A GEORGIAN MANXMAN
Extracts from the letters of Thomas Quayle for the years 1776 to 1783

NEIL MATHIESON

THROUGH the courtesy of the Manx Museum I have been allowed to examine the letters and other papers obtained by them from the Quayle family of Bridge House, Castletown. Of this, family four generations in succession served the Island as Clerk of the Rolls - John, born in 1693, his son, grandson, and great-grandson Mark Hildesley who died in 1879. Being at the centre of Manx affairs for such a long period - a period which covered the latter years of the Derby régime, the arrival and departure of their successors the Atholls and the coming of the English Government - the papers naturally contain much of value to an insular historian, but in this article I shall confine myself to some of a more personal nature which show the life and interests of a Manxman in London a hundred and seventy years ago.

Thomas, the writer of them, was born in 1759, the second son of John Quayle and his wife Margaret, daughter of Sir George Moore, S.H.K., of Ballamoore, and we are fortunate in having a number of his letters. For years he wrote to his father regularly every week and his character comes out clearly from between the lines of tiny but legible script. Following in the legal footsteps of his father and his grandfather he worked hard to master his profession, and we see him at the age of twenty-one - still serving his articles - already a prudent and responsible man. His father's trusted agent in London, he keeps him in touch with political affairs affecting the Island; guards the interests of his younger brother Jack; makes shrewd comments on the conduct of various public men, and offers when necessary - though in no conceited manner - his opinion and advice.

There is good reason for believing that his life as a boy was passed in a happy, home, which accounts for the words - or something like them - in all his letters; ' my duty [or affectionate respects] to my Hond. Mother and love to Brothers and Sisters.' And we may be sure that he meant it when he signed himself, in the formal manner of the time, ' I am, Hond. Sir, sincerely and respectfully, Your most obliged and dutiful son.' '

The series of letters begins with one dated Crutched Fryars, 28th May, 1776, in which he announces his arrival with his mother and the signing of his indentures with a Mr. Winckley. He was then seventeen. To begin with they stayed with his uncle, Mr. George Moore, but very shortly 'My mother has fixed me with Mr. Christian of the Strand, where I am to lodge and board at the rate of thirty guineas per year. On yesterday I was admitted into the Middle Temple and paid a fine of £10. 14s. 6d.'

After a short interval he writes, 'I should both be very ungrateful to Mr. Winckley and regardless of my own true interest to neglect that very salutary Advice you were so good as to give me in your last, and you may depend upon my following it in every particular. I shall never go out of Chambers, except when business calls me or when I go to the Writing School during Mr. Winckley's absence, and shall in every respect pay that Attention to his orders, and regard to his Interest that his kindness to me so abundantly merits . . . You may depend, Honoured Sir, on my not running into extravagent or imprudent Expenses; sensible as I am of your Goodness towards me, and of the scanty provision for us all, I should think myself both ungrateful and imprudent to run into any expences such as are not either necessary or highly usefull."

When some goods were sent him from the Island ' the man who. delivered them told a strange, confused story about some casks directed to one Quayle at their warehouse, which has occasioned my going there this evening, where I have found four casks - two directed to Her Grace of Athol, one to myself and another I cannot make out, the direction having been wetted or erazed - They have lain there since the 17th December and contain, I think, Puffins, from the smell, but I fear they are quite spoiled as they smell very musty and strong.' These birds (actually the Manx Shearwater and not the bird now known as the Puffin) were pickled or salted and eaten in large numbers, and Chaloner, writing in 1656, declares that they rank with anchovies caviare, or the like. Rabbit-skins as well as ' puffins ' were exported from the Calf, which was then Quayle property.

That he watched his father's interests closely and trusted no one, not even his uncle, would appear when he writes in August, 1777, ' My brother hints to me that the partnership between Messrs. Murrell and Moore is to be dissolved. If you have any accounts open with the Company perhaps a timely settlement would not be amiss '; which seems to show that his father had irons in the fire other than his legal ones.

