[From Mannin #9,1917]
Miss Sophia Morrison
NO heavier blow has ever befallen the cause of Manx nationality than was sustained on January 14th last, when Miss Sophia Morrison, the secretary of the Manx Society and the editor and proprietor of MANNIN, passed from mortal ken. Much has of late been said though not an appreciable fraction of what could be said, and of what must be felt by all who were associates and admirers of the deceased lady in Miss Morrison's praise, and at this distance of time it is not desirable laboriously to repeat a thrice-told tale; but this journal could not go to press on the first occasion since the death of its founder without containing some brief review of her work for the fostering of the Manx idea and the Celtic idea in general.
Miss Morrison was among those who were instrumental in forming the Manx Society (then styled the Manx Language Society), in March, 1899, and prior to that she had, in conjunction with the late Mr. W. Cashen and others, formed a class in Peel for the study of the Manx language. At the Society's inaugural meeting, she was elected a member of the committee, and in November, 1901, she succeeded to the secretaryship, vacated by the retirement of the late Mr. W. Quayle, C.P., of Laxey. It is safe to say that no society ever had a secretary more enthusiastic, untiring, and undaunted by obstacles and disappointments. Many other capable workers in the cause of Ellan Vannin have there been, but Miss Morrison was the mainspring of all the Society's activities. The publication of various textbooks for the study of the old tongue, and of numerous examples of the old tongue, the establishment of the Manx Classes at the Music Guild, the obtaining of phonographic records of songs and sayings from the lips of genuine Manx-speaking old people, were all undertaken under her supervision. But her energies were not merely confined to the spread of the use of the Manx languages everything that tended to deepen the love of the motherland commanded her services, and the Manx Society has had a very worthy literary record. It was under Miss Morrison's aegis that the four plays of Mr. Christopher R. Shimmin The Charm, Illiam Kodhere's Will, Dooinney-Moyllee, and Luss-ny-Graih were staged, as also were the Peel Plays of Cushag. She herself made a very creditable entrance into authorship on several occasions. Her book on Manx Fairy Tales, issued from the well-known Folk Lore publishing house of David Nutt's, is charmingly written; and her work also includes the editing of Mr. William Cashen's Reminiscences, a little booklet entitled Manx Proverbs and Sayings (edited in conjunction with the late Mr. C. Roeder), a little booklet on Manx Wild Flowers (compiled in conjunction with Mr. P. G. Ralfe and others), a Manx Cookery Book (compiled in conjunction with her sister, Miss L. Morrison), a calendar of quotations from the works of T. E. Brown (compiled in conjunction with Miss A. M. Williams), and a little monograph on the subject of Manx Dress (compiled in conjunction with Miss A. Corrin), which was; read before one of the meetings of the Manx Society. At the time of her death she was engaged upon the compilation of a dictionary of Anglo-Manx words and phrases, a task begun by the late Mr. A. W. Moore. It would be invidious, of course, to discuss here the merits of Miss Morrison's greatest literary task, the editing of MANNIN. One may mention what may be considered a genuine journalistic coup, the securing from Mr. Clement K. Shorter of the passages in the unpublished diaries of that remarkable genius George Borrow, which describe the author's tour through the Isle of Man. It may be worthy of note, also, that Miss Morrison presented to the J. K. Ward Library in Peel an album containing portraits of a large number of old worthies of that town.
Reference may also be made to work done by Miss Morrison for the Celtic cause generally. She was among the representatives of Mann at the Pan-Celtic Congress held in Dublin in 1902, and again at the Congress held at Carnarvon in 1904. She wrote the Manx sections in Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries, a book edited by Mr. W. Y. Evans Wentz, of Oxford; and on at least three occasions she contributed articles to Folk lore, the organ of the Folk Lore Society. She also wrote the article on the life of the late Mr. A. W. Moore in the Dictionary of National Biography, and wrote another memoir of the late Speaker for the Celtic Review. She was in constant epistolary contact with the leading figures in the Celtic world and in the Folk Lore and Folk Song movement.
There never was a more loyal and dependable friend. She would spare no exertion to oblige anyone within the circle of her companionship, or to defend from attack or ridicule. And there are any number of acquaintances simple Manx folk, with whom the love of Ellan Vannin was the one bond of union in whom her sincere courtesy, and the spectacle of her unselfish devotion to the beloved cause inspired an abiding reverence and affection.
At Miss Morrison's funeral, in Peel churchyard, an old friend of hers, and a devoted lover of the old tongue, made the remark, " There's a light gone out to-day that will never be lit again." Let those who honoured her pay her memory the sincerest tribute possible by falsifying this gloomy prophecy. May she become one of those to whom the scriptural phrase may truly be applied: "T'ad ec fee vein nyn seaghyn; as ta nyn obbraghyn gelyrt daue." ("They rest from their labours; and their works do follow them." P. W. CAINE
MANNANAN had cast his most delicate blue veil over Ellan Vannin as the steamer drew near to Douglas Bay. On the quay, on that late summer evening of 1909, I met Sophia Morrison in the flesh for the first time. For years we had carried on a correspondence on things Manx, and our friendship was strongly founded on sympathy therein, but hitherto we had not known each other by sight. Ever since that evening, with my mind's eye, I have seen her tall figure against a background of her beloved Island's scenery Peel Head and the wave-girt Castle, the rocks and the heathercovered hills of Dalby, Bay Mooar, and Cronk-ny-Irree Laa, the fairy-like loveliness of Colby Glen, the grandeur of Sulby Glen, and the soft, distinctive beauty of the Curragh. All this and more she showed to me as no one else could have shown it. She was a true Manx-woman and instinct with the very spirit of her native land. To see its beauty with her was to feel oneself breathing in the same spirit, and filled with a kindred enthusiasm for the little Island with its brave history, its ancient memories and its fine race of people the real old Manx people I had the privilege of making the acquaintance of many of them in company with her. In lonely farms far away among the mountains, in the houses of seafaring folk in town or village, in lanes or fields, we met them and at her greeting in the old language, eyes brightened, tongues were unloosed and they were their real Manx selves. She understood them because she was of them and proud of being so. I greatly admired these fine old Manx types, their sturdiness and independence, their shrewd wit and their unaffected godliness. I was struck too by their pure and nervous English, so great a contrast to the slip-shod speech rife now-a-days.
How right she was in the chief aim of her life. All her work was with the object of keeping the Manx people truly Manx. To that end she did all that in her lay to preserve intact the Manx language and literature, folksong, and folk-lore, ancient customs and ties of kinship. She believed, and acted on the belief, that a nation can reach its highest development by being most truly itself, by advancing on old and tried ways. This does not mean that she opposed progress; on the contrary, no one was more keenly interested than she in modern developments of the Manx spirit in literature or elsewhere; but they must be rooted in the realities of the Manx nature; she hated all shams and apings of alien forms and methods.
All who came into contact with her in any way know what her work was and how generously and unselfishly she devoted herself to it. It was, in fact, in spite of all discouragements and opposition, the joy of her life. The only memorial for which she would have cared, could she have expressed a wish on the subject, would have been, I am sure, the carrying on of the Manx work by loyal Manxmen.
A. M.W. [Miss A.M. Williams]