Letters to the Editor

Having just received the Tyndale Society Journal 10 a few days ago, I hope that you may permit me to clarify some confusion which appears on page 14, viz.,

‘...vernacular translations were made ... in Welsh in 1567 (NT), and 1588. One in Erse in 1602 (NT), though the whole Bible had to wait till 1817. But that Cornish and Manx had no vernacular Scriptures; ...’

This is correct as regards Welsh. However, the New Testament was published in Irish in 1602 and the Old Testament in 1685. (Following the Welsh precedent the translation into Irish had been commenced circa 1571 and was well advanced when the translator Nicholas Walsh was stabbed to death in his own house on 14 December 1585). In 1690 the whole Bible was published in Hiberno-Scottish Classical Common Gaelic in Roman script for the Scottish Highlands. The New Testament was reprinted in this form of the language at Glasgow in 1754. The New Testament was then published in vernacular Scottish Gaelic in 1767 and the Old Testament came out in four parts between 1783 and 1801. Meanwhile, the Manx New Testament was published in 1767 and the whole Bible (together with Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus from the Apocrypha) in Manx in 1773.

The question of the influence of Tyndale on the versions in the Celtic languages could profitably be pursued. For instance, Tyndale’s ‘two or three firkins’ (John ii.6 has passed into Welsh, Scottish Gaelic and Manx.

Yours sincerely,

John Clugston

The arrival of Reformation prompted me to pick up the Journal No. 10 again. I noticed something I had missed when it first arrived.

Gordon Jackson’s report of the Friends of the Prayer Book Conference on 20th June said, ‘The Cornish and Manx had no vernacular scriptures; subsequently – we might argue, consequently – both these languages have died out.’

This is not the whole truth. The Bible was translated into Manx Gaelic by Bishop Wilson with the help of others. The printed Conaan Noa (New Testament) was published 1748 and his successor, Bishop Hildesley, enlisted others to continue the work until the whole Bible in Manx was published in stages until 1775 when the Yn Vibel Casheric, the Holy Bible was printed in one volume. This is undoubtedly a late date; but the Manx Language was spoken by the majority of the population of the Isle of Man for a century and more after the publication of the Manx Bible.

When John Wesley visited the Island In 1781 there were over 2000 Methodists (out of a population of 30,000) with twenty-two Methodist Local Preachers who spoke and preached in both Manx and English. At that time there were many congregations which spoke Manx as their mother tongue and were far from fluent in English. Perhaps they were attracted to the chapel because many services were in Manx while most of the Church of England services were in English.

It is surprising that John Wesley wrote to George Holder in 1789 saying: ‘I exceedingly disapprove of your publishing anything in the Manx Language. On the contrary we should do everything in our power to abolish it from the earth, and persuade every member of our society to learn and talk English’. He was reflecting the view of the English establishment who effectively governed the Isle of Man. This was very similar to the position of Bishop Wilson who started his translation of the Bible because he had not been able to persuade the people to speak or the schools to teach English.

The Manx Gaelic language did die out; but this cannot be blamed on the lack of a Manx Bible. The last person who spoke Manx Gaelic as his first language died in the early 1940s. There is a strong Manx speaking society, which publishes in Manx. The Manx Bible is still in print. Manx is taught in many schools and several churches have occasional services in Manx.

The Prayer Book Society may like to know that Bishop John Phillips (a Welshman) preached in Manx and in 1604 translated the Prayer Book into Manx Gaelic; but the manuscript he prepared for printing was still unused when he died in 1633.

Yours sincerely,

Brian Thompson

Dear Dr Pollard
Perhaps you are aware of the little book called A Medieval Christmas for it was published several years ago. For me it was a new discovery. I just obtained a copy. Because I cannot recall seeing any mention of it in the Journal, I pass this information to you.

Here is an ideal Christmas gift book for, or from, a Tyndalian. It contains the Christmas story in the modern spelling edition of David Daniell beautifully illustrated by miniatures selected from the Book of Hours found in the British Library. It is a work of art, both verbally and graphically. It is a delight to eyes and to the soul.

It carries the Bulfinch Press Book imprint of Little, Brown and Company in Boston, New York, Toronto and London, 1996.


Donald D. Smeeton

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