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Arthur William Moore

Epithet: MHK, SHK, CP, JP, Manx historian and antiquary, author of the original 'Manx Worthies' (1853-1909)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: From ‘New Manx Worthies’ (2006):

A.W. Moore was not an 'ordinary' man. Most 'ordinary' nineteen year olds would not attempt to swim the Calf Sound; most 'ordinary' 21 year olds would not embark in a canoe with a total stranger for a passage through the Pentland Firth tidal race; most 'ordinary' 23 year olds would be awed by the prospect of a private audience with the Pope; most 'ordinary', mature 49 year olds, seeing the royal yacht unexpectedly enter Douglas Bay with the king and queen aboard, would baulk at the idea of sailing out to have themselves invited on board. From his earliest years Moore was apparently at ease in every situation.

The author of the original Manx Worthies of 1901 is today remembered primarily because of his prodigious output of published works on Manx history, music and folklore, but it is his actions which reveal his true nature.

The preface to Moore's last, posthumously published, work, Nessy Heywood, was written by Canon John Quine. In what is, in the main, a reliable document, Quine states that Moore was 'singularly fortunate' in his home environment, that 'the men most prominent in the Legislature were ... frequent guests at Cronkbourne' and that 'no other young Manxman had so advantageous an environment, preparatory to insular public life'.

Arthur William Moore, now usually referred to only as A.W. Moore, was born at Tromode, eldest of the ten children of William Fine Moore and his wife, Hannah Curwen, whose family claimed descent from William Christian (Illiam Dhone). The Moores had owned facilities for the manufacture of linen, sailcloth and sackcloth since1790. In 1825 A.W. Moore's grandfather James acquired a farm, villa and land at Ballafletcher on the Braddan side of the Glass, and he named this estate Cronkbourne.

Moore's father was described as 'a man of remarkable ability and fervent patriotism'. One of the pro-reform members of the old, self-elected House of Keys, he became in 1867 a Member of the first popularly elected House. Through his uncle, Archdeacon John Christian Moore, the young `AW' met many of the Manx clergy, and there were influential relatives, too, on his mother's side: Joseph Henry Christian, president of the Architectural Association; John Pearson, another architect,practising in London, married to Moore's maternal aunt and illustrious enough to be buried in Westminster Abbey, and Uncle Henry Christian of the Artist's Rifles who introduced the adolescent Moore to the painter and sculptor Frederick Leighton, illustrious enough to be buried in St Paul's.

Moore attended private schools in Douglas, then a preparatory school in Weybridge, Surrey. From there he progressed to Rugby in 1867. For the first two years Dr Frederick Temple, later Bishop of Exeter and eventually Archbishop of Canterbury, was headmaster. Life at Rugby, with its adherence to Thomas Arnold's 'Muscular Christianity', probably set the pattern for Moore's recreational interests thereafter.

According to Quine, Moore was both 'back-ward' and 'delicate' when he entered Rugby. However he was well read for his age, and prospered. Quine, whose summary of Moore's life is refreshingly honest, says:... he, in fact, devoted himself to games- not with the simple enthusiasm of the athlete, but with a singular earnestness and conviction with regard to their true value. In this he was not a Manxman. It was rather a case of the bent of his dis-position, viz., to set the fullest value on distinction: and he achieved distinction as an athlete far beyond the warrant of his physical fitness.

Some holidays were spent at the Pearsons' London home and from there he was free to explore the city. It was here that his lifetime's interest in, and wide knowledge of, the theatre began. Summer holidays saw him exploring around Gatehouse of Fleet, the Lake District and the Cheviots, and with his housemaster, James Maurice Wilson (a former pupil of King Williams College, later head of Clifton College) and others hiking around the Stavanger and Sogne fjords. Wilson later married Moore's cousin, Annie Moore.

