[from Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 4 pp162/167]


 (By Mr. A. W. Moore, Speaker of the House of Keys. )

A few years ago I read a paper entitled, "The Military Organization of the Isle of Man." In it I referred to the various corps of Fencibles which were formed in the Island between 1779 and 1803. Since then I have come across some additional information about the Fencibles in the "Journals of the House of Keys in Manx newspapers, and, more especially, in a " Descriptive Book" of the " Second Royal Manx Fencibles," belonging to Mr. Edward Gelling, of Woodbourne-square, Douglas, which, I think, will be of interest.

The Fencibles.

In 1778 the question of the defence of the Island, owing to the withdrawal of the English troops there, became an urgent one, and the Keys called upon the Lieutenant-Governor to consult with them on " the most advisable mode of securing the Island from the depredations of the enemy." They suggested an application to the King for more troops ; but the matter was held over till February, 1779, when they pointed out that the Lords of the Isle had formerly maintained the forts and the troops ; that the former had fallen into disrepair, and that the latter — one regiment of foot and two troops of horse — had been withdrawn three years before. They, therefore, asked that the forts should be put into a state of defence, and that " a sufficient stand of arms," with a few companies of troops, should be sent not only to guard the Island, but to instruct the inhabitants in the use of arms ; and they stated that, it this was done, a militia could be raised. The Governor then requested the Keys to " revise the ancient laws and customs with regard to Militia and to reduce them into one Act, so that an effectual mode of defence may be immediately established throughout this Isle." The Keys at first replied that they would do nothing before the troops were sent and the forts put in order ; but, on the 31st July, they stated that they were willing to raise three companies of infantry, each company to consist of one captain, two lieutenants, one ensign, five sergeants, five corporals, two drummers, two fifers, and 100 private men, to be on the same footing as Fencibles ; officers to be natives of the Island, except the Governor, who was to be " major commandant." This offer was accepted, and the King’s word was pledged that this corps should not be moved from the Island. A little later in the same year Governor Dawson wrote to the Keys stating that the King had promised that he would arm and pay these Fencibles " equal to any regiment in his service."

In March, 1795, the Duke of Atholl informed the Tynwald Court. that) under a recent Act of Parliament, the Isle of Man had been assessed to supply 162 men for the Royal Navy ; but that, by his representations, he had succeeded in getting the Island. exempted from the Bill because it " had contributed a very consideable proportion towards H M’s land and sea service" He also informed the Court that he had told the Secretary of State that " if any further assistance was required from the Isle of Man it ought in justice to be given through the medium of the InsuIar Legislature." He then suggested the passing of a Bill for the assessment of the island. The Keys declined to pass such a Bill ; but they offered to raise a fund to pay bounties to men who volunteered to serve in the army or navy.

The Duke stated, at the same time, his intention of raising a corps of Fencibles and the "Manx Mercury" gives an enthusiastic account of his Grace taking "several turns down the quay and round the market," attired in the uniform of the corps. This he did, presumably, as an advertisement. Recruiting promptly began "with great spirit." We are told that "the great guns are to be planted near the old fort, " which was on the present site of the Victoria Pier. This work was completed by the 2nd of April, and other guns were placed on platforms near the Ballaquayle stream, which falls into the sea below Falcon Cliff. Six guns (10-pounders) were still at that moment lying unmounted at the Watch House.

A few days later there arrived a letter from "W. Wyndham, Secretary at War," to the Duke of Atholl informing him that the King approved of his raising "a regiment of Fencible Infantry," to consist of 10 companies of three sergeants, three corporals, two drummers, and 60 privates, with two fifers to the Grenadier company, besides a sergeant-major and a quartermasterSergeant.

