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GAELIC-L  September 1993

GAELIC-L September 1993

Subject:

The Death of Manx from newspaper clipping 1950s

From:

Stephen Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Stephen Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 2 Sep 93 10:07:06 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (162 lines)

``I can say `How do you do?' and
I know the Lord's Prayer and I
can count up to ten. Nane,
jees, tree, kiare, quieg, shey.'' Eight-
year-old Kirree stopped and looked
at her feet. ``I can't count up to
ten after all,'' she said, but in spite
of this failure Kirree has more
Manx than most of her countrymen.
 
Out of a population of fifty thousand,
perhaps sixty have  a good working
knowledge of the island tongue. All
except two have studied it as a foreign
language. The exceptions are Mrs
Sage Kinvig of Ronague, who is 89,
and Mr Ned Maddrell, of Glenchass,
who is 82. They are the last native
speakers of Manx, and when they die
the language will cease to exist as a
living speech.
 
Two hundred years ago the situation
was different. ``The population of
the island is twenty thousand, of
whom the greater number are ignorant
of English,'' reported the Society for
the promotion of Christian Knowledge
in 1764. As late as 1875, more than
thirteen thousand people spoke Manx,
and in 1900 nearly five thousand,
though by this time the majority of
them were bilingual. The last census
in 1951 showed 355 Manxmen as
speaking both languages, but a foot-
note explained that the extent of their
knowledge of Manx was not asked
for. A third of them were over 65,
and Manx is to-day at the stage that
Cornish was towards the end of the
eighteenth century.
 
Value of Comparison
 
The comparison with Cornish is of
some value. Linguistically, as well
as geographically, both countries lie
between two other Celtic tongues, one
cultivated and literary, the other neg-
lected but flourishing (in the case of
Cornish, the two other Celtic tongues
are Welsh and Breton: in the case of
Manx, the two others are Irish and
Scottish Gaelic). Ned Maddrell, who
went to sea at 13, found he was able
to keep his Manx ``alive'' by talking
to Gaelic-speaking sailors on British
ships. He was brought up in the
remote village of Cregneash, where
``unless you had the Manx you were
a deaf and dumb man and no good to
anybody.''
 
This was not the case in the towns.
``Nobody there wanted to talk Manx,
even those who had it well. They
were ashamed, like. It will never
earn a penny for you,'' they said. Ned
is a sprightly old man, a trifle deaf
but very proud of his role as one of the
last native speakers. ``They have
tape recordings of me telling legends
and stories in Manx,'' he said ``in
<p ??>
Ireland and in America and in places
you never heard of.'' Mrs Kinvig, who
reads the Manx Bible daily, is also
on tape. Her parents were Manx-
speaking, but made no effort to teach
their children the language. ``When-
ever they wanted to say something
that was not for our ears they said it
in Manx. I wanted to know what
they were talking about so I picked it
up.'' she chuckled at the memory.
These recordings were made by Yn
Cheshaght Ghailckagh, a society for
the promotion of Manx, which
endeavours to foster the study of the
language by conducting classes and
publishing texts.
 
Little Enthusiasm
 
According to Walter Clarke of
the Manx Museum, a member
of the society, there is very
little enthusiasm for the lan-
guage in Man to-day. ``People
think they can pick up Manx in six
easy lessons,'' he said. ``when they
find they can't they lose interest.''
Evening classes in the main towns
were abandoned recently, and so was
the society's Manx journal ``Coraa
Ghailckagh.'' An effort to get Manx
taught in schools also failed. There
is, however, a sign outside Peel saying
``Welcome to Peel'' in Manx and
English.
 
The only official use of the language
is on Tynwald Day, July 5, when the
laws that have been passed during the
preceding year are proclaimed in
Manx and English. As might be
expected, the translation of modern
terms often presents snags. Some
years ago ``fraudulent mediums'' was
Manxed as ``soothsayers'' and at the
moment ``betting pools'' is posing a
similar problem. The Manx Bible
provided a precedent for these eventu-
alities when it translated ``fox'' by
``shynnagh,'' which actually means
``kite'' (there are no foxes on Man)
and ``satyr'' by ``phynnodderee'' or
leprechaun.
 
Manxmen are naturally saddened
by the decay of their ancient tongue,
although it survives in place-names,
personal names, and isolated Manx-
English words (scallops are called
``tan rogans'' in Douglas shops and
ruined houses are referred to as
``tholtans'' in government acts).
There is, too, very little original
literature in Manx, apart from the
``carvals'' or devotional songs of the
eighteenth century. One of them puts
the present state of the language
rather curiously but not without
force:
``. . . jeh bioys skee
myr yn pelican syn aasagh.''
 
In English this reads:
``. . . weary of life
like a pelican in the desert.''
 
chalse beg
 
 
--------------------------------------------------------
Stephen Miller     National Academic Typesetting Service
[log in to unmask] or [log in to unmask]
Oxford University Computing Services
13 Banbury Road, Oxford, UK.  OX2 6NN
Tel +44 (0)865 273200 / 273266 (direct) / 273275 (fax)
--------------------------------------------------------

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