NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE
At the annual Illiam Dhone commemoration I called for a greater emphasis to be placed by Manx nationalists on remembering those prominent in the political and cultural sides of the movement.
To this end later this month a talk will be given by Bob Carswell on the life and work of Colin Jerry (details from Mec Vannin).
It is also hoped that an opportunity can also be taken to once again honour the life and work of Sophia Morrison. There was a wreath laying at her grave some years ago (she is buried at Peel) and it is hoped this can be repeated.
Morrison’s contribution was enormous in terms of the collection of folklore (she made sound recordings – surely pioneering work at the dawn of the 20th century – sadly now lost) and she also was a prominent figure in the Manx Language Society being a founder member of Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh.
She also played a contributory role in the Pan Celtic Movement – in the words of Mona Douglas:
“Then came her inclusion in the Manx delegation to the first Pan-Celtic Congress in Dublin, where her enthusiasm received further encouragement and inspiration for the propagation of Celtic culture and where she formed many friendships which were to last all her life, notably one with Miss Mailt Williams, a great Welsh nationalist. She also remained a member of the Pan-Celtic Association, later renamed the Celtic Congress, for the rest of her life, and contributed many articles on Manx subjects to its magazine Celtia”
In terms of the Manx language she was very much ahead of her time and again in the words of Mona Douglas:
“She gave unsparingly of her time, her outstanding ability and her money to the cause, and it was largely due to her initiative that a number of works in Manx and for Manx students were brought out. In 1901 she became secretary of the Society and set herself to influence its policy more and more towards publications and regular classes. Attempts to get Manx Gaelic included in the regular curriculum of primary and secondary schools proved abortive, but evening classes sponsored by the School Boards were established.”
This is an oft ignored political facet of Morrison’s contribution because in the early days of the Pan Celtic movement there was also a political dimension as Peter Ellis records in his book the Celtic Dawn:
“Members (of the Celtic Congress) were pledged to the revival of each Celtic language and to some degree of ‘official status’. Because of this, the early Celtic Congresses had a political hue. Indeed, the very act of speaking a Celtic language, let alone campaigning for its status, could be interpreted as an act of political expression when the Imperial government were actively discouraging the languages as a continuing part of their centuries-old policy of destroying them.”
Later Beresford Ellis records that the political dynamic of Pan Celticism was dropped saying;
The 1917 Celtic Congress (whose papers were published in volume form in 1918) was subdued. This is understandable, for it was meeting in the ‘great war’, a year after the Irish uprising, and many of its Irish supporters had been executed or imprisoned for their part in the insurrection. There was little emphasis on political nationalism, for obvious reasons
Peter Ellis also records that after 1917 and to the present day the Celtic Congress ‘lost the political content of its first decade and a half’.
However by the 1917 Congress Sophia Morrison was dead having died in the year it was held.
Mona Douglas described here as a ‘Militant Manxwoman’ and famously said:
“She accomplished more in her short life than most people do in double the time”
She also said:
“Her love and service of the Manx national cause was like a religious vocation”.
Many of here contemporaries at that first Celtic Congress went on to give sterling service to both political and cultural nationalism. Douglas Hyde became first President of Ireland in 1938. Morrison Welsh nationalist friend Mallt Williams also remained active both politically and culturally. The person she inspired Mona Douglas in addition to her well recorded cultural profile was also active in trying to establish the first Manx Nationalist Party in 1947 – Ny Manninee Dooie (see link);
Later Mona was involved at the formation of Mec Vannin.
Issued by: The Celtic News
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