In 1761, at the request of Bishop Hildesley, twenty-eight of the metrical Psalms, with two hymns for Christmas, and one for Easter, were translated into Manx from Tate and Bradys well-known version, which is to be found in most of the old Prayer Books published since 1598. The translators were Vicars-General Robert Radcliff and Matthias Curghey. It seems probable that these Manx Psalms were first of all printed in pamphlet formthough there is no such pamphlet known to be in existence now since they are not appended to a Prayer Book till the issue of 1768 was published. They were reprinted in all subsequent issues of Manx Prayer Books. On the title page is the following dedication to Bishop Hildesley :
To the Right Reverend Father in God, Mark (by Divine permission), Lord Bishop of Sodor and Mann.
My Lord,The annexed translation into our native language of the following Psalms, with the Hymns and Doxologies subjoined, fitted to several of the tunes used in the Churches, are most humbly recommended to your Lordship, as proper to be made use of and sung in the several Churches of this Diocese,
By your Lordships most dutiful and obedient servants,
Nov. 3, 1761.
And the next page bears the annexed notice from the Bishop :
To be published in the several Country Churches of this Isle, previous to the first time of using the Manks singing Psalms.
Whereas nothing can be more absurd in the nature of the thing itself, or more inconsistent with the doctrine and practice of Primitive or Reformed Church, than to pay adoration and worship, either of prayer or praise, to Almighty God in a foreign language, which very few of Christian assemblies, may be supposed to be acquainted with, and still fewer so well as with their own:
For remedy of so confessedly great an impropriety, and for the better promoting the comfort and edification of natives of this Isle, and that they may be enabled to sing with the Spirit, by singing with the understanding : I have thought good, to order and appoint an approved translation into the Manks Language of a certain portion of singing Psalms, to be used in all the Parochial Country Churches, in this Diocese of Mann ; and that they henceforth, on all public and solemn occasions (unless, or till I shall see reason to order it other-wise) be accordingly sung, and no other; except one only in English at each service, if the Minister so chooses.
MARK, Sodor & Mann.
Given at Bishops Court, Nov. 9, 1761.
Between thirty and forty years later, thirty-one more Psalms were
translated from the same source by the Rev. John Clague,* Vicar of
Rushen, but these Psalms were never published, though the following
note on the title page of the MS. shows that there had been an
intention of so doing:
"£5 for the first hundred, and £1 for each hundred after. G. J., 1809." "G. J." stands for George Jefferson, the proprietor of the "Manks Advertiser", and of the well-known almanac, which still bears his name.
John Clagues MS. is entitled "Some of the Psalms as sung by Mr. Shepherd, singing master, are translated into Manks by J. Clague." Then follows a quotation from Horace: " . . . . Si quid novisrti rectius istis Candidus imperti ; si non, his utere mecum." which may be rendered : "If you know anything better than those things, frankly impart it to me ; if not, use these with me". We append brief notices of the writers of these translations : Robert Radcliff (b. 1703, d. 1769) was the last of that name who owned the property of Knockaloe, near Peel. He was ordained deacon in 1726, and became Vicar of Patrick in 1729, remaining there till his death. He translated Genesis into Manx and participated in translating the Liturgy.
Matthias Curghey (b. 1699, d. 1771) was one of the Curgheys of Ballakilingan. He was Vicar of Lezayre from 1729 to 1761, and Rector of Ballaugh from 1761 till his death. He assisted in translating the Liturgy in Manx and in revising the Pentateuch. He also transcribed the Epistles, and, in connection with the Rev. James Wilks the Gospels and Acts. His tombstone, in Ballaugh Churchyard, declares him to have been "an humble, meek, pacific man, sound divine, learned and exemplary."
