[Taken from The Manx Church Magazine Vol 8 Oct & Nov 1898]

An Account of Religious Tracts &c published in the Manx Language

By G. W. WOOD, A.K.C.

In the early part of the present century a number of religious tracts were published in the manx language. They were nearly, if not quite all translated from English originals. The translator of some of them was Mr (afterwards the Rev.) J. T Clarke, Chaplain of S. Mark’s, Malew, who, in a letter:on the decadence of the Manx language, written from Wales in the year 1872, states That " before he was twenty years of age he translated many little English books into Manx, and adapted them to the use of the Manx people". These tracts are mentioned by the late Mr W. Harrison in "Bibliotheca Monensis" (Manx Society, vol. 24), as having appeared in the Manx language, but only two are specifically named. Mr A. W. Moore also referred to them in his paper on " Manx Literature", ‘ read before the Manx Antiquarian Society in 1887. He gave therein the titles of four of them, and stated there were many others. A more full list is given by Mr B. H. Jenner in his paper on " The Manx Language," read before the Philological Society in 1875. In the nature of things, tracts are not so likely to be preserved as bound books, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain copies of those now under review. Fortunately, a few careful souls took the precaution to bind what they possessed of them, and in this way the writer has been able to make up what is probably a nearly complete set.

They were published chiefly under the auspices of various societies having for their object the propagation of Christian knowledge.

The earliest was the " Bristol Society of the Church of England for dispersing little religious books," and the first tract issued by that society is dated 1819. In 1822 an offshoot of the Bristol Society came into existence, and that a Manx one, viz., " The Society for the education of the inhabitants of the Isle of Man through the medium of their own language." The names of both societies appear on several of the tracts. Four of them bear the imprint of the Bristol Society alone, two are Bristol and Manx, two Manx alone, and two are without a Society’s name. The printers were G. Jefferson, of Douglas, R. Tilling, of Liverpool, and J. Chilcott, of Bristol. The latest date of this series of tracts is 1829. The majority are undated, but probably lie between 1819 and the last named year.

The Religious Tract Society also issued three tracts (undated) in the Manx language and a little book of hymns for children by Dr. Watts, in the year 1826.

Another society,’ known as the " Prayer Book and Homily Society " (now "The Church of England Book Society "), published, in the year 1822, the 39 Articles of Religion, and same (presumably six) of the Homilies of the Church of England in Manx.

No further tracts appear to have been issued untiil the year 1836; when " The Sinner’s Friend " was translated into Manx and eleven other languages and distributed by private subscription. One of the subscribers was Benjamin Disraeli, M.P. afterwards Lord Beaconsfield.

The next and last religious publication was a "Collection of Family Prayers," by Bishop Wilson, published by the "Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge," in 1846

About the same date, some Temperance tracts were issued by the "Total Abstinence Society of Kirk Andreas," and by J. Quiggin, of Douglas.

I now propose to notice the tracts seriatim, and to give a short description of the subject matter of each. Should any reader of the " Manx Church Magazine" possess any tracts other than those described, may I hope that he or she will supply the titles in a future number, so that as complete a list as possible may be arrived at of these interesting and fast disappearing vestiges of Manx translated literature ? Although Nos. 1 and 2 are not tracts in the ordinary sense of the word, they are included here for the sake of completeness.


1. Daa arrane spyrrydoil son Moghrey as Fastyr: liorish aspick Thomase Kenn, D. D. , marish ayrn jeh ‘n Psalm 139 (Two spiritual songs for morning and evening by Bishop Thomas Kenn, D.D., with part of Psalm 139). This bears date 1783, but has no printer’s name or address. It consists of eight pages. The contents are sufficiently indicated by the title.

2. Ruleyn yn Pobble ennupsit Methodistyn er ny hoiaghey seose liorish John Wesley, M.A. (Rules of the people called Methodists set up by John Wesley, M.A.) Dated 1800. Printed by ‘J. Nuttall, Liverpool The rise of the Methodists is thus described : " In the latter end of the year 1739 eight or ten persons came to me (Wesley) in London, who appeared to be deeply convinced of sin and earnestly groaning for redemption. They desired (as did two or three more the next day) that I would spend some time with them in prayer, and advise theun how to flee from the wrath to come. - I appointed a day when they might all come together, which from thenoeforward they did every week. To these and as many more as desired to join with them (for their number increased daily), I gave those advices which I judged most needful for them."

