IN his Presidential Address delivered to this Society in 1942 Mr. David Craine, M.A., spoke of the life of Sir George Moore of Ballamoore, a Manx merchant of the 18th century (See Proceedings, Vol. IV, No. 4). The chief sources of his information were letter books belonging to Sir George which covered the period 1750 to 1760 and one relating to his visit to London in 1766.

In addition to these letter books there are also a number of letters and other documents, mostly of a somewhat later date, which, through the courtesy of the Manx Museum - to which they belong - it has been my privilege to examine.

For the benefit of those to whom the Proceedings of the Society are not available I will recapitulate very briefly some of the facts in Mr. Craine's paper.

George Moore (1709-1787) was a merchant of Peel - he dealt mainly in spirits - and he was also a member of the House of Keys, of which he was Speaker for many years. He was knighted in 1781.

He had a country house at Ballamoore (in Kirk Patrick) to the grounds and gardens of which he devoted much attention. He owned, or had shares in, various vessels which made trading voyages far afield and he was also a Partner in a Bank in Glasgow.

Bearing these main facts in mind we will come to the correspondence which covers various aspects of his life and some isolated incidents of which we know neither the genesis nor the aftermath. Perhaps they are best treated under separate headings.

His Family

The Moores - like most families of their day - were a prolific race, but while their children were many the names they gave them were few and were used over and over again, so that father, son and grandson, uncles, nephews and cousins of the same name were alive at the same time or very close together. To try and avoid confusion I propose, with the exception of Sir George, to number them. I shall use him as a central figure round which to group the others and refer to him as 'Sir George ' even during the years before he received that honour - the first Manxman to do so.

Sir George had three brothers: Philip (3) whose father and grandfather bore the same name, James (The Revd.) and John.

He had also three sons: Philip (4), George (I) and James (2) in addition to his three daughters Barbara, Margaret and Sarah. Barbara married twice - Chas. Killey in 1757 and, after his death, Wm. Maxwell of Ardwell in 1779. Margaret married John Quayle, later Clerk of the Rolls, in 1750 and about 1778 her sister Sarah became the bride of Wm. Callow.

Sir George did his best for all his children. He gave them a good education and, in the case of the boys, devoted much thought and effort to starting them well in life. They requited him but ill, for all three got into trouble, kept calling upon him for money and left their wives and children to seek the shelter - willingly extended - of Ballamoore. How much of their misfortunes was due to foolishness and recklessness, and how much to the many difficulties and uncertainties which attended trading ventures of the times it is now hard to say.

Philip (4)

Let us follow first the fortunes of Sir George's eldest son Philip. Sent to school at Glasgow his career was far from brilliant, for amusement occupied more of his time than study. In 1753, at the age of sixteen, he started in business at Peel, helping his father and running a factory for the spinning of tobacco. Between 1759 and 1760 he was in partnership with John Crellin of that town, while on his father's business he travelled extensively in Scotland and Ireland. In 176o he married Miss Martha Thwaites of Dublin.

The letters first mention him in February, 1767. He was then in Peel and owing many debts which he was quite unable to pay.' About this time his father was awaiting a Royal grant of land in Florida for which he had applied and for the settlement of which careful estimates had been prepared. They are rather interesting.

1 Including one of £110 to Hugh Cosnaban whose daughter Catherine later married Philip's brother James. This debt was paid off by Sir George in 1783

Except for trifling fees the land was to be obtained free on condition that it was cleared and settled within three years. Twenty thousand acres were applied for to be worked by indentured white labour and negro slaves, and the costs were expected to be:

50 Protestant servants
Recruiting and transporting from Holland to Florida @ £8
Feeding until they could be supplied from the Plantation
50 Negro slaves @ £30
Clothes and maintenance for a year
Cattle, horses and poultry 200
Tools and a boat 100
Dwellings and store-houses 300
Agent, Overseer, surveying and sundries 250
During the first year half the labour was to be employed in clearing the land and the other half in growing rice, indigo, hemp, etc., which was expected to produce
against which was to be charged only
Overseer's wages
Agency fee. 5% on £1,000
Leaving a profit of

With this profit another 25 negroes were to be purchased, and by pursuing the same policy of using part of the labour force for clearing and an ever-increasing part for productive work with all profits devoted to the purchase of further slaves it was hoped by the end of five years to have paid all expenses, released the original indentured labourers and obtained another fifty, raised the slave stock to 208, paid back the original capital outlay of £3,000 and have in hand £880 in cash and a valuable Plantation.

