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Jack Gell

Epithet: Manx language student (1899-1983)

Record type: Biographies

Biography: Jack Gell was born in Liverpool where his parents had moved from the Isle of Man in order to find work - he still spent many summers with his family in the Island. He trained as an apprentice joiner and during the First World War served on the Western Front. After the war he trained as a woodwork teacher.

Although Jack’s parents were native Manx speakers, they chose to use English in the home. Jack was spurred on to learn Manx when he met a Scottish lady at an exhibition who was shocked that he didn’t know any Manx Gaelic.

Armed with his grandfather’s Manx Bible and a determination to learn from the last native Manx speakers Jack made frequent visits to the Island with his own young family throughout the 1930s.

In 1941 he wrote an open letter to the Manx Language Society expressing his frustration at the lack of progress being made in the preservation of the language in practical terms through teaching and publication. His letter ends:- ‘So away with excuses and procrastination, Shall they be for ever the curse of our nation?'

In 1948, Jack finally got a teaching job at the newly established Castle Rushen High School. Not content with teaching woodwork in the daytime, Jack set up Manx Gaelic evening classes and wrote 'Conversational Manx, A Series of Graded Lessons in Manx and English, with Phonetic Pronunciation'.

In retirement he wrote his bilingual memoirs 'Cooinaghtyn my Aegid' (Reminiscences of my Youth) and 'Cooinaghtyn Elley' (Further Reminiscences) which were published in 1977. In his memoirs Jack is encouraged to see the increase in the number of people learning the language and relieved that he has been able to make a significant contribution to the continuing life of the language.

Gender: Male

Date of birth: 1899

Date of death: 1983


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