[from the "Ramsey Courier- of Wednesday, Dec. 24th. 1952].


'Radcliffe y Sundher' of Andreas

By R. CUNLIFFE SHAW, M.Sc.. F.R.C.S.. F.R.Hist.S.


A most interesting branch of the Radcliffes of Andreas was the one whose members in different generations were all designated 'y Sundher' or "of the Sumner", so called because many of them held the office of Sumner for the parish of Andreas.

This official was the servant of the various courts, both ecclesiastical and civil, and it was his duty after church service on Sunday to publish executions against debtors. He also collected the baron's tax levied on certain lands and paid to the Bishop, and for this purpose he went with a cart at harvest time and gathered from each farmer so many sheaves of corn, a goose, ducks or hens which were then publicly sold. When a person died intestate it was his duty to make an inventory of the goods and sell the same, dividing, the proceeds among the next of kin, but he first obtained his own fees from the effects of the sale. The sumner had another perquisite known as the Sumner's sheaf which was six lengths of corn from every man who kept a pair of horses, being as much as he could tie, and so from all other men in comparison.

One of the first Radcliffes of Andreas described as Sumner in the parish Register was James Radcliffe of Old Belfast. This house and its croft were situated on the west side of the road leading from Andreas Church to Rose Cottage cross roads. It lay in the narrow field opposite Ballavoddan, a litte above Ohio Cottage. James was baptised at Andreas on the 12th of January, 1690, and was buried there on Easter Day, the 30th March, 1755. He was the descendant of John Radcliffe who first appeared in Andreas in 1569 as the holder of intack for which he paid 1/4 rent and held in that year the office of the Lord's Moar or bailiff, paying a mark for this. In 1571 John is entered jointly with William McSayle for a quarter of land in the treen of Craigbye at a rental of 11/10; Patrick McNeale being drawn. That is to, say the name of the former owner was deleted from the Manorial Roll or Liber Assed, and the newcomer's name was entered therein. He was also a member of the Lord's Setting Quest in that year.

In 1575 John Radcliffe is entered for one tenement and a quarter of land in the treen of Baltahestyn at a rental of 18/- which is the farm known as Ballaradcliffe today. The name of John Bradshaw was drawn for this holding and according to the late Canon Quine he succeeded by heirship having married Bradshaw's daughter, This is also proved by the fact that he was the successor to John Bradshaw in all the holdings of intack land: Bradshaw's name being finally drawn in 1586.

From the Peel Castle account, we learn that the farm lands paid a yearly fine, in rotation, for the provision of corn for the castle and the Andreas list for 1594 shows that John Radcliffe's contribution was 5/-, his name also occurs year by year either as a member of the setting quest or as the Lord's Moar for Andreas.

In 1601 his second son William is entered for a tenement and a quarter of land in the treen of Leodest at 20/- rent, being the farm of Ballakelly. The name of Isabel Sayle is drawn.which suggests that William Radcliffe obtained possession by marriage with the Sayle heiress. In 1604 Cuthbert Gerrard, deputy captain of the Island made an order that two sufficient men were to be appointed from every parish to confer with the Keys and select candidates for the office of Deemster. The Andreas representatives were John, son and heir of Jchn Radcliffe, of Ballaradclife, and Gilbert McKelly. The candidates selected for this office were Henry Radcliffe who had been water bailiff, William Bridson. Ewan Christian, and Edward Christian at that time absent in London. A poll was called for, and the order for this was signed by Cuthbert Gerrard, Captain of Man, William Lucas and William Radcliffe, the Receivers of Castletown and Peel respectively, James Hey, the Controller, and Thomas Sammesbury, the Deemster. The next year Ewan Christian and Thomas Sammesbury officiated as Deemsters.


John Radcliffe junior who succeeded his father at Ballaradcliffe was also coroner for the sheading of Ayre for which he paid a rental of 40/- and both he and his brother William. of Ballakelly, appear from year to year as members of the Setting Quest or as Moars for Andreas. John was associated with Gilbert Kelly as a holder of intack in Andreas in 1622 and probably married a sister or daughter of this Kelly. He had issue, besides his heir John. a younger son, Gilbert, who was the direct antecedent of the 'Sundher' branch.

