[From Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 3 pp268/274]
His Honour DEEMSTER GILL.
Before commencing my address, I hope you will join with me in giving a hearty welcome to his Excellency, who, to-day, has honoured us with his presence at our annual meeting. Lord Henniker, we all know, with his family, takes a deep interest in everything that goes on in the Island. He has taken great interest in this Society, although he has been unable to be present before, and he also takes great interest in matters that are kindred to this Society, as you will hear just now. We all know how energetic his Excellency has always been in everything concerning the welfare of this Island, and we thank him very sincerely for being here to-day, and welcome him very heartily. (Hear, hear.)
In resigning the trust which you have placed in my hands as President of this vigorous and interesting little Society, perhaps, it will be sufficent if, by way of address, I refer briefly to some of the work which has lately been done by and in connection with the Society. The past year has been eventful beyond any that the Society has ever had, and a short review of it in addition to what is stated in the various reports presented will, perhaps, be acceptable. Some of the more energetic and
What has been said is sufficient to show that a disposition has for a long time existed on the part of the Legislature in favour of museums. It need not be added that the Trustees have always been more than anxious to accomplish the purpose for which they were constituted, but have been unable to move for want of funds. The Town Commissioners, and, since then, the Corporation of Douglas, have shown a similar anxiety. For several years past they have been in communication with the Trustees and wjtl~ several of the Governors with a view of joining in establishing a museum in Douglas. It seems strange indeed that, with this consensus of opinion, with the influence possessed by many of those who have shared in it, and with the growing desire for increased national education, there . should be any difficulty in raising the necessary funds. It is hoped that the additional incentive supplied by patriotic sentiment connected with her Majestys long reign may be sufficient to turn the scales in favour of some practical steps being taken. Assuming, then, that the date is not far distant when we shall be for the first . time the proud possessors of a National Museum National not only because it belongs to the nation, but because it is the repository of objects relating to the Antiquities and Natural History of our Islandmay I impress on every member of this Society the importance of doing all in our power to secure objects of interest wherewith to fill it ? But may I also beg of you that, whilst doing this work with energy, you do it with care and discrimination? As there are many kinds of museums, so are there many opinions as to what a museum ought to contain. Many offers of objects will doubtless be made, and the accepting or declining of these will require much care and tact. But once it be settled that this museum shall, in the first instance, at any rate, be a collection of objects illustrative of Manx Antiquities and Natural History, there will be less difficulty in deciding whether any particular object is suitable or not. A committee, possessing the necessary knowledge, will be appointed, who must be recognised as the ultimate judges on the subject, and their decision must be accepted loyally. The space will be probably small, and the specimen must be the best of their kind. A careful list has been made, by Mr. Kermode, of objects which are available and suitable. Some of the departments will be well filled to start with ; in others gaps must be left to be filled up in the future, but, whatever department may be deficient, the department of Manx Geology will, I have no doubt, be complete and extremely instructive. Our geology, even on the surface, is remarkably varied and interesting, but mining in all parts of the Island, and the recent borings at the Point of Ayre have shown us that our unexposed geology also is varied and interesting, holding out encouragement to the hopeful that new and valuable minerals are to be found at a depth possible to be reached. The extensive and minute observations which have br many years been made by Professor Boyd-Dawkins, and the recent geological survey made with so much diligence and ability by Mr. Lamplugh, have revealed to us much that was before unknown, and has led to the solution of more than one important problem. I feel certain that, in procuring and classifying a complete collection of geological specimens, we shall have the valuable assistance of those two learned gentlemen.
The establishment of the Museum will secure to us also the long-promised and choice collection of Manx minerals made by the Captains Kitto -father and sonduring their long experience of Manx mining. This subject of the Museum and its contents is inexhaustible. I should like to speak of what we may expect in the Entomological and the Botanical Departrnents, and in the Department of Marine Biology, in which Dr. Herdman is doing so much and so well in following up the pioneer work begun by our countryman, Edward Forbes. But time forbids. I should have liked also to tell you something of the observations which, by the kind permission of the Messrs Cubbon, and with the assistance of the Rev . Canon Savage and Mr. J. Walker, C. E. , I have lately been able to make in connection with the ruined buildings of Rushen Abbey, but this must be reserved for another occasion.
I shall conclude by a short reference to the work accomplished in connection with folklore. Miss Crellin has contributed an interesting paper on " Some Manx Idioms and Expressions " ; Mr. Roeder, although not a Manxman, has given us the results of his extensive gleanings in the Island in a paper which occupies the whole of the last number of our Magazine, and which not only embodies and preserves a large mass of valuable information, but serves as an excellent lesson in the methods of collecting and recording folk-lore, which all who are engaged in similar work will do well to lay to heart.
Another addition to our knowledge of local folklore in a new direction has lately been supplied by Mr. A. W. Moores long expected collection of Manx ballads and Manx tunes. Many of the items in both collections have hitherto been unpublished, and, together with the prefatory remarks of Mr. Moore and of the Rev T. E. Brown, they are an important and interesting contribution to Manx antiquarian literature. These collections are specially interesting to me from the fact that I have been, concurrently with Mr. Moore, and before him, working in the same field, together with Dr. Clague and my brother, Mr. W. H. Gill, with this difference, however, that we have given greater prominence than Mr. Moore has to the musical side of the subject. Like the rest of our folk-lore, our folk-ballads and folk-music are rapidly disappearing, and what remains of them ought without delay to be committed to writing and recorded. The subject is an important one and my experience leads me to believe that it goes considerably further than Mr. Moore has for the present carried it. In this belief my co-workers and I have abstained from publishing the results of our labours, beyond a few tunes, modernised in so far that, like Mr. Moore, we have given harmonies to tunes which in their ancient form possessed none. In neither case, of course, do the published harmonies belong to the melodiesthey are in both cases conjectural, and I think, in both cases, but from different points of view, justified and appropriate. No two musicians would harmonise a given melody in precisely the same manner. Limited by certain canons of harmony, which all must observe, each would follow his own taste and his own notion of what is appropriate. What we have received from the folk who possess the traditional knowledge of them are certain hitherto unwritten melodies, most of which have suffered by oral transmission through a long series of generations, and which orginated as melodies pure and simple without any idea of harmony. These ought, I think, to be recorded as they were found, and in that form it has been our intention from the first to record them. The large and increasing amount of our material causes us still to pause, but we hope ere long to be in a position to publish the third section of our work (which in antiquarian importance is the first), consisting of all the melodies we have collected, with suitable notes, explanatory of their character, peculiarities, probable origin and so on, indicating too the localities in which they were found, and the names, ages, occupations, &c., of those from whom they were obtained, and whose knowledge of them was traditional.
It is impossible in the time now left me to discuss the characteristics of this music. That much of it is ancient, that it is unknown elesewhere, and that it has a character and flavour peculiar to itself, and that it has been sung for generations with Manx words are facts beyond dispute. That some of it has been imported there can be no doubt, but which, and whence, and when are interesting problems still unsolved. The fact that, whether imported or original, it has found acceptance here, and has been adopted by the Manx folk as their own, and sung to their own national words, is surely sufficient to justify its being regarded as national and being preserved as Manx folk music. When a larger body of it has has been recorded in its simple and unaltered form, I have no doubt if will give rise to much interesting speculation and criticism, and that its local peculiarities will become more and more apparent.