[taken from Chapter 7 Manx Worthies, A.W.Moore, 1901]

JOHN QUILLIAM (b. 1771, d. 1829),

was the son of a farmer in the south of the island.1 He first came into notice at the Battle of Camperdown in 1797, when he was made a lieutenant by Admiral Donean. At the Battle of Copenhagen, in 1801, he was on a frigate of such light draught of water that she could get close under the batteries She was there subjected to such a tremendous fire that all QUILLIAM's superior officers were killed, so that he was left in command. At this juncture, Nelson came on board and enquired who was in charge of her, when a voice, that of QUILLIAM, ascended from the main deck, "I am," and, on the further question, "How are you getting on below ?" the answer to the unknown inquisitor was " middlin'. " This greatly amused Nelson, who so appreciated QUILLIAM's coolness, that he took an early opportunity of getting him on his own ship the "Victory," of which he was appointed first lieutenant. As the following extract from " James's Naval History of Great Britain " will show, he assisted in steering her into action at the Battle of Trafalgar :-

Just as she (the " Victory ") had got about 500 yards of the larboard beam of the " Bucentaure," the " Victory's " mizzen-topmast was shot away, about two-thirds up. A shot also struck and knocked to pieces the wheel; and the ship was obliged to be steered from the gun room, the first lieutenant (John Quilliam) and master (Thomas Atkinson) relieving each other at the duty.2

It seems somewhat curious that an officer of Quilliam's rank should have been engaged in steering, but, some years ago a Manxman, a son of the late Rev. George Quirk, who was an engineer in the employ of the Trinity Board, discovered a reason for it from a document at Trinity House. It would appear that QUILLIAM had caused the damage which had been done to the steering gear " to be repaired according to a plan of his own, and then not feeling quite sure how this would act he took the tiller with his own hand. "3 After Trafalgar he was probably on shore for a time, since, in 1807, he was elected a member of the House of Keys, and, though he was at sea again in the following year, he did not resign his membership till 1810.

In 1808, he was commander in the "Spencer," Admiral Stopford's flag-ship, and, in the same year, according to a letter of Lieutenant Edward Christian's he was appointed captain of a vessel of 24 guns,4 probably a sloop. In this letter Christian says that he is writing to him (Quilliam) "in favour of the son of Lady Napier, who is a midshipman under his command," and that he would also take the opportunity of mentioning his cousin, Evan Christian (see p. 140) to him.5 In 1812, he was in command of the " Crescent " and continued to serve in her till after the conclusion of the war in 1815. He then retired to his native island, living at the " White House," Kirk Michael. He was re-elected a member of House of Keys in 1817, and took a conspicuous part in the enquiry made by the Tynwald Court into the condition of the herring fishery in 1827. He died in 1829, being buried in Kirk Arbory Churchyard, where the following inscription may be read on his tombstone :-

Sacred to the memory of John Quilliam, Esq., Captain in the Royal Navy. In his early service he was appointed by Adml. Lord Duncan to act as lieutenant at the Battle of Camperdown; after the victory was achieved, this appointment was confirmed. His gallantry and professional skill at the Battle of Copenhagen attracted the notice of Lord Nelson, who subsequently sought for his services on board his own ship, and as his lordship's first lieut. he steered the Victory into action at the Battle of Trafalgar. By the example of Duncan and Nelson he learned to conquer. By his own merit he rose to command: above all this he was an honest man, the noblest work of God. After many years of honourable and distinguished professional service, he retired to this land of his affectionate solicitude and birth, where in his public station as a member of the House of Keys, and in private life, he was in arduous times the uncompromising defender of the rights and privileges of his countrymen, and the zealous and able supporter of every measure~ tending to promote the welfare and the best interests of his country. He departed this life on the 10th October, 1829. in the 59th year of his age. This monument is erected by Margaret C. Quilliam to the memory of her beloved husband.

From the newspaper notice of his death we learn that he was a " benevolent friend . . . a sensible, social, pleasing companion," and " a kind and good master," also that " he was highly esteemed and much respected by all."

1 Train's History of the Isle of Man. Vol. II, P. 371. (Train actually says he was impressed out of a collier in Castletown harbour)

2 Vol. III., p. 398. Edition of 1886.

3 Letter from Mr W. A. Stevenson, J.P., a connexion of Quilliam's, in the Tourist, of December, 1898.

4 The name of the vessel is illegible.

5 "The Letters of Lieutenant Edward Christian," P. 30. (Published by S. K. Broadbent & Co., Limited, Douglas, 1898.)