Gilbert Radcliffe is first entered for intack in Andreas in 1625 and in the Liber Vast. of 1631 his name appears along with Gilbert Skinner. Ewan Sayle, William Crebbin and Donald Kinrede, each of whom paid 6d. for their holdings,

In 1633 Gilbert Radcliffe's name is drawn and Dollin Curleod entered, but we find that Gilbert had married Margaret, the daughter of John Kinry and in 1648 the latter's name was drawn and Margaret is entered wth her husband Gilbert Radcliffe. The appended note states that John Kinry was dead and his right had descended to his daughter and her husband "ye said Gilbert". This was for a 1d. rent and in the same year Margaret and Gilbert were also entered for 4d. rent in which, John Kinry, the father, is drawn: 2d. rent in which Jony Kinry, the Mother, is drawn, and 2d. rent for which Fynlo Kinry is drawn,

The Lords Survey of 1700-1710 shows that Gilbert Radcliffe had other lands for which he compounded in 1643, these were the crofts later known as Belfast, the West Croft opposite the entrance to Ballavarry facing Ohio Cottage, Ohio Cottage and the adjoining land and an unidentified croft called Crot-a-Lough. he died in October, 1668, and his two sons, John who received Crot-a-Lough and the other intack holdings inherited from the Kinrys, and James who obtained possession of Old Belfast and the West Croft. John's,descendants were for many generations designated 'y Vair' or 'y Voar' and some were described as 'Voar y Sundher'. According to the late Archdeacon Kewley these names were applied to this branch of the Radcliffes because they were overseers of the highways and not as some have thought a nickname implying that they lived by the road.

James, the younger son of Gilbert, who was probably Sumner of Andreas, in 1672 purchased a portion of the quarterland of Ballacross in the treen of Mullen-Lowne. This holding, consisting of a house and garden and adjacent land, was called 'McTeare's half quarter' and was known as the Mullen Beg or Little Mill. It was situated up a lane now grass; grown and water-logged which ran between the Ballavoddan Road and the Kerrowgarrow-Andreas Road and came out nearly opposite an old public house called Jemmy Dan's. The lane used to be called Vair beg Strewan y'Cock, or the little road of the cock stream. The Mullen Beg has long since disappeared, but in the early days of John Cleator, of the Rhenwee, the shan gara (old garden) was cultivated every year. This has been merged with the fields of Ballavarry. There does not appear to be any evidence for a water mill in this region but we know that in the early 17th century there was a windmill in Andreas for which Silvester Radcliffe and Philip Sayle paid 10/- rent in 1608 and there is an entry in the Liber Vast, that these men obtained possession by virtue of a bill of sale by the consent of John Curphey and Sir William Norris, fathers of Molyneux Curphey and Robert Norris who were minors, Silvester Radcliffe was son and heir of William Radcliffe, of Knockaloe, and Gordon, who was Receiver General of the Island. His name is drawn about ten years later, and there is an entry in 1648 cancelling the rent because the "wind mylne" had long since fallen down. It is possible that the Mullen Beg and its associated quarter land were the site of this mill.


James Radcliffe purchased the Mullen Beg from John Kneale, of Ballavarry. and in 1679 the holders of the Ballacross quarterland were John and William Kneale and James Radcliffe. In this year both John Radcliffe, senior, and his son and heir. John of Ballaradcliffe, died within a month of each other. The younger man was married to William Kneale's sister and mentions in his will James Radcliffe to whom he offered Crooms Croft on certain mortgage terms if his brother-in-law, William Kneale, would not take the first acceptance,

James Radcliffe was succeeded by his son John born 1655-1660 who was Sumner of Andreas and lived at Old Belfast. He married Jane Teare and is described as a tailor in the Lords Survey where he is entered for McTeare's Half Quarter, being part of the quarterland of Ballacross, of 8d. rent, which according to the survey was compounded for in 1643 by John Kneale of Ballavarry. James Radcliffe also held besides Old Belfast a portion of Ballavoddan meadow and the croft now known as Ohio Cottage. He had issue by Jane Teare his eldest son James born in 1690, who succeeded as Sumner of Andreas, and a second son Richard born between 1695-1700. Jane Radcliffe died in 1720 and by her will bequeathed to her son James her part of all the houses and lands including the crop of corn and the bigg barrel (barley barrel). Her husband, John, died six years later and mentions in his will as bequests to the son and heir. James, the brick kilns, the crop and all the utensils "belonging to ye house".

James Radcliffe, of Belfast, who succeeded as eldest son and heir. was Sumner of Andreas- Born in 1690 he married Mary Christian, of Ballayonaigue, Bride, in 1720, and had issue, John, the heir, Thomas born 1735, and James born 1738. The youngest son, James Radcliffe, was tenant of Ballacleator, the second son, Thomas, was a mason, and known as 'Tommy the Reaish-. which means the Span, in reference to his short stature.