Surely the most optimistic Prospectus ever issued and one to make a modern investor shudder. It is, however, adorned with the typically Georgian remark that ' The method of cultivating with Blacks and not peopling with more Whites is an objection, as it is an unpleasant thing to command and drive slaves. It is more desirable to people with Whites and encourage them to cultivate the Plantation as well as propagate, by which means only a Colony becomes rich and useful to the Mother Country by the consumption of the manufactories.'

To this Plantation it was arranged that Philip should go as his father's representative. But the grant, though daily expected, was long in coming and he grew tired of waiting - his creditors were probably making things difficult - and suddenly and without notice he left the Island and headed for the American Colonies. He made, it would seem, what is commonly known as a ' midnight flitting ' for later he told his mother that ' on leaving the Island I was put ashore in Scotland and jumped out up to my neck in the water. The hands were all drunk so we had to carry my things to shore through the water.' After he had gone, his father, in an effort to satisfy some at least of his creditors, paid out over £1,000 to them.

His departure was just a few days too soon, for the grant arrived shortly after. But when it came, his father - finding him gone and his own affairs not in so good a shape as when the application had been made - decided not to take it up. Perhaps he had examined again that very optimistic estimate and seen not only the niggers on the Plantation but also quite a number ' in the woodpile.'

Philip's wife - writing to Sir George from Ireland, where she was staying with her father - says . . . ' I have heard from Phil. about a month ago, he was just setting off to go to New York, where, please God, I hope he will arrive safe and meet with more success than he did at first; though with very little money and no friends there is but a Gloomy Prospect, and he labours under a very disagreeable circumstance being obliged to change his name. I should have been content if he had taken me with him, but sure fortune won't forever persecute me and keep me from him and my children, but as to them I am sure my mother takes as much love of them as I could possibly do, and as I am under infinite obligations both to her and you for the kindness I have always received I shall make it my study to merit a continuance of your goodness to me.' The children were Martha and Kitty, about four and one year old respectively - the first of the grandchildren of various broods to find refuge at Ballamoore.

Having changed his name to Henry, ' till I am clear of old scores,' Philip sailed from Portland Roads in June, 1767, and arrived in New York after a passage of between six and seven weeks. His fare cost him twenty-five guineas.

He at once advised his father of his arrival, though, still further to conceal his identity and baffle his creditors, he writes in a disguised hand. He is ' heartily glad to have got out of the Isle of Man,' and is greatly impressed with America, which he praises in the most glowing terms. The varied trees particularly delight him, and he offers to send to beautify the gardens at Ballamoore ' a pritty flowering shrub called magnolia.'

He was glad to find that no one in the new country had heard of him, but, just to be on the safe side, he was careful to make friends with the two leading lawyers so that he would have a good chance in disputing any claims which might be made on him. He found political feeling running strongly against the Mother Country - that feeling which, six years later, led to the Boston Tea Party - but the great spaces were congenial to him and conducive to large schemes. Very shortly he was considering taking up a grant of 5,000 acres of land in Arcadia - we call it Nova Scotia to-day - to be settled with families from Home, particularly from amongst those who found it so hard to make a living in his native island. He got his grant - 4,000 acres at Beaver Harbour within twenty miles of Halifax - and the promise of a further 5,000 acres near by, the whole to cost about £100. He was very pleased with this land as it contained a splendid harbour and there were salmon and mackerel fisheries which he was anxious to develop.

Finding that the local laws protected him from being sued for debts contracted in Europe he resumed his right name, sent home for his guns and blunderbuss, and wrote to his mother that on arriving at New York he had been 'surprised at seeing the whole country in appearance covered with trees,' but found that it 'abounds with everything, as to fruit of all sorts I am tired with it.' It was not quite perfect however, for like every Eden it had its snakes, which 'here are very common but always avoid any person. I have killed a very large one. I am told that salt cured the bite even of a Rattle Snake if immediately applied so now I don't mind them.' It was evidently a credulous age, or else, as is so often the case, the newcomer was fair game for a leg pull.

Without the capital to develop them however his lands were of no use to him. Part of the original grant had, in fact, already been allotted to someone else, though he got 100,000 acres on condition that he would settle them and wrote home suggesting that the Government - presumably of the Isle of Man - should offer assisted passages to those willing to come. He estimated for a scheme costing about £2,000; but neither Mr. Taubman nor Sir George replied.

In the meanwhile he did not despise lesser game and was making a small profit by ordinary trading, though he found himself very short of capital and had to ask his father to send some small sums to help him along. He also suggested that a cargo be sent him with which he might trade, suitable goods being Linen Cloth, Shoes, Brandy, Wine, Tea and Silk, Handkerchiefs, Ready-made Clothes, Hardware and Cutlery. He reckoned that the Brandy, Wine and Tea could be landed at his own harbour without being noticed if stowed beneath the cargo of salt which was to be brought for the use of the fishery, while some soap and candles from Ireland might get in if hidden in pork and butter casks as the search was not very strict. His old Manx smuggling instincts were evidently still well to the fore.

