Papers of Miss Constance Mona Douglas

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The papers consist of material relating to Douglas’s work such as loose leaf manuscripts, manuscript notebooks (including manuscripts by other authors) and newspaper articles written by Douglas. Material relating to the author’s family history, personal accounts, insurance and will are also present.

Much of the deposit is made up of correspondence with numerous individuals (including Giovannelli and Celtic organizations), relating to topics such as Manx festivals, dances, music, publications and broadcasts. Documents relating to Yn Chruinnaght, the Celtic Congress, Aeglagh Vannin (Youth of Man), Aeglagh Beg (Little Youth), Caarjyn Vannin (Friends of Man) and the Manannan trophy are included.

Other items within the deposit include printed Manx material, Douglas’s MBE warrant, posters, postcards, greeting cards and a sympathy card. There are also LP records, Manx song lyrics, music cassettes, miscellaneous paintings, drawings, certificates and a framed Italian award presented to Mona in October 1971.

Administrative / Biographical History

Constance (Connie) Mona Douglas (1898-1987) was a folklorist, specializing in the folklore of the Isle of Man. Born in Much Woolton, Liverpool, she was daughter of Manxman Frank Beardmore Douglas (c.1863-1943) and Canadian (born from Manx parents) Frances Mona née Holmes (c.1873-1953). As a child Douglas spent her holidays with her grandparents in the Isle of Man, roaming the countryside and striking up conversations with men and women who worked the land and sea, whilst also learning to speak the Manx language. Her interest in folklore was furthered by Sophia Morrison (1859-1917), who encouraged her to write down every story, ballad, dance, etc. she came across. Mostly educated at home, Douglas did attend the Liverpool School of Art for two years as well as learning the violin, piano, singing and theory. Alongside her interests in Manx folk stories and songs, Mona also wrote poems, articles and produced plays.

By 1921 she was a published author of poetry ( Manx Song and Maiden Song, 1915 and Mychurachan, 1917), had been elected secretary of Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (a movement created to preserve Manx culture and language), was secretary of the Manx branch of the Celtic Congress and was invested as a Bard of the third degree in the Welsh Gorsedd, given the bardic name 'Mona Manaw'. In 1925 she moved to Harlech, Wales where she worked as a secretary to the poet Alfred Perceval Graves (1846-1931). On leaving Wales she spent three years working as a free-lance journalist in London, as well corresponding with folk song collector Anne Geddes Gilchrist (1863-1954) and collaborating with the music composer Arnold Foster (c.1898-1963) on three sets of arrangements of Manx songs (Stainer and Bell, 1928, 1929 & 1957).

In the late 1920s Douglas achieved her librarianship qualification in Dublin. She moved back to the Isle of Man and in 1931 set up a Manx national youth group called Aeglagh Vannin. Accepting a position with the Manx Education Authority, Douglas became the librarian in the Rural Library in 1932-33. Alongside her librarianship duties, Douglas continued to teach Manx songs, dances, stories, and Manx history to young people. She also continued her poetry, academic article contributions and writing and producing Manx Gaelic and Manx dialect plays. Although Douglas never married she held a long and close relationship with Italian-born Manx writer Leonida Nikolai Giovannelli (1906-1983). In the 1940s the two teamed up and ran an experiment of upland farming at the Clarum in the north-eastern part of the Island. The experiment was unsuccessful and in 1949 the farm had to be sold to cover their debts.

By the 1960s Mona had retired from the Rural Library and in 1963 joined the staff at the Isle of Times as a journalist. In 1969 she was elected an Honorary Life Member of the Manx Folk Society and received the Manannan trophy in 1972. Mona published a further two novels - Song of Mannin (1976) and Rallying Song (1981). By 1976 she had revived Yn Chruinnaght, a festival celebrating Manx culture (dance, music, literature); later she became patron of the Manx Heritage Foundation (1986). After a lifetime of dedication to Manx culture, Douglas was duly recognized with a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1982. She was awarded membership of the principal order of the Gorsedd of Bards in 1987 and received the Reih Bleeaney Vanannan posthumously in 1988. Mona Douglas died aged 89 in October 1987 in the Isle of Man.

Conditions Governing Access

No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im.

Other Finding Aids

Printed box list available

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from Fenella Crowe Bazin, ‘Douglas, (Constance) Mona (1898-1987)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [ http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/72898, accessed 4 Feb 2016] and ‘Who is Mona Douglas? (3) I was brought up first in Lezayre’, Manx Notes 117 (2010) [ http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/~stephen/manxnotes/MN117.pdf, accessed 5 Feb 2016].‘Who is Mona Douglas? (4) I was brought up in the Isle of Man’, Manx Notes 118 (2010) [ http://www.smo.uhi.ac.uk/~stephen/manxnotes/MN118.pdf, accessed 5 Feb 2016].

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), February 2016.

Separated Material

Separated material held by Manx National Heritage include photographs of Douglas, her family and friends. Reference number: PG/13718.

Related Material

Manx National Heritage hold other archival and library resources relating to Mona Douglas. Reference numbers:

  • Archives - MS 08733, MS 08998, MS 10639, MS 13176 & MS 13244.
  • Library - M 24971 & M 40064 - M 40067.