Shoh yn goan foslee veih'n lioar "Skeealyn Aesop", liorish Edward Faragher, as eshyn hie er soilshaghey liorish Brialtagh Ellan Vannin ayns 1901. Choud's ta fys aym, ta'n coip-chiart oc cheaut, agh mannagh shen kiart, cur fys orrym my sailliu as nee'm arraghey ad. Foddee shiu cur fys orrym liorish y fys t'er y duillag "mychione".
Notey: Va Charles Roeder cliaghtey screeu "Farquhar" son "Faragher" as ren mee freayll shen 'syn aascreeu shoh.
This is the introduction from the book "Skeealyn Aesop" ("Aesop's fables"), by Edward Faragher. It was published by the Isle of Man Examiner in 1901. To the best of my knowledge the copyright has expired, but if this is incorrect, please let me know and I will remove them. You can find my contact details on the "about" page.
Note: Charles Roeder tended to write "Farquhar" for "Faragher", and I've kept this use in the transciption here.
Mona, or as the Manx lovingly call it, “Mannin veg veen” (sweet little Mann), has an attraction particularly its own. Its glorious shores are the delight of thousands of annual visitors from all parts of the United Kingdom. It is the most popular sea-side resort of West England, and Lancashire, par excellence. The reason is plain. Its lovely glens and bays ; its luxuriant vegetation, mild climate, and sea breezes, and the many amenities a stay offers to pleasure seekers, artists, sportsmen, and to the naturalist, the antiquary, and the jaded business man, are irresistible ; the native Manx, moreover, a homely and hospitable people, soon make you feel at home and engage your sympathy.
The Island has another attraction. It is a Celtic country, just like Wales, the Highlands, and Ireland ; only that the Welshman talks “Cymric,” and the others give you “Goidelic” speech. It will fare with Mann as it has done with Cornwall : the language is over-ridden and ousted by English ; the schoolmaster is abroad, and the native tongue is fading, and slowly dying, and only spoken now by the old in the central, western, and northern secluded upland farms, in the small creeks of the sea fringe, by fishermen and farmers, in their confidential talk amongst themselves. The more curious visitor, if he gets into their good graces, will carry away a few scraps of idiomatic phrases or words, too guttural and unutterable for English mouths to imbibe or retain. But still it is a most engaging language. The sacred Scriptures are preserved in Manx by great Bishop Wilson, Milton’s “Paradise Lost” exists in Manx dress, and the Manx population owe to it one of the most mellow versions of Watt’s hymn-book. For the dialect hunter their language is like what the heather blossom is to the bee. The Anglo-Manx has a native aroma. It is engrafted on the Lancashire dialect as spoken in the Fylde, as its peculiar Celtic-English ring – strange blend as it is – takes quick possession of you.
There is no practical vernacular Manx grammar or reading book in the language to help the visitor to a comprehension of the language, of which most have but a sort of vague idea that there is such a thing left yet in our times. The short collection of twenty-five Fables, now published bi-lingually, may therefore be a pleasant reminder and a keepsake to take away, and will show ocularly that it still breathes and lingers. The impulse lately given to Celtic study, and the formation of the Celtic Union for preserving and reviving a decaying speech, has led some interested Manxmen to open classes in the Island for the practical study of Manx. To such it may also prove a slight but agreeable help. If the reader wishes to see the Manxman at home, or to get a glimpse at his inner life, let him read Egbert Rydings’ charming “Manx Tales,” or the introductory sketch to Principal Rhys’s “Manx Phonology,” which gives a picturesque account of his pleasant wanderings along the countrysides amongst the peasantry in search of Manx sounds. Another delightful channel will be found in the late Rev. T. E. Brown’s poetical tales in Anglo-Manx, and for anyone who wishes to get a little more acquainted with Manx folklore and idiosyncracies, let him peruse A. W. Moore’s “Manx Folklore,” and my own contribution to the “Lhioar Manninagh,” the organ of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, which is a rich store-house of everything Manx.
A few biographical words about the translator himself, Mr. Edward Farquhar, of Cregneish, will, I hope, add to the interest of the booklet.
Edward Farquhar, who now stands in his 70th year, a true type of the “Manninagh Dooie,” lives in the little hill-village of Cregneish, and has spent almost all his active life on the sea as a fisherman, and comes of a family of fisherman for generations untold. The Cregneish folk were just like a great fisher-family entirely left to themselves and little disturbed by the outside waves of modern life, with its rush and throbbing speed. They were frugal, hardy, and sea-toiling men, whose lives were divided between mackerel fishing and the harvesting of the little oat and potato crofts. The Mull, with its venerable stone-circle, the Calf, made memorable by Hall Caine, and the grand view spread around, offers a sight scarcely rivalled in its beauty and impressive loneliness in the Island. They are dwelling in the high, rocky upland, amidst purple heather and gorse, and you can see the wild dashing and splashing breakers, and hear the roaring from the sea caves. The winter time is there rough and desolate, and they draw closer to their glimmering turf fires to tell weird stories and gruesome legends. It was here in this mountain loneliness, so rich in its natural scenery, that he grew up, and there is no man in the Island that loves his native soil more intensely, or is fonder of the contemplation of nature.
