taking our culture forward

Monumental T. E. Brown recording

Mon, 05 Oct 2020

A complete recording of one of T. E. Brown’s greatest poems has been released for free online.

The Doctor’ has been recorded in its complete form by Phil Gawne and is available in 45 parts from Culture Vannin.

This is only the second ever complete recording of one of T. E. Brown’s narrative Manx dialect poems, and the first since the 1992 cassette recording of ‘Betsy Lee’ by Dollin Kelly RBV.

James Franklin of Culture Vannin says:

“This is a very important milestone in T. E. Brown’s poetry. So much of his work relies on the dialect voice that it’s written in, and his greatest poems are his long narrative poems. It is only in readings like this by Phil Gawne that we can truly appreciate our National Poet’s work, when the words and story come to life.”

T. E. Brown (1830 – 1897) was recognised as the Manx National Poet largely for his ‘Fo’c’s’le Yarns’ series, beginning most famously with ‘Betsy Lee.’ But it was in October 1876 that he published ‘The Doctor,’ viewed after his death by critics as his ‘masterpiece.’

The story tells of Dr. Bell, rejected by the affluent family of the woman he fell in love with. Moving to the Lhen, he leads the community through the cholera epidemic and establishes himself as a pillar of the community. But his life unravels for him as his wife and children betray him and he falls into drink, only for his youngest daughter to save him at last.

The poem is over 100 pages long in printed form, which equates to over 3 hours and 20 minutes when read by one of the Island’s leading dialect performers, Phil Gawne.

The recordings began during Covid19 lockdown back in April, when they were released weekly on Manx Radio’s Sunday afternoon show, ‘Goll as Gaccan,’ when the poem’s central event of a cholera outbreak was apposite.

James Franklin says:

“T. E. Brown was and remains revered because of his amazing power to capture the essence of Manx people, inside and out. To follow the journey of Dr. Bell’s journey throughout lockdown and beyond has been a wonderful experience, and it is wonderful to be able to offer a permanent place for this for people in years to come to enjoy and immerse themselves in one of the Isle of Man’s greatest poems.”

Phil Gawne is planning more readings of Brown’s longer works over the coming months on ‘Goll as Gaccan.’ It is likely that the next poem read will offer a shift of tone, moving from the tragic towards the more comic side of Brown’s narrative poems.

Manx Radio’s ‘Goll as Gaccan’ is on air from 4pm to 6pm every Sunday.

The complete set of recordings of ‘The Doctor’ is now available for free listening and download from Culture Vannin’s website and BandCamp page.