Papers of Sophia Morrison

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The majority of the deposit consists of Sophia Morrison’s incoming (and some outgoing) correspondence with various individuals, relating to Celtic (Manx) culture, history, language, folklore and music. Notable folklorist correspondents include William Cashen (1838-1912), Anne Geddes Gilchrist (1863-1954) and Dr John Clague (1842-1908). Other prominent individuals include Charlotte Sophia Burne (1850-1923), editor of the Folklore journal, Arthur William Moore (1853-1909), Charles Roeder (1848-1911) Walter Evans-Wentz (1878-1965) and Mona Douglas (1898-1987).

Correspondence with distinguished linguists such as John Joseph Kneen (1873-1938) and Gustav Burchardi (b.1866) PhD, member of the Manx Language Society and teacher of languages are found within the deposit. Other individuals include music and art authorities such as Edmund Goodwin (1845-1925), William Henry Gill (1839-1923), Archibald Knox (1864-1933) and Frederick Swynnerton (1858-1918). Philip Moore Callow Kermode (1855-1932), Manx antiquarian, historian and founder of the Manx Museum and William Cubbon (1865-1955) Librarian (and eventual Director from 1932-1940) to the Manx Museum 1922-1940 are also present within Morrison’s correspondence.

The papers reveal that Morrison communicated with many distinguished novelists, poets and playwrights such as (Thomas) Hall Caine (1853-1931), the daughter (Ethel b.1866) of T.E. Brown (1830-1897), Philip W. Caine (1887-1956), William Walter Gill (1876-1963), Alfred Perceval Graves (1846-1931), Josephine (‘Cushag’) Kermode (1852-1937) and William Clucas Kinley (1866-1920). Morrison also corresponded with Lord (1857-1921) and Lady Raglan, Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man (1902-1919) and Thomas Wortley Drury (1847-1926), Bishop of Sodor and Man (1907-1911).

Further material in the deposit includes miscellaneous papers and volumes, music sheets, newspapers cuttings, certificates, printed items (and ephemera), a small water colour painting, and small pencil and ink sketches.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sophia Morrison (1859-1917), Manx cultural activist, born 24 May in the west coastal village of Peel, Isle of Man, was the daughter of Charles Morrison (1824-1880), a merchant and ship owner, and Louisa née Crellin (1830-1901). Sophia was one of fourteen children, nine of whom survived to adulthood. Charles Morrison’s business provided financial security for the family and educational opportunities for the children; from a young age Sophia showed an interest in learning languages, particularly those of Romance and Goidelic Celtic groups. During her life Sophia was fluent in Manx Gaelic and French and possessed a working knowledge of Italian, Spanish and Irish and Scottish Gaelic.

Morrison grew up surrounded by ‘traditional’ Manx people, learning their folklore, traditions and customs. This interest developed into a passion and fuelled her desire to collect folklore stories and preserve the Manx language. Alongside the folklorist William Cashen (1838-1912) and others, Morrison formed a Manx language class in Peel and in March 1899 she was one of the founders of the Manx Language Society (Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh), becoming honorary secretary in November 1901. The society (later renamed the Manx Society) conducted activities such as publishing various Manx textbooks, establishing Manx language and singing classes and obtaining phonographic records of songs and sayings from the Manx-speaking population. In 1901 Morrison secured the publication of Edmund Goodwin’s First Lessons in Manx which acted as an early teaching aid for learning the language. Morrison was also editor and proprietor of the society’s journal, Mannin, appearing between 1913 and 1917 in nine volumes. A member of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Morrison became its vice-president in 1912.

Throughout her life Morrison was fully committed to collecting and promoting all aspects of Manx culture, establishing networks with many Manx folklorists and antiquarians, such as Arthur William Moore (1853-1909), Philip Moore Callow Kermode (1855-1932) and Mona Douglas (1898-1987). Morrison encouraged ‘Anglo-Manx’ dialect writing, working closely with the local theatrical company the Peel Players while advocating the works of Manx playwrights Christopher R. Shimmin (1870-1933) who was a Peel Player member and Josephine ('Cushag') Kermode (1852-1937).

Morrison’s interests included more general Celtic causes. She attended and represented Mann at the Pan-Celtic Congress in Dublin 1902 and again at Carnarvon, Wales in 1904. A scholar in her own right, Morrison was a published author. She published a booklet with German folklorist Charles Roeder (1848-1911) entitled Manx Proverbs and Sayings (1905); another booklet called Manx Wild Flowers (1908); a Manx Cookery Book (1908); and a monograph on the subject of Manx National Dress. Morrison’s most famous publication was her book on Manx Fairy Tales (1911), with subsequent editions in 1929 and 1991. She also contributed to the Manx sections in Walter Evans-Wentz’s (1878-1965) Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries (1911), Mr William Cashen’s Manx Folk-Lore (1912) and wrote articles for the Folk Lore Society journal Folklore (Vol. 19, Nos. 1&3 [1908]; Vol. 21, No. 4 [1910]; Vol. 34, No. 4 [1923]). Morrison was called upon to write a memoir on A.W. Moore in the Dictionary of National Biography and the Celtic Review. Before Morrison died, she was engaged in the compilation of an Anglo-Manx dictionary A Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect, published posthumously in 1924.

Morrison never married and in later life suffered from ill health. In 1917 she died of cancer at the age of 57. The funeral was conducted in Peel where members of the Peel Players carried her coffin. She is buried in Peel cemetery.

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 the Manx newspaper the Isle of Man Examiner (20 January 1917) and Breesha Maddrell, ‘Morrison, Sophia (1859–1917)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Jan 2012 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/69929, accessed 19 Feb 2016].

Isle of Man newspapers available online at http://www.newspapers.gov.im/Default/Skins/IOMDemo/Client.asp?skin=IOMDemo&enter=true&AppName=2.

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

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes various art, library, archives, photographs, social history and sound archive resources.