He reported that many Government posts were available for those who could command some influence, and asked his father to see what he could do, suggesting particularly the vacant Postmastership. His father did not fail him in this - making interest with the Duke of Athol and others - and next year when the Governor of Nova Scotia - Lord Wm. Campbell - sailed from London in the 'Mermaid ' man-of-war he had promised to look after Philip's interests on his arrival - though whether he ever did so we have nothing to show.

In the summer of 1768 he sailed in a schooner, in whose cargo of fish he had a third share, to Lisbon. He had, it seems, himself been engaged in the fishing, and he speaks of the huge quantities caught. The schooner was to be sold on her arrival and the proceeds used to reimburse his father. From Lisbon he went to London, where he saw the Duke of Athol in the hope of furthering his scheme to obtain some official post in America, and where he made arrangements for the receipt of shipments of timber which he proposed to make. He wrote from London to Sir George, but did not venture across to the Island. Nor did he see his wife, whom he supposed to be in Dublin, though he had not heard from her. He sailed again for America in August, 1769.

There is now a gap in the correspondence until 1777. During this time he evidently prospered, and we find him living in Boston where his wife with their daughter Martha have joined him. The War of Independence has been some years in progress, and what it meant to his wife she tells us in a letter dated 7th June, 1777. 'You will be surprised to see my letter dated from Boston. Mr. Moore has been here since last June, and in December the Regulars were within twenty miles of Philadelphia. I then set off in an open Waggon with the three children - Phil being but two years old - and came here, which was four hundred miles. We were above a month on the road, occasioned by the roads being so bad and the days so short we sometimes could not go more than twenty miles in a day. One in particular was so excessively cold that I fainted, the snow five feet deep. Mr. Moore met us about two hundred miles from Boston, but I had been so well used to travel without him that it did not seem so difficult as it would be to many others who have always been indulged with their husband's company.'

Philip himself says at this time that despite the war, which does not materially affect him, he with his wife and children were living comfortably, and, though times are difficult, he thinks himself worth £10,000 and living at the rate of £1,2oo a year. And this despite the fact that three ships in which he had a half share have just been captured by the English.

Though he speaks of his children being with him, one of them - his daughter Kitty - is not. Though greatly missed she is still at school in Whitehaven, and we have two of the bills for her schooling. That for the first six months of 1778 was:

£7 10 0
Teaching working and reading
15 0
„ Grammar
10 0
1 4 0
Materials for Drawing
3 0
Teaching Geography
1 1 0
Fire Money
4 0
Pew rent at Church
3 0
Total for Schooling
11 10 0
1 7 5
Pocket Money. 2d. per week
4 4
Drawing 2 pair Robins & I pair Ruffles
3 0
Sealing Wax, Wash Ball & Gloves
2 4
Teaching Dancing
1 5 0
Tickets for the Ball
2 6
Carriage to & from
1 0
Hair cutting 6d. Copy Book 6d.
1 0
Frames and Glasses
3 0
Passage to & from the I.O.M.
10 0
To the men
1 0
The Writing Master's Bill
18 6
Mercer's Bill
1 3 3
Shoe-Maker's Bill
12 5
Mantua-Maker's Bill
5 0
Stay-Maker's Bill
1 6 6
Milliner's Bill
5 2 8½
Circulating Library
1 0
£24 19 11½

and the next six months was much the same except that there was 14/- for Tea, 6/- to the Music Master, 3/- for making a muslin Frock and £1. is. for teaching Painting on Silk.

Philip, now in a position to pay a visit to the land of his birth, and anxious to do so, was debarred by the war. But he determined that his son George (4) should not lack the benefits of a European education, and to furnish funds for this he proposed to send a ship and cargo which could be sold for the purpose. Direct communication with England was not possible but letters were exchanged with little difficulty - though they often took six to nine months on their journey - by way of Holland, France and other routes.

In 1778 George sailed for France, but we will follow his fortunes later, returning in the meantime to his father who was beginning to set up as a landowner. He had, he tells us, a little farm seven miles out of Philadelphia and one of 200 acres of meadowland which he hoped to leave to his son. He hoped, in fact, to be able to bequeath an estate of some sort to each of his children. One estate which he had - we know because he later tried to sell it in England - lay on the banks of the Delaware and was known as Moorehall. This is probably the one for which he says he paid £3,500. If so, it was of 12,000 acres, having a frontage of five miles along the river and being four miles deep.

