Manx: How a Unique Island Got Its Voice Back

Young pupils pick up the torch at the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, Manx language immersion school, St. John's Isle of Man. (Photo courtesy K. David Harrison)
Young pupils pick up the torch at the Bunscoill Ghaelgagh, Manx language immersion school, St. John’s, Isle of Man. (Photo courtesy K. David Harrison)

By K. David Harrison

“Whichever way you throw me I will stand” declares a Manx motto. Its appropriateness is made clear in the revitalization of the island’s native tongue, something worth celebrating this weekend as UNESCO marks International Mother Language Day.

Over the centuries, the Isle of Man has stood as a refuge at the crossroads of the Celtic world, nearly equidistant from England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and with strong Gaelic cultural influences. Resilient Manxmen withstood waves of invaders, and assimilated diverse influences. For a time part of the Norse Kingdom of the Isles, then under English rule, the Isle of Man today is a self-governing British Crown dependency. With a population under 90,000, the island covers 221 square miles, or about the same size as Guam.

Wildflowers color the coastline south of the port city of Peel, Isle of Man. (Photo by Sisse Brimberg/National Geographic Creative)

Throughout this turbulent history, the Manx language thrived, inspiring poets and storytellers. But then it faltered, and nearly vanished, in the late 20th century. After the 1974 passing —> Read More Here

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