaginatively-titled Quatermass II followed and pulled in even larger audiences than the earlier serial. Tragically, the BBC’s policy of the time towards retaining material means that only a handful of episodes of the first two Quatermass serials survive. Thankfully, all six episodes remain of the third one, Quatermass and the Pit.

Quatermass and the Pit is Kneale’s masterpiece. It’s a brilliant weaving of then-modern concerns like space travel and race riots, fused with something ancient, primal, and unimaginably terrifying. This work, largely performed live as the cameras rolled, is technically astonishing for its time, and massively influential on masses of future TV and film. (My love for Doctor Who is as big as the TARDIS, but you could fill a police box with all the IOU notes the Doctor should have written to Professor Quatermass over the years.)

If it wasn’t for so many people being snooty about telly in general and sci-fi in particular, Quatermass and the Pit would be regarded as one of the greatest pieces of writing by Manx people. Up there with Tommy Big-Eyes by TE Brown, The Manxman by Hall Caine, and Stayin’ Alive by The Bee Gees.

Kneale’s writing career ranged far and wide, but the fantastic, the uncanny, and the grim side of human nature were never far away. The Creature explores the legend of the abominable snowman. The Stone Tape is a superbly creepy play about trying to scientifically explain ghosts. The Year of the Sex Olympics depicts a future society where mass media is controlled by a tiny handful of billionaires. The population is kept distracted enough to not protest their manipulation and suppression, by a constant stream of cruelly-exploitative reality TV. I know, that’s wildly unlikely stuff, isn’t it?

He also had the “what were they THINKING of?” moment that all great writers have in their career, when for some reason he agreed to write petrol station bargain bin-epic Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Full disclosure: I haven’t seen this film, it might be an undiscovered gem of movie magic. But Our Nige took his name off the credits before it was released which should tell you something. What is really noticeable in Kneale’s work is a strong thread of Manxness. The first man in space is one of the Carooins. The Pit investigated by Quatermass is discovered by builders who are working on a housing development called Baldhoon. His one dip into writing a sitcom rejoices in the title of Kinvig.

His career may have taken him away from the island, but it seems the place never quite left him. Nigel Kneale died in 2006, but interest in his work is as strong as ever. Quatermass and the Pit and 1984 have been released in beautifully-restored prints. ‘Tomato Cain’ and other short stories are being reprinted. There are a number of events being held to celebrate his centenary. Throughout Kneale’s long career, there are plenty of monsters, beasts, and phantoms. A sense of the past running alongside the present. Things long-buried coming to the surface. Folklore and science blending.

Did his Manx upbringing, in a culture that finds room for all these ideas, influence Nigel Kneale all his life? Take another look at those Martians that Professor Quatermass finds in the Pit. An ancient form of life – with three legs.