Trafalgar Roll:

"Captain John Quilliam, a native of the Isle of Man, was impressed into the. service. Became Lieutenant 1798. Third Lieutenant of ETHALION at capture of THETIS, tlreasure ship, 1799, and received over £5,000 as his share of the prize. Subsequently wrecked. in the ETHALION. Was Lieutenant of AMAZON at, Copenhagen, 1801 . First Lieutenant of VICTORY at Trafalgar, 1805 ~ promoted Captain. In command of CRESCENT captured. an American privateer, 1813." Died 1839.

The precise dates of his promotions are Lieutenant on 6th October 1798, and. Captain on 24th December 1805. He was also on board the following ships:-.


Royal Navy Biography vol 4 pp962/3


This officer may be truly styled a favorite of Fortune. He is a native of the Isle of Man, and was impressed into the navy, but at what period we have not been informed. As a commissioned officer we first find him serving as third Lieutenant of the Ethalion frigate, commanded by Captain James Young, who bore official testimony to his good conduct at the capture of a Spanish treasure ship, Oct. 17, 1799. Mr. Quilliam’s share of prize-money on that occasion exceeded 5000l. *(see vol 1 p684)

The Ethalion was soon after doomed to experience a sad reverse, she being wrecked on the coast of France in little more than two months after the above capture.. A narrative of her loss is given at full length in Schornberg’s Naval Chronology, vol. iii. p. 219 et seq. After that disaster, we lose sight of Mr. Quilliam until the glorious 21st Oct. 1805, on which day he served as first Lieutenant of Nelson's flagship, the Victory of 100 guns,—a circumstance which secured his promotion to post rank, without ever having been a Commander ; and at the same time produced much mortification to those of Nelson’s followers who were senior to himself, and whom the hero had ordered to perform the duties of junior Lieutenants, for no other reason than that of avoiding a constant succession of executive officers—the whole of them being before Mr. Quilliam on his Lordship’s list for promotion. We state this on the credit of a Post-Captain, who, when mentioning the subject, evinced not the slightest disposition to detract from his former messmate’s merits.

Captain Quilliam’s post commission bears date Dec. 24, 1805 ; but being put in charge of the Ildefonso, a Spanish 74, and having to refit her at Gibraltar, be did not arrive in England till May 16th in the following year. He subsequently commanded the Alexandria, Inconstant, and Crescent frigates; the latter employed on the Newfoundland station, where he captured an American privateer, pierced for 14 guns, with a complement of 66 men, Sept. 16, 1813..

Agents.—Messrs. Barnett and King.

He also built Balcony House on the Parade, Castletown as a town house. Married Margaret Christian Stevenson of the Balladoole family 21 Dec 1817 at Arbory - he is buried in the Stevenson Vault.

He is now usually identified as eldest son of John Quilliam and Christian Clucas of Ballakelly Marown (no marriage found in IGI however) - Family (from IGI):

John 29 Sep 1771
Elizabeth 13 Mar 1774
Thomas 28 Apr 1776
William 11 Oct 1778
Margaret 12 Jan 1781
Mary 23 Feb 1783
Robert 27 Sep 1789

A further twist to tale is given by "Treljah" - Mrs M A Watterson (nee Annie Quirk) in her book "People and Places" pub 1956 - note that she like many other writers she states that John Quilliam's family farmed at Arbory:

Captain Quilliam had no children, but they reared a niece.
About the year 1850, an English gentleman named Bayley, with his wife and baby daughter, came to reside at Ellanbank (or Elm Bank), near Crosby. The delicate state of his wife's health was partly the reason for their coming to the Island. Shortly after they had settled in their new home, his wife passed away.
After some years, Mr. Bayley married his second wife, the niece who had been reared by Captain and Mrs. Quilliam at the "White House," Michael. She came to live at Ellanbank with Mr. Bayley and his daughter, Edith.
[? A Barton Nicholas Bayley m. Jane Gawne Cain 21 Dec 1841 Malew (IGI), he is buried Marown 16 Jun 1866 age 63 - Margery Bayley bur Marown 24 Dec 1881 age 75; in 1851 he (though name spelled Baley) is described as an annuitant at B'garey Cottage, born Hull; an Elizabeth Craine, 75, described as mother-in-law is also present born Peel (as also is wife Margery age 40), 3 year old dau Edith S and also a cousin 25 year old James Quilliam - there is also a 22 year old Christian Baley, born Peel described as house servant - this could be Elinor Bailey born Peel 1829
The IGI has a christening of a Mary Ann Crane dau of James P Crane and Elizabeth McEvan als Quilliam 13 Jul 1809 at Kk German; Elizabeth McEwen m. James Crane Marown 18 Oct 1803]