About this time he gives his opinion about the new Manx laws appointing 'a Magistrate with the title of High Bailiff in each town,' to which 'I should humbly apprehend there may be made some objections, as - that those High Bailiffs will not be allowed a competent salary to support that respect and independancy which every Magistrate ought to possess - that if they exercise a judicatory power in one court and practice as Attornies in another it will very much lessen that due submission, that Respect of the People, on which the Authority of a judge so much depends -that it gives an arbitrary and extensive power to a few individuals which may in future be very much abused by being put into the hands of dishonest, ignorant, partial or dependant people - that the number of these petty Tribunals is too great for the extent of the Island - that it tends to the disuse of juries, which, as far as I know, are already too much neglected in the Isle, and, in fine, that it is impossible to foresee or to guard against all the consequences of innovations of this nature ' ; a weighty pronouncement for a youth of eighteen.

In 1778 appears the first news of his engagement to be married. The lady in the case was Miss Elizabeth Moone, stepdaughter and heiress of William Hollingsworth, Esq., of Barton Mere in Suffolk.

Writing on the 9th April he says, 'So far from Miss M. giving me that Denial you seemed afraid of she has now got the better of every scruple.' Still only an articled pupil he was entirely dependent upon his father and likely to continue so for some years to come. But he was evidently not without pride. ' During my stay at Barton Mere I met with the most friendly and polite behaviour both from the old and the young Lady and was treated rather as one of the Family than a stranger. A day or two before I came away Mrs. H. begged my acceptance of something lapt up in a Paper, which I declined taking till I knew what it was, and upon opening the paper and finding it to be money (five guineas I think it was or something thereabouts) I begged to be excused accepting of it. She was at first exceedingly pressing for me to take it, but finding me determined she was prevailed upon to take it back again, and the same evening begged my acceptance of a pair of Lace Ruffles which I could not refuse without giving her the greatest offence. I have asked and obtained permission from Miss M. to write to her,' a concession evidently not considered as natural in 1778 as it would be in 1948.

Soon he is writing ' the longer I am acquainted with Miss M. the more reason I see to admire her. She is certainly a most accomplished young Lady and in every Respect deserving of an Husband better than me. During her last stay in Town she threw off that Restraint which at first she seemed to have - she assured me their only reason for leaving Barton Mere and coming to Town was on my account, and has consented to give me her Hand as soon as matters are settled. I am very happy that this affair has come to a conclusion more fortunate than you seemed to expect. For my own part from the beginning I saw no reason to despond. Miss M. gave every encourage ment a Lady of discretion and prudence should do under such circumstances, as it would have been strangely imprudent indeed to have, given her absolute consent to marry one whose character, inclinations and temper she was entirely ignorant of. It is to you, Honoured Sir, I am indebted for this Acquaintance which at present promises so much happiness to me '; from which it looks as if the match had been an arranged one.

But in the meanwhile he has to live, and ' I have luckily got acquainted with a Gentleman who has informed me of all the particulars relating to keeping Commons in the Temple. A Bond is first entered into in the penalty of £20 that you will not practice as an Attorney or Solicitor during the time you keep Commons, that you will pay the Cook and attend Church. The terms are so low that I am amazed at hearing them - only 18/- per Term - for which you may dine every day in Term if you think proper, though there are but three stated regular days on which you are obliged to attend . . . '

This arranged he remembers the lady, and ' when you send anything from the Isle of Man you'll not forget the tanned Leather Gloves which you promised to send Miss Moone.' His affair with her is going well and he visits her home daily and finds himself ' still more and more convinced how much a life of domestic happiness is prefer able to that life of dissipation and what is vulgarly called Pleasure which the young men of this Metropolis in general take a pride in leading.'

