manx celtic music and dance

Corteen  Edward


Born:               1827, Ballasholague, Maughold

Died:                20th June 1913, Douglas

Father:            Thomas Corteen (1777-1853)

Mother:           Mary (née Callow) (1781-1857)

Married:          Charlotte Teare (1830-1918)

Issue:               Edward Edwin (1856-1908)

                        Rabena (1857-Unknown)

                        Charlotte Mary (1859-1934)

                        Robert Corteen (1861-1936)

                        Albert Augustus (1863-1926)

                        John Thomas (1865-1883)

                        Ernest Callow (1867-1954)

                        James Alfred (1870-1954)

                        Frederick Teare (1872-1947)

                        Jessie Martina (1875-1939)

Education:      The Lhaggan School                     

The Corteen family is associated with the mountain third of  Maughold, holding land in the high ground in the vicinity of what is now known as Glen Mona.  Born at Ballasholague, Edward Corteen attended the Lhaggan School at the ford just below Ballacorteen, at the fork off the road down to Cornaa.  He was taught by Robert Cottiman (or Cotterman) who, in his day, says a newspaper obituary for Edward Corteen, was reckoned a first-class teacher.  On the other hand, a Visitation Report of 1835 says that Robert Cottiman does not attend properly to his school, being addicted to drunkenness.  Nevertheless, Early in life Edward Corteen is said to have displayed an aptitude for mathematics, which he afterwards mastered to a remarkable extent.

Edward Corteen's original trade was as a joiner.  In 1856 he married Charlotte Teare, and their ten children were born in Maughold, where the family home became Mona Cottage (now Glen Mona House), which Edward Corteen had built.  By his own account at an event to mark his retirement, it was in 1859 that he was appointed Parochial Surveyor of Maughold, with responsibility to the Highway Board for roads and bridges in the parish.  Later, the roads in Lonan were also placed under his charge, and he played in important role in constructing the high road from the Glen Mona Hotel through to the King Orry Hotel (now House) near the crossroads above Minorca.

In July 1880 Edward Corteen was officially appointed Surveyor-General to the Highway Board, though not without some dissenting voices among Tynwald members, particularly George William Dumbell.  However, the Receiver-General, Ridgway Harrison (1818-1894) noted at the time that he had carried out all of the work of the post since 1876, when John Jefferson officially held the appointment.  Following Edward Corteen's resignation in January 1909, at a gathering of Parochial Surveyors in his honour he described having commenced as a Parochial Surveyor in 1859, and becoming Surveyor-General in 1876.  He considered his best work to have been the Mountain road from the Bungalow down into Ramsey, with the gradients around North Barrule being particularly difficult to manage.  He was involved in bridge building, including Ballig Bridge in German, Ballasalla Bridge and the Dhowin in Andreas, and was responsible for work in widening the Corrany Bridge and Ballure Bridge in his native Maughold.

Edward Corteen was a Manx speaker and deeply interested in Manx folklore and everything Manx.  He was very involved in Maughold affairs, and an obituary said of him that Mr Corteen was, to a certain extent, the oracle of the district who was consulted in times of difficulty . . .  He was frequently consulted about, and instrumental in settling, land disputes, and he assisted many people of the parish in writing their will.  A woman is said to have come to see him after her husband's death to see if he had made a will.  Edward Corteen said that he did not know of one.  Well, said the woman, if you haven't one, you must make one.

From the first popular elections in 1867, Edward Corteen involved himself in supporting candidates for the House of Keys.  In 1875 he himself famously took part in an election for the post of Maughold Parish Clerk.  He had a notice printed in the newspaper, which reveals something of his character:

NOTICE. / To the Electors for Parish Clerk for Maughold. / Vote for EDWARD CORTEEN, he will be the Right Man in the Right Place.  The High Churchmen connived so much against him that they had the town and parish canvassed for Mr Killip before the parishioners knew of the late Mr Summer's death ; and moreover, there is a sermon to be preached in the neighbourhood on this election soon.  Text to be taken from the Gospel according to St Mark chap. 5th, verse 2nd to 5th inclusive.  Vote for Corteen, he is a more suitable man for the situation than Killip, he is a better scholar in every shape, and more useful for the parish also ; and another thing, he is one of ourselves.  Any person should not be qualified to vote that does not contribute in some way towards the maintenance of the church, &c.  Once we will get Disestablishment we will perhaps be going to ask you to vote for Parsons, but in the meantime Vote (you that are qualified) for EDWARD CORTEEN, he is the Right Man in the Right Place. 


Despite his Notice, he was defeated by 453 votes to 193.  The Notice draws attention, though, to his disdain for High Churchmen and his desire for Disestablishment, because his greatest interest was in Cardle Wesleyan Chapel.  He played the cello and led the singing there, being renowned for his fine tenor voice, and was also in demand to perform at country entertainments.  On the evening before moving from Maughold to Hawarden Avenue in Douglas in October 1890, a special event was held in Cardle Chapel at which one old man asked Edward Corteen to sing again and again his favourite hymn.   After moving to Douglas, Edward Corteen became a regular worshipper at Rose Mount [sic] Wesleyan Church.  However, he continued to take an interest in Cardle, and subscribed generously to the cost of building the new chapel at Cardle alongside the original chapel.  He attended the opening ceremony on Thursday 3rd March 1910 and sang a Manx hymn, O Yee, cur skianyn credjue dou, to the tune, Martyrdom, at the service.

In 1895, Edward Corteen was visited in Douglas on Saturday 6th April by John Frederick Gill, who took down notes from him about Manx songs and stories of Maughold people and folklife.   Deemster Gill's handwritten account of the meeting still exists, including the note of Edward Corteen's statement, Had good Tenor voice was advised to train it in England.   On Good Friday, 12th April 1895, Deemster Gill again visited him, this time with his brother, WILLIAM HENRY GILL, who noted down five tunes from Edward Corteen - Hie my ghraih shaghey; Coayl jeh ny baatyn skeddan [Wreck of the herring fleet]; Creg Willy Syl; Ta traa gholl thie [the tune generally linked with Arrane Oie Vie, but used for a version of Thie Quiggin or Vannin veg veen]; and The Farmer's Boy.

In addition to his service of over 50 years as a diligent and faithful servant of the Manx Highways Board, including his 30 years as the Island's Surveyor-General, Edward Corteen was described in the Ramsey Courier at the time of his death as a thorough Manxman in every respect.  He spoke the language fluently, and was deeply versed in all Manx lore and music.  He lived and worked in Maughold for the majority of his life, and is buried there following his death at his home in Hawarden Avenue, Douglas, on 20th June 1913.


Corteen, Thomas Curphey, Corteen family history, 2003 (private archive)

Miller, Stephen, 'The Gill Brothers as Collectors: / (13) Deemster J.F. Gill Visits Edward Corteen (1895)',, Manx Notes 63 (2006)

MNHL Newspaper archive

By RC Carswell 2014


Suggested Reading

The Original Collection of Manx Folk Music made by his honour the Deemster Gill, Mr W.H. Gill and Dr Clague Completed in 1895 & 1896

Manx National Heritage Library MS 09702 / Photographs taken by David Speers