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Edward Maddrell

Epithet: Last native Manx speaker (1877-1974)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: ‘…Ned Maddrell who carried on such a fluent and vigorous conversation with DeValera’s party in August last is well and active and you should be able to get something from him…’ (Letter to Kevin Danaher from Basil Megaw - March 1948)

Ned Maddrell had led a full and active life mostly at sea, with a large portion of time spent in the Merchant Navy away from the Isle of Man. He returned to land in 1936 and in his retirement worked for the Manx Museum looking after Harry Kelly’s cottage at Cregneash.

It was at Harry Kelly’s cottage that Ned met Eamon DeValera in 1947. He no doubt imparted his enthusiasm for all things Manx particularly the Manx Gaelic language. “I am a Manx nationalist…I don’t mean that we should cut adrift from the Empire, but I think we should preserve what is our own…” (Ned Maddrell)

Ned was born in Glenchass in 1878. However at a very early age he was taken to Cregneash to live with his aunt and uncle Mr and Mrs Taubman. His uncle was one of the weavers of Cregneash. It was here that Ned learnt his Manx Gaelic since his aunt could not speak English.

When Ned was a young boy Cregneash was an upland crofting village, isolated from modern developments in the rest of the Island. In this small community the old customs were preserved. Perhaps the strongest of all these traditions was the Manx language. Ned could remember a time “…when they were speaking Manx in every house almost in the place…” For many of the older people in Cregneash, particularly the women, Ned acted as an interpreter. “Charlotte I knew well because she used to give me a halfpenny for explaining what she wanted to the baker.”

In 1892, at the age of fourteen, Ned started his life at the fishing as a cook on board the Mona. He went each year with the Manx fishing fleet from Port St. Mary to Kinsale and the Shetlands for the herring. While at the fishing Ned met a number of Scottish and Irish fishermen who could understand his Gaelic.

Eventually Ned left the fishing industry and joined the Merchant Navy which enabled him to travel far beyond the Irish Sea. However such exposure to the outside world did not prevent him from remembering his native language.

“I am sorry that so many people of my age and older have been ashamed of being supposed to know Manx. I have spent much of my time away, but I have always held on to my Manx - so long as I could and as far as I could…” (Ned Maddrell)

Gender: Male

Date of death: 1974


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