His father behaved very handsomely to him, promising him an allowance of 200 per annum for five years from the date of his marriage unless he obtained from any other source at least £300 per annum clear, and, in addition, £1,ooo upon his coming of age or if he should at any other time require it. For the due execution of this promise he executed a Bond of £5,000 in favour of Mrs.. Hollingworth so that she might feel that her daughter's future was secure, and, as it would appear from various references, in the hope that she also would make a settlement upon the young couple, as indeed - though not until Thomas had passed some anxious moments - she eventually did. For there was always the risk that she might herself remarry and then - goodbye to his hopes of the valuable property at Barton Mere.

Thomas was very grateful to his father for this help in his matri monial affairs, and in several letters he expresses his thanks in the warmest terms.

About this time there was great anxiety about his elder brother George who, having sailed for Constantinople at the beginning of 1778 in the Royal Charlotte after two years in the office of his uncle George Moore, was now in a merchant's office in Smyrna, and on the 17th September, 1778, we find Thomas writing ' You have no doubt seen in the papers the melancholy account of the different calamities with which Smyrna has been visited - they are indeed of the most alarming and dangerous nature, but I sincerely hope my brother has escaped unhurt.' News travelled but slowly in those days and it was not until two months later that their anxiety was relieved by the receipt of a letter saying that he had come safely through both the earthquake and the fire, though that indeed gave ' but a disagree able account of his present situation ' and says that nothing but the strongest resolution which he has taken to get into some state of independence would induce him to remain an hour there. The reason of his not writing immediately after the earthquake was not known before, but it seems that the Janissaries who carried the letters were murdered and the letters destroyed near Belgrade, and in the mean time the intelligence of the destruction of the city was conveyed by way of Marseilles.

No more is heard about George until March of the next year when he returns home through Holland ' looking extremely well and in great spirits, very brown and much freckled.' But trade in Smyrna was in a bad way and he had no wish to return there even though the climate does not disagree with him and the Plague has wholly subsided, while the subterraneous matter has got vent and there is little danger of a fresh earthquake for many years.'

But let us return to Thomas, who, at the end of 1778 or early in 1779 was married to his Eliza and took up residence at his mother in-law's house in Prince's Court. By September his wife was expect ing a child and he would have liked his mother to be present, but this was impossible as she was in the same condition herself. On the second week in November, 1779, the child arrived and seemed to be a fine boy, ' very fat and healthy.' But, alas, within a fort night he was dead.

Besides this he had other troubles. Mr. Winckley, to whom he was articled and to whose business he had hoped eventually to succeed, decided to retire, and after considerable trouble he had his Articles transferred to a Mr. Wallace of Messrs. Wallace & Parker, a firm having 'very extensive connections and great business requiring no less than twelve clerks to manage it,' in which he hoped to gain much better experience than with his former employer. Here he worked hard and also handled many matters for his father. There was, for example, the business of the insurance of the Bishop, to whom it would seem his father had made a loan with the insurance policy as his security. Writing on the 12th February, 1780, he reports that 'in one of the papers the beginning of this week was a paragraph that on Friday the 4th died at his lodgings in Cecil Street the Rt. Revd. the Bishop of Man. Whether this be true or not you may very possibly be already acquainted, but if it is I suppose you will immediately transmit the Policy of Insurance up in order to recover the money from the Insurers.'

This was Bishop Richmond, and in his next letter he writes, 'the Bishop is certainly dead, as Mr. Trafford of Cecil Street informs me that he did lodge in the last house in Cecil Street and that he saw his burial go past - a hearse of four and only one coach.' His father sent him the Policy and he at once went to the Bishop's lodgings and ' procured from one of the servants of the house a very full affidavit of his death and the place of his burial, with which and the Policy I waited on Mr. Oughterloney and then on one of the Underwriters (the first on the Policy) hoping that no other requisites for the payment of the money would be wanting.' But he was soon undeceived - lots of things were wanted - including a certificate from the Doctor concerned, which the medical gentleman flatly refused to be bothered to provide, while an application to His Lordship's apothecary - one Dickenson in the Strand - was no more successful.

