Manx Newspapers


Newspapers can be an extremely useful source of information to flesh out the life of an individual. However it should be realised that the earliest newspapers carried very little local information - their role was to relay information about British (i.e. mainly London) affairs to a fairly narrow section of the population. George Broderick describes the Manx coverage in the early issues of the Manks Mercury as 'scrappy and capricious'. Such newspapers were weekly and always struggled to make ends meet. A newspaper stamp duty, initially one penny but in 1815 raised to 4d, was imposed in both Ireland and the UK but not on the Island. The Island, unlike the UK, did not place a tax on advertisements or on paper though it had a small duty on imported paper (there was a small Manx paper industry which supplied paper for many of the early issues). Some papers and periodicals, to avoid these British taxes, published on the Island, but with an eye to readership elsewhere; such enterprise was of course restricted by the high cost of postage and/or unreliable communication between the Island and the mainland. The high stamp duty was opposed by many in Britain as a 'tax on knowledge' and often deliberately flouted as a protest - in 1836 the UK parliament altered the duty back to one penny thus removing much of the protest but still pricing working class publications out of the market. In 1834 the UK parliament allowed papers published in the colonies free postage to any part of Great Britain and Ireland; the idea was to encourage the British reader to become familiar with colonial affairs . Although not intended to apply to the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, publishers in both places sought extension of the free postage to their locations; parliament not fully realising the implications granted it. Within a short time publishers in both places started to print exclusively for a non-local readership, the steam packet having made communication fast and reliable - temperance and reform periodicals were the main exploiters of this scheme. Tynwald became so concerned at the growth in such publications that it passed a law in 1846 requiring that all proprietors should be clearly identified. This act had no effect and it was only when the UK parliament revoked the free postage, initially within Britain in September 1848 and finally to parts of Europe in April 1849, that such publications ceased. During this free postage era, even local papers took on grandiloquent titles to reflect a wider circulation.

A fuller discussion of this era in Manx publishing is given by J. Belchem - in particular he examines the role played by William Shirrefs in exploiting the tax and postal loopholes of the Island.

From the early 19th century the main papers were the Manks Advertiser and the Manx Sun; in the 1830's joined by Mona's Herald and the Manx Liberal. The Manks Advertiser ceased in 1842 and the Manx Liberal in 1850; the other two were joined in 1861 by The Isle of Man Times and in 1880 by the Isle of Man Examiner. The Manx Sun ceased 1906, leaving the others to battle it out until 'rationalisation' in the late 1950's when both titles were acquired by H.L.Dor and the editorial staff merged. All these papers were Douglas based, using correspondents to cover the rest of the Island. The Peel City Guardian started in 1882, followed shortly afterwards in 1884 by the Ramsey Courier; Castletown, as in most other things, stood aloof from such petty affairs as publishing. The growth in their number and their increasing depth of coverage of Island affairs during the 19th century reflects the growing education of the population - especially after compulsory schooling began in 1872.

All these newspapers were effectively creations of their editor/publishers who were, especially in the early days, somewhat larger than life characters with strong political affiliations. They were certainly not afraid of denigrating each others' publications, though, all too often, were also not averse to 'borrowing' news from their opponents. Many libel actions were brought against these editors - on several occasions they found themselves confined within the prison at Castle Rushen. The most famous of these being James Brown, editor of the Isle of Man Times, who, in 1864, was jailed for contempt by the Keys and successfully sued them for false imprisonment.

A rather partisan summary of the political opinions of the 1840's Manx press can be gleaned from W. Cannell's New Guide of 1843:


There are five Offices in Douglas, at four of which newspapers are printed. The one in Duke-street, under the title of the "Advertiser," has been established upwards of thirty-nine years, during the whole of which period, it has been conducted by the present proprietor, Mr. G. Jefferson. The principles of the Advertiser are, and have from its commencement been strictly Conservative. It has not only ever been a strenuous supporter of the throne, and the established religion of the realm, but has always advocated, and not unsuccessfully, the continuance of those ancient Insular laws and institutions, which have raised the little Island to its present state of respectability and splendour. An Almanack is annually printed at the Advertiser office; the edition for 1840 was the 35th impression. The Sun, which is printed on the North Quay, is the property of Mr. James Grellier and Mr. John Quiggin, the publisher; it has been in their possession about fourteen years. The principles of the Sun, are Professedly, conservative, but its editorial articles are generally of a lukewarm nature. An Almanack is also printed by Mr. Quiggin. The Herald is printed at the top of Post Office Lane, by R. Faragher and Co. It has been established about six years; its principles are Radical, and it is a strong opponent of the ancient Insular institutions, and a strenuous advocate for innovations of a dangerous tendency. The " Liberal" is the property of, and is printed by Mr. J. R. Wallace, the proprietor of the Museum, in Great George Street; its principles are what its title represents Liberal, PROFUSELY Liberal. If we are to be guided in our judgment by the editorial articles in that paper, we must infer that the proprietor is decidedly hostile to a monarchical Government, and not remarkable for his support of the Holy Scriptures. The other office is in Great Nelson Street.

