“No heavier blow has ever befallen the cause of Manx nationality than was sustained when Miss Sophia Morrison passed from mortal ken. [P. W. Caine]”
Best remembered today for her book Manx Fairy Tales, Sophia Morrison was one of the most important driving forces behind the Manx cultural revival at the start of the 20th Century.
Born on the 24th of May 1859, Morrison developed in intense interest in Manx culture through her childhood spent amongst the people of her native Peel. This soon developed until she was at the forefront of a movement to sustain, strengthen and extend Manx culture against the diluting influence of English immigration and modernity. Unlike others in the Manx cultural revival, Morrison’s main role was in encouraging, organising and enabling others. This meant that there was hardly an area of culture that she was not deeply and importantly involved in. Her tireless work was enormously influential in Manx language, music, folklore, theatre, literature, dialect, cookery and even national dress.
One of the key manifestations of Morrison’s work came through her founding and editing of Mannin: Journal of Matters Past and Present relating to Mann, published between 1913 and her death in 1917. As well as being a focal point for the key workers in all aspects of Manx culture, Mannin was an important place for Manx poets, short story writers and playwrights to have their work published. Morrison was also of paramount importance to Manx theatre as she was directly responsible for bringing about the writing or production of almost all of the Manx plays of the 1910s, the great period of Manx drama.
However, Morrison’s name will perhaps always be best known for her 1911 book, Manx Fairy Tales. By collecting and publishing the tales in this form, Morrison ensured that the collection would not be a mere historical record for future generations, but something fit to reinvigorate the stories so that they might live again for generations to come. Their continued popularity over the past century and more shows her unquestionable success.
She died suddenly on the 14th of January 1917, leaving her friends to the realisation that the leading light of the Manx cultural revival had gone out, not least in the sphere of Manx literature. She was responsible for inspiring the creation of so many of the Manx writings of her age and it would be impossible to tell the story of Manx literature at the start of the 20th century without her name featuring at the heart of it all. But even without this, Morrison’s name will go down in the Island’s literary history thanks to her great Manx Fairy Tales, a work that deserves a place in every Manx home.
[Image courtesy of Manx National Heritage]
Works by Sophia Morrison
Manx Fairy Tales