The Origin of the Manx Language Society

Reprinted from the " Isle of Man Examiner " of January 3rd 1914 (also in Manx Quarterly #14 p132/3 Sept 1914)

The Manx Language Society at the last annual meeting on November 12th,changed its name to The Manx Society. It may be of interest in announcing the new name, to recall the first beginnings of the society, which seem in danger of being forgotten.

During the winter 1897-1898, a notice appeared in the " Peel City Guardian, " inviting all those interested in the Manx language to attend a meeting in the Primitive Old Chapel. The result was that one night, soon after, the little building was packed to the doors with Manx people:­ there was not one single English person present. Of these Manx folk many have passed away:­ William Cashen, John Quirk (3), Thomas Crellin, Thomas Kelly, Robert Shimmin, William Moore, William Kneen (Bethel), William Kelly, Greeba :­ but many others are living and will remember the night such are Thomas Quane, John Cain, William Quane, William Mylrea, Harry Cannon, Caesar Cashen, Mrs Shimmin, O. Joughin, S. Morrison. It was decided by the meeting that classes for the teaching of the Manx language should immediately be started in Peel. Thus began Peel Manx Language Association, with Mr Hodgson as president, and Misses O. Joughin and S. Morrison, hon. treasurer and hon. secretary respectively.

Its work was carried on during the winters of 1897 and 1898, in the Old Wesley Chapel. The Manx language was taught, Manx songs and history, and little Manx entertainments were given. By degrees the work attracted attention. Hearing of it, Mr James Kewley, of Agneash, an old Manxman, gathered together a few people in Lonan to read Manx, and Mr William Kneen (Bethel),of Douglas, also started a little class. In the spring of 1898, Mr William Quayle, of Ballamilghyn, Lonan, and others, sent in Manx riddles, rhymes, and scraps to the " Examiner." Mr W. Cubbon was then one of the journalists of the staff, and Mr Broadbent, the founder and editor of the paper, who has always encouraged the revival of Manx Gaelic, put a column of his paper aside for it.

About this time the Pan-Celtic Association was founded; Mr A. W. Moore joined it, and its secretary, Mr Fournier d' Albe, came to the Island in March, 1899, when the Manx Language Society was founded in Douglas under the auspices of the committee of the Isle of Man Fine Arts and Industrial Guild. Mr A. W. Moore, Speaker of the House of Keys, was in the chair. Mr William Quayle, of Ballamilghyn, Lonan, moved the first resolution, and in his speech called attention to the revival of the language, which had already begun, in the following words:­

" I am delighted to find that within the past few months considerable efforts have been made in many districts throughout the Island with a view to the revival of the language, and that several classes have been formed. Amongst others, I may mention the following:­ Douglas, with 25 students; Lonan, 25 students; Peel, 75 students; and Andreas, 20 students. Classes are also about to be formed in Foxdale and Rushen, and other places. I am told that several gentlemen in these localities have been patriotic enough to offer their services gratuitously as teachers. ":
(Vide report of Society for March 22nd, 1899).

It is thus obvious that the Manx Language Society was of PURELY MANX ORIGIN, a spontaneous growth from the people, that its nucleus consisted of the Peel Manx Language Association, together with the Douglas, Lonan, and Andreas classes, and that the promoters of the meeting which founded it, i.e., Mr A. W. Moore, Deemster Gill, Mr J. C. Crellin,H.K., Dr Clague, the committee of the Isle of Man Fine Arts and Industrial Guild, were led to take this step through their interest in the revival movement which already existed.

The first officers of the society were: Mr A. W. Moore, Speaker of the House of Keys, president; Deemster Gill, Dr Clague, Mr J. C. Crellin, E.K., and Canon Savage, vice-presidents; the committee were: Rev J. Kewley, M.A.,Arbory; Rev C. El. Leece, Rushen; Miss Morrison, Peel; Miss Graves, Peel; Mr W. J. Cain, Douglas; Mr W. Radcliffe (Schoolhouse), Andreas; Mr Goodwin, Peel; Mr E. Corteen, Douglas; Mr A.J. Joughin, Peel; Mr J. E. Leece, Douglas; the Ven. the Archdeacon; Mr W. Cubbon, Douglas; Mr Henry Kelly Ballaqueeney; Mr W. Kneen, Croit-e-Caley; Mr W. Kneen, Douglas; and Mr John Cubbon, Castletown; with Mrs Laughton treasurer till 1900, when Mr W. Cubbon succeeded; Mr Quayle, secretary till 1901, when Miss Morrison followed him. Of the original twenty-five members in the minute book, the following have died:­ Deemster Gill, Mr A. W. Moore, Dr Clague, Mr J. C. Crellin, Mr W. Quayle, Mr W. J. Caine, Mr W. Kneen, Dr Gregeen; and the following have been steady subscribers up to the present time: The Ven. the Archdeacon, Canon Savage, Rev C. H. Leece, Rev E. U. Savage, Miss Morrison, Mr W. Cubbon, Mr J. J. Kneen , Mr P. G. Ralfe, Miss A. Mallt Williams, Mr T. Moore, and Councillor T. M. L. Quayle.


The object and scope of the society thus founded cannot be better laid down than in the words of Mr A. W. Moore, in his presidential address, November 18th,1899:­

" Though called the Manx Language Society, it should, I think, by no means confine its energies to the promotion of an interest in the language, but extend them to the study of Manx history, the collection of Manx music, ballads, carols, folklore, proverbs, place-names, including the old field names which are rapidly dying out ­ in a word, to the preservation of everything that IS distinctively Manx, and, above all, to the cultivation of a national spirit. Let us co-operate cordially with the Guild in its admirable work of encouraging Manx industry, music, and art; with the Antiquarian Society, and the Trustees of Ancient Monuments in their care for the relies of the past, while devoting ourselves more especially to the tasks of preserving and collecting our literature and song. We shall thus form part of an organisation which, I trust will in time accomplish for the Isle of Man what the Eisteddfod has done for Wales."

The growth of the Society may be gauged by the increase in its income:-


£ s. d.

November, 1900

5 4 2

December, 1901

7 12 8

November, 1902

10 9 7

December, 1903

14 18 2

November, 1913

71 3 11

S. M [Sophia Morrison]

It might however be worthwhile reading the strong criticism expressed by S. McNiocaill Language and Nationality in Man Manx Quarterly #14 pp134/136 Sept 1914.

The annual report for 1916/1917 is also worth reading, in the discussion re the name change of 1913, appropriating the title of the 1858 Manx Society and possible reversion to the pre1913 name, is the the interesting comment "He feared that people were under the impression that membership of Manx Language Society involved knowledge of the Manx language, and as they were not very fond of learning languages they refrained from joining".



Membership List 1922

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