It is not surprising that the Underwriters were suspicious and demanded full particulars, for the Policy was only eight months old and the subject of it had been certified as being in perfect health when it was effected. But Thomas was anxious to obtain the money without any delay, and by dint of much running about he had, by the 27th May, collected £500 of it, leaving another £200 still to be obtained. Then arose the question of how to remit it to the island, and it is a striking reflection on the banking methods of the day - or on the lack of them - that he writes: 'I would have sent you part of this sum in Bank Notes but that I thought it would be equally convenient to have it in my hands as I can pay any Bills that you draw upon me and avoid the risk of sending them by post; but if it is agreeable to you I can cut the Notes and send them in that manner one half by one post and the other by the next.' The remaining £200 was duly received - no doubt much to his relief - a month later.

Another type of business occupies him when at the beginning of 1780 he receives 'a letter from Mr. Taubman on the subject of the Duke of Athol's intended application to Parliament, which you also mention in your last . . . You may depend upon my paying proper attention to this business during the remainder of the Session, but I should think no Bill will pass affecting the rights or property of the inhabitants of the Island without proper notice being given to you and sufficient time to defend yourselves by Counsel if necessary.'

But he was wrong, for a month later (12th February, 1780) he was writing: ' On Tuesday last the Duke of A. presented the long expected Petition for the Bill in Parliament and in a cover sent here with you will receive the Votes of the House containing the abstract of it. In case an opposition should be found necessary, if you think me equal to the business I trust that I should be able to manage it with the assistance of the Gent. belonging to the House of Commons who must be employed in this business.' But his letter is scarcely written when he is greatly surprised to receive a visit from Mr. J. Cosnahan who has been specially sent to London by the Keys to oppose the Bill, though, as he points out, he can d0 nothing in that line until the second reading - as yet a long way off - and would be better employed in the Island preparing his case.

Mr. Cosnahan thinks differently however, and while sending copies of the Bill to his employers and asking for further instructions he wastes no time in engaging Counsel to oppose it, and retains Bear croft. He keeps the Keys fully advised, too fully Thomas thinks, for he includes amongst his letters 'one of 12 folio pages, though what he would have to say that would take up so much room I can't conceive, but he seems a Gentleman peculiarly possessed of the gift of making something out of nothing.'

By the 15th April Thomas is advising his father that the Duke has offered to submit the portions of the Bill in dispute to the arbitration of four Counsel, 'an expensive business as they never receive less than ten guineas each per day.' This offer, however, was not acceptable to the Keys, who decided to fight the Bill clause by clause in Committee on the second reading, and Mr. Cosnahan prepares accordingly, though his methods d0 not meet with the approval of Thomas, who thinks that time is on their side and that a compromise may yet be effected. In a letter of 12th May, however, he defends Mr. Cosnahan, who had been reprimanded by the Keys, saying that he considered his conduct had been correct, though his opinion of him was that 'Mr. Cosnahan is a young man so vain, petulant and opinionated as to be really disagreeable and particularly improper to manage such business. I should not be surprised if he affronts everybody with whom he has any connection as he has the most exalted idea of his own importance.'

He was quite right about time being available, for the Bill was postponed to the next Session, though whether this was an advantage he was now doubtful, as when it did come on, 'in spite of justice and Truth there is no telling what His Grace's Scottish friends may enable him to do, as I suppose the whole 45 will give him their votes , , . if an agreement on any terms consistent with the interests of the Country can be effected I hope no mode of bringing it about will be left unattempted.'

His father consulted him on all sorts of subjects and appears to have welcomed his advice. There was, for instance, the question of the Fencibles then being raised in the Island. Thomas made many enquiries as to conditions in similar Corps being raised in Scotland and elsewhere, and says 'I hope my brothers may be able to procure the number of men necessary to obtain their commissions, and if it is a scheme relished by the common people I don't doubt it being soon done. It would be very hard if they were put to any expence in Bounty Money or entertaining the men, as they are to derive so little benefit from their Commissions, this Regt. being, I suppose, to be disembodied as soon as there is Peace - but God knows when that will be - it has this day been reported that the French fleet has begun to cannonade Plymouth and that they have effected a landing near Mount Edgecumbe - that Sir C. Hardy's fleet was seen steering towards them and that an engagement must inevitably take place - but whether it is true or not I can't venture to say. Every body here is in the greatest impatience for news, not without a mixture of apprehension.'

