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William Walter Gill

Epithet: Poet, folklorist and scholar (1876-1963)

Record type: Biographies

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

William Walter Gill, author of the ‘Manx Scrapbooks’, was a distinguished poet, folklorist and scholar. He was awarded the Manannan Trophy for his outstanding contribution to Manx culture in February 1963, which coincided with the publication of ‘A Third Manx Scrapbook.’ He died later that same year.

Of Welsh descent on his mother’s side, Walter Gill spent much of his boyhood with his maternal grandfather, a Mr Jones, a director of the North and South Wales Bank who lived in a house adjoining St Ninian’s Church. Douglas. For a time he attended a private academy in Finch Road, but later years of his youth were spent chiefly in Maughold and Glen Auldyn and many of his poems related to that part of the Island.

Like many Manxmen, he followed the sea for some years and served in France as a volunteer private soldier throughout World War I, returning to the Island in 1919.

He worked for a time with his great friend, William Cubbon, in the Douglas Employment Exchange, and when Cubbon was appointed first librarian of the Manx Museum in 1922 Gill assisted him in a voluntary capacity in collating and arranging the manuscripts. He was, for a time, joint editor of the ‘Journal of the Manx Museum’.

Later he lived in a cottage in Dalby, joined the Peel Manx class, and settled down to a life of writing, research and the collecting of folklore.

He devoted many years to this research, living for periods in various parts of the Island, collecting firsthand accounts of folklore, beliefs and customs which he then related to a background of international folk studies of which he had a wide knowledge.

Walter Gill is best remembered for his ‘Manx Scrapbooks’, two large volumes of approximately 500 pages each and a small one of 200 pages, published by Arrowsmith of London, which were well known and widely read.

The first, ‘A Manx Scrapbook’ (1929) contained information on well names and well lore, coast names of the parish of Rushen, old roads and road lore, place-names and place lore.

A ‘Second Manx Scrapbook’ (1932) contained articles on second sight, divination and observances, witchcraft and charms, fairies and spirits, songs and rhymes, Hunt the Wren and sundry other traditions.

A ‘Third Manx Scrapbook’ (1963) featured surnames, place-names, dialect words and phrases, customs and traditions, cures and charms, fairies and phantoms, visions and dreams.

He also published a volume of poems entitled ‘Juan-y-Pherick’s Journey’ and several dialect plays.

A modest and retiring person, he was very fond of animals and supported various animal charities including the Isle of Man Home of Rest for Old Horses and the Isle of Man Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

He was a member of ‘Yn Cheshaght Ghailckagh, Ellynyn ny Gael’, the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society and other cultural groups and a delegate to several Celtic Congress meetings.

His home in latter years was in Glentramman, Lezayre where he died on New Year’s Eve 1963, aged 87.

Biography written by Sue Woolley.

(With thanks to Culture Vannin as publishers of the book: Kelly, Dollin (general editor), ‘New Manx Worthies’, Manx Heritage Foundation/Culture Vannin, 2006, pp.203-4.)

Culture Vannin


Nationality: Manx

Gender: Male

Date of birth: 1876

Date of death: 31 December 1963

Name Variant: Gill, W.Walter


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