After Rugby came Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was bracketed first in thefirst class Modern History Tripos. He said of himself that he was an 'industrious' student, but Canon Quine wrote:This is hardly full justice: because in his work there was 'industry' certainly; but real energy, fixedness of purpose, and acute conscientiousness - amply proved in his subsequent research work and in his published books.

Quine continues his appraisal with perhaps the frankest assessment by any of his contemporaries of Moore's work and worth: 'What he felt and acknowledged was the fact that he possessed no style. There was nothing of the artistic or the creative in his intellect: or rather, perhaps, there was the barest minimum of the imaginative gift. ...To make the past or anyepoch or incident of it, march again was for him quite impossible.

But Quine was generous enough to add: 'But, if for that reason somewhat lackingin charm, his historical work by virtue ofthe sterling quality of conscientiousness,is and will remain invaluable.'

At Cambridge boating and rugby football were amongst Moore's primary occupations,while vacations continued to answer his needfor physical adventure. It was at home in theIsle of Man during his first long vacation thatMoore swam the Calf Sound. The followingyear saw him in Invernessshire and then the Orkneys, where he undertook the hazardous Pentland Firth canoe journey which nearly cost him his life. In his third year he concentrated on rugby, won his 'blue' and played in the Varsity Match at The Oval.

While hiking through Devon in 1873, he called at Exeter where Dr Temple was now the bishop. Following the Tripos examinationin December 1875, he stayed with friends inCannes for two months and in February 1876 spent another two months touring Italy.Moore carried with him a letter of introduction to the formidable Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli in Rome. Antonelli was ill and did not see him, but had an order delivered granting Moore a private audience with Pope PiusIX. Canon Quine tells us that the two conversed in French with ' ... the brief interview concluding with a paternal blessing, and the hope expressed for his conversion to the Faith of the Catholic Church'.

Moore gained his MA in June 1876 and immediately embarked on his working life in the sailcloth factory. He learned flax-buying in the Ulster markets and familiarised himself with the family's branch factory at Monkstown. By 1877 he was his father's partner, the firm being re-named W.F. Moore & Son. In that same year, aged 24, amidst much criticism in the local Press, he was appointed a Justice of the Peace. The associations in which he would later be involved covered education, the Church, horticulture, agriculture (being president of both the Southern and Isle of Man Societies), Oddfellows, Freemasonry, the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, the Isle of Man Banking Company, pan-Celtic interests, Manx history, Manx music, Manx language and the Manx Museum, of which he was a trustee. In 1885 he became Captain of the Parish of Onchan and in the same year was elected to the Keys for Middle. He never lost his seat and was elected Speaker in 1898. From his very first Tynwald meeting as Speaker on 13th January, he defended the ancient rights of the Keys against assaults from both Governor and council. Quine said of his politics,' [he] ended by becoming what is called a Liberal. He was not a stalwart; not of the adamant; intellectually not an idealist'.

After school and university, factory life was a revelation to him, particularly the lack of activity amongst the employees in after-work hours. Almost his first action on starting work was the founding, for the men and boys from the factory and at the company's expense, of the Cronkbourne Cricket Club.

By 1904, though, the factory had to close, since neither the navy nor the mercantile marine any longer needed the sailcloth it produced. The Manx Quarterly of November 1909 noted that Moore made generous arrangements to secure a livelihood for his former workpeople.

Manx politics and Manx historical research were to be his main occupations, but other subjects in which he gained a deep knowledge were as diverse as anthropology, architecture, art, cheesemaking, cricket, cycling, dairy farming, dog-breeding, electric lighting, folklore, golf, hare-hunting with harriers, meteorology, music,philology,sheep-farming, theatre (he was president of the Douglas Choral Union), walking, and all things Celtic. He met such exotic worthies as the Oxford Professor of Celtic Studies, Sir John Rhys; the Gomme family of folklorists; the mythologist Andrew Lang; Sturzen-Becker of Stockholm, studying the 'vocalisation of Anglo-Manx'; the Earl of Derby, who gave him access to the Knowsley papers; Alfred Haddon, author of The Races of Man; Dr. Morfl, the Slavonic scholar; Sir Hubert von Herkomer, renowned portrait painter and Slade Professor at Oxford; the famed painter of classical subjects, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema; Celtic enthusiasts and dozens more leading figures of the day, many of whom were guests in Moore's home.

In Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee year, 1887, he married Louisa, daughter of the Archdeacon of Man, the Ven Dr Joshua Hughes-Games. On honeymoon the couple visited northern Italy, the south of France and Switzerland. They then settled at Woodbourne House (now incorporated into the Masonic Temple in Woodbourne Road). Four children were born, but the youngest died at only a few months.

Moore never actually owned Cronkbourne. The property was willed to him on his father's death in 1895 but his mother had priority for her lifetime and she outlived him, dying in November 1914. Moore did inherit the Tromode Sailcloth Works and Ballafletcher, the farm his grandfather had bought in 1825, as well as properties in Braddan, Onchan, Maughold and Lezayre. He had sufficient wealth to pay his mother £2000 per annum, and also to describe himself officially as 'Gentleman'; his father had always described himself as 'Merchant'.

Moore is a giant amongst Manx historians; it took more than four pages to list his works in Cubbon's Bibliographical Account of Works relating to the Isle of Man Vol. I, 1933, Vol. II, 1939. They include the beautiful Manx Notebook, a three-volume version of the periodical edited by Moore and illustrated by John Miller Nicholson from 1885 to 1887; Manx Folklore; Carvalyn Ghailckagh (Manx Carols) and, later, Manx Ballads and Music; The Surnames and Place Names of the Isle of Man of 1890, unusually but justly criticised (almost certainly by Philip Moore Callow Kermode) in the IoMNHAS's Yn Liooar Manninagh for its errors and omissions; The Book of Common Prayer in Manx Gaelic and Outlines of the Phonology of Manx Gaelic which contained the first-ever printing of Bishop Phillips's Manx Prayer Book (this in collaboration with Professor Sir John Rhys); A History of the Isle of Man in two volumes, his most monumental work and one of greatscholarship; Manx Worthies, and The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company 1830-1904 (his father was one of the company's founders and Moore was a director). There was also Vocabulary of theAnglo-Manx Dialect, written in collaboration with Sophia Morrison and Edmund Evnas Greaves Goodwin and published in 1923.

Canon Quine, an ex-headmaster of Douglas Grammar School, was noted for his acid remarks but many readers of Moore's History, for instance, might agree with Quine's appraisal: 'wholly without imaginative qualities or any grace or style ... but one does not read it for any pleasure in the perusal.'

Quine leaves us some choice opinions of Moore's conversational abilities. Observing the lack of reticence which Moore had shown from his childhood, he says: 'he never acquired, probably never attempted to acquire, conversational facility as a fine art, he did acquire by the cultivation of social experience an absolute freedom from that diffidence which men too commonly find an impediment in their interview with their social superiors.'

This entry in Moore's diary on 27th April 1899 seems to endorse Quine's appraisal:I receive an announcement to the effect that I had been unanimously elected a director of the IoM Banking Co. Ltd. Those who have congratulated me for the most part say that I ought to have been elected many years ago and I am inclined to agree with them.

Actually, the only suggestion we have that Moore considered there were such beings as his social superiors was when he came into contact with royalty. In his 50th year, after a reception at Buckingham Palace in 1903, he confides to his diary, 'I rather think that the King recognised me: but I did not feel sure!'

