[From Mannin vol 5 1915]
[Mr. William Sheldon Kerruish, the author of the following pages, is a leading figure in the great American city of Cleveland, Ohio. His ancestors were from Maughold Parish; and of the Ballelin branch of the Kerruish family. His inherited Manx instincts have led him during his long life to maintain his connection with the Island, which he and ail his family have frequently visited. His wife, who died some five years since was also Manx, and bore the name Quayle, which is also that of his only son. His home in Euclid Avenue, where he resides with his daughter, Miss Mona Kerruish, and his son, Mr. Sheldon Quayle Kerruish, has an atmosphere of refinement, quiet comfort, and friendly hospitality which charms his friends and countrymen His three younger daughters have married into homes of their own, but frequently they and their children are visitors at the old home. The personal and social influence of the family is a feature in Cleveland life.
In business Mr. Kerruish is the senior partner in a great law firm, of which four of the partners bear Manx names. The firm's name stands with the highest in that great city.
Mr. Kerruish is the patriarch of the Manx Colony, his advice and assistance is constantly sought, and greatly respected.]
I presume you have heard, that early Manx emigration from the Isle of Man to Cleveland is said to have been due to some mention made of the place in the early part of last century by a Manx adventurer called Dr. Harrison, who is said to have been a wanderer in Arabia. He became connected with the medical staff of Bellingham's army in his attack on New Orleans in the war of 1812, but after the army's defeat, managed to sever his connection with it in some way, and being desirous to see the Falls of Niagara, made his way northward before steam navigation on the Mississippi. He walked through the place, then a village, and thence along Lake Erie's southern shore eastward, saw the Falls and returned to his island home, where he remained in the practice of his profession until his death .He is said to have been a man of many peculiarities. An occasional word dropped by him among his countrymen as to the beauties of that southern shore, and its future possibilities, was the cause of the early Manx exodus to Northern Ohio. I have this from several early Manx settlers, and especially from Captain Wm.Corlett, for many years a prominent captain on our inland lakes, who told me that in his boyhood he had heard the doctor dilate as to the beautiful shore of Lake Erie. In 1825 and 1826 a few families came, and in1827 a hundred and upwards came, my parents among the number, and what was then a little village of 1,200 or 1,500, bounded north and south by the lake and a densely wooded wilderness, is now a city of about seven hundred thousand inhabitants, the sixth city in size in the United States, backed up by a finely cultivated and thickly settled community. There have been large accessions to the Manx element, especially in the year next succeeding the first settlement; and a rough estimate made a couple of years ago, fixed the number of Manx birth and descent then living in this city and county at between six and seven thousand.
From my earliest recollection and up to within a few years ago, in the near neighbourhood of this city, and when I was born, religious services were regularly held and conducted in the Manx language by local preachers, Cannell, Kneale, Cain, and others, and Manx was the common speech; and the second generation, American born of Manx descent, were generally well versed in it. Indeed I have heard it mentioned frequently that this second generation was less affected by the ridiculous superstition that familiarity with Yn Chenn Ghlare Gailckagh might be detrimental to perfect mastery of English, and the fear that it was becoming unfashionable was less noticeable among them than was observable among Manx immigrants of equal age.
I was born and educated in this country, yet when I visited the Island in 1862 and again in 1891, I found many older than myself, of Manx birth, who seemed unable to speak the language, but I had no difficulty in communicating with a few veterans who seemed unable to converse in English.
That interest in Manx Gaelic is not an idle dream confined to a few enthusiasts in the Isle of Man, here is an instance or two of a personal nature. In the early fifties, I was an applicant for admission to the sophomore class of one our oldest Ohio colleges, and having undergone an examination in Latin and Greek, by the Professor in languages, he remarked, You have a peculiar name. May I inquire of what race or lineage you are ?' I said ,'My parents came from the Isle of Man, if possibly you have heard of it.' 'Oh!' said he, 'they speak the Gaelic language there.' I said 'Yes' and next said he 'Can you talk it ?' to which I said 'Yes'-and then with flashing eye, 'Have you any books ?'-to which I replied ,'I have an old Bible,' said he-Go and get it.' And I had to get it, and thereupon the second examination began; and I had to explain to him how words changed initially, and a multitude of other peculiarities, and from that day forth I was his favourite; and some years thereafter, upon his urgent recommendation to the Greek professor of Yale University for my admission to the senior class, to which I was admitted, he gave me a letter of introduction in which with some slight error as to nativity, though the geography was correct, he said- Ille est ex Mona Caesaris non Mona Taciti -and I had to tell him all I knew about Manx Gaelic and to shorten this long story, I find on subsequent visits to my Alma Mater, that they have all the books of your Manx Publication Society in the Yale library now, which I have been told might not have happened, had it not been for the first Manx Gael who was a graduate of the old University.
One more reminiscence on one of my visits to the Island, in company with someone, I called on the old rector of Ballaugh I think his name was Howard. I was introduced to him as a native Yankee who could both talk and read Manx. The old gentleman was apparently somewhat distrustful. After a little, he stole quietly upstairs, and brought down one of his Manx manuscript sermons, and slyly handed it to me and asked me to read a few words. He appeared to take little stock in the Yankee audacity which would venture to claim acquaintance with Yn Chenn Ghlare Gailckagh. After reading him several sentences for his own handwriting was better than mine is he nearly collapsed, and one of the resultsis I've got that sermon somewhere .
I heartily sympathise with the movement on foot for the resurrection or if that is too strong a word for the preservation of the Manx Language. Not a few able linguists in America have taken a marked interest in it, though you may scarcely credit the story.
The Philological Society of America, which met in this city in 1881, requested me to give them a paper in Manx, which I prepared for that association somewhat hastily, and in which considerable interest was manifested.
W. S. KERRUISH.
X. Cleveland, Ohio.