He also owned ships, having a brig named the ' George,' a ship - the ' Moore ' - and shares in others. He wrote to his father saying that if his daughter Kitty were to marry (with her grandfather's consent) he would endow her with £1,500 - young Mr. Finch was very taken with the lady about that time - and that he was willing to advance the same sum to her brother George to set him up in business.

He still longed to visit England again but feared that if he did so he might be made a prisoner, while he had reason to believe that his old creditors had by no means forgotten him and that it would be unwise to venture within their reach. It never seemed to occur to him that he might pay them.

But in 1782 his fortunes began to decline, and he lost large sums in trade, which he tried to retrieve by widening his interests. He entered into business associations with his brothers George (1) in London and James (2) and his partner Williams in France, but was unlucky when ships consigned to them were captured. He also sent a ship to see what prospects there were for trade with China.

At this point his own letters cease, though we know from other sources that he acted as Agent for his brothers in America - where James joined him at the end of 1783 - and his decline must have been rapid. One of George's captains visiting him in 1784 reported finding him ill and in debt to the extent that he was considering bankruptcy.. After this, though we know he lived until 1828, we hear no more of him except for brief statements that he was expected home at the end of 1784 and that he was in Ireland in the Spring of 1786. He owed his father £1,800 on a Bond, and in payment made over to him his 3 / 20ths share in the ship `United States.' On 2oth March, 1785, Sir George wrote to John Gill in Philadelphia telling him to sell these shares and give the proceeds to Martha (Mrs. Philip) or, if she were not there, to Philip ' for the use of himself and family ' evidently to assist them. Gill acknowledged this on 28th November, 1785. The ship had arrived from India - where she had taken wine from Madeira - and had been sold, but some of her outward cargo had apparently been left in the hands of James in India - who, it may be surmised, went out in her. In any case, by this time both Philip and his wife had left, and Gill, in accordance with further instructions from Sir George, sent the money to England.

As Gill says, Philip had left America. The exact date I do not know, but by the Spring of 1786 he was in Ireland and occupying quarters in the Marshalsea Prison in Dublin to which he had been sent at the suit of his brother James' partner Mr. Williams, who hoped to obtain from him a sum of £8,000 which he alleged he was owed by James. At this point there arrived on the scene brother George, with a neat little scheme all complete in his pocket. Philip, at the time of his marriage, had been promised that when his parents died he should come into possession of the family estate of Ballamoore. Their father was ailing, said the crafty George; what if he should die and the property be seized to satisfy the debt for which he was in prison? Much better make it over to me - just a nominal transfer, you know. ' Keep it in the family,' said George, ' and then you shall have it back when your present troubles blow over.' To this Philip agreed, and to make the transaction appear plausible signed a set of accounts which showed him to be heavily in debt to George on their joint trading ventures.

Mr. Williams' suit failed and his victim was released and crossed to the Island. But when, feeling that he was now out of the wood, he asked for the Deed of Sale to be cancelled George laughed the idea to scorn, saying that the sale was a genuine one and that Philip really had owed him the large sum in lieu of which he had taken it. And indeed - as we shall see when we come to consider George's story - this seems to have been the case and Philip's story of the bogus sale to be untrue. Be this as it may, when Sir George died shortly afterwards (September, 1787) George was in Salonica and Philip on the spot, and evidently agreeing with the saying that 'possession is nine points of the law ' he moved in and defied his brother to oust him. Then, while the law took its leisurely course, George was drowned; his widow took up the case, died and passed the fight on to her infant son - another George. In 1794 a committee of the Keys decided in favour of this child. Philip appealed to the King in Council who ordered a retrial before an ordinary jury. What they made of the complicated case is hard to tell, for some of them are said to have been so illiterate that they could not even write their own names, but they agreed with the Keys and the Governor signed an order putting the young George in possession of Ballamoore. Philip again appealed to the King in Council. It would appear that his appeal was successful, for an inscription on a tombstone in Patrick churchyard which records his death refers to him as ' of the Ballamoor.'

George (4)

George was Philip's (4) son. When his father sent him to France in July, 1778, we can imagine him departing full of eagerness to see that Europe of which he must have heard so much. He started in an adventurous manner, for scarcely had he sailed when the vessel in which he travelled was captured by an English ship and taken to St. Johns, Newfoundland. Here, by good fortune, the young traveller was befriended by the Captain of an English frigate who gave him a passage to England. Whether he posed as an escaping Loyalist, a Manx neutral, or what, we do not know; but the episode throws a peculiar and rather pleasant light on the way in which this fratricidal war was being waged.

