”There was no man who loved his Mona so much as he, and every fibre of his heart was intertwined with her traditions and memories of the soil.” [Charles Roeder, Manx Quarterly No.5, 1908]
The life of the last important native Manx-language poet, Edward Faragher, mirrored the decline and neglect that Gaelg suffered over the course of his lifetime.
Born in 1831, Edward Faragher grew up in the traditional Manx-speaking community of Cregneash, where he became known as Ned Beg Hom Ruy – “Little Ned with the red beard” – distinguishing him from his red-bearded father. Despite composing verse from a young age, it was only when in his twenties that Faragher first began writing it down. This was undoubtedly encouraged by the reception that it received in Liverpool, where he worked briefly, as Faragher reported that the poems put “the young women in a frenzy.”
Longing for the Isle of Man, he returned to Cregneash and again took up the difficult task of making a living as a traditional fisherman and small-scale farmer. It was here that he became known to the major figures involved in the Manx cultural revival, including Sophia Morrison, J. J. Kneen and, most importantly, the Manchester-based German folklorist, Charles Roeder. It was Roeder who took up the hard fight of getting publishers interested in some of the stories, folklore and at least some of the 4,000 poems that Faragher would write over his lifetime. Unfortunately the reward for his efforts were small, as the poor sales of Skeealyn Aesop in 1901 were repeated with Manx Notes and Queries in 1904.
As Faragher grew older and his health failed, he found it increasingly difficult to support himself. He was eventually forced to leave his beloved Isle of Man in 1907 when three of his children emigrated to Canada. He moved to be with his son at a Colliery in Derbyshire, and it was there that he died in 1908, after a drawn-out and painful illness. He was laid to rest there in an unmarked grave.
Having been neglected and denigrated by his contemporaries, it is thanks to the vision and hard work of a circle of Manx cultural activists from over a century ago that we still have with us the work of Ned Beg, the last great native Manx-speaking poet.
[Image courtesy of Manx National Heritage]
Works by Edward Faragher
Skeealyn Aesop (1904)