In his time, education was in a very backward condition, and a luxury few could afford, least of all, poor fishermen ; for his schooling he was sent to Port St. Mary, where an old dame kept an infants’ school for writing and ciphering. The nearest parish school was two miles away, and they had to take their dinner with them, the tiny things. He attended for two years, and became a pretty good reader and writer. There was little English taught and known in Cregneish, his mother being the only person who could converse with strangers. His father was a fair scholar, and wrote all the letters for the Cregneish people, and that was a great thing then. The family being large – there were twelve children – he had to go to sea very young, and joined his father in a boat, fishing with him for seven years. In those days, to be thought a man, you had to give proof of your virility by hard drinking. All the fisher-villages were packed with ale houses, and the “jough” went round merrily and noisily enough, singing and fighting alternating the entertainment. They were very successful in fishing – the fishing grounds yielded good catches then, and a great deal of their earnings went to the public houses ; they were, to use a happy Manx expression : “Just like a cow that gave a canful of milk, and then put her foot into it and upset the can.”
Mr. Farquhar is entirely self-taught, and knows his Scott, Byron, Milton and his Bible well, to which is added a very retentive memory for the recitations of old ballads and folk-tales. His knowledge of Manx lore is simply unique ; and as a man who can tackle a fish, or knows the ins and outs of the coastline and its creeks and its caves, he is, I believe, unmatched. He speaks, of course, both Manx and English, and is considered to be one of the best vernacular conversationalists extant in the Island. He is of a poetical temperament, and was always able to make some verse, but his muse brought his little thanks, and the consequential jeers and derision of his uncultured companions and the buxom village belles, brought him more wormwood than golden opinions. He never kept a copy until he was about 26 years old, and then began to write on many subjects – lyrical, contemplative, sacred and legendary.
For a short time he went to Liverpool to become a safe-maker, working amongst Welshmen, who were worse English speakers than himself, and he learnt but little English there. His longing, however, for the sea and his heather-clad hills was too over-powering, and he returned against to Cregneish, and fished for mackerel at Kinsale and on the West coast of Ireland for twenty-five spring seasons. He has been shipwrecked and narrowly saved, and weathered great storms in his rough voyages. In middle age he married, and has a family, but has been a widower for many years. The earnings were good at first, but the last ten years have passed so poor that it is not worth going fishing at all, and the men would be glad to give it up, if other employment could be found.
He has been a total abstainer for the last twenty years, and during that period he has composed about a thousand sacred songs and innumerable others, but seldom reads them to any. A few of his poetical contributions have appeared at various times in the Mona’s Herald and the Cork Eagle, and were always welcomed and appreciated. He is passionately fond of nature, and, as he tells me – I have enjoyed the pleasure of his intimate friendship for many years now – in autumn, when the heather is in bloom on the hills around Cregneish, he could sit there and admire it all the day long, and covet no other spot in the world for its beauties. He has achieved the great feat in his old age of translating the whole set of Æsop’s Fables (313 in number) from English into Manx within four months, while not in the best health, and harassed by domestic affliction. Should there be a public desire to have another sheaf of them, the publishers may not be unwilling to continue the series at a later period.
Mr Farquhar has done great services to Manx Folklore, and it is due to him that at this late period an immense amount of valuable Manx legends and Insular lore have been preserved, for which indeed the Isle of Man must ever be under gratitude to him. His poetry is of the homely, descriptive kind, and appeals to the simple emotions of the heart. It expresses his deep and intense love for nature, and breathes a real religious feeling. His pretensions are modest – to have sung to himself has been sufficient reward to him. Brought up in a different sphere, he would have gone forth as one of Mona’s great and eminent sons.
Hall Caine, who kindly has perused a small collection of Mr. Farquhar’s verse submitted to him, says in a considerate letter he has written to me : “I have read the poems with pleasure ; they show a good deal of sensibility to poetic feelings – to a certain state of emotion. That the author is a man of very amiable character, and that his love of his native Island is very tender and beautiful, is sufficiently obvious – a really admirable man, who has preserved a simplicity of natural feelings that is rather too rare.”
And I may sprinkle here for the poet a few blossoms of his
inspiration to exhibit the current of his muse, which I trust the
reader will not despise. Mr Ernest U. Savage, of Douglas and Pembroke
College, has kindly undertaken to revise the translation, and also read
the proof-sheets, to make the little book as perfect as possible.