Yn Pabyr Seyr is published by Mec Vannin, the Manx Nationalist Party. All articles are copyright Mec Vannin unless otherwise stated. Mec Vannin grants permission to reproduce articles from Yn Pabyr Seyr provided that the source is credited.

Issue 8 - October 1992

Language programme under threat!

The long awaited Manx teaching programme in schools is in danger of being strangled at birth if funding is not only maintained but improved.

The overwhelming response which took Government totally by surprise could actually harm the programme if steps are not taken to meet it. Already, there are several classes worth of disappointed children and their parents. Some may get the opportunity to climb aboard positions become available, but many have missed the boat. Unless the programme is expanded, they will not get a second chance.

Far from being an opportunity for each and every Manx child to learn their native tongue, a chance element has been introduced that will bring disappointment and, worse still, disaffection. If the children are not guaranteed the lessons, many may not even apply: The current situation with the language is that each and every speaker and potential speaker is precious. Over the years, Manx Gaelic classes have been full of people who, having been denied the opportunity in their childhood, regret not knowing the language that is their birthright. Sadly many of those never acquire a working knowledge of the language, much less pass it on. Although Dr. Brian Stowell declined to make any comment, it is clear from the way that the classes have been juggled and the fact that he is teaching classes himself (not a part of the original plan) that the project is under immense pressure.

The programme, whilst requiring Tynwald approval, is not directly funded. It is funded from the Department of Education and must compete with other projects for its share of the cash. There are those within and without Government who, for reasons best known to themselves, would dearly like to see the project collapse and will seize any and every opportunity to "put the knife in." At the same time, the pro-Gaelic groups have been rather quiet about the whole thing, perhaps not wanting to upset the apple-cart.

The Department is planning its budget for next year now and will be under orders to cut everything to the bone. This could, if pressure is not brought, mean the Gaelic programme. Mec Vannin would have preferred not to have been the group to raise the flag on this matter, since the bigots will try to claim political motivation. A native language is above any politics it is all-embracing. Mec Vannin asks anyone who supports the teaching of the language in schools and most particularly the parents of the disappointed children, to write to your M.H.K.s and make your views known.

Silence could mean the end of the project and the relegation of our native tongue, the potential vehicle for our
expression, culture and identity for future generations, to an item of academic curiosity.

Please speak out!

Cars are killing Mannin

Roads in Mann are becoming daily more congested as the population increases and its materialist members feel the need for at least two cars per family. This situation does not appear likely to improve as the car driving public call for new car parks and dual carriageways. We all know the benefits of personal freedom that such a wealth of cars provides, but what about the costs to our Island?

All over the world the threat to the environment posed by vehicle emissions such as CO2 and harmful toxins is being taken seriously; but in Mann? The Manx Government positively encourages consumerism and the car is accepted as a major status symbol.

The car damages our island in the following ways:

It pollutes our air with the gases it emits, it puts pressure on our roads, it is a threat to life through accidents and puts pressure on town centres with congestion, noise and pollution.

At a public meeting last year, it was proposed that the following ideas to lessen the impact of the car on the Island should be put before Tynwald:

1. Pollution from vehicles - if exhaust emissions from a vehicle do not comply with E.E.C. levels, then a licence will not be issued.

2. Highways - to be maintained on existing infrastructure - in other words, no construction of new roads.
3. Car-parking - no new private car-parking to be built. No free car parking. Abolish the requirement to build car-parking spaces with offices - this is to encourage office-workers and shoppers to use public transport.
4. Public transport - bus transport improved, pedestrian facilities integrated with public transport. Hospitals,
schools etc. all built within walking distance within towns. Cycle lanes and cycle-parking facilities.
5. Improvement of emissions and noise from commercial vehicles.
6. Abolish tax-relief on company vehicles. Bus passes provided by companies instead.
7. All government employees to be issued with bus passes.

These are a few ideas which would hopefully lessen the amount of traffic on our roads. On a small island like ours, a comprehensive bus service with improvements such as mini buses like the Ramsey Skipper service covering rural routes, late night buses to avoid drinking-driving; altogether a bus service that is more attractive to use could go a long way towards providing protection to our vulnerable environment.

We have to decide to provide such protection before it's too late. Then, maybe, we could be an example to other
countries rather than trying to hold onto outmoded symbols of our prosperity which we will be forced to abandon only after they have irretrievably destroyed our greatest wealth: Our beautiful country.


Manx Gaelic more relevant than French

An article in the "Isle of Man Courier" of 25/9/92 reports on the widespread media attention given to the introduction of voluntary Manx lessons in Island schools and on Mr. David Corlett M.H:K.'s views on the subject.

I am pleased to see that the new venture (with its take-up of around 40% in the primary schools) is such a success, but there is one point where I completely agree with Mr. Corlett and that is his concern for the funding of the project which he appears to think is inadequate. Surely the Government would never have decided to initiate such a scheme if it regarded it as an "indulgence"? The Government's own questionnaire on the subject gave a figure of 36% of all people surveyed in favour of the teaching of Manx.

