Songs in Manx Gaelic

Jul 10, 2014 by

The last native speaker of Manx, the language of the Isle of Man, was Ned Maddrell, a fisherman born in 1877 who died in 1974. This unique Gaelic ( Gailck, in Manx) language is not extinct, and a small portion of the island’s inhabitants do speak it, with an even greater number having at least a basic familiarity with Manx. As with many of the Celtic languages, there has been a strong effort to revive Manx, an undertaking aided by the fact there is both written and audio documentation of the language.

Manx is a beautiful language, as you’ll hear in the following videos, lyrical and unique, with hints of Ulster Irish and northern Scots Gaelic, all flowing together to give voice to the ancient Celtic culture of the Isle of Man.

 

This is a traditional Manx folk song,  a woman’s invocation to the sea gods to bring her fisherman home safely. The English and Manx lyrics are contained in the comments section of the video.

 

 

Ushag Veg Ruy( Little Red Bird) is a Manx lullaby, sung here in Manx and English. Click HERE to see the full lyrics in both languages.

 

 

This lovely track, Fin as Oshin, is from Ruth Keggin’s debut album of Manx Gaelic songs, Sheear (“Westward”).  Click HERE to go to Ruth’s website and HERE to to preview/purchase  the album.

 

 

 My Caillin Veg Dhone (My Little Brown Girl) is performed here by Caarjyn Cooidjagh (“Friends Together”), a group of singers based on the Isle of Man.  Click HERE to see the lyrics in English and Manx and HERE to preview another track from the group.

 

Sources and more information on Manx Gaelic:

A Wooden Crate Preserved the Manx Language, BBC

Audio recording of Ned Maddrell, last native speaker of Manx

Basic Manx Phrases, Manx National Heritage

LearnManx.com

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Nollick Ghennal–A Manx Christmas Greeting

Dec 24, 2013 by

Happy Christmas and A Good New Year from beautiful Ellan Vannin, the Isle of Man

Nollick Ghennal

Nollick Ghennal

Nollick Ghennal as Blein Vie Noa is Manx Gaelic for Happy Christmas and A Good New Year.

This little castle is known as the Tower of Refuge and is in Douglas Bay, off the coast of the Isle of Man.  Completed in 1832, the tower sits atop Conister Rock (also known as St Mary’s Isle) at the far end of Douglas Bay.  Sir William Hillary, founder of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, moved to Man in 1808.  He  realized that waters of the Irish Sea were too treacherous for any sailor washed overboard to swim safely to shore.  Hillary paid for the small granite tower to be built on Conister Rock, as refuge for sailors waiting to be rescued.   He made sure it provided shelter for  sailors, and also kept it stocked with fresh water and bread.

It’s possible to walk to the The Tower of Refuge when the tide is out, but it is not advised, as the tide comes in quickly  and could leave you stranded.  Locals recommend you view it from a distance, just to be safe.

 

800px-Mona_aground_on_St_Mary's_Isle.

Isle of Man Steam Packet Company vessel, Mona aground on St Mary’s Isle, July 2nd, 1930.

The Tower of Refuge, Isle of Man

The Tower of Refuge, Isle of Man

 

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It’s NOT Halloween, it’s Hop-tu-Naa on the Isle of Man

Oct 29, 2013 by

On the Isle of Man, October 31st is celebrated as Hop-tu-Naa, an ancient Manx tradition that predates Halloween. As with Samhain, hop-tu-naa marks the end of the harvest season, the onset of the cold, dark days of winter, and the start of a new year.

Manx Hop-tu-Naa Turnip Lanterns http://tinyurl.com/mpg3bnx

Manx Hop-tu-Naa Turnip Lanterns http://tinyurl.com/mpg3bnx

This is old Sauin night; Hop-tu-naa
The moon shines bright; Trol-la-laa…


Shoh shenn oie Houiney
T’an eayst soilshean; Trol-la-laa…

from The Hop-Tu-Naa Song

The name “Hop-tu-Naa” (pronounced hop two nay) is a derivation of the Manx Gaelic phrase  “Shogh ta’n Oie”, meaning “this is the night”.  Like Hogmanay in Scotland, hop-tu-naa is a Celtic festival in honor of the new year,  “Oie Houney”, but the Manx fest has not been moved to January, as has the Scottish fest.  Manx people continue to ring in their Celtic New Year on the eve of October 31st, just before “mee houney”, Manx for November, begins.

Some Manx hop-tu-naa traditions are similar to Halloween customs.  As with American trick or treaters, Manx children today don disguises and happily go door to door in search of sweet treats.  They may also bring along their carved turnip lanterns–pumpkins are a New World luxury that would have been too expensive to purchase, even if available, so turnips(called moots or swedes) became the practical choice for hop-tu-naa revelers about 100 years ago.  I can tell you from personal experience that carving a turnip is MUCH harder than carving a pumpkin, and requires a good deal of commitment to your art.

 

 

In the old days, children would sing the Manx Gaelic Hop-tu-Naa Song (see above), as they roamed door to door, seeking apples, salted herring, old coins or other goodies. Sadly, the song is rarely heard sung in Manx these days, but recent efforts to increase Manx Gaelic use throughout the island may give the Hop-tu-Naa Song a rebirth. I searched in vain for a video or sound clip of the song being sung in Manx.

Another musical  hop-tu-naa tradition involves singing a song about a local lady, Jinny the witch, as the children go from house to house. Not to be confused with just any old Halloween witch, this Jinny is unique to the Isle of Man and predates  Halloween by several centuries. She lived  in the town of Braddan and was tried for witchcraft in the early 18th century, for using magic to shut down the local corn mill.  Fortunately for her, local authorities did not have the same zealousness for punishing witches as was seen in 18th century Scotland and America.  Jinny was sentenced to 14 days’ imprisonment, fined £3 and made to stand at the four market crosses dressed in sackcloth–not fun, but much better than being burned at the stake.

 

 

There are numerous versions of the Jinny the Witch song, but a common one has the following lyrics:

Hop-tu-Naa, Tra-la-laa
Jinny the Witch flew over the house
To catch a stick to lather the mouse
Hop-tu-Naa, Tra-la-laa
If you don’t give us something we’ll run away
With the light of the moon.

 

Here is short video from the Manx Heritage Center in 2011, showing some of the dancing, music and activities traditionally associated with hop-tu-naa–watch for the little guy dancing with a candy cigarette in his mouth:

 

To learn more about the Isle of Man:

The Isle of Man: Portrait of A Nation, John Grimson, 2010 ISBN-10: 0709081030

Manx Heritage Center http://tinyurl.com/kdx58xm

The Folk-Lore of the Isle of Man: Being an Account of its Myths, Legends, Superstitions, Customs & Proverbs(Forgotten Books), A. W. Moore, 1891,
ISBN-10: 1605061832

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