From London he went in a Prussian ship to France and eventually arrived in Nantes where - in the home of Mr. Williams, a business connection of his father's - his education was to begin. This gentleman had very thorough ideas on the subject, which he outlined to the pupil's grandfather Sir George as follows.

' As without understanding French it is impossible he should find out his teachers ideas or convey his own, I consider the Language as the first object and the necessary channel to every other part of his education. I have therefor sent him from this place (in which are many Americans) to Rochelle where no English is spoken. By this means I hope he will not only learn French very fast, but acquire a pure pronunciation of it. The Protestant religion is more tolerated there than anywhere else and I have particularly desired George to attend public worship, as well to bear and observe the pronunciation of the language as to be instructed in the duties of his religion and main lessons of morality. I intend, when he is able to read French, to direct his reading the best historical authors, the most celebrated poets and in general such books as tend to inform the mind and mind the heart. I shall also direct his studying the mathematics and in general whatever is necessary to make him an intelligent, agreeable young gentleman. In short it shall be my endeavour to have him made a man of learning without being a pedant and possessed of genteel accomplishments without being a fop.'

For a young American foot-loose in France this was rather heavy going. His own description of how he passed his time was that 'in the morning I read French. Between breakfast and dinner I am in a French compting house, and in the afternoons I am in the company of ladies learning the more polite science.' In this last branch of his studies he evidently made rapid progress for it was not long before the gentleman with whom he was living refused to entertain him any longer, and when he returned to Nantes Mr. Williams found him 'a finer young gentleman than when I saw him last but with to0 much attachment to a dissipated life.' So he wrote to the culprit's grandfather, Sir George, saying that as he had recently married and 'brought home my sister-in-law as well as my wife I can no longer keep George in my house and have therefor placed him in a genteel Pension. He pays not the slightest attention to business but seems to imagine that he is one day to be very rich and therefor has more to do to find out ways of spending his money than to think of getting any. I have already got two duels oft his hands and have at last sent him to a village at a little distance to keep him out of harm's way until I can hear from his friends.' He did go on to say that to give George his due he had never been disrespectful to him - but would they please take him away.

So this menace to the maids of Nantes was despatched - by way of Holland for his better education - to his grandfather at Ballamoore. His cousin Thomas Quayle, who saw him in London said 'I hope his father may effect a reformation in him - there is certainly great room for it - particularly in the subject of his lying.'

How he got on with his Manx relations we do not know. The only other thing we learn about him is that when he again passed through London on his way home via Ostend and Nantes his uncle George Moore thought him much improved by his stay in the Island and inclined to business. But the Continental air quickly effected a relapse, for when he sailed from Nantes he left his uncle James - then established there - to pay for the carriage which he had bought to travel in from Ostend. A small matter, you may think, but one which annoyed James considerably.

By November, 1782, our traveller was back in Philadelphia and had been taken into partnership by his father.

George (I)

The second of Sir George's sons was named after his father. Born in 1750 we find him sixteen years later in Rotterdam, finishing his education and beginning to learn business with a Scottish merchant - Mr. Archibald Stewart. The first of his letters is an excuse for lack of progress: the school is in decay, the Fencing and Music masters have gone away, and so has the usher who should be teaching him book-keeping. But he would not have his father worry unduly about this, and he informs him that 'if it pleases God that I shall not be so well placed in business as you could wish your son can easily content himself with the meanest of stations, but if, on the contrary, I become rich, I hope God will enable me to make a proper use of them and that I shall never despise the lowest of his beings.'

But poor or rich he soon found that living with Mr. Stewart was not to his liking, and when that jovial Scotsman one night - being well in his cups - attempted to kiss a lady in the street, the lady, being unwilling, started a row in which he, his dog and two men became involved, with the result that Stewart had to pay damages of £70, and George decided to live with him no longer. He therefore took up his abode with an English widow whom - with youthful enthusiasm - he describes as 'the kindest, the best behaved and politest lady I ever met.'

Though he had left Mr. Stewart's roof he continued in his office, where he acted as cashier, and in his spare time he painted pictures. Before long he had a dispute with his landlady as to the terms on which he had taken his rooms, and his enthusiasm for her waned considerably when she seized his effects and brought an action against him, and, being as he averred a friend of the magistrate, obtained judgment. This, of course, meant an appeal to his father for funds - Sir George must have got well used to these appeals during his long life - though in this case, as Mr. Stewart had advised him that his son was in the right and the judgment really was unjust, he would probably not mind paying.

At this time George's allowance was £100 per annum, which, he claimed, was not nearly enough to live on. In his earlier years all his expenses had been paid by Mr. Stewart who had not stinted him unduly, for he had had a sword and belt, a fiddle, a French coat and vest of superfine Rattin, and his laced hat had been cleaned. What more could a young man want?

