[taken from Chapter 5 Manx Worthies, A.W.Moore, 1901]

ARCHIBALD CREGEEN (b. 1774, d. 1841),

third son of William Cregeen and Mary Fairclough, was born at Colby, where his father practised the trade of cooper. From Archibald's infancy he spoke Manx, which was then more commonly spoken than English. Nothing is known of his early education, but, from the fact of his having selected the trade of marble mason, it is evident that he must have been able to read, write, and spell English. During the term of his apprenticeship, he spent his leisure in studying the scanty literature in Manx, which mainly consisted of the Bible and Prayer-book and some MS. carols and ballads, and he then began to critically examine the structure and idiomatic characteristics of the Manx language. After his marriage, in 1798, he built a cottage near his father's, which he occupied all the rest of his life. In 1813, he was appointed Coroner of Rushen Sheading. It must be remembered that this office was then a more important one than it is now, seeing that the coroners had at that time to hold inquests. In 1818, he began to prepare a vocabulary of the Manx language for publication. No such work had as yet appeared, for Dr. Kelly's Manx and English Dictionary, though in MS., was not published till 1866. He had not access to this MS., nor is it much to be regretted that this should have been the case, since, if he had been able to avail himself of it, it is probable that much of the originality by which his own work is marked would have been wanting. He had, however, the Manx Grammar by the same author, which was issued from the press in 1804, and he also received much assistance from the Revs. Hugh Stowell, Thomas Howard, John Nelson, and, more especially, John Harrison, then Vicar of Jurby, with whom he stayed for three months for this purpose. John Harrison was thoroughly conversant with the language, and it seems probable that the preface of the dictionary and a portion of the introduction to it were written by him. For twenty years he worked slowly but sedulously at his book (which was not published till 1838),* in the intervals of rest from his more active employment. Considering his imperfect education, it is a very praiseworthy piece of work and, in many respects, superior to Kelly's dictionary. Its prominent features are the indication of the radical initials of words and the number of Manx proverbs to be found in its pages. Some of the introductory remarks on the linguistic peculiarities of Manx have been borrowed from Dr Kelly's grammar, but others, which are original, denote an accurate knowledge of the idiomatic characteristics of the language. CREGEEN was a man of middle stature and heavily made. His forehead was broad, his eyes dark-brown, and his eye-brows dark and bushy. He always wore a low-crowned, broad-brimmed hat, like a quaker's. He spoke but little and that very slowly, except when the conversation related to topics connected with his native tongue or the manners and customs of the Manx peasantry. " I reverence," says George Borrow of Cregeen, " the very ground upon which that man trod, because he was one of the greatest natural Celtic scholars who had ever lived." (An abstract of an account by the late J. M. Jeffcott.)

* The date, 1835, on the title page seems to be an error.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 1999