Two years before this little book was. printed, viz., in 1798, the number of Methodists in the Island was *4847 The Rules bear evidence of a very strict order of discipline in those early days. For instance, against the using of many words in buying or selling, the putting on of gold or costly apparel, dancing, cards, or horse races.


(a) For the Bristol Society—

3. Cooney dy gheddyn , aarloo sõn baase, ny yn Chreestee er lhiabbee dy hingys (a help to preparé for death, or the Christian on a bed of sickness). Printed 1819. This Tract contains religious thoughts on the occasion of sickness and death, on the sick man taking a review of his past life, on his present state, and on the love of Christ and his salvation. A second edition of this tract was printed at Bristol, by J. Chilcott, in 1829

(b ) For the Bristol and Manks Societies

4. Coontey jeh Saggart William Tyndall, ren chyndaa ny Scriptyryn, veh ny chied glaaraghyn gys Baarle, &c. (An account:of the Rev William Tyndall, who translated the Scriptures from the first tongues into English, &c.) This tract (dated 1822) relates the history of the "Apostle of England " from his birth in Wales, about the year 1500—the time of the Reformation —to his martyrdom by fire at Antwerp, in 1536. A. second edition of this tract appeared in 1829, printed at Bristol.

5. Padjer y Looder; ny baght ‚er ny choyrt er e 1oo ( The ‘Swearer’s Prayer, or an observation founded on his oath.) ‘ After a description of the significance of a swearer’s , prayer, and a denunciation of the reprehensible habit of swearing, some instances are given of oaths lightly taken,’ which are literally fulfilled viz : In 1786, a, swearer, disappointed by one of his companions who had promised to meet him at ‘the public house, swore that if he ever drank with him’ again it might be his last day ; ‘and God took him at his word, and it was his last day. In another similar case, the verdict of the jury was that" he was struck dead as a judgment from God."

(c.) For the Manks Society only.

6. Balley beg ayns sleityn y Raank. ‘ (A village in the mountains of France. It relates how a rich Parisian merchant had occasion to visit the manufactories in one of The French provinces, and fell across a community of , people of whom the men worked in the mines and the women and children wove. They were a curious people, but , the most honest in the country —, industrious,’ temperate and . charitable, although poor. They met in the mountains even in ‘ cold and’ bad ‘weather; at night, to sing and pray.. They were persecuted by the French priests, and had, . only one. New Testament amongst them which was worn ‚to shreds. ‚ The merchant, himself a Christian, was the means of providing a liberal supply of Testaments’ and tracts for their use, and , contributing thereby to their spiritual well being


(d.) For the Manks, Society

7. Smooinaghtyn crauee mychione Beaynid. (Religious ‘thoughts concerning eternity.) The contents of this tract are sufficiently indicated by the title.

(e.) No Society named.

8. Coontey jeh dunnallys as baase .maynrey Jamys Covey (An account of the bravery and happy death of James Covey). James Covey was a brave British tar who had both his legs shot off in the battle of Camperdown, against the Dutch. About a fortnight before the English fell in with the Dutch fleet, Covey dreamed that they were in an engagement, that he lost his legs and went out of his mind. "Up to the time of this misfortune he had been pre-eminent in sin as’ well as in courage. He afterwards became a church member and : began, he said, to’ understand the true interpretation of his dream; viz., "that he had been ‘out of his mind all his life, and that if he had not lost his legs he would perhaps have lost his soul." (At the head of this tract is a representation of Covey on crutches on his way to church.) "

9. Joseph boght (Poor Joseph) The subject of this tract was a poor half witted man employed ‘ as ‘a messenger in London. Passing one day the church of S. Mary, Aldermanbury, he entered and heard a discourse by the Rev Mr Calamy, a well-known divine, on the text, " Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." This led to his convesion. Not long after this Joseph ss as seized with a fever,and, on what proved to be his death-led, the Rev Mr Calamy saw him when Joseph took from wider his pillow a small bag of sovereigns—the savings of his life—and asked that they might be distributed amongst the poor The rev gentleman used to say that nothing he had ever met with had taken more hold on his heart than this touching episode


(f.) No Society named

10 Coyrle Saggyrt, da cummattee , yn skeerey echey mychione padjer foshlit (A clergyman’s advice to his parishioners concerning public worship . It is an exhortation to attend the services of the Church on the Lord’s day regularly instead of drinking in the public house.