John Clague (b. 1750, d. 1816) was a pupil of Bishop Hildesleys ; his theme book now in the possession of Mr. G. F. Clucas, shows him to have been a good classical scholar, and his translations of the Psalms show that he was an equally good Manx scholar. He was ordained deacon in 1774, and was curate of Michael till 1782, when he was appointed Vicar of Rushen. Some forty Manx sermons written by him are now in the possession of Mr. Clucas. It will be observed that several of the Psalms were translated by him for special occasions. Thus Psalm ix. was to celebrate " Nelsons Victory," but it does not appear which. Psalm xlvi. was "on the French leaving Bantry Bay, Dec. 26th, 1796" ; and Psalm lxxxvi. "On the Restoration of Peace, 1802."
Both his translations and those of the Rev. Matthias Curghey and the Rev. Robert Radcliff, closely follow " Tate and Brady", so far as metre goes, but other-wise they considerably depart from their original. They are, however, excellent renderings, and we think that Manx students will enjoy comparing them with "Tate and Brady," as well as with the Psalms in the Bible and Prayer Book. Since writing the above, Mr. G. W. Wood, of Streatham, has sent the following interesting particulars about John Clague, which he has extracted from an account of him which he wrote for the "Manx Church Magazine" in January, 1895 :
The Rev. John Clague was an earnest and enlightened preacher, both in Manx and English, and popular with all classes of his parishioners. He was rigorous in Church discipline Sabbath breakers, swearers, and other offenders were led by the Sumner into church, enveloped in a white sheet, and admonished by him in no measured terms for their besetting sins. He had no patience with the belief in fairies and the many forms of superstition so rife in his day, one of his meet forcible Manx sermons being directed against the "airy nothings", as he called them, which were a source of mischievous terror to women and children. His spirit of independence and regard for the Sabbath are attested by the fact that when the Duke of Atholl desired the Manx clergy to advise the fishermen to fish on Saturday night, Mr. Clague confronted His Grace and assured him he would never so advise them, because it would lead to the desecration of the Lords Day. He took a special interest in the fishermen, and it was his practice to assemble them on the sea-shore before their departure to the sea, and read to then Bishop Wilsons form of prayer for the herring fishery, concluding with the prayer from the Manx LitanyAs dy chur er-ash as dy hannaghtyn dooin hannaghtyn ny marray ("And restore and continue to us the blessings of the sea"). His stipend from the Church was very slender (£42 a year Manx equal to £36 English), and to supplement this he kept a school for the children of his better-class parishioners. The Rev. Samuel Burdy (an Irish clergyman), the author of " Ardglass, or the Ruined Castles" (1802), who called on Mr. Clague when on a visit to the Island, says he had a handsome income from his school, though he could not be accused of extravagant charges, for he allowed his pupils diet, washing, and lodging, and taught them the English, French, Greek, and Latin languages, and ten other subjects for £12 (British) a year. He was particularly skilful in English grammar, which he taught by a method of his own . His fame extended very far, for he had many pupils from Liverpool and the North of England, and a few from the West Indies. He had a worthy helpmate in his wife, who was a daughter of the Rev. William Crebbin, Vicar of Jurby. In 1809, Mr. Shepherd, singing master, formed a class to improve Psalmody in Christ Rushen Church, and Mr. Clague entered heart and soul into the movement. He also found time to devote to scientific pursuits, his favourite subject being astronomy. It is, however, with John Clagues ability as a translator into his native Manx that we are now most concerned, and it is of interest to note that besides the Psalms he translated "Crossmans Catechism" into Manx. Its exact title is " An Introduction to the Knowledge of the Christian Religion, in two parts, to which are added Short Forms of Prayer for several occasions, " by H Crossman. M.A., Rector of Little Bromley, Essex. The Manx version, which is now very scarce, was published in 1814 by Beatson and Copeland, of Douglas, and bears the title " Aght giare dy heet gys tutshtey as toiggal jehn chredjue Chreestee, ayns daa ayrn."
Viewing the fact that Manx Prayer Books are now becoming scarce, the proprietors of " The Examiner " propose not only to print the Psalms written by the Rev. John Clague, but to reprint those written by Messrs. Curghey and Radcliff ; and they have entrusted the work of passing them through the press to the capable hands of Mr. J. J. Kneen.
A. W. MOORE.
*Psalms translated by him are marked "Cl"