The great icon of Manx folklore Sophia Morrison is of course synonymous with the collection of folklore and dance and together with Mona Douglas ranks amongst the most immediately recognisable persons who were prominent in the movement in the early and (in Monas case the late 20th century.
Of course there are others. I’ve written items in the past about Cressy Dodd and of course there are external collectors such as Marstrander and Meyer. Additionally there is Josephine Kermode also a lover of Manx folklore and a great poetess as this excellent item (see below) from Stephen Miller records. Kermode was a contemporary and worked with Morrison. Miller mentions Kermode in this item about Morrison whose death occurred just over a century ago today on January 14th 1917:
“Firstly, she did not collect on her own—or, more precisely, she did not travel alone. One of her companions was Josephine Kermode (1852–1937), the Manx poetess known better by her pen-name of “Cushag,”10 who she seemed to have met in 1907,11 though soon off to Nova Scotia to nurse a married sister: “I was very greatly disappointed as we had planned a series of excursions on the Manx quest for the ensuing week. She spoke Manx when a child.”12 In 1909, she wrote to Cushag “I am delighted that you are coming to Peel for a week. I do hope the weather may be fine. I shall much enjoy going round with you to see some of the old people.”13 It would seem that Kermode’s navigation skills in the Manx countryside were not of the best—“I think that if there is any truth in the old saying, you of all people, should possess a bollan cross—country roads are sometimes misleading,” she enclosing crosh bollans “for luck.”14 The manuscript evidence for her song collecting lies split between her own paper”
These figures – and others – are forgotten by most now however I often heard the names of Morrison and Kermode (Cushag) in my youth as they were the stuff of living memory to my mother, grandmother (Cashin) and Aunt ‘Molly Mac’ Killey.
Image: A crowd gathered at Maughold Churchyard for the unveiling of a memorial to Kermode in 1944
AGS Celtic League (14th January 2024)