John Radcliffe, the heir, born in 1729, married Catherine Christian in 1758, by whom he had John, his heir, and five other children. He was Sumner of Andreas in 1772 and probably held this office for a number of years after this time. In 1772 he purchased a part of the quarterland of Ballachurry in Mullen Lowne of 5/2 rent from John Quayle, of Castletown. According to the late William John Radcliffe, of Ballaradcliffe, he demolished the old homestead of Ballachurry and built a new house which he called Belfast after the home of his predecessor. Two years later he sold the Mullen Beg and McTeare's half quarter and also the West Croft opposite Ohio to his cousin Thomas Radcliffe, joiner. John Radcliffe died in 1809 and his wife, Catherine. in 1804.

John, the heir of Belfast, born in 1763, married in 1785 Jane, the eldest daughter of Philip Radcliffe. of Ballaradcliffe. He survived his father only four years, dying in 1813 leaving nine children.

His eldest daughter. Jane, became the second daughter of Alexander Bonnyman, of Banff, who was the land agent of the 4th Duke of Atholl and lived at Phurt-y-Shee, near Braddan, where the Duke resided when Castle Mona was being built. Alexander Bonnyman's first wife was Mary Radcliffe, of Ballaradcliffe, who died in 1806 and in the following year he married her niece at Kirk Michael. They held the estate of Kerrowglass, in German, which was sealed on his second wife and her issue: William Radcliffe, of Ballaradcliffe, being the trustee. Alexander Bonnyman died in 1825 and his widow, Jane, at the age of 91 in 1878. They are buried in a large vault at the top of old Braddan Churchyard.


John Radcliffe, brother of Jane Bonnyman, born 1785, inherited Belfast and was twice married, first to Catherine Howland and second to Margaret, the widow of Thomas Faragher. and daughter of John Cowle. of Bride. By these two marriages he had nine children and at his death in 1859 he was succeeded by his eldest son, John, known as "Johnnie Beg Johnny", who, dying without issue, was the last of the family to hold Belfast. James, the son by the second marriage, emigrated to New Zealand, Maria. his sister. married William Radcliffe, surveyor of Highways, and lived at Ohio Cottage where she died in 1928, having issue, Miss Annie Radcliffe, sometime organist of Andreas Church, and Mrs Cormode, of Smeale.

Reverting to John, of Old Belfast who died in 1726, his second son Richard, born 1695-1700, married Margaret Quark in 1726. They had five children and Richard, the third son, born in 1736 lived until 1818. In a memoir of the Rev, William Radcliffe written by his brother, the Rev. Charles Radcliffe. which appeared in the Wesleyan Methodist Magazine in 1838, Richard is described as an aged disciple and distant relation who accompanied William Radcliffe when he preached his first sermon in Lezayre. Richard Radcliffe married Elizabeth Stevenson by whom he had nine children, one of whom, William, born 1775. was for a great many years the Sumner of Andreas. He is described in the Register as such at the date of his death in 1849 where it is added that he was 'a good old man', and lived at Ballachurry. At the time of his death his eldest son. John, was beyond the seas and according to his will he owned Close Cherrin in Lezayre and a dwelling house and garden in Bride on the opposite side of the road to Lheakerrow. Another brother of William the Sumner was Richard Radcliffe of Ballachurry, father of 'Billy-Dick-Richard', millwright and joiner, of Greenhill, Andreas.

Another branch of the Sumner Radcliffes are those descended from John, the other son of Gilbert Radcliffe. This John died in 1674 leaving a will in which he bequeathed all his lands to his son John Radcliffe except a croft which he left to his wife and then to his second son Thomas, and he appointed his brother James supervisor until his four children came of age. The croft mentioned was Crot-y-Lough which in the Lords Survey of 1705 is shown to be in possession of Thomas Radcliffe where it is stated that Gilbert Radcliffe had compounded for the same in 1643. This Thomas Radcliffe had a son Thomas, born 1690; 95, and married Alice. the daughter of John Radcliffe. of Old Belfast, in 1718. He and many of his descendants were known as 'y Vair' or 'y Voar'. Thomas Radcliffe, the younger, had seven children, one of whom, Thomas, shoemaker and weaver, purchased the Cronk Breck in Ballachurry quarterland. By Ann Sayle, his wife, he had a younger son James born in 1760 who lived at the Lhen Moar and was a noted codfisher and weaver. He built the cottage in which he lived by his own hands. His great grandson was the well-known schoolmaster of Andreas, William Radcliffe, whose patronymic "Billy-Harry-Jemmy-Jem-Hom-Voar-y Sundher", is a remarkable example of how the country people preserved the long records of their descent and incidentally proves the connection of the 'Voar' branch with the other Sundher families. George Radcliffe, uncle to William the Schoolmaster, emigrated to the U.S.A. and was one of the pioneer house builders in Cleveland, Ohio. Another brother James became a farmer in the U.S.A. and the descendants of John, the eldest of this generation, emigrated to Australia.