When Captain Quilliam's widow died, she left her belongings, including the Captain's uniform, to Mrs. Bayley.
Eventually, Mr. and Mrs. Bayley died, and Edith Bayley inherited all their worldly possessions, together with Captain Quilliam's uniform.
Edith Bayley married Stephen Quirk, the only son of Captain Quirk, of Raby, Patrick. Being heir to Raby, his parents expected Stephen to be a farmer, but he chose to be a ship's engineer [Edith Shuttlework Bayley m. Richard Stephen Quirk 29 July 1871 Marown] .
They were married only about five years when Stephen met with a fatal accident on board the " Great Eastern." He was giving some attention to the boiler, when it burst, and he was so badly scalded that he died shortly afterwards.
There were two children, Isobel and Richard. Afterwards, Richard became Captain of the Parish of Patrick in his grandfather's stead. He was a member of the House of Keys and a member of the Legislative Council. He also farmed Raby.
Isobel married a Major Corlett; they left the Island to reside in England.[in pencil is noted John Jas Corlett son of John Billy John, a Liverpool draper]
After some years, their mother, the late Stephen Quirk's widow, married Mr. Corlett, of Ballagaraghyn. There were two sons of this marriage, both of whom later went to America.
Mr. and Mrs. Corlett farmed Ballagaraghyn up to the time of Mr. Corlett's death. Afterwards, Mrs. Corlett made her home in Peel for a short time, but later lived at Meadow Bank, Crosby.
My husband, James Collister Watterson, and myself, became acquainted with Mrs. Corlett and while visiting her one afternoon in the summer of 1920, she related to us many interesting incidents, one of which was the story of Captain Quilliam's uniform.
" When Captain Quilliam died," said Mrs. Corlett, " his widow carefully wrapped the uniform which he wore at Trafalgar, and placed it in a trunk. Before her death, she gave the trunk and its contents to her niece whom she reared at the "White House," and who became my father's second wife.
'` My stepmother passed the trunk on to me with many injunctions: to take the greatest care of the uniform, and to ensure that it was eventually passed on to my family. I am now past my threescore and ten; I have offered the uniform to all the members of my family, but as they are not direct relatives or descendants of Quilliam's, they have advised me to give the suit to a rag-man and not to worry further about it. I feel that this would be an act of sacrilege, and I would be pleased to find any person connected with the Quilliam family who would be interested in the uniform and its preservation."
Imagine Mrs. Corlett's surprise when my husband told her he was a descendant of the Quilliam family. Mrs. Corlett was greatly excited. She clapped her hands and shouted: "A relative at last ! A relative at last ! And in my own home ! Come upstairs," she said as she led the way into the hall. We mounted the stairs to an accompaniment from her parrot lustily singing " Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war." The parrot, hearing Mrs. Corlett's excited voice, had begun to sing its favourite tune.
After Mrs. Corlett had removed numerous wrap-pings, the uniform came to view; both the coat and the hat were in good condition and had been carefully preserved, except for a few moth holes in the coat. Returning to the sitting-room, we had a lengthy consultation as to the best way of relieving Mrs. Corlett of the responsibility of the uniform. Mrs. Corlett wished us to take the uniform at once, but my husband suggested that she should make a presentation of the uniform to the Douglas Museum to perpetuate the memory of a notable Manxman, and to this she finally agreed.
A few days later, Mrs. Corlett and myself visited Glenmaye, and whilst waiting in St. John's railway station, we met Mr. William Cubbon, Curator of the Douglas Museum, who was accompanied by his friend, Mr. William Sansbury.
After introducing Mrs. Corlett to Mr. Cubbon, I suggested that she tell him about the uniform. Mr. Cubbon, most interested and overjoyed at the prospect of having another treasured relic for the Museum, immediately arranged its collection.
Since that time, Captain Quilliam's uniform, in a good state of preservation, has been on view in the Douglas Museum.
It has been said that letters arriving at his home, after his death, were addressed "Admiral Quilliam "; apparently he had been unaware of his promotion. During his time at sea, Captain Quilliam's mother died and his father re-married, the second wife being of Irish extraction.
Eventually, his father died and his stepmother removed from Arbory to a house in King Street, Douglas. She had developed a tendency for strong drink and could be found more often in a public-house than in her own. There were rumours that she had sold valuable articles of furniture and treasured heir-looms to help pay her debts.
Some time after Captain Quilliam's death, his relatives decided to search for his uniform, and on making enquiries from his stepmother, she informed them that although she did at one time possess the uniform, she had sold it to a sailor whom she met in a public-house; but this story was eventually proved to be incorrect.
Other relatives visited many pawnshops on the mainland in search of the uniform. Their efforts were futile and finally they gave up the search, and not until 1920 was the whereabouts of the uniform discovered, when Mrs. Corlett unearthed it from its hiding place in the old tin trunk.

It is also said that he was a volunteer originally at the Naval Dockyards.


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