Schools are to be given portraits of the Island’s national poet, T. E Brown – replicating a gift made to them a century ago.
Brown was born in Douglas in 1830, attended King William’s College and graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, then entered teaching, retiring as master of Clifton College, Bristol, in 1892 and returning to his native Island. He died five years later.
His most noted collection of poems was Fo’c’s’le Yarns, tales told from the forecastle of a ship by an old mariner, which contained his best-known work of all, Betsy Lee.
In May 1914, the Manx Society – now the Manx Language Society – gifted a portrait of Brown to every Island school to encourage pupils to read his works.
Exactly 100 years later, to mark Island of Culture 2014, a year of celebrations run by the Isle of Man Arts Council, Jo Callister, Advisory Teacher for the Manx Curriculum with the Department of Education and Children (DEC) challenged schools to unearth the portraits.
Six schools – Michael, Arbory, Laxey, Willaston, Henry Bloom Noble and St Thomas’s – still had the portraits on display or were able to locate them.
The World Manx Association (WMA) found 18 original copies of the portrait in an attic and donated them to the DEC, which had more prints made.
The framed portraits are now being presented to schools along with other gifts relating to Brown.
The WMA is also gifting schools copies of ‘Treasure of the Island’s Heart’, a CD featuring Major Geoff Crellin reading Brown’s poems. Culture Vannin is donating copies of ‘T.E Brown – an Anthology’ by Dollin Kelly – a book aimed at young people.
Schools will also receive a CD created by Emily Cook as part of Island of Culture 2014. Emily invited John Kennaugh and schoolchildren to read Brown’s work and the recordings are illustrated with moving images.
Courtesy of Manx National Heritage (MNH), the pack will also contain a copy of the article from the Isle of Man Examiner of May 9th 1914 detailing how Manx Society members visited schools to present the portraits.
The article stated: ‘The rising generation should, as a result of the actions of the Manx Society this week, be encouraged to devote to the literary work of the Rev Thomas Edward Brown that attention and study which its intrinsic merit should in itself be sufficient to command.’
It lamented: ‘So far the poet has not reached the heart of the masses, as Burns, for example, appeals to Scots.’ It said ‘this probably ascribable in large measure’ to a lack of education about the poet’s genius.
Today, Tim Crookall MHK, Minister for Education and Children, joined Mary Corlett, chairman of the WMA, and Angie Weimar, a past chairman, who found the prints in her attic, to present the first of the gifts to Braddan Primary School.
The Minister said: ‘It’s important that pupils are aware of Brown, one of the greatest literary figures the Island has ever produced.
‘In the Manx Folk Awards, which we run each spring with Culture Vannin and MNH, we encourage children to read Manx dialect poetry including T. E Brown and this year included a new Manx poetry composition class. The Manx Music Festival also has dedicated classes on Brown’s work.
‘This gift to schools – 100 years after the first – is yet another legacy of Island of Culture 2014.’