But that was all 'a mixture of apprehension ' - no more. And he seems to have felt no urge to join the Colours himself and regarded his brothers' doing so purely from the viewpoint of whether it would provide them with a living and what prospects of advancement there were. As to the men: 'It is not to be wondered at that the common people are averse to enlisting, and no doubt there have been reports circulated that they are to be sent abroad. I hope compulsive means may not be found necessary before the Corps is raised as the conse quences would be so disagreeable.' But this was not necessary, and soon he was writing, 'I am glad to find that the Fencibles succeed so well and that you have expectations of the Corps being soon com pleted, it will be a very comfortable establishment for my brother George. However, I can't help mentioning again that if there are any apprehensions of the Corps being reduced at the end of the war it is not a situation the most eligible for my brother Edward at the age perhaps of five or six and twenty. He may lose his Commission and have then another Profession to seek out without deriving the least advantage from the time that he has served, and I am afraid that the habits contracted in the army too often make a young man unfit for the more active Professions in life.' A remark which goes to prove that our present post-war problems are no new thing.

But though Thomas evidently had such a poor opinion of the military life his brothers George, Edward and Basil - the latter commissioned when he was but seventeen - were in it up to the neck, and, evidently supported by their father, were making use of the brother in London to obtain information and to get stores and equipment for them. Writing on the 8th January, 1780, he refers again to what he considers to be their poor prospects and then goes on to say: 'I have enquired about the pay of the Paymaster Captain [this was to be George's rank] and learn that it is not above £50 or £(o per annum, but whence it arises - whether from stoppages out of the soldier's pay or a salary 1 have not been able to learn.' But he soon ferreted it out and a week later reported: 'The salary formerly allowed a Paymaster Captain was 2d. per week out of each private's pay, which in time of war amounted to a considerable sum, but Government has lately eased the men of this burthen and allowed £5o per annum, which is the whole of the allowance.' Incidentally, I may point out here that it would seem to have been the experience he gained in this appointment which later led George to found the Quayle Bank - the first in the Isle of Man. His uniform was being made for him in London and Thomas, beholding it, wrote: 'The buttons are indeed very splendid and I don't doubt will have the effect of preventing an enemy from attacking him.' Whether this was so or not it is to be hoped they were of assistance to him when, a couple of weeks later, he went to Dublin to procure recruits. Thomas deplored the need for this and wrote: 'I am sorry to learn that the popular prejudice runs so high in the Island against the Fencibles and that those prejudices are encouraged by the Duke of Athol and his agents, for which I cannot conceive his reason.' The reason was, apparently, the Duke's annoyance at the Corps being raised by the War Office without his advice having first been sought.

But though recruits were not plentiful the Corps was growing, and in May, 1780, Thomas learns that Edward has been posted to Ramsey; and, having as it seems no high opinion of him, expresses his fears to his father in these words: 'I am sorry to find that my brother Edward is to remove to Ramsey at such a distance from your eye and where the behaviour of Mr. Frissell may have too great an effect upon him.' His fears were only too well founded, for within a month Edward had run into trouble - and serious trouble - having been accused of seducing soldiers to desert and raising feelings of disaffection by spreading false and malicious rumours, and for this he had been arrested. It was, indeed, well for that misguided youth that he had a brother in London who, though only a year or so older than himself, was already becoming learned in the Law. For Thomas, going carefully into the Mutiny Act, found that by an omission in the drafting it did not cover this very serious crime when the act was committed in the Isle of Man. This happy result of his researches he at once communicated to his father, but, at the same time, advised strongly against bringing any action for false imprisonment.

