[ACNS] The 250th anniversary of the translation of the Book of Common Prayer into Manx Gaelic has been marked by a set of specially commissioned gold-inked Christmas stamps by the island’s Post Office.
The Isle of man sits in the Irish Sea between England and Northern Ireland. Control over the island has, over the years, been in the hands of Norse Vikings, the Saxon Kingdom of Northumberland, Scotland and England.
The island maintains close ties with the United Kingdom but has never been a part of it. Instead, it remains a self-governing Crown dependency. It’s parliament, the Tynwald, is of Norse origin and over 1,000 years old, making it the oldest parliament in the world with an unbroken existence.
The island’s official language is English. Usage of the Manx Gaelic – or the Manks Language, as it was referred – fell out of use between 1874, when it was spoken by 30 per cent of the population; to 1974, when the last known native speaker died. Today, historians and academics are attempting to revive the language and around two per cent of the population are said to be able to speak it.
In 1610, the Bishop of Sodor and Man, the Rt Revd John Phillips, interpreted the 1604 Book of Common Prayer for use on the island. But it wasn’t until 1765 that the Society of Propagation of Christian Knowledge (SPCK) published the first Manx Gaelic edition of the BCP, using the 1662 BCP as its source.
The 250th anniversary of the publication of the first Manx Gaelic BCP has now been marked by the publication of five special Christmas stamps by the Isle of Man Post Office. Designed by local artist Julia Ashby-Smyth, the stamps feature a Manx word and a religious emblem closely associated with the spiritual aspects of Christmas.
Ashby-Smith used the Manx BCP and the prayers and collects for use from Advent to Epiphany for her inspiration; along with illuminated manuscripts, ecclesiastical texts and a 'Book of Hours' from the same 18th Century period.
“The result is a reproduction of the colours and design elements used 250 years ago to create an authentic feel for the collection,” a spokesman for the Isle of Man Post Office said. “Julia captures a certain Manxness throughout the collection by linking traditional Manx Gaelic terminology which is perhaps familiar with well-known Manx graphic motifs including, for example, the word ‘Shee’ meaning ‘Peace’ accompanied by an image of a white dove of peace; while ‘Graith’ meaning ‘Love’ is represented by an angel.
“‘Grayse’ meaning ‘Grace’ is represented in motherhood with Mary and Jesus. ‘Credjue’ meaning ‘Faith’ is shown with a cross, and finally, ‘Strength’ – ‘Niart’ in Manx – is depicted as a Wiseman.”
“It's been a pleasure working with Julia on this project and to have produced such a fantastic and authentic set of Christmas stamps celebrating this important cultural anniversary,” Maxine Cannon, the general manager of Isle of Man Stamps & Coins, said.
“I’m delighted with the Manx Prayer Book Christmas stamps,” the Bishop of Sodor and Man, the Rt Revd Robert Paterson, told ACNS. “As a Welshman I am very keen to encourage the use of ‘Manks’ in public worship and in Tynwald, our ancient parliament.”
The BCP stamps have been printed with metallic gold ink and are designed to be small enough to be used on any Christmas card, the Isle of Man Post Office says.
It has produced a number of collectables to accompany the special stamps, including a booklet, sets and sheets, first day covers, and presentation packs.