Constance Mona Douglas
(Constance) Mona Douglas, (18 September 1898 – 8 October 1987), a
folklorist, was born at 49 Allerton Road, Much Woolton, Liverpool
(although she claimed to have been born on the Ellan Vannin, on
passage between the Isle of Man and Liverpool). She was the daughter
of Frank Beardmore Douglas (c.1864–1943), shop manager, and his
wife, Frances Mona Holmes (c.1873–1953). She was an only child who,
because of ill health, was educated at home. Her childhood holidays
were usually spent with her grandparents in the Isle of Man, where
she roamed the countryside, striking up conversations with men and
women who worked on the land and at sea. Her interest in folklore
was kindled by Sophia Morrison, who encouraged her to write down the
stories and songs that she heard, a task that she took very
seriously. Morrison also developed Mona's interest in all things
Celtic, an interest that was to preoccupy her for the rest of her
life. By 1921 she was the secretary of the Manx branch of the Celtic
Congress and had already had published two books of poetry (Manx
Song and Maiden Song, 1915, Mychurachan, 1917) and three plays. In
1917 she was admitted to the third order of the Gorsedd of Bards at
the ‘Black’ eisteddfod in Birkenhead. She came into contact with
many influential writers, scholars, and politicians, including W. B.
Yeats, George Russell (AE), and Maud Gonne. In 1925 she moved to
Harlech where she worked as a secretary to the poet A. P. Graves
while he was writing his autobiography To Return to All That. Graves
encouraged her to go to London to widen her horizons. There, she
strengthened her links with the English Folk Dance Society,
corresponding with A. G. Gilchrist and apparently contributing to A.
G. Gilchrist's three issues (1924–6) of the society's journal
devoted to Manx traditional music. She also collaborated with Arnold
Foster on the first of three sets of arrangements of Manx songs (Stainer
and Bell, 1928, 1929, and 1957).
In the 1930s Douglas
returned to live in the Isle of Man and work in the Rural Library.
Her boundless energy enabled her to work tirelessly up until the end
of her long life, teaching young people Manx songs, dances, stories,
and the island's history, continuing to write poetry and articles
for learned journals, and writing and producing Manx Gaelic and Manx
dialect plays. After her ‘retirement’ she fulfilled another
ambition, working as a journalist for a further twenty-five years.
She also published two novels (Song of Mannin, 1976, and Rallying
Song, 1981) that embody her cultural, political, and religious
beliefs. In 1976 she revived Yn Chruinnaght, a festival of Manx
dance, music, and literature that, in spite of gloom-mongerers'
predictions, went from strength to strength. This was to be one of
her greatest memorials, inspiring generations of young people to
participate in and enjoy the music and dance that was so close to
Mona Douglas never married but had a long and
close relationship with the colourful Nikolai Giovannelli from
before the Second World War until his death in the early 1980s. For
six years they ran a brave but unsuccessful experiment in upland
farming at the Clarum, which had to be sold in 1949 to meet
increasing debts. She seemed to be equally comfortable worshipping
in a Methodist chapel or a Roman Catholic church but felt
particularly close to the mystical Christian spirituality of the
early Celtic church. The spirit of the sea-god Manannan and ‘the
shining fellowship’ was central to her visionary poetry and prose.
Her character was a remarkable mixture of practicality and
mysticism. She was utterly single-minded and determined, with an
extraordinary stamina. From her friends and colleagues she expected
a commitment to all things Manx that was equal to her own. Animals,
particularly cats, were important to her and her car driving was
famous for its excitement and eccentricity. Her hospitality was
generous. She was a talented singer and actress, who was able to
produce memorable performances, particularly in comic roles. Her
dream of a Manx theatre to rival the Abbey in Dublin did not come to
After a lifetime of dedication, Douglas's work was
finally recognized with an MBE in 1982, awarded for outstanding
services to Manx culture; she also received the Mannanan trophy
(1972), was patron of the Manx Heritage Foundation (1986), was
awarded membership of the principal order of the Gorsedd of Bards in
1987, and the Reih Bleeaney Vanannan was awarded posthumously in
1988. Just before Christmas 1986 Douglas fell and broke her leg but,
in spite of her friends' urgings, refused to move from her remote
cottage in the hills. However, within months she had to return to
Noble's Hospital, where she died peacefully on 8 October 1987 in her
ninetieth year. She was cremated in Douglas a few days later. In the
following months her achievements were celebrated in a series of
memorial services and concerts.
Any contributions will be
Errors and Omissions
We are looking for your help to improve the accuracy of The Douglas
If you spot errors, or omissions, then
please do let us know
If you have met a brick wall
with your research, then posting a notice in the Douglas Archives
Forum may be the answer. Or, it may help you find the answer!
You may also be able to help others answer their queries.
Douglas Archives Forum.
||We try to keep everyone up to date with new entries, via our
What's New section on the
We also use
Network to keep researchers abreast of developments in the
Douglas Clan Gathering - 30th June to 6th July 2014
|A Clan Douglas
Gathering is to be held in Scotland in the summer of 2014. If this is something that
you would be interested in being part of, then please visit our
Gathering Website and
to find out more.
There is still time to tell us what we should do at the Gathering, and
what you would like to achieve when in Scotland. Join our
and make your views known.
If you would like to be kept informed, please
sign up to receive our newsletter