Dedicated to the Gaelic Language of the Isle of Man
Imraaghyn Features

Gaelg as mish: May 2018

               Back from the Brink

By the time I knew that the Isle of Man had its own language, Manx Gaelic was almost dead. There were probably only three native speakers left at that time, Sage Kinvig, John Tom Kaighin and Ned Maddrell and they rarely spoke Manx, having been accustomed to speaking English for many years.

I must have been about 9 or 10 when my grandfather first told me that there was a language called Manx. He said that it would not last much longer because there were only a couple of people left who could speak it. I remember thinking at the time that it would be amazing to be able to speak a language that hardly anybody else could speak but more than thirty years passed before I began to learn it.

My grandfather was a proud Manxman but he did not speak the language. However, I grew up using a smattering of words that I assumed were English until I started to learn Manx. We would always slaa butter on our bread, knew that gobbags came from Peel and that we needed a quaaltagh at New Year. Weak or silly people were toots and Grandad loved a brabbag.

It wasn’t until 1993 that I felt that I would have enough time to commit to learning another language. I had learnt French, Latin and a little German at school but at that time we had no opportunity to learn Manx. In 1993 I enrolled for an evening class in Manx at Isle of Man College and from my first lesson I was completely hooked. I loved the sound and feel of it and the fact that it was so different from English and the other languages I had learnt. I was extremely fortunate in having Joan Caine as my teacher. What Joan doesn’t know about Manx grammar really isn’t worth knowing and so I acquired a very good grounding from which to go on to become more fluent. I learnt with Joan for several years and also had lessons with Derek Phillips and Bernard Caine and benefitted from their different skills and methods of teaching.

Manx has come a long way in the 25 years since I began to learn. It has become more visible and has attracted younger, clever, talented people who are vital for the continued growth of the language. There are more books and resources available for learners than when I began to learn and more classes too.

The most important development has been the opening of the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh. My eldest granddaughter was in the first group of children to attend the school. Nine children went to the school that year but as parents have become more aware of the benefits of bilingualism, the numbers have grown and now there are over seventy children in the school.

I wonder what Grandad would have thought about his Great Great Granddaughter being taught through the medium of Manx? Surprised, certainly, but I think he would have been very pleased to know that he was so wrong about the demise of Manx. He thought it would have been dead and buried several years ago but it has been resurrected and continues to gain strength.

 

Maralyn Crellin, Myllin Doo Aah