In the same letter he broaches a much more pleasant subject. 'About the middle of next month we propose setting off and I hope to have the pleasure of meeting you early in August. We propose going via Liverpool as there is no danger in going from thence and the journey is so much shorter.' The mails, of course, usually went by way of Whitehaven, though they were liable at times to serious delay - in March he had spoken of receiving no letters for six weeks owing to the boat being delayed by contrary winds. The trip was not without some danger whichever route was taken. Paul Jones was rumoured to be cruising near the Island and Press Gangs were always liable to be encountered, though rumours in July that the herring fishery was likely to be affected by their activities had proved to be unfounded.

At this date a break occurs in the series of letters - a bundle has been lost somewhere - and the next lot we have starts in May, 1781, when we find Thomas involved in a quarrel with Mr. Cosnahan, 'the little Gent. who calls himself Agent for the Isle of Man '; who, when he met him in the street, ' passed me with a stately step and taking no more notice than if I had been his Hair Dresser. " How do you do Sir?" said he with as much sangfroid as you can con ceive.' But Thomas was not the man to let 'the little Manx Ambassador ' treat him in that manner and promptly told him that 'I must decline the honour of any further conversation with you till I have learned from my father that a proper apology has been made to him for those illiberal aspersions which you have been pleased to throw on his character, and in the meantime give me leave to tell you that he neither wants your vindication nor fears your malevol ence '; which was not so bad for Thomas and shook Mr. Cosnahan considerably, so that before long ' came the Gent. on his marrow bones and cried Peccavi.'

Meanwhile Thomas was progressing. On the 15th June, 1781, 'I arrived at the high honour of being sworn an Attorney of His Majesty's Court of King's Bench, and am now ready to do as much mischief as I can - which I am sorry to say does not promise to be a great deal at present.' He thought of setting up in business for himself as he had left the office of Mr. Wallace, where there was no hope of advance ment, and felt, as he says, 'quite at sea once more without seeing land on any side.' But this proving difficult he entered the Chambers of a Mr. Sauter, of whom he says, rather quaintly, 'notwithstanding his profession he is a most strictly honest, friendly, unsuspecting and sincere man.' This apparent rarity amongst men of the law offered him no more than £4o a year, but he had considerable time to himself in which to attend to any private business which might come along and there was always the vague prospect of a partnership somewhere in the future.

A comment in a letter written shortly after this gives an interesting sidelight on the reasons for the dislike with which the Duke of Athol was at this time regarded in the Island. 'Col. Murray's behaviour is a true picture of aristocratical insolence, the Duke perhaps expected that the inhabitants of the Isle of Man, like a Scottish clan in the days of Bruce, should have gone forth to battle with him and have given up their rights and their properties at his nod. As they have had the insolence to murmur a little he and all his led Captains and hangers-on will, of course, resent it, and as they have, luckily, no other mode of venting their malice it must be by personal incivilities and insults to the natives, which deserve only to be treated with contempt.'

As there was talk about putting his sister Kitty in a boarding school he made enquiries and reported that 'the dialect is certainly an object that deserves to be attended to, but the capital boarding schools about this town are expensive, never (as I have heard) less than £120 a year. At Stevenson's - the first Bdg. Sch. in London - they pay £100 to the Mistress besides paying the Masters etc. At the schools of inferior note the expense is, to be sure, less, but they are filled with the children of tradesmen and mechanics who inevit ably carry along with them a splinter of the counter, and who by their manners injure their school-fellows more than their masters can instruct them.' This unpromising report resulted in Miss Kitty's dialect being attended to at Mrs. Parry's, where, a year later, we learn that 'I hear she grows fat. If this is the case and she returns to Liverpool she would do well to abstain from malt liquors entirely and drink only water.' Poor girl - her pleasant Manx accent exchanged for a Liverpool one and nothing to drink but water. Thomas goes on to inform us, in that rather self-righteous way he has, that 'you don't know perhaps that I am a water drinker myself and very rarely venture on anything stronger - never when I can help it.'

