We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Roeder, Charles [formerly Carl] (1848–1911), folklorist and oral historian, was born in Gera, Thuringia, Germany. Nothing is known of his early life. At twenty-one he emigrated to Manchester to work as a shipping clerk. In 1881 he was living at 92 Lloyd Street, Chorlton-cum-Medlock, with his two sisters, one of whom was a singer, the other a governess. He later became a patent agent and started his own business in continental trade. He was a keen amateur geologist and archaeologist and developed a strong interest in the collection of folklore and oral history. After working on his adopted city's past, especially prehistoric and Roman archaeology, and collecting folklore in Lancashire and Cheshire, Roeder's interest turned to the Isle of Man, which he first visited in 1882.

An energetic fieldworker and collector, Roeder soon made contact with a circle of Manx antiquaries including Sophia Morrison, with whom he later published Manx Proverbs and Sayings (1905). He also met the fisherman–crofter Edward Faragher, known as Ned Beg Hom Ruy; they developed a great friendship, and Faragher proved an invaluable source of information on fishing lore, place names, folk tales, and the social history of the south of the island. Roeder edited Faragher's translations into Manx Gaelic of Aesop's fables, and helped to secure their publication. Other informants included John Hudson of Ballafesson, John Christian of Bride, and J. R. Moore of Laxey. Moore, like Faragher, was encouraged to note down items of folklore in notebooks supplied by Roeder. The results of Roeder's researches appeared in a variety of Manx publications, including Yn Liaor Manninagh, the Peel City Guardian, and the Isle of Man Examiner. In the latter, he launched a ‘Notes and queries’ column, for which he invited contributions and folklore notes. Disappointed by a less than enthusiastic response from the islanders, Roeder ran the column between 21 September 1901 and 24 October 1903, items appearing in eighty-seven issues of the paper. The columns were collected and reprinted as Manx Notes and Queries (1904). In his preface, Roeder noted that, although intended ‘to animate others to contribute to it on biography, history, language and folklore in all its various branches … this first experiment has so far been rather sterile’. In fact, most of his material came from Faragher. A number of his works exist in manuscript form, including a survey of the place names of the parish of Rushen.

Suffering from tuberculosis, Roeder, who never married, was nursed through his last years by his sister. He died on 9 September 1911 at 17 Amherst Street, Withington, south Manchester, and was cremated. In the preceding years, he had distributed his books and papers to friends and colleagues, including Sophia Morrison, and donated a range of archaeological and scientific specimens to museums in Lancashire.

Without the efforts of Charles Roeder, much of what is known about Manx folklore and life at the turn of the twentieth century would have been lost. As an oral historian he had an exceptional gift for eliciting information from his contacts. He asserted a deep sense of duty towards folklore, and insisted on going to the sources himself. He was unusual in insisting that women were often more useful informants than men (although the informant with whom he is most closely associated was Edward Faragher). He brought to the Isle of Man the systematic, scientific approach of collecting practices developed in Germany, and did much to formalize oral history collection among antiquaries. He thought A. W. Moore's practice of employing fieldworkers would lead to ‘grandfather's chair work’ (Sophia Morrison papers, box 2), but contributed nevertheless to Moore's Manx Folklore (1899).

John Wright

Sources  

C. Roeder, Manx notes and queries (1904) · Manx National Heritage, Douglas, Isle of Man, Sophia Morrison MSS · Manchester Guardian (Sept 1911) · Isle of Man Examiner Annual (1912) · C. Roeder, Skeealyn Cheeil-Choille: Manx folk tales, ed. S. Miller (1993) · Manchester City News (16 Sept 1911) · Manx Quarterly, 10 (1911), 955–6 · d. cert. · census returns, 1881 · private information (2004) [Breesha Maddrell]

Archives  

Man. CL, Manchester Archives and Local Studies, antiquarian papers |  Manx National Heritage, Douglas, Isle of Man, Sophia Morrison MSS · Manx National Heritage, Douglas, Isle of Man, Edward Faragher MSS


Likenesses  

photograph, repro. in Isle of Man Examiner Annual