John Quine

Rev Canon John Quine was a clergyman, a scholar and a teacher, but also, importantly, an ardent Manx nationalist and a great writer.

Born to a Foxdale miller in 1857, John Quine showed his brilliant intellect and his quick wit (and sometimes his quick tongue as well) through his time at King William’s College and Oxford University. Although he took his degree in mathematics, his interests lay really in religion and history, where a brilliant career seemed laid out for him in England. However, as a Manx nationalist, Quine instead returned to the Isle of Man where he became first the curate at Kirk Michael and then the domestic chaplain to the Bishop, where he met his wife, with whom he would eventually have eleven children.

Not long after taking up his position with the Bishop, Quine changed career to become the Headmaster of Douglas Grammar School. It was in this position that he befriended the school’s art teacher, Archibald Knox, whose Celtic style Quine nurtured. In 1895 Quine returned to the church, taking up the Vicarage at Lonan, a position he held for the next four decades, during which time he was greatly responsible for the saving of Lonan Old Church from ruin.

It was shortly after going to Lonan that Quine released The Captain of the Parish, a novel that Mona Douglas called a “classic of its genre,” commenting that it “is accounted by many people the best Manx novel ever written.” He wrote little else following this, perhaps partly owing to his strained relationship with the much more successful novelist, Hall Caine. However Quine did write a small number of plays, beginning with his 1909 comedy, Kitty’s Affair, adding his important contribution to the era that saw the first plays of Christopher Shimmin, Cushag and J. J. Kneen.

Quine was also highly involved in the history of the island, carrying out a dig at Peel Castle with Christopher Shimmin and P. M. C. Kermode (Cushag’s brother and the first director of the Manx Museum) and writing numerous articles and pamphlets about the history of the Island. He was also well-known for his highly creative interpretations of Manx history, arguing that the Romans settled on the Island and that many of the Gaelic place names are degradations of Latin.

In later life Quine became the Chaplain to the House of Keys in 1908, and the Canon of St. German’s Church, Peel, in 1909. He lived to be 82, dying on the 29th of February 1940.

[Image courtesy of Manx National Heritage]

Works by John Quine