He stayed with Mr. Stewart until 1769, but during the summer of 1767 he went to Scotland to meet his parents who were staying at Moffat, where it was hoped that the waters of that Spa would be beneficial to his mother.

He came through London but returned by a direct ship from Leith. His parents found him in good health, and were so pleased to see him that his mother would not suffer him a foot away from her. But his father found him deficient in his knowledge of decimals and wrote to Mr. Stewart to have this made right. During the hard winter of 1767-8 - when he was back in Holland - Mr. Stewart says of him that he became one of the best skaters in that country of good skaters.

At the end of 1768 his employer's business was far from prosperous, bad debts and a defaulting book-keeper being added to a general slackness of trade, and in June, 1769, George left him and went to London to keep the books of a Mr. Murrell. There now occurs the ten years' gap in the letters of which I have already spoken. When we pick up the threads again in 1778 we find him established as a merchant in London under the style of George Moore & Co. and with Murrell as a partner, though the partnership was dissolved a few years later. He lived in Crutched Friars, but in June, 1779, left there for Little St. Helen's. Exactly what type of business he was doing is not very clear - import, export and shipowning all seem to have come equally welcome to him and he was not above selling rabbit skins from the Isle of Man.

He had a share - a 1/32nd part - in a privateer named the 'Enterprise ' which mounted 20 ninepounders and must have had a plucky crew. In 1779 she encountered a French frigate mounting 28 twelvepounders, and in view of this superiority of armament and the fact that she was a regular naval vessel - which it was no part of a privateer's duty to engage - Capt. Eden of the 'Enterprise ' would have avoided action; but his men urged him to give chase and promised that if he did they would take the frigate. So away they went and battle was joined, but though the French suffered heavily - the men at the guns being observed to drop very fast - she could not be made to strike her colours though the gallant seamen on the 'Enterprise ' did their utmost. When the morning after the engagement dawned Capt. Eden found himself lying very near another enemy frigate, to avoid which he could not make sail as his mainmast - which had been shot through - would not stand the strain. He therefore sailed boldly towards her, which the Frenchman no sooner observed than he tacked about, crowded on sail and made off. After being refitted this ship sailed again, and it was not long before she captured a Spanish vessel which she sent with a prize crew to a Scottish port. About this time a ship from Lima valued at £500,000 was captured and brought into Plymouth, where his firm had the handling of her, landing boxes of gold, silver and plate. But his partner bungled the business, and as a. consequence George and he parted company.

George was by this time married, the lady being Isabella Bacon whose old home with its columned portico still stands near the Swing Bridge in Douglas. After many years as 'the Royal Hotel ' it now serves as an office for the cargo department of the Steam Packet Company. In June, 1779, his first son was born, and duly named George after his father and grandfather.

The letters mention various ships in which their writer had shares. One, the 'George & James,' was at New York in the Government service and proving a paying investment. A cargo of fish which he sent to Venice returned him a profit of 90% and one of pilchards to Naples also sold well. But not everything went according to plan and every now and then there is mention of consignments lost.

In December, 1780, he writes that 'the seas swarm with Dutch ships ' and the 'Enterprise ' swooped out to prey upon them, as also did the 'Revenge,' Capt. Kentish, in which he had an interest. These ships duly made their captures, but to get the money for them was not quite so easy, for, as George complains bitterly 'claims for neutral account, litigations and the expenses of the Admiralty Court, appeals to the Lords and disputed accounts of various kinds are almost certain attendants that engage the time of an Agent of Privateers.'

In September, 1781, he mentions two incidents worthy of record the alarm felt by the people of London - they evidently regarded it as an omen of trouble - when a full-grown whale was seen above London Bridge; and the fact that Sir George, returning home from London, had a narrow escape from capture by a French cutter which, with great daring, entered the narrow channel between the Mull of Galloway and the Point of Ayre.

At the end of 1782 - anticipating an end to the war with America and a revival of trade - he determined, on the advice of his brother James, to get in early on what he hoped would prove a profitable business. The day he took this decision was a bad one for him, for the consequences of it ruined his career and drove him from his native land. His brother Philip in America was also anxious to have a finger in the pie and suggested that immediately peace was declared two ships should be despatched from Liverpool loaded with nearly £18,000 worth of goods. George discounted this rather large project and, to begin with, bought for £2,500 the brig 'United States ' which he loaded with a cargo valued at £5,000, She was to be commanded by Thos. Callow - a cousin of his sister Sarah's husband - and was to sail under the American flag in the hope that this would ensure a welcome for her when she arrived at her destination, which was Philadelphia, where she was to be consigned to his brother Philip. Amongst her cargo was a case of knives and forks having green handles tipped with silver to be sent to Philip's daughter Martha - or Patty as she was affectionately called - who had recently been married to John Redman. In this venture it was intended that the three brothers - Philip, James and George - should each bear equal shares, but as the first two were in America and France respectively it fell to George to find the money in the first place.

