A new website has been launched dedicated to the literature of the Isle of Man. The site (ManxLiterature.com) makes available 40 books of poetry, fiction and plays, some of which have effectively been inaccessible for 175 years. Created as a legacy from 2014’s Island of Culture, the site is being hailed as perhaps the most significant event ever in the promotion of the Island’s literary heritage.
Although many have heard of Hall Caine and T. E. Brown, it was the lack of awareness that their writings are a part of a wider literature of the Isle of Man that was the inspiration behind this project recently completed. The creator of the website, James Franklin, writes that:
“I was amazed at the gap between how little-known most of Island’s literature is and yet how good it is. Having picked up my first Hall Caine novel years ago, the deeper I delve into it the more I am surprised at how rich and varied Manx literature is in terms of its quality and depth. But sadly nearly all of it was inaccessible. So I created the website to make this rich part of Manx heritage easily available to anyone.”
ManxLiterature.com offers 40 books central to the Island’s literature, organised both by their type (15 books of poetry, 10 novels, 3 collections of short stories and 19 plays) and by author. The 18 authors featured on the site include T. E. Brown, Hall Caine, Cushag and Mona Douglas, but also a Canon of Peel Cathedral, a founding member of the Manx Labour Party, and one of the UK’s leading gardening journalists.
The site was created with the intention of making the Island’s literature as accessible as possible. This was not just a matter of its being free and available, but in a format that was simple, attractive and as easy to use as possible (including for mobile devices and in downloadable formats). All books are available to be viewed as virtual books on the website, as PDF downloads, and in text formats. Extensive information is provided on all authors and books, many of which are the most extensive descriptions anywhere online.
Breesha Maddrell (Chair, Visual Arts, Literature and Film Panel, Island of Culture, 2014) writes:
“The website looks and feels fantastic. It offers a very professional presentation of one of the most important cultural assets of the Isle of Man. Not only does it offer access to something that has been inaccessible for too long, but it does so in a way that reflects its true value. It would be hard to imagine any single project that could be more significant in the promotion of the Island’s literary heritage than this. It is something that we can be proud to hand on as a legacy item from our Island of Cultureyear.”
As well the Island’s best-known works, such as Fo’c’s’le Yarns and The Manxman, the website features works depicting: prison breaks from Castle Rushen; rioting in Douglas; debauched Bishops; murder in the Curraghs; witches in Laxey; a donkey possessed by the devil; WWI propaganda plays; drunken husbands asleep in hedges, and much else besides. James Franklin writes:
“In reading our own literature, we are able to better understand what it is to be Manx. The resource of the creative writing from the Isle of Man is undoubtedly one of the richest ways in which to understand not just where we’ve come from or where we are today, but also of where we might want to go in the future. It is a resource that deserves to be mined by so many people in so many ways. If this website is able to help in some way in this, then it is fulfilling its purpose in being a worthy legacy of the Island of Culture year.”