The main reference for any history of the Manx Newspapers must the the magisterial history forming section L8 of W. Cubbon's Bibliography. Although W. Cubbon is now best remembered as the second director of the Manx Museum and Library, this was his third career - his first had been in newspapers before becoming librarian at Douglas Library.

The earliest Manx printed paper dates from 1793 - before this the Cumberland Pacquet regularly carried Manx news from its start in 1774 - see Constance Radcliffe's article.


Advertisements were a major source of revenue - generally the front page was given over to such. Once set in type most editors appeared reluctant to reset them and many adverts continued unchanged from one week to the next. Many would be illustrated by a small woodcut - most of these were stereotypes and bore no relationship to the ship, house etc. being advertised. Such adverts are extremely useful to determine when companies or businesses commenced trading or when property changed hands (often on the death of a tenant).

The early papers carried almost nothing in the way of local obituaries - a notice of death was sometimes given but with few details. From around the 1830's, marriages and births were noted - these can be useful as off-island marriages may be listed. Such listings were certainly not complete, they reflected both social standing and also a concentration on Douglas.

Some court cases were noted - however a much fuller record is generally available from official sources.

Letters to the editor, in early days often signed under non-de-plumes, can be a fruitful source of local colour - some of these concerned with emigration are available.

A feel for how local issues were handled may be seen in my page on the Mormon Missioning of the Island in 1841 which provoked the ire of most papers; the Manx Liberal were the first to give a fairly straight reporting of the initial meetings, Robert Faragher's Mona's Herald soon went on the attack and published pamphlets and special supplements denouncing them. Mrs Chapman in her Story of Manx Methodism comments on the way Mona's Herald seemed to relish reporting each schism within the rather conservative Wesleyan Methodism.

The amount and depth of local coverage extended considerably from the 1840's.

Names and Dates of Publication

Most of these papers changed their names, often several times, I have kept that by which they are generally known - see Cubbon for the details including typographical changes etc.


The Manks Mercury and Briscoe's Douglas Advertiser

Carried little Manx news - possibly killed off by Jefferson's Manx Advertiser - only the years 1793-4 are in the MM


The Manks Advertiser

Publisher George Jefferson - arch conservative - published on Saturdays


Isle of Man Weekly Gazette and General Advertiser

Founder Editor John Beatson and after his death in 1814 by Copeland. Both of these were also involved in banking.


The Manx Sun (Initial title was The Rising Sun or Mona's Herald - part of which title was later assumed by a competitor)

First owner/editor was Cpt Samuel Martin Colquett, rear-admiral, Persian scholar and minor poet! After a sale in 1824 the title was acquired by Trevor Ashe (actually Capt Thomas Ashe) with James Grellier as editor which post he held until 1842. Last editor was William Cubbon.


The Manx Patriot



Mona's Herald

Founded by Robert Faragher, nephew to George Jefferson, great reformer and temperance advocate. Strong reform Methodist viewpoint.


Manx Liberal

Run by J Penrice and Joseph Wallace


Manx Patriot

Short-lived - edited by John Bedford and owned by William Walls who had initially started up the Mona's Herald


Isle of Man Times

An attempt by William Shirrefs to move into the local press, capitalising on his extensive printing for an off-island readership. Failed along with rest of Shirrefs company when changes to postal regulations removed Island's postal advantages.


Isle of Man Times

Founded by James Brown great friend of T.E.Brown; first editor was William Pierce Poole and first reporter was Brown's son John Archibald Brown. Brown was a noted Mason - paper generally took a very establishment line; he adopted the title of the defunct Shirrefs paper for which firm he come over from Liverpool to work as a letter press printer in the 1840's.


Isle of Man Examiner

Published by Samuel Keown Broadbent - well known Methodist - prospectus stated that 'will defend and advocate the rights and liberties of Nonconformists in the Isle of Man'

Printed an annual Examiner Annual from 1892

Availability and Indexes

With a few gaps the main newspapers are available on microfilm at the Manx Museum. With the exception of the the Manx Liberal, these microfilms, done locally many years ago, are not up to modern standards and can be difficult to read - they are often badly scored by misuse within the film readers.

Local newspapers are extremely tedious to search - two partial indexes exist; one to the Cumberland Pacquet for 1774-94 (done by C. Radcliffe) and another, larger, index to the The Manks Advertiser, Manx Sun and Mona's Herald to around 1850 done in the 1950's by Neil Matheson (this index does not appear to cover the Manx Liberal). Both indexes exist only within the card index of the Manx Museum - the larger index also needs some care to determine how entries might be classified.



W. Cubbon A Bibliographical Account of Works relating to the Isle of Man vol. 2 Douglas:Manx Museum and National Trust, 1939 section L8 pp 1321/1396

C. Radcliffe Manx News from Whitehaven 1774-1794 as Read in the Cumberland Pacquet Proc IoMNHAS vol. X no 4 pp 413/433 1998

J. C. Belchem Radical Entrepreneur: William Shirrefs and the Manx Free Press of the 1840's Proc IoMNHAS vol. X no 1 pp 33/47 1992


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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2001