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Skeealyn Vannin (Stories of Mann) 6 January 2004

Manx National Heritage is celebrating the New Year with the publication of a major collection of Manx language CDs which was launched on 3rd January at the House of Manannan by Phil Gawne, MHK. Invited guests included Professor Seamas O Cathain, Head of the Department of Irish Folklore, University College Dublin where the original recordings are held and Harry Bradshaw, formerly of RTE, who worked with MNH on the digital re-mastering of the archive. Also present were some of the relatives of those originally recorded in 1948.

This complete collection of Manx language archive recordings was made by the Irish Folklore Commission in 1948, following a visit to the Isle of Man by Eamon de Valera, Taoiseach of Ireland. The visit included a trip to Cregneash where spoken Manx could still be heard. During a discussion with Ned Maddrell, one of the last native Manx speakers, de Valera realised that Manx Gaelic was under threat and offered to send the Irish Folklore Commission and their recording van to the Isle of Man to make a lasting record of the few remaining Manx speakers.

Kevin Danaher, of the Irish Folklore Commission, was in charge of bringing the recording van to the Island on a cattle boat from Dublin. In an interview with Manx Radio in 1984 Kevin Danaher described his arrival at the Manx Museum in a van hardly recognisable after its prolonged confinement with the cattle!

Danaher spent two weeks on the Island working with Manx language enthusiasts visiting the homes of the native speakers and recording the precious archive of spoken Manx. Manx National Heritage has now had the original recordings digitally re-mastered to make them available to the public as a complete CD publication with full transcriptions and translations.

There are six CDs in the set, containing more than five hours of spoken Manx Gaelic and some examples of Manx dialect. This publication by Manx National Heritage is a major contribution to the resources available for today's language students and will offer an insight into the historical pronunciation of Manx Gaelic and Manx English dialect.

As well as being a great resource for language students, many will find the conversations between the old Manx people fascinating for their detail of a lifestyle which has disappeared over the last half century in the Isle of Man. Imagine a man from Ballaugh, Harry Boyde, who farmed all his life in the North of the Island and had never been to the Lhen (Jurby) until he was taken for a birthday tea at the cafe there when he was over eighty. Then there's the story from Annie Kneale's young days about the woman who kept her pig in the house and, when the visiting parson objected to taking tea in its presence, she said that he could get out instead as the pig brought money in to the house but he only took it away!

More than fifty-five years after the original recordings were made Manx National Heritage is proud to bring this project to such a satisfying conclusion. This has only been possible with the help of present day Manx Gaelic enthusiasts, particularly Walter Clarke of Ramsey, who have given their time to help with the massive task of transcribing and translating the original material. At the launch MNH showed its appreciation of their work by presenting complimentary copies to those involved. There was much appreciation of the new publication by those present and Harry Bradshaw said of Skeealyn Vannin, "A superb publication which Manx Heritage can be proud of, World Class! Well done."

Skeealyn Vannin (Stories of Mann) is now available from Manx National Heritage shops at the Manx Museum and the House of Manannan.

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