And now his troubles commenced. James had promised to provide for both his own and Philip's share by opening a credit in Paris against which George could draw. But when he did this his Bills were dishonoured, James, in his usual impetuous manner, having made the arrangement without his partner's consent. As George had recently put £6,000 into a venture in Turkey, and was also faced with the necessity of raising £22,000 to pay import duty on a cargo of tobacco consigned to him from the States, he found his resources strained to the limit. So he applied to his father for a loan of three or four thousand pounds, regretting at the same time that envy of the reputed successful enterprises of his brothers had induced him to abandon his usual more sober and careful methods and risk in this new venture the capital of £7,000 which he had accumulated.

Sir George generously came to his aid, and having taken the plunge with regard to the ' United States ' he now took another in hopes of getting some ready money. In conjunction with a certain Mr. White who was very highly recommended to him by James, and was said to have an extensive knowledge of America where he had many correspondents, he bought for £1,10o a ship which he named the ' Bell ' - it was his wife's name and should have been lucky - loaded her with a cargo obtained on credit and despatched her to Boston. The idea was that the freight obtained would pay for the ship, and that funds from the sale of the cargo should come to hand in less than six months, whereas it did not have to be paid for until a year had elapsed. Where the freight was to come from except out of his own pocket - as the cargo was his - is not evident, but Mr. White apparently persuaded him that it was all right. So having provided a further £2,000 to fit the vessel out £9,000 worth of cargo was stowed in her holds and away she sailed with Mr. White on board to attend to matters when she reached Boston. But no sooner had she gone than George found reason to doubt both White's honesty and intentions. He had hurried away in the utmost confusion, leaving a number of bills unpaid; and though it was possible his intentions were good the doubt about it was enough to give George many sleepless nights, and to cause him to write to his brother Phil. asking him to make the long journey north from Philadelphia to Boston that he might there look after the writer's interests.

Being, as he says, 'like a person sinking, I caught at a reed, and insensibly instead of support I have plunged deeper and deeper. I trust in Providence all may yet end well. If the contrary, poverty has no dread, misfortunes and ill-placed confidence shall be the greatest crimes that any shall lay to my charge.'

His next venture was another rather desperate one. He loaded one of his ships - the 'Swift ' - with 143 convicts to be transported to Maryland or Nova Scotia, though it was a trade he did not like. ' Nothing but stern necessity,' he writes, ' could have induced me to traffic in the freedom of fellow creatures. It is a business I abhor, but it has been very profitable to others and may be so to me.' But he did not have much luck, for some of the convicts - as desperate a gang of ruffians as ever were clapped under hatches - sawed off their irons, and when the Captain threatened to fire on them, told him to ' fire and be damned.' They then seized the boats and 48 of them rowed ashore, the others staying on board partly for fear of their necks and partly because there were not enough boats. Of those that landed - near to a small town on the coast of Sussex - some took a chaise, and when they had gone as far as the hard-driven horses could carry them they robbed the Post Boy and decamped.

In September the ' United States ' arrived back safely at Plymouth, but though her cargo had sold tolerably well funds from the sale were not yet available and she brought but a poor return cargo. The wheat and staves she carried were too highly priced to be disposed of at a profit and the timbers for masts were not long enough in proportion to their thickness. The cargo George would have preferred was ' Indigo of a rich copper quality, Rice and Beeswax or Tobacco.'

But not all the news was bad. Phil, held out rosy prospects for future orders from the States, suggesting £200,000 annually - an odd nought or two was never allowed to spoil the dreams of the Moore brothers - and he asked George to sell for him in England his estate on the banks of the Delaware so that he might get more capital to put into the partnership.

By this time James had arrived from France to join him, and they set up in Philadelphia the House of Philip and James Moore to handle imports from George in England and to ship in return wheat, flour, lumber, tobacco, etc. Or at least James said they had done so, which was not always quite the same thing, for James was ever more impetuous than exact, and his brother was not there to confirm the statement.

And now there was reassuring news about Mr. White and the 'Bell.' The cargo was selling well and the fears about White's honesty seemed to have been unfounded. But he was still short of cash in England to pay for all the cargo obtained on credit, and to his horror Phil. - instead of remitting to him - invested the money so anxiously awaited in a ship he was sending to China. And nothing came from White, though he had news that that gentleman had picked up a cargo of tobacco and was returning with it to England.