As William, the new baby-brother born while his mother was staying with Thomas, grew older his former diet of ass's mill: was reinforced by potatoes, of which his father records that he was very fond. 'In London these cost an enormous price, a very small plate indeed for six pence.' So there was joy in Prince's Court when gifts of these, and of good red herrings, arrived from Castletown to provide them with some real Manx food. These arrived in Mr. Christian's wherry, but 'three days before there came a vessel of Mr. . Bacon's with red herrings which had sailed three days after Mr. Christian's. This evening so great a disaster has happened that the Customs House Officers have discovered either one or two tons [tuns] of Claret on board her, and the King's broad R has been put on her. The officer went at once to the place where the wine was concealed so must have had an information. Great part of the cargo was discharged.' Later, he heard that 'Mr. Bacon was much hurt at its being known publicly in the Island. The vessel is con demned and great apprehensions that the Captain - who is the ostensible owner of the wine - will be exchequered.' The case must have been tried quickly, for in less than two months 'Mr, Bacon's sloop is got back, I understand at the expense of £200 or £250 and the captain is now proceeding homewards. How this has been manouvered I have not heard.' It looks as if Mr. Bacon must have greased a few palms somewhere.

It was not long before there was another consignment of potatoes to be acknowledged. 'We are very much obliged to my Honoured Mother and you for the potatoes which she has sent us. They are extremely good and will stand us in great stead at this time of the year [it was February] when they are with us 1¼d. and 1½d. per pound and not half as good as these.' A third shipment was driven into Plymouth by a French privateer, and while it lay there Thomas' potatoes were eaten by the crew.

In February, 1782, he tells of a feat of reporting which would surely make a modern newspaper man shudder. 'Thinking that you might like to have an accurate account of the debates this Session, when it is probable much interesting business may come on, I have this week sent you the Morning Chronicle in which the Parliamentary debates are most wonderfully correct. Woodfall, the propriator and printer, attends constantly himself, and by dint of habit, and a great memory, when he returns from the House sits down and dictates to the clerk the speech of every Member - not only the substance of what they say, but their very words and peculiar modes of expression.'

In January, 1782, the writer of the letters was appointed by the Keys to act as their Solicitor in London, and from that date his letters become more and more filled with legal matters. By no means diffident, he does not hesitate to express his views on the methods of his professional brethren in the Island, and to correct where necessary those of his father, though with him he is rather more circumspect in his remarks. 'The proceedings of the Courts of Law in the Isle of Man have used to be, and continue to this hour, so very irregular, and the forms of all judicial proceedings so badly understood that I am afraid we shall make but a poor figure before a foreign Court of Justice.' Again, 'when this appeal comes on I shall blush for the legal proceedings of my native country.' Evidently, from the viewpoint of one who habited in His Majesty's Courts in London the provincial antics of Athol Street were beneath contempt.

On one thing, however, he was of the same mind as his father. In April, 1782, he writes, 'I find that you agree with me in thinking that the Parliament of Great Britain has no legislative power over the Isle of Man. It must be the decided opinion of every man who thinks at all, and it is capable of logical demonstration. But how do you suppose Britain could leave you to yourselves? Will they give up Gibraltar because it costs more to keep than it is worth? And which do you think would be a greater loss to Britain - Gibraltar or the Isle of Man - supposing them in other hands. It is a vulgar error to say Parliament is omnipotent, the power they claim is a mere trust, and when that Trust is violated or exceeded it is lawful, it is incumbent on every man to oppose them. I can't see, for my own part, how the Manx can be in a worse situation by beeing Free men than they are at present.'

From this flight of oratory he passes to the price of coal, then no less than £5. 15s. 6d. per chaldron, which, the chaldron being about 251 cwt., would make it £4. 10s. per ton.