Thomas Radcliffe, son of Thomas of the Cronk Breck, born 1757, married Jane. the daughter of John Quayle, and at his death in 1830 his son John was entered for his portion of the quarterland of Ballachurry. Known as "Johnny-Hom-Beg" he was both farmer and weaver and died in 1876 leaving four daughters.


Another descent of the 'Sundher' Radcliffes were those closely connected with the Wesleyan Ministry. John Radcliffe. mason, born 1744, was the son of John Radcliffe-y Voar and grandson of Thomas-y Voar. He lived for a time in the old house of Mullen Beg and married in 1772 Eleanor, another daughter of John Quayle, and also purchased land in Ballachurry near the Cronk Breck. According to his great grandson. John Cleator, he built the present farm of Ballachurry about 1799. He had seven children who were all born at the Mullen Beg and he and his wife were amongst the first members of the Wesleyan Methodist Society in the Isle of Man and for many years he was a classleader. He died in 1811, and his wife, Eleanor, aged 77, in 1820,

Their eldest son John, born in 1773, was for fifty-six years a member of the Methodist Communion and for thirty years officiated as a class-leader and local preacher and was secretary of the Andreas Benevolent Society from 1822 to 1828. He was the master mason at the building of the present church at Andreas in which he was assisted by his son John. He married Jane Cowley, of Kirk Michael, and they had nine children. 'Johnny Sundher' died in 1850 and his wife. Jane, in 1871, aged 93. Their eldest son, John, also a mason, of Ballachurry, died in 1879 and was the last of the Radcliffes to live on this holding. His brother Thomas, shoemaker, of the Pinfold, had amongst other issue, Thomas Radcliffe, shoemaker. of Sulby, and the Rev. Benjamin Radcliffe, Rector of Hotham, in East Yorkshire. Another brother of John the mason was Robert Radcliffe, of Ballayockey, who married his kinswoman, Jane, daughter of Thomas Radcliffe, of Ballacleator (Tommy Belfast) to whom Hall Caine refers in the "Little Manx Nation".

John Radcliffe and his wife Eleanor, who purchased land in Ballachurry. had several younger children born at the Mullen Beg and celebrated in the Wesleyan Ministry in later life. The Rev. William Radcliffe, born 1775, was for thirty-five years an itinerant minister. He died in 1835 and particulars of his life and work are given in Rosser's History of Wesleyan Methodism in the Isle of Man, 1849. Another brother, Thomas, born 1777, was for forty-one years a local preacher and father of John the saddler, of Peel Street. Ramsey.

Charles Radcliffe, the fourth son of John the mason, was born in 1784 and entered the Wesleyan Ministry in 1810, in which he laboured for forty-two years, retiring at the conference of 1849, He had two celebrated sons, Charles Bland and John Netten. The former was born at Brigg, in Lincolnshire, in 1822, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, and member of the Council, and held the office of Censor of the College. He wa.i physician to the Westminster Hospital and to the National Hospital. Queen's Square, London, and a lecturer in Botany and Materia Medica in the Westminster Medical School. He was described as a type of "All that was best in a physician of the. old school, modified by modern scientific training." According to the Rev. Edward Priestland who consulted the doctor whilst he was an undergraduate at Cambridge, Charles Bland Radcliffe was a short thick-set ruddy faced man, the very image of his cousin, 'Johnny-y Sundher', the last of the masons of Ballachurry.

John Netten Radcliffe, younger brother of Charles, went to the Crimea as an Army Surgeon and was attached to the headquarters of Omar Pasha and was decorated with the Turkish order of Medjdie. On his return to England he was appointed superintendent of the hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic. Queen's Square, London, and in 1869 was made one of the two public health inspectors created by order of the Privy Council. He died in 1884,

Finally, mention must be made of the descendants of 'Tommy-the-Reaish', born 1735, son of James Radcliffe, the Sumner, and his wife, Mary Christian. 'Tommy-the-Reaish' was also a mason and married first Margaret Skinner in 1772, and subsequently in 1787 Margaret. widow of John Radcliffe and daughter of Thomas Brew. By his first wife he had a son Thomas, born 1773. who emigrated to Cleeland. Ohio, and by his second wife a son John, born 1789 who was the father of the Rev. William Thomas Radcliffe. the well-known Wesleyan Minister and author of "Ellan Vannin", who died in 1897.

For three and a half centuries this linkage typifies the Island community working as farmers, artisans, fishermen and ministers. all descendants of Gilbert Radcliffe, probably the Sumner of Andreas in early Stuart times: a family succession in this office which led to every member of the different branches, now widely scattered over the world. being well known by the patronymic 'y Sundher'.

 Manx Note Book  [Family History Index]


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2003