The Duke was appointed colonel and he made the following his officers --Major, Charles Small, who had been a captain in the "Scotch Brigade" ; captains, Cæsar Tobin, Richard Harrison, William Bacon, and Philip Moore ; lieutenants, John Dunn and Philip Thomas Moore ; ensigns, Daniel Mylrea, John Nelson Scott ( who was also surgeon) and John LaMothe (who was also surgeon’s mate) ; chaplain, the Rev. Evan Christian. Permission was given to take 40 men from each of the five companies of the 1st Royal Manx Fencibles, and, in the course of two months, 225 more men had been enlisted in the Island, each recruit receiving 10 guineas as bounty money. But as a much larger number of men than this was required, an officer, with a sergeant and a private of the 1st Royal Manx Fencibles was sent to recruit in Wigtonshire. We shall see later that there was a large proportion of non-Manxmen in this regiment, though this was not the case in the 1st Royal Manx, or in the later Fencible regiment, enlisted in 1803. Their recruiting instructions were to take no one above 40 years of age, or under 5 ft. 3 in., except " stout growing lads," who may be 5ft. 2in..

The next entry relates to the bad behaviour of some of the men of the " first and old Manx Fencibles," who had made it " a practice, under a pretence of going and enlisting, to go and drink with, and lead into expense, the recruiting parties of the Royal Manx Fencibies, and, after having taken money to enlist as aforesaid overnight, refuse the next morning to be attested, and thus turn the matter into a ‘joke.’ " Such men were to be severely punished.

We now find Major Small instructing the adjutant, Captain Flower, then in Liverpool, to make arrangements there for shipping recruits to the Island. He tells him, when requiring money, to draw on the house of " Leece and Drinkwater."

In September, Lord Henry Murray superseded his uncle, the Duke, as colonel. On the 20th February, 1796, we have the following account of a review of the regiment, in an ephemeral Manx newspaper, entitled, " The Oracle and Public Advertiser ":— The Royal Manx Fencibles were reviewed last Thursday in a large field near Douglas. The men fell in by companies at the High Churchyard, at 10 o’clock in the morning, dressed in their new clothing, and in half an hour after were marched to the field. General Edward Smith, accompanied by Lieut.-Colonel Taubman and his aide-de-camp. Major Philpot, arrived about 11 o’clock, when he was saluted by the regiment, which was afterwards drawn up by companies in single ranks. The General then commenced his inspection, beginning with the Grenadiers, and proceeded to the other companies according to seniority, until he closed with the light infantry. After minutely examining each man in the regiment, the General declared he hart not seen a finer body of men raised during the war. He then desired to see them perform their military manœuvres, which they did with great precision, and went through the manual and platoon exercises in a manner that greatly satisfied the General, and which would have done honour to veteran corps. Lord Henry Murray was highly complimented by General Smith on the military appearance of his regiment ; and be assured him that he would particularly notice to his Royal Highness the Duke of York the great praise that was due to his Lordship, and the other officers, for their exertions in collecting so fine a body of men The greatest encomiums are due to Lord Henry Murray and Major Small for the unremitting attention to the discipline of their corps, which is a proof of their earnest zeal for his Majesty’s service, and of their abilities in the present military system. His lordship, on the following day, gave an elegant entertainment to all the officers of the regiment, at Clague’s Hotel, when many loyal and constitutional toasts were given, and the day concluded with the utmost harmony and conviviality.

By this time the regiment had been recruited to its full strength. In April the Lieuenant-Governor, Alexander Shaw, received orders from the Duke of York, the commrnder-in-chief, to send the 2nd Royal Manx Fencibles to Liverpool. On their arrival there in seven transports, orders were received from Edward Smith, who was the major-general commanding the North-Western District, that seven companies were to march to Manchester, and three to Warrington. Charles Small, now lieutenant-colonel, was in command. After they had been at Manchester and Warrington for a week, three companies were sent to Scarborough, three to Whitby, two to Beverley, and two to Bridlington. Captain William Bacon, who was in command of the three companies sent to Whitby, informed Lieut. -Colonel Small that he had made an arrangement with a baker to supply the men with bread at 2d. per lb. ; and he remarked that, " as there are but few billeted in a house, the men come in for many a snack, for the inhabitants of Whitby seem to be very good to the soldiers," He added in a postscript, " fish is very cheap in this town. " Captain Stewart was in command at Beverley, and Captain Lathrop at Bridlington, the Lieutenant-Colonel being at Scarborough. Two of the Scarborough companies were quartered in the Castle, and one in the town. We find Colonel Small writing to "Major-General De Lavey, his Majesty’s barrack master," asking if the officers quartered in the town are to be allowed lodging money, because, now that the season is commencing, the lodgings are dear. However, they were removed from Scarborough because of an election for Parliament a week later, two of the companies going to Pickering and one to Whitby. Colonel Small wrote from Whitby to Lieutenant-General Scott, in command of the district, complaining that " Mr. Dicky," the clothier, had not yet supplied the regiment with all its clothing. A little later he sent the following kindly communication to Captain Bacon :—" The bearer hereof is Ensign Dunn, whom I beg leave to introduce to your acquaintance, and to recommend to your friendly care ; and as he is but a very young man, he will, of course, stand in need of your advice, which I know will not be wanting either in pointing out his military duty to him, or that most essential duty which every young soldier owes to himself — I mean economy." This is an " essential duty "which few of our English officers have learned at the present day

