Papers of William Cubbon, Secretary and Librarian and later Director of the Manx Museum and National Trust

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The content consists of Cubbon’s (personal and business) correspondence relating to subjects such as, his MA from Liverpool, his Norwegian knighthood, the Manx language society and the North American Manx Society. Notebooks, a sketchbook, scrapbook, ledger and bills and invoices belonging to Cubbon are included. Account books belonging to Cubbon’s father are also present.

Other content relates to Cubbon’s work (and interest) in archaeological matters, such as the Manx archaeological sites of Billown Stone Circle, Knocksharry, Cashtal yn Ard, Cronk yn Howe and Treens (general). Items include a large scrapbook containing notes, original plans, prints, draft reports and published reports of archaeological sites. Other notes, plans, reports, discuss subjects such as Manx Crosses, Norse Heritage, the Hebrides, lectures given by Cubbon, a Cumbrian archaeological visit, the Manx Antiquarian Society and the Celtic Society. Further archaeological items include maps of prehistoric sites on the Island, notes on the Manx Museum archaeology collections and an index of the Museum prints and photographs.

Papers on Manx history, the Manx Church (and architecture), Manx place names, Manx parishes, the Manx language and Manx legislature (Tynwald) are enclosed within the deposit. A collection of notes, press cuttings, and correspondence regarding the Celtic Congress are present. Other items within the deposit include genealogical research notes on names for example, Brown, Corlett, Cosnahan, Cubbon, Daugherty , Kermode, Quinney and Stowell.

Material relating specifically to the Manx Museum includes correspondence, notes, lists, old library accession cards, and index of portraits, poems, prose and articles on the Museum and Manx topics are present. Various archival transcriptions of 16th-19th century manuscripts conducted by Cubbon (and others) are included, for example, Libri Assedationis (Lib Assed), Libri Vastarum (Lib Vast), ‘The Saga of Sigurd the Volsung’, Kirk Malew Abbey Demesnes, a book of wills from the Manx registry office and the Manx Manorial Roll.

Examples of printed material within the deposit includes a copy of Sea Breezes (1936), Betsy Lee, a copy of the Jubilee of the Isle of Man Times (1911), two tourist board maps of the Isle of Man, a copy of Antiquaries Journal (1935), Heraclitus Ridens, and The Annuals of Kirk Christ Lezayre. Miscellaneous items include an envelope containing ‘Musical Herald’ competition essays, a notebook recording the amount of paper used in the printing of the Peel Chronicle and the Ramsey Chronicle and a programme for the 100th anniversary of the Mona’s Relief Society.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Cubbon (1865-1955), librarian and antiquarian, born on the Isle of Man, was the son of James Cubbon (c.1829-1908), a master mariner and Margaret Powell (c.1832-1928). From an early age Cubbon was an advocate for Manx culture and Manx nationalism despite often negative public opinion and the ridicule made of promoters of Manx culture. Regardless of this, Cubbon devoted his life to the study and preservation of the Island’s heritage and promote its connections to the wider Celtic world.

Cubbon was schooled at the boys’ school in the parish of Rushen and from 1880 began his working life as an apprentice compositor in the printing trade. He later became a foreman, followed by a move into journalism. Moving up the ranks Cubbon eventually became manager and editor of the newspaper the Isle of Man Examiner. In 1900 he was joint proprietor of the newspaper the Manx Sun which by 1906 was taken over by the Isle of Man Times. Cubbon was on its editorial staff until 1912. In 1890 Cubbon had married Margaret Jane (Mollie) Quayle (c.1867-1922) with whom he went on to have two sons, Nelson Cairbrie (1896-1952) and William Robin (Harry) Cubbon (1902-1981). In 1925 Cubbon married for a second time to American Hortense Adelaide Mylechraine (c.1871-1940).

In 1899 Cubbon worked alongside the Manx antiquarian, historian, folklorist and Speaker of the House of Keys Arthur William Moore (1853-1909) and together they formed Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh (the Manx Language Society). Cubbon also used his editorial skills in the publication of Moore’s Manx Worthies (1900) and from 1913 to 1917 he was co-editor of the Manx Language Society’s journal Mannin. Cubbon was also active in the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society and the World Manx Association.

From 1912 to 1922 Cubbon was the Douglas Borough Librarian; during the First World War he also served as manager of the Labour Exchange. With the opening of the Manx Museum in 1922 Cubbon left the Borough to join the museum staff under the directorship of antiquarian and historian Philip Moore Callow Kermode (1855-1932). Cubbon held the position of Museum Secretary and Librarian, bringing with him many of the resources he had amassed whilst at the Douglas Borough Library. When Kermode died in 1932, Cubbon became the Museum Director, a position he held until the age of 75. After his retirement in 1940 Cubbon remained a consultant and volunteer for the museum.

Cubbon's knowledge of Manx history was far ranging but his particular interest lay in the Island’s Norse connections. For many years he had corresponded with Professor Carl Johan Sverdrup Marstrander (1883-1965) of Oslo University, a Celtic linguistics scholar and historian, who had studied the Norse influence on the Isle of Man. In 1940 the University of Liverpool conferred on Cubbon the degree of MA and in 1947 the Norwegian Government made him Knight of the Order of St Olaf (first class).

Throughout his life Cubbon edited and published many works relating to Manx subjects for example, A Book of Manx Poetry (1913), Bibliographical Account of Works Relating to the Isle of Man (1933 & 1939), Island Heritage (1952) and numerous articles for the Journal of the Manx Museum for which he also acted as editor from 1930 to 1940. Cubbon died on 1 January 1955 and his ashes are interred in the family plot in the Douglas Borough 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.

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from S. Harrison’s (ed.) 100 Years of Heritage (1986: 17-19), Dollin Kelly’s (ed.) New Manx Worthies (2006: 152-153) and Leslie Quilliam, ‘Cubbon, William (1865-1955)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [ http://www/oxforddnb.com/view/article/72897, accessed 29 April 2016].

Further biographical information was gathered from Manx newspapers, Mona’s Herald (29 April 1908, 25 April 1928 & 13 February 1940) & the Isle of Man Times (9 February 1952). 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), May 2016.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes the 'Papers of William Cubbon' (reference number: MS 08983), other various research papers and numerous library resources.