It bears a quaint woodcut representation of a parish church with approaching figures.


(g.) For the Religious Tract Society.

11. Aarnyn goit voish y Scriptyr ta soilshagey ynsagh as currnyn yn chre jue Chreestee. (Passages taken from Scripture, which shew the teaching and duties of the Christian faith.) This tract is divided into 21 sections, and, as its title implies, it recites passages bearing on the following subjects, the chief of which are concerning God, the breaking of the command in Paradise, concerning Jesus Christ, the atonement, ‘ justification by faith’, holiness, etc

12; Coyrle jeean as graihagh da Easteyrjn Ellan Vannin. (Earnest and affectionate advice to the Fishermen of the Isle of Man ) The advice is summed up as follows : Never to cast the net until God’s blessing has been earnestly sought on the work : to keep from every kind of dissipation and drunkenness , through the fishing season ; to apply our earnings for the benefit of our families, etc., etc.

13. Tayyloo crauee ecldyr Bochil anmey as fer jeh e hioltane liorish Thomase Vivian, A.B. , (Religious conversation between. pastor and one of his flock, by Thomas Vivian A.B.) This tract takes the form of a dialogue between a clergyman and a farmer. It is divided into three parts, representing as many meetings. The drift of the argument is on the importance of not neglecting spiritual ones for earthly ones. About the same time (1822) there appeared translations of the Homilies of the, Church of England in the Manx language, and also of the Thirty-nine Articles.

The Homilies were sermons appointed to be read in the churches in the time of Queen Elizabeth An order was made in 1562 that one of them should be read every Sunday and Holy-day at the administration of the Holy Communion ; or, failing that, after the Gospel and Creed, except there be a sermon, in which case the said Homily was to be deferred until the next. Sunday or Holy day. There were originally twelve of these Homilies, but twenty-one others were subsequently added dealing more particularly with New Testament doctrine. These latter were supposed to have been written by Bishop Jewell. The writer is not sure whether the whole of the first twelve were translated into Manx He has only seen six, viz —.the first, second, third, sixth, seventh, and ninth

Mr B H Jenner, who gave a list of books printed in the Manx language in a paper already referred to states that only six were translated, The late Prince Lucien Bonaparte had a bound volume of them, but, it contained no others than those just mentioned. Should any reader be aware of others, it is hoped he will make the fact known in a subsequent number of the magazine. As to the Thirty-nine Articles : these never appeared as part of the. Manx Prayer-book in any of its six printed. editions commencing with the first edition of 1765 and ending with the last edition of 1842. Nor do they appear to have formed part of the earlier MS. Prayer-book by Bishop Phillips. They were published in Man as above stated, under the title of Banglaeym y‘chredjue Creestee as oardaghyn crauee agglishi Hostyn (Branches of Christian Faith and religious ordinances of the Church of England). No further publications in tract form (except the 2nd editions—in 1829—of earlier tracts) appear, to have been made until the year 1836, when " The Sinner’s Friend" appeared with the Manx title Carrey yn Pheccagh. This is probably the best known of all Manx tracts, the writer having. met with it in many places in the Island, although strangely enough it, is not mentioned by any of the writers previously referred to. It was printed at Maidstone, Kent..

In 1846, the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge published Padjeyrn hught-thie liorish Aspick Wilson (Family Prayers by Bishop Wilson) in and English on opposite pages. These are taken verbatim from a book published in 1775, entitled " A Short and Plain Instruction , for the Better Understanding of the Lord’s Supper," by Bishop Wilson ; and this little work was the last religious publication. in the Manx language for the use of he Manx people. Strangely enough, Bishop Wilson was the author of both the first+ and last books printed in Manx. He also inaugurated the translation of the Holy Scriptures into Manx and, I suppose, there have been more editions of his works than of those of any other divine

The tracts devoted to total abstinence and others in relation to Manx subjects, will be noticed in a subsequent number

Streatham, London, S W


* Rosser’s History of Methodism in the Isle of Man, p. 141.

+ The first book was The Church Catechism printed in 1707


 Manx Note Book   [History Index]


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2000