In July the following list of officers is given :— The Right Hon. Lord Henry Murray, colonel ; Captain Charles Small, lieutenant-colonel ; Captain William Peacher (late of the 120th Foot), major; captains, Cæsar Tobin, the Hon. Andrew Forbes, William Bacon, Richard Harrison, Robt. W. Lathrop ; captain-lieutenant, Thomas Dunn ; lieutenants, John Christian, John Homer, Matthew Sumner, Philip Thomas Moore, Eneas Anderson, John Nelson (also surgeon), Alexander Stewart, George Home, J. Robertson, John Ruggles ensigns, Richard Clague, William Kewley, William MacIntosh, John Dunn, John LaMothe, William Smith, Peter MacNab, Alexander Campbell ; adjutant, John Homer ; quartermaster, John Christian ; chaplain, the Rev. Evan Christian.

By the 1st of October in this year, 1796, the regiment had its headquarters at Londonderry, the companies being divided between that place and Lifford, Coleraine, Portrush, Strabane, and Omagh.

During the following year there were ominous threatenings of the rebellion which broke out in 1798, and orders were received from Brigadier-General the Earl of Cavan. that Lord Henry Murray should " apply to all magistrates and yeomanry corps " in his vicinity " to deliver to you immediately all arms, pikes, and ammunition that has been, or that may hereafter be, taken by them from the inhabitants of the country . " Another token of the dissatisfaction prevailing is afforded by the fact that one of the sergeants of the regiment, an Irishman, was tried by a regimental court-martial " for uttering seditious language disrespectful of his Majesty’s Government of these realms, and tending to excite sedition by holding forth the speedy arrival of the victorious French armies of the Sambre and Meuse, when he said that these kingdoms could stand no longer." The unfortunate man was ordered to receive the terrible punishment of. 1,500 lashes ; but having received 500 of them, he offered, if the remainder of his punishment were remitted, to serve the King " as a private soldier in any of his Majesty’s foreign plantations." We do not know whether this offer was accepted or not. In this year five of the companies were reviewed by Brigadier-General Knox at Lifford. There were present 374 men of the rank and file, of whom 173 were English, 49 Scotch, 46 Irish, 8 foreigners, and only 98 Manx. At the end of the year the regiment subscribed £21 18s. for the support of " the Hibernian Society for Soldiers’ Children "; and early in 1798 the officers, noncommisioned officers, and privates offered a week’s pay " towards the exigencies of the State." Lord Henry Murray, in writing to the Lord-Lieutenant to convey this offer, states, as regards the non-commissioned officers and men, " that the idea originated entirely among themselves. " The secretary of the Lord-Lieutenant, in accepting the offer, says, " I am directed to inform you that his. Excellency entertains a very high sense of this signal and distinguished proof of the zeal and loyalty of the Royal Manx Fencibles." During the year of the rebellion, 1798, the " Description Book " is, unfortunately, almost a blank. It appears that the duties of the Royal Manx Fencibles were mainly connected with keeping order and searching for hidden arms. We do not hear of their being engaged in the actual fighting. Feltham, writing in 1798, remarks, " Report speaks very highly of the conduct of this corps, now serving in Ireland, during its present unhappy state" (Manx Soc., Vol. VI,, p. 18, N.). On one occasion the detachment of the Fencibles at Port Rush, under Lieutenant Kewley, was ordered " to prevent boats escaping with the rebels in them," and not " to allow vessels to go from Port Rush " without an order from Lord Henry Murray. Another detachment was ordered to conduct 11 rebels to Belfast. It is interesting to find Lord Henry Murray describing Captain John Christian, who was, I believe, an uncle of the late William Watson Christian, as " a most excellent officer, in whom I can place the most implicit confidence."