Mr. Corlett also states that, "You cannot teach a language in half an hour a week," but the problem here lies in the funding of the programme. It certainly would preferable to have more than one half hour lesson a week. In the mean time, the aim is "to teach a small amount very well."

According to Mr. Corlett, he would prefer to concentrate on "relevant modern languages." I sometimes wonder just how "relevant" these languages are. How many people actually use the French or German they learned at school?

It is probably more difficult for children to identify with the language and culture of a country far away which many will never visit or have any opportunities to speak to its native inhabitants than it is to learn the language of their own ancestors. Manx was the everyday language of the majority of people in this Island as late as the 19th century. Reminders of our Gaelic speaking past are all around us, in our place names and in our colloquial speech patterns. Usage of Manx words such as "jeeil" and "moal" is still relatively common among older people.

Thanks to Government policy aided by Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh, no one can be unaware that every place name and Government department has an alternative name in Manx. There is plenty here for our children to recognise and relate to. The question is also raised, "Who will they speak to in Manx?" Well, how about each other? - the logical result of learning the mother tongue of one's own country. Those with Manx accents will find pronunciation rather easier than, for example, French or German.

The learning of any language is of benefit and what better to start with than one's own language as early as possible, thus giving a feeling for the reality of language itself and the realisation that other languages do exist. Bilingualism in children is demonstrably an aid to multi-lingualism. Parental choice (and this has been heeded with regard to learning Manx) is a real factor in the world of education these days. We can only be grateful to Mr. Corlett for pointing out the real
and obvious difficulties of time and resources that must be met and overcome.


How Manx is Manx Radio?

For some months now, the Manx public has been fed a diet of speculation regarding the future of Manx Radio: Will it be taken over by private enterprise? Will there be job losses? Will it serve the Manx community more? Will it lose its "Manxness"? etc.

In this article I would like to concentrate on the latter point. More specifically and fundamentally, we need to ask ourselves, not whether it will lose its Manxness in any change, but if it has any Manxness anyway, even before change. Manx Radio is made up of both Manx and non-Manx personnel, and it is tempting to suggest that non-Manxness of Radio is due to the no element in it. This need not necessarily be the case. First of all, we must be clear in our minds what we mean by "Manxness" and what we understand by loss of "Manxness".

"Manxness", to my mind, is essentially a matter of attitude, how one perceives one's self how one perceives the Island vis-a-vis the outside world and vice versa, the world-view one has of the world of Man and the outside world, a world-view that is recognisably Manx, in a way that there is a world-view that is recognisably English, or German, or Chinese. Let me give some examples.

The staff at Manx Radio almost without exception, as far as I can see, would view the Island, its culture, tradition and politics as being part of the British scene, imbued with a way of thinking that an outsider would link with England, Scotland and Wales (i.e. Britain), even though the Island is politically not part of the U.K.. We can narrow it down even further than that, as an adjunct of England.

We hear constantly on the news items of things happening in the Island "compared with rest of Britain', the term
"government" is used to mean e British Government instead of the Manx Government, and conversely "Manx Government" is used when "Government" is all that is needed; the term "Prime-Minister" is used instead of the "British Prime-Minister" to mean the same, since we do not have a "Prime-Minister". Many Manx politicians on (and off) the Radio refer to England as the "mainland", and matters in the Island, e.g. rates of pay for manual workers, are compared with those in the UK, and not, say, with those in Germany, where they may be much higher.

The "nationals" refer to the English (not the Scottish or any other) papers, such as the London Times or London Independent, rather than properly the "Isle of Man Examiner" or the "Manx Independent", etc. When athletes are competing for the "national" team, instead of the Isle of Man, one understands Britain as a whole, or England. This latter came out quite explicitly during the World Cup when Manx Radio sports commentators readily supported England, as against Scotland, and lamented the fact when England was defeated, but did not accord the same sympathy to Scotland when they lost.

More seriously, there is an attitude prevalent amongst many traditional Manx people, regrettably, of regarding things Manx as of little or no worth or value and that anything from outside must be better. So when a complaint was sent in to the present Managing Director of Manx Radio about the sloppy pronunciation of Manx place names radio aft he replied (13-12-90), 
"Being an indigenous Manxman of several generations of pure Manx blood my heart is behind everything you say. Realistically, though..." and went on to suggest that correct "Manx pronunciation (i.e. generally current among ordinary Manx men and women) was an oddity". In addition, we get "Mandate" presenters (Manxmen) who are reluctant to use Manx Gaelic on their programmes, saying that he who does, does so "because he's English and that's his privilege" and that he has "long passed the age of learning Manx". Perhaps such Manxmen regard it as a "privilege" not to use Manx? Fortunately, not all are like that, and the effusion of any "Manxness" on Manx Radio does not depend on that station's ethnic make-up.

