The Director of the Manx Museum from 1932 to 1940, William Cubbon was at the heart of the Manx cultural revival that took place at the start of the 20th Century.
Born 30th May 1865 at Croit-y-Caley, Rushen, William Cubbon joined the staff of the Isle of Man Examiner at the age of 18 and rose swiftly through the ranks to become manager and acting editor by 1889. In 1900 he became joint owner of the Manx Sun, a paper that would play an important role in the Manx Literature of this period, as was suggested by the paper’s announcement in 1900:
“The aim of the paper would be to promote Manx National interests, to create a higher ideal among the people as to their duty to the country, and to influence a higher degree of patriotism.”
This staunch nationalism found its expression in Cubbon through his involvement in organisations such as Yn Çheshaght Ghailckagh (The Manx Language Society) and the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, but also through his assistance for the publications of Sophia Morrison and J. J. Kneen.
In 1912 Cubbon had left journalism to take a position closer to his own interests, as Borough Librarian of Douglas. It was whilst here that he published A Book of Manx Poetry, a book created to try to engage young Manx people in their Island.
After a period as manager of the Manx Government Labour Exchange, Cubbon became Secretary and Librarian to the Manx Museum upon its formation in 1922. He served under his great friend, the antiquarian P. M. C. Kermode (incidentally the brother of the poet and playwright, Cushag), until Cubbon succeeded him as Director of the Museum upon Kermode’s death in 1932.
It was during his time as Director of the Manx Museum that Cubbon produced his monumental Bibliography of the Literature of the Isle of Man, published in two volumes in 1933 and 1939. The continued value of this to researchers of Manx history and culture would be hard to underestimate.
When he came to die on New Year’s Day 1953, Cubbon had received an honorary degree from the University of Liverpool and a Knighthood from Norway, but what he would have counted as his greatest reward would be that his work during his lifetime has helped Manx people ever since to better realise their own national culture.
[Image courtesy of Manx National Heritage]
Works by William Cubbon
A Book of Manx Poetry