'Manannan's Cloak: An Anthology of Manx Literature' edited by Robert Corteen Carswell

Literature in the Manx language, which shares common roots with the Gaelic literature and Pre-Christian mythology of Ireland and Scotland, is known from at least the early 16th century, when the majority of the population still belonged to the Catholic Church in the Isle of Man.

Early works were often religious in theme, including translations of the Book of Common Prayer, the Bible and Milton's Paradise Lost. Edward Faragher (Neddy Beg Hom Ruy; 1831–1908), who published poems, stories and translations, is considered the last major native writer of the language. The historian A. W. Moore collected traditional Manx-language songs and ballads in publications towards the end of the 19th century.

Yn Çheshaght Ghailckagh, the Manx Language Society, was founded at the end of the 19th century. The recent revival of Manx and the rise of Manx-medium education has resulted in new original works and translations being published in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with particularly important authors including Brian Stowell (1936–2019) and Robert Corteen Carswell (born 1950).

Early literature

The earliest datable text in Manx (preserved in 18th century manuscripts), is the Manannan Ballad relates the history and the lives of the rulers of the Isle of Man from Manannán mac Lir, a deity from Celtic mythology, through the introduction of Christianity, until Thomas Stanley, 1st Earl of Derby during the Renaissance. It dates from Pre-Reformation times in the early 16th-century at the very latest.

Even though the Isle of Man was the birthplace of Elizabethan era Roman Catholic martyr Blessed Robert Anderton, the State-controlled Anglican Communion eventually won the allegiance of the Manx people and has since had an overwhelming influence upon literature in the Manx language. Surviving works of Christian poetry and hymns are very common, but surviving secular writing is much rarer. The New Testament in Manx was first published in 1767. The Book of Common Prayer and the Old Testament were translated into Manx and published in 1610 and again in 1765. The first Manx translation of the Christian Bible was printed between 1771 and 1775 and remains the reason why Manx orthography is radically different from both Irish and Scottish Gaelic orthography.

The Bible was a collective translation project undertaken by most of the Manx Anglican clergy under the editorship of Philip Moore. Further editions followed in 1777 and a revised edition by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1819. The tradition of (Manx: carvals), religious songs or carols, also developed, probably with its roots in the pre-Reformation Catholic Church in the Isle of Man. Until the 18th century, the authors of carvals were generally clergymen, but in the 19th century new words would be put to popular tunes for use in churches and Nonconformist chapels.

The first printed work in Manx, (Coyrle Sodjeh), dates from 1707: a translation of a Prayer Book catechism in English by Bishop Thomas Wilson.

Rev. Dr. Thomas Christian's widely acclaimed Pargys Caillit, a Manx literary translation of John Milton's Paradise Lost was published in 1796. Although Dr. Christian's deliberate omissions of some lengthy portions and deliberate expansions of others have since received harsh criticism, they were widely felt by Manx readers to have greatly improved the narrative flow of Milton's original.

19th century

Edward Faragher, (Neddy Beg Hom Ruy, 1831–1908) of Cregneash has been considered the last important native writer of Manx. From the age of 26, he wrote poetry, often Christian poetry, in Manx. Some of his verses were printed in the Mona's Herald and the Cork Eagle. Some of his stories are reminiscences of his life as a fisherman, and Skeealyn Aesop, translations of selected Aesop's Fables, were published in 1901.[1]

Many traditional Manx language songs and ballads were collected by the antiquarian and historian A. W. Moore and published in his Manx Carols (1891) and Manx Ballads and Music (1896).

Modern literature

Yn Çheshaght Ghailckagh (the Manx Language Society) has worked closely with Culture Vannin (formerly the Manx Heritage Foundation) in the publication of literature in the Manx language.[2]

With the revival of Manx, new literature has appeared, including Contoyryssyn Ealish ayns Cheer ny Yindyssyn, a Manx translation of Alice in Wonderland by Brian Stowell, published in 1990. In March 2006 the first full-length Manx novel[3] was published: Dunveryssyn yn Tooder-Folley (The Vampire Murders), also by Brian Stowell.

See also


  1. ^ Faragher, Edward (1973) [1948]. "Editorial note (Basil Megaw, director of the Manx Museum)". Skeealyn ‘sy Ghailck. Yn Çheshaght Ghailckagh.
  2. ^ "Books". Culture Vannin. Retrieved 4 August 2020.
  3. ^ Isle of Man Today article on Dunveryssyn yn Tooder-Folley Archived 2006-08-26 at the Wayback Machine