Newly-discovered Manx dialect plays now online

Thu, 05 Jan 2017

Annie V. Caine in costume in the first (1912) production of 'The Charm' by Christoher Shimmin
Annie V. Caine in costume in the first (1912) production of 'The Charm' by Christoher Shimmin

The final known plays of perhaps the Isle of Man’s greatest playwright are now available online, including one which has only recently been re-discovered.

Three new comic plays in Manx dialect by the pioneering Manx Labour MHK, Christopher Shimmin, dating back over 100 years have now been made available on manxliterature.com thanks to Culture Vannin funding.

Except for some years struggling to find a living in America and Liverpool, Christopher Shimmin lived all of his life in Peel. He became a monumental mason, even making the gravestones of those who died within Knockaloe Internment Camp during WWI. He was a founding member of the Manx Labour Party and was an MHK from 1919 until his death in 1933. From 1912 Shimmin wrote short plays in Manx dialect and rapidly became known as the Island’s greatest playwright.

Two of the plays just released online for free were commissioned by Sophia Morrison. It was with her Peel Players that The Charm and The Dooiney Moyllee were first performed in Peel, in 1912 and 1914. These ushered in the heyday of a form of theatre unique to the Isle of Man, all of it written in the Manx dialect. The Charm was also produced by The Michael Players at the Manks Concert at the Centenary Centre in January 2017.

The final play, The Club Day, is about the farcical preparations for a grand and pompous Friendly Society procession, complete with sashes, ceremonial axes and brass bands. This play was thought to have been lost until recently, when it was discovered in the collection of the Michael Players as a part of a Culture Vannin project.

The ongoing Michael Players’ Collection project is funded by Culture Vannin and hopes to make available the Manx plays from what has been described as “the most important resource of its kind anywhere in the world.” It is hoped that over 50 plays will be released for free online over the coming years.

“The history of Manx culture over the past 100 years cannot be told without talking about Manx dialect theatre,” says James Franklin, Online and Educational Resources Officer at Culture Vannin.

“Manx dialect theatre was one of the most important creative expressions from the Isle of Man for over 50 years. So all of the known work of Christopher Shimmin going online is an important achievement for the Isle of Man. That one of these plays was thought to be lost until now makes it all the more special.”

The newly released plays can be found on www.manxliterature.com