Amongst various legal cases from the Island in which he was interested the one of greatest importance was that in connection with his father's leases of the Calf and other property. The first mention of it occurs on 15th June, 1782, when he writes: 'By your last letter I find the Duke of Athol has thrown off the mask, and not contenting himself with daily mean insinuations against your leases in private has now boldly attacked their validity by a suit in equity on the ground of deceit.' Briefly, the Duke's case was that the leases had been granted by his father to John Quayle - who, at the time, was acting as his Steward - at much too low a rent, he being ignorant of the true value and accepting Quayle's word for it. 'his John stoutly denied, saying that the rent was fair, and that taking into consideration the money he had spent on improvements he had made little, if anything, out of it. Among the losses he mentioned the failure of an attempt to stock the Calf with deer, and that though mutton was obtained from the sheep kept upon it, and wool to the yearly value of £15 or £16, they had not managed to find a breed hardy enough to thrive there. The only products of any value were, therefore, the rabbits and puffins, for there is no mention of any agriculture.

Postage was a heavy item to be avoided if at all possible. So when there was no obliging Member of Parliament to frank a letter for free transmission Thomas was in the habit of putting his weekly epistles, or ' squibs ' as he calls them, within the wrapper of a newspaper. But, as he writes in July, 1782, 'The Pitcher is broke at last - they have detected my squib through some mismanagement in folding it up; it won't induce them, I hope, to make any more searches, as I fear they would discover three or four others which I have sent since. Whatever other faults may be found in me I think nobody can blame me for being a tardy correspondent, and I am sorry that this innocent manoeuvre (by which some pounds have been saved in the family) will be interrupted for so long a time.' But he was soon back at the old practice.

A glimpse of this Manx gentleman's accomplishments is obtained from a statement that 'I mean to rub up my Greek one of these days, which I have much neglected - but flatter myself I have employed my spare hours to much better purpose as I can read any French or Italian author with as much facility as English, and am pretty well master of Spanish. I think I shall muster up time enough in the summer to learn a little German.'

But if he was somewhat self-satisfied he was not mean. Understanding that a subscription was being raised in the Island to purchase grain for the poor, who were suffering from a serious shortage, he asks his father to make a payment on his behalf, and when he finds that his gift had been given unnecessary publicity he expresses his annoyance.

One of the last items of interest in the letters for 1783 concerns his father, who was thinking of resigning his post as Clerk of the Rolls. Thomas writes: 'It would give me much concern to hear that you had done so as it would afford a comfortable provision for one of your sons who makes the Law his profession. I understand the salary to be £100 a year besides fees, and these latter are capable, no doubt, of a considerable increase when the Practice is brought nearer to the model of the Court of Chancery of England. A single £100 a year in the isle of Man is really worth £200 here where the taxes are so insufferably burdensome and still on the increase. Things since the peace are by no means on the mending hand and the prospect for beginners in the world is gloomy indeed, and 'tis much to be feared the worst is still to come.'

Thomas Quayle in later life

In case this paper, treating only of matters of no great moment in the earlier years of Quayle's life, should give a wrong impression of his character, it is but fair that a brief sketch should be given of his later career.

Called to the Bar in 1790, he became a Bencher of the Middle Temple and, later, Librarian. It would seem that as he grew older the somewhat priggish nature indicated by his early letters wore off, and his views broadened and mellowed. Though moving easily in high society, he was interested in agriculture and compiled the Board of Agriculture's volumes on the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The latter work, published in 1812, is an important source-book for the economic historian and the student of agricultural history.

In 1790 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Society of Arts in recognition of his work in the reclamation of land on the Essex coast.

Though averse to military matters in his youth he changed his views in this respect also, and when invasion threatened in 1798 he became, at the age of 39, a subaltern in the West Suffolks, and took to his new duties with an enthusiasm, and derived from them a pleasure, which astonished no-one so much as himself.

In his later years he gave active and valuable support to the movement in his native island which sought to curb the somewhat tyrannous behaviour of the Atholl regime.


 Index

Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2016