Manannan’s Cloak – a bilingual anthology of Manx Literature
Lesser Used Languages of Europe Series Volume Two
Edited by Robert Corteen Carswell
Paperback 235 pages
’We English are at last being shown some of the delights which have been going on beneath our raised noses for many centuries, and in a form which, while instructive to those of us who rely on a lingua franca, is also true to these peoples' own words.
Nicholas Ostler Ogmios 1 August 2011
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> Read two poems by Robert Corteen Carswell, editor of Manannan’s Cloak – a bilingual anthology of Manx Literature
Manannan’s Cloak brings together a range of texts in the Gaelic language of the Isle of Man from the earliest writings to the present day, along with their English translations. Written Manx arrived comparatively late, and the size of the Island’s population was not conducive to the widespread development of Manx literature. Nevertheless, the amount of Manx literature collected here may come as a surprise.
The texts in Manx are linked by a narrative which places them in the context of Manx history, and includes observations about the language and the people who used it by a number of officials and visitors to the Island, such as George Borrow.
In recent years there has been a positive attitude to the language which has led to the development of a modern literature in which books are published professionally to meet a growing demand. Manx is taught as an optional subject in both primary and secondary schools. There is a primary school, Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, where Manx is the medium of education. Four subjects are also being taught through Manx at secondary level in one of the Island’s schools.
The Isle of Man is a small, ancient kingdom in the middle of the Irish Sea. The regalities of the Island were purchased by the British Crown in 1765 (an event known in the Island as Yn Chialg Vooar – ‘The Big Swindle’!) The Island’s political constitution means that it is not part of the United Kingdom and is only an associate member of the European Union. A linguistic study has also referred to ‘the extraordinary independence of Manx’.
About the author
Born in 1950, Robert Corteen Carswell was introduced to the Manx language at an early age in written form (Edmund Goodwin’s ‘First Lessons In Manx’ and a copy of ‘Conaant Noa’, the New Testament in a second edition published in 1775). His interest in all aspects of the Isle of Man has led him to a Masters degree in Manx Studies, and he has been dancer, musician and (occasional) singer as well as song-writer, author and teacher of Manx language and dance. He has been involved in broadcasting in Manx since the 1970s, taking the opportunity to present little-known aspects of Manx history and folklore and place them not only in a Manx context, but also in a wider context that looks outwards to celebrate the Island’s place in the world. With his first wife, Peg, he researched, revised and devised stories and rhymes for the Manx-language playgroup that Peg led, before she became one of the peripatetic teachers taking Manx into the schools. They have three sons, Eben, Conal and Gilno. He is now married to Linda, who was born and brought up in Cornwall.