Early in 1799, John LaMothe resigned his commission of " ensign and surgeon’s mate" ; and Philip Thomas Moore received a certificate from Walter Scott, " surgeon H. M. Army, Douglas," to the effect that he had a violent paroxsym of the gout, and is at present so much indisposed that it would endanger his life to travel." A private of the regiment, who had deserted and enlisted in the 8th Foot then in Guernsey, wrote to Lord Henry Murray, begging that he might be taken back. He received the following reply :— " Cook (his name), I am ordered to inform you that, if once a man deserts from under the command of Lord Henry Murray, that his Lordship never wishes to see him in his regiment again." In April, 1799, the total strength of the rank and file was 555 ; 218 of whom were English, 181 Manx, 96 Irish, 53 Scotch, and 7 foreigners. It would seem, however, that part of the regiment was in England, as we find Lieutenant Dunn, with those under his command, receiving orders to march from Alnwick to Whitehaven, and to take shipping to the Isle of Man, where they were to remain till further orders.

Towards the end of the year there was an order from " John Nicholson, Town Major, Derry," ordering Lord Henry to send there, "with an escort, all the arms, &c., collected and deposited in Strabane and Lifford during the rebellion. " At this time the following Manxmen from the Fencibles enlisted in the 43rd Foot, a regiment which, as part of the Light Brigade, was to do such splendid service in the Peninsular War :-Robert Kneale (Conchan), John Corlett and Thos. Quayle (Michael), William Gelling (Braddan), Robert Kelly (Maughold), Paul Quiggin (Malew), and John Kissack (Lonan) ; and to the 58th Regiment, John Kissack (Lezayre).

Early in 1800, Lord Henry Murray was ordered by " Thomas W. Wooldridge, brigade-major," to send a detachment to Kilrea, with instructions to the officer commanding " to prevent all intercourse across the Bann from the hour of sunset till sunrise."

In May they were reviewed by a brigadier-general, who bore the exhilarating name of Champagne, at Omagh, when the total strength of the regiment was 777, of whom 312 were English, 231 Manx, 155 Irish, 72 Scotch, and 7 foreigners. On this occasion the General selected the following Manxmen as " Riflemen in the Line" :—Corporal Thomas Moore, Edward Quirk, William Cashen, Matthias Gelling, and Thomas Kneen. The average height of the regiment at this inspection was 5 ft. 6.70 in. , but this included 49 boys under 18 years of age. In June the regiment was transferred to Wigtonshire, and was inspected by Brigadier-General Campbell.

At the end of the year the standards of the regiment were altered on account of the union with Ireland. In May, 1801, when the Fencibles were again reviewed at Newton-Stewart, their numbers had fallen to 591. In this month, Ensigns Philip Oates and Richard Murray were appointed to the 38th Regiment, and Thomas Howard, afterwards the amiable Rector of Ballaugh, joined the Fencibles as ensign. By August they were back in Ireland, their headquarters being at Omagh, when they, numbering 563, were reviewed by Lieutenant-General Floyd. In February, 1802, Lord Henry Murray was so ill " with a flying gout " that he had to go to Bath "for the recovery of his health." In May the regiment was reviewed by Brigadier-General Drummond, when its total muster was 539.

The last entry in the book is on the 26th of May, 1802. We know that shortly after the Peace of Amiens was signed, in this year, the Second Royal Manx Fencibles was disbanded at Whitehaven.


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