In fact Edward VII and Queen Alexandra had spent a whole day with Moore in August 1902, just a fortnight after he had attended Westminster Abbey as Speaker of the House of Keys and seen his old Rugby headmaster crown the new monarch. Spotting the royal standard on a yacht entering Douglas Bay, he hurried to get on board and present his card. Moore recorded in his diary:... The equerry - Capt. Fortescue - came to me and asked what place in the Island I would recommend the King to see from Ramsey if he was able to go for a drive the next day. I said 'Peel'. He then
asked me to make the necessary police and harbour arrangements but to keep them absolutely quiet so as to avoid acrowd. After five minutes I had a summons to the King, who shook hands and introduced me to the Queen who also shook hands and to Mr. Austen Chamberlain. He then told me to put on my hat and by his charming manner at once put me at my ease ...[Capt. Fortescue told] the King the tour I had suggested for the next day. H.M. expressed his approval and asked me to act as his cicerone [antiquities guide]. I told him that the yelling crowd [in rowing boats around the royal yacht] were trippers and not Manx people.

Captain Fortescue's main worry about the planned tour seemed to be that the king and queen did not like to miss afternoon tea, so Moore invited them to his mother's home at Cronkbourne. The procession went to Bishopscourt for a half-hour stop where they were photographed by George Bellett Cowen, and from there to Peel for an al fresco luncheon 'on the slope to the south of the cathedral' before driving on to Cronkbourne and Douglas. Moore's diary entry for 10th September 1902 confirms a conventional deference towards royalty:

His Majesty has conferred the honour of a Commandership of the Royal Victorian Order upon me. It or any other honour was entirely unexpected. It gives me rank above the Companions of the Bath and next below a Knight Bachelor. To my mind it is a much higher honour than a knighthood.

He was thrilled that the king accepted from him a copy of his History of the Isle of Man and that the queen accepted a copy of his Story of the Isle of Man.

Moore was very observant of people's characters and quick to note the ridiculous. His diaries are alive with candid comments, including, from the royal visit entry:

Mr. Hall Caine [Sir Thomas Henry Hall Caine] followed [the Royal party, including Moore and Sir James Gell] in a hired trap. I should mention that Mr. Hall Caine attached himself (uninvited) to the party. When I went on board the yacht Capt. Fortescue showed me a long letter from H.C. to the K. in which he offered his services as guide. Capt. F. seemed much amused & told me that I was to convey the King's com-mand to him to lunch at Peel Castle. H.C. took advantage of this to join the party, to place himself next to the Queen in the group [photograph] that was taken at Bishopscourt, to, as far as he could, monopolise -the K & Q at Peel Castle and to influence all the English newspapers to represent him as their majesties' guide, philosopher and friend triumphant! From the point of view of his public he has no doubt scored.

Moore's Celtic interests were wide but this, we are told, did not suppress his sense of the ridiculous. In 1899 he was the Manx delegate at the Cardiff Eisteddfod and the recipient of a Druidic decoration; a white ribbon tied round his arm. Quire says:

He seems ... to acknowledge the whole affair to have been an amazingly stupid and puerile show ... he had the good fortune to, at least, take such things seriously: this arose from an idea he had of a duty to the Island, viz. that since there was this institution, however artificial and idiotic it might be, the Island should at least be represented.

And of another pan-Celtic gathering in 1904, Quine says that Moore, called on suddenly to make a speech, advocated 'Home Rule all round':

At these gatherings it really doesn't matter what anybody says: for, of course, people are not there to take or be taken seriously ... Moore fulfilled his duty of representing the Island but, of course, he stood quite outside the enthusiasms.

Moore had a vast knowledge of all things Manx and a large collection of books, manuscripts and prints which eventually formed the nucleus of the Manx National Heritage library, so it might be assumed that he read widely. However, his diary records:

Milton, Wordsworth and Browning, I cannot read ... I do not care for obscurity in writing: hence both Browning and George Meredith irritate me ... With the exception of Tom Brown [Revd Thomas Edward Brown] and Calverley [Charles Stuart Calverley, the English parodist], no poetry since Tennyson interests me at all ... I have always cared for Tennyson much more than any other poet ... Byron comes next in my estimation ... George Eliot's books, read as they came out, produced the most marked effect on my mind ... Metaphysical studies never interested me; and even Political Economy was read with some effort.

