Musical feast in memory of Mona Douglas

Mona Douglas. Picture - Valerie Cottle

Mona Douglas. Picture - Valerie Cottle

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THIS year marks the 25th anniversary of the death of Mona Douglas, undoubtedly one of the most important figures in Manx culture.

Born at the end of the 19th Century, Mona grew up in Ballaragh, Laxey and quickly developed a life-long love of Manx culture – the music, the dancing and the language.

She went on to write more than 18 books about the island and to found various cultural groups.

And to celebrate the woman who died aged 89 in 1987, the Centenary Centre in Peel is to host an evening full of Manx delights next Saturday (September 22).

At an early age Mona learnt many new dances and tunes from the older people she met as she travelled around the island.

She was encouraged to write these down by Sophia Morrison, the Peel author of Manx Fairy Tales.

And Mona’s collection, which features in many books including Kiaull yn Theay, Ree ny Marrey and Rinkaghyn Vannin, still remains one of the most important repositories of Manx Culture available today.

After a spell working off island where she made many important connections among other Celtic nations, she returned home, and for 25 years worked as the rural librarian.

Always aware that young people were essential for the survival of any culture, she went on to create the Aeglagh Vannin youth club, where many youths learnt about Manx Culture, enabling them to carry the torch on to each new generation.

‘The fact that she did all she did while working full time as the rural librarian and running a working farm is still astonishing,’ said organiser David Mclean, a musician who met Mona as a teenager and joined Aeglagh Vannin.

She published more than 18 books of poetry, novels, plays, music and non-fiction about her beloved Isle of Man, and set up the Ellynyn ny Gael art society, he explained.

‘Mona was passionate about involving young people in Manx Culture. I was lucky enough to join Aeglagh Vannin and it instilled in me an interest in Celtic mythology that lives with me to this day.’

Mona’s most important long-term achievement, however, was probably the resurrection of the Interceltic Festival, now known as Yn Chruinnaght, which flies the flag high for all aspects of Manx cultural life to this day.

To recognise all that she achieved, she was awarded membership of the Gorsedd of the Bards in Wales, and later appointed to the Principal Order of the Gorsedd. She also received the Manannan Trophy, an MBE, Reih Bleeaney Vanannan and was the International President of the Celtic Congree in 1980.

Now the Manx Heritage Foundation and the Centenary Centre have decided to present an evening of music, dance and poetry in her memory.

All pieces, which are either new songs written for the evening or Mona’s poems set to new tunes, will be performed by musicians who knew Mona or were influenced by her.

There will also be dances and choral music which reflect her influence.

The Manx choirs performing are Caajyn Cooidjagh and Cliogaree Twoaie. Dancers are Paul Bradford, John Kilgallon and Rachel Clarkson.

And the musicians involved are Charles Guard, Annie Kissack, Clare Kilgallon, Breeshey Maddrell, Chloe Woolley, Aalin Clague, Greg Joughin, Bob Carswell, David Kilgallon and Dave Mclean.

The evening, which starts at 7.30pm, will be filmed for a DVD and recorded for a CD. Tickets are free, but there is a limited number available (only four per person). They are available from the Centenary Centre’s usual outlets - Celtic Gold in Peel, Peter Norris Music in Douglas, Shatki Man in Ramsey, and Thompson Travel in Port Erin.

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