Nevertheless, the "Manxness" of Manx Radio is minimal, and whether the Radio is to be privatised or remain under Government control, major surgery will be required before we have an thing like a truly Manx Radio. Additional editions of the "Mannin Line" are not sufficient.


Editor's Note

A recent Mec Vannin press statement was critical of Manx Radio's Managing Director, Mr. Stewart Watterson, for declining to accept guidelines on correct pronunciation.

Mr. Watterson has written to Mec Vannin pointing out that after a series of correspondence, Dr. George Broderick was asked to compile a written reference.

This is true, but the change in heart came only after there was substantial press coverage of Mr. Watterson's initial reaction of indifference, as is demonstrated in the article above.

Illiam retires

Illiam Costain has retired as Screeudeyr for Mec Vannin, since he has to go to University in Scotland. He will be badly missed as an active member.

Cristl Jerry has moved from Tashteyder to Screeudeyr and the new Tashteyder is Jacqualine McVerry.

Great British Justice

The last remaining function of the Lieutenant Governor would appear to be to hand down, or more correctly, deny justice to the local populace. Tony Teare, convicted of murder, has the right of appeal. We would have hoped that the "Great British Sense of Justice" (a prime excuse for colonial oppression) would prevail and Mr. Teare be given access to a lawyer with adequate experience. It would be interesting to find out who advised the Governor in this matter.

Celtic Europe Project

Gregory Joughin has been asked to assist Asiantaeth Ieuenctid Cymru (Wales Youth Agency) in staging a Celtic Arts Project for young people as part of the European Arts Festival. The project will take place in Bala, Wales, from 14th to 19th December and a grant has been obtained to fund a group of four young people and leader from each of the Celtic nations.

Gregory is looking for, "four young Manks persons who are able exponents of traditional Manks music, song, dance and language, and who are keen to join in and try something new and perhaps a little different."

He says the project's Artistic Director displayed particular interest in the Moirrey ny Cainle dance, which symbolises the re-birth of the new seasons and was traditionally performed at Candlemas.

Beware of the Right-Wing

In the last few years, there has been an alarming upsurge in right wing nationalism throughout Europe. The collapse of the former Eastern Bloc countries created in the aftermath of World War II has left millions of people seeking a new identity or the re-establishment of an old one. Parties of the extreme right wing are finding their work done for them as people feeling directionless and confused search for answers to rising unemployment exacerbated by massive influxes of refugees both economic and political. Even in France, which in comparison with countries further east has relatively few of these problems, Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front claims up to 32% of the vote. The whole political spectrum seems to have shifted to the right.

This may seem to have no relevance whatsoever to the Isle of Mann, and I would in no way suggest that the level of violence occurring m some European countries could ever occur here. However, we do have a situation here where, due to Government Policy, we have a large recent influx of incomers. Of course, there has always been a natural fluctuation in population; as some people leave, others arrive to take their place. This is acceptable and normal in any population. On the other hand,
if a government deliberately sets out to create an imbalance in the population in the mistaken belief that this increase will of itself create an increase in prosperity for all, and chooses to ignore the inevitable feelings of resentment and helplessness experienced by its own people, then it must be prepared to respond to its critics.

The kind of "nationalism" that seems to attract both Manx people and some of those who have come to live here seems to take the form of unreasoning adherence to archaic an irrelevant laws. Manx people do not like to see laws changed both from a dislike of change itself and a perception that this change is being forced on us from the outside. The kind of people who come here to live unfortunately often cite our laws, particularly on capital and corporal punishment (both now defunct), as reasons for coming here. I am excluding here the people who arrive here directly as a result of the finance sector and who have no interest in any kind of nationalism. Those here who do express such an interest tend to bring their own prejudices with them and ascribe them to us, failing to appreciate that certain laws are still in situ not due to our excessive zeal in these matters, but rather the reverse. They are less aware of the differences and feelings of a small island community, tending to focus only on the similarities to their own society.

Right wing nationalism, which works by reinforcing people's feeling of insecurity and exploiting prejudice, appears attractive. In times of economic recession, Celtic nationalist groups are perennially targeted by fascist activists for infiltration or the receipt of "nationalist" news sheets which, on closer inspection, turn out to be no more than thinly veiled fascist propaganda:. Mec Vannin must, therefore, reiterate its socialist principles and distance itself from those with right wing nationalist tendencies. Nationalism and Fascism are not synonymous and the party must clearly state and keep to its left wing republican course, while remaining equidistant from the designer left and the fascist right.

M. Clague.


Mann has made it to the pages of Private Eye YET AGAIN. This time, the Island was involved in banking cash for an arms deal intended to create even more Yugoslavian orphans. Put that one in your Aid Parcel.

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