He did add the note that 'History has always had a great fascination for me; and I have read more of it than of any other subject!' He contributed frequently to the Natural History Society's magazine and the Scottish Historical Review as well as the many Manx periodicals of the time. He was a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

A lifelong enthusiasm was meteorology. Whilst still living at Cronkbourne he installed a weather station and, according to the Manx Quarterly, sub-stations in other parts of the Island. The results were published in Manx newspapers as well as being forwarded to the Royal Meteorological Society. In 1907 he presented all his instruments to Douglas Corporation for a weather platform at the Borough Cemetery, where daily observations are still taken. His weather summaries and his 1889 book The Climate of the Isle of Man are in the Manx National Heritage Library. He was a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society.

Moore learned Manx Gaelic in early manhood. He was distressed at the demise of the language and, in 1899, was founder and first president of Yn cheshaght Ghailckagh. He was proud to be the official translator into Manx of the Acts of Tynwald, and worked on the Vocabulary of the Anglo-Manx Dialect to within a few days of his death.

He had a lifelong love of walking and in 1895, aged 42, discovered cycling. That first spring Moore toured Warwickshire and the following year the bike carried him round North Wales. In later years he also toured East Anglia, Galloway, Brittany, Fontainebleau, Rheims and Troyes in France, County Down, the Severn Valley through to mid-Wales; the Tweed and Nithdale, Hawarden and the Wirral. On one tour in 1905 he averaged 60 miles a day seeing Maidenhead, Oxford and Woodstock, Farnham Castle, Waverley Abbey, Guildford, Dorking and Reigate. In June 1907, already a sick man, he made his last major cycle tour, round Dorset and Somerset.

Other forms of 'touring' were a pleasure to him too. 'My great delight', he notes, 'is travelling, having as its more especial objects the study of architecture and of pictures'. He took frequent holidays; he and Louisa were often in London to enjoy art galleries and theatres, but he also visited other interesting sites in the British Isles, often in connection with the Manx cultural associations of which he was a member. With Louisa he toured in Portugal, Spain, Germany and extensively in France.

By 1907 it was apparent that Moore had cancer; in an attempt to gain some strength, in mid-December he embarked on a six weekholiday in Jamaica. He was still Speaker of the House of Keys and was a part author of the petition for the reform of the Manx Constitution, so on the way home he had a meeting with Home Secretary Gladstone in London. In the spring of 1909 he had a holiday in the Canaries, but by then he was visibly failing. Although he continued to write, to chair the Keys and to attend other business meetings, he finally took to his bed where he 'bore himself with great fortitude'. He died in the early hours of 12th November 1909.

Moore is buried in Braddan Cemetery (along with Louisa who after his death married her childhood sweetheart, Sir Frederick Clucas; they lived together at Cronkbourne and both died on 11th November 1937). An account of his funeral in November 1909's Manx Quarterly stressed the simplicity of the occasion: 'In the service there was no departure from that appointed for the burial of the dead'. There was no eulogy. On the previous Sunday almost every pulpit in the Island had resounded with tributes to this 'irreplaceable' man. In Memoriam verses were penned by William Henry Gill ('Man's born to toil from morn to even') and W. Gell ('Alas, fair Mona sits in grief today') and the House of Keys, under the chairmanship of Dalrymple Maitland, held an adjournment meeting exclusively to extol Moore's virtues.

Seconding Maitland's tribute, MHK William Goldsmith said:

If I were asked to name the leading trait of his character, I should say - it was his transparent sincerity in all he said and did. So in all the relationships of life, whether as husband, father, citizen, legislator or Speaker of this House, he was found faithful; and he has left as a legacy to his countrymen, an inspiring example of honour and moral worth rarely equalled, and never surpassed in the annals of this country.

Biography written by Dollin Kelly.

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.311-6.)

Culture Vannin


Gender: Male

Date of birth: 6 February 1853

Date of death: 12 November 1909

Name Variant: Moore, A.W.


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