taking our culture forward

Mona's Delight; the revival of Manx dance

Wed, 26 Feb 2020

In the first in our new series of articles about Manx music, this piece looks at the revival of Manx dance which sees dances like Eunyssagh Vona a part of living Manx culture today. This was recently published in the Manx Independent:


Mona’s Delight – the revival of Manx dance

In the first in a series of articles exploring Manx music and dance, we take a brief look at “Eunyssagh Vona”; a dance for four couples, now well known by dance groups in the Isle of Man and beyond. The melody of ‘Mona’s Delight’, was collected by Dr John Clague and the Gill brothers in the 1890s, and the dance steps with their distinctive “flying arches” and “stamp-hops” were noted by Mona Douglas several decades later.

Manx culture, and folk dance in particular, would be in a much poorer state today, if it were not for Mona Douglas (1898-1987), a single-minded woman determined to bring Manx dance back to life. 100 years ago, when people were ashamed of their ‘old-fashioned’ dances, trivialising them as mere children’s games, Mona worked tirelessly to note down dance steps from “fishermen and countryfolk” and revive the dances before they were lost forever.

In 1929 Mona joined forces with teacher Leighton Stowell and his students at Albert Road School in Ramsey to reconstruct her notes, leading to an invitation by the English Folk Dance Society to perform at the Royal Albert Hall. This discovery of Manx repertoire inspired the formation of the Manx Folk Dance Society and later Bock Yuan Fannee, who both developed the dance collection further, leading to a number of newly composed Manx dances. Mona’s collection, which included the very popular “Eunyssagh Vona” was published in the book, Rinkaghyn Vannin in 1983.

In her introduction to the book, Mona looked back to 1929: "these groups were regarded as entertainers for concerts and so on, and the dances themselves as museum exhibits, and there was no sign of Manx dances coming back into the general usage..."

By 1983, the revival had been a success, and the dance scene is even more vibrant today, with Ny Fennee, the Manx Folk Dance Society, Perree Bane, Skeddan Jiarg and school groups performing locally and internationally, and with ceili dancing a staple of weddings and festivals such as Shennaghys Jiu and Yn Chruinnaght Celtic Gathering. Young dancers will soon be rehearsing for the Manx Folk Awards and the Guild, and dance groups Skeddan Jiarg and Perree Bane will be representing the Island at Cwlwm Celtaidd festival in Wales in March. Since Mona started collecting a century ago, Manx dance has become a part of our living culture; a unique aspect of traditional culture that makes the Isle of Man that little bit different.


The article is available to be enjoyed on the Isle of Man Newspapers' website.
This article links to the series of traditional Manx music arranged for guitar being released as a free download and video lesson. More information is available here.