At this juncture another daughter arrived to make his family three - of which the second child, Jane, was, and had been for a long while, with her grandparents at Ballamoore or else with her aunt Sarah Callow at Knockrushen.

At length, in June, 1784, after a long silence, a letter arrived from Philip. His circumstances, he told George, were nothing like so good as had been understood; and to make them worse he had been forced to sell property to provide bail for James, who had been arrested soon after his arrival - what for he does not say. There were various excuses and explanations - but no money. And as money was desperately needed there now remained only the hope that White would bring some. In July he arrived, but was for some time in such a drunken state that no clear statement could be got from him. And certainly no money, though what had become of it was far from clear. SO George called a meeting of his creditors, who, realising that he had been more sinned against than sinning, expressed the hope that things would improve; granted him more time and, as a mark of their confidence in him, left him free to carry on without appointing the inspectors usual in such cases.

But there was no improvement, and as time went on he learned that Philip - the supposed wealthy member of the family - was in fact in ill health and his affairs in a parlous state. So much so that at the time he was proposing to put a large amount of capital into their joint business he was, as a matter of fact, heavily in debt. Worse still, his sincerity was doubted by mutual friends who suggested to George that even if he were in a position to remit it was doubtful if he would do so.

Meanwhile the 'United States ' had again been despatched to Philadelphia, arriving there is September, 1784, after a passage of eight weeks. Capt. Callow reported that Philip was now living a retired life in the country and doing no business at all, though he did take credit for having looked after George's interests to the extent of frustrating White's design to cheat him.

While the reports about Philip thus differed slightly neither of them gave any help, and in 1785 George gave up hoping and compounded with his creditors. Brought to ruin, as he says, ' by the treachery and negligence of some of my relations and left and abandoned by all the rest, not one of whom has offered the least consolation or relief, I am now existing on the generosity of those who have suffered by my misfortunes . . . and know not in what line to embark.'

At this juncture he was offered and accepted the chance of becoming Consul at Salonica. This post, which was in the gift of the Turkish Company, though it carried no salary was of considerable value as it offered trading chances by which the retiring occupant was reputed to have made a fortune. On the other hand there was absence from home, little society - only one Englishman, a French family and two Italians - and fear of the plague.

But before he could take up his appointment funds were necessary - funds with which to pay the passages of his family and the freight on his furniture; to meet his initial expenses; to provide the usual presents to the Bashaw and Janissaries; to enable him to start trading; and to keep him until that trade began to bear fruit. So he crossed to the Island to beg help from his relations. But his reception was very cold -- his father made no offer and his father-in-law, Mr. Bacon, was unable to do so. Reduced to despair he wrote his father a piteous letter begging his aid to give him this last chance, and Sir George agreed to do so.

Before he left he had encouraging news of one of his ventures. He had sent a party of settlers to Honduras, but they were not allowed to land there and went further south to the Mosquito Shore. This strip of what is now the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua was first settled by an English Chartered Company in 1630, and when George's party arrived they found themselves opposed by men already there, and these - led by a certain Major Lawrie - refused to let them land. Then, as George writes, 'their distress at this event was soon relieved by the interposition of the Chiefs of the Mosquito Indians who were induced to afford them protection, and their King took my people 141 miles up the river which empties itself near Cape Gratios a Dios, and there showed them where the best wood in the country grew. He ordered all his people to assist them and assured them of his favour and protection, saying that they need not apprehend any danger from either the Spaniards or the English as the country belonged to the Indians and he was their King and the whites were only there on sufferance from him.' It was hoped that the large quantities of mahogany they were expected to cut would soon become available, but against this was the fear that they might, after all, not be allowed to remain owing to an agreement which the English Government had recently come to with Spain. What the upshot of it all was I do not know, for there is no further mention of them, but the incident shows that George did not lack initiative nor fear to back any scheme which seemed to show signs of profit.

George duly left England and arrived in Salonica - then in Turkish hands - in November, 1786, and the next, and last, letter we have from him is written five months later. By this time he had got settled and made a start with which he was satisfied, and as there seemed to be every prospect of war breaking out before long between the Turks and the Russians he remarks, with considerable complacency, 'although war should not be wished for it is a consolation that others in my particular situation have, during such a period, escaped danger and derived even great profit.' But his evil star had not yet set. His business affairs might be more promising, but his much loved little daughter, 'my poor little Belle,' had died as the result of a fall while on the ship which was carrying her to their new home.

James (2)

The youngest of Sir George's trio of sons was James. Born in 1754 - and the godson of his uncle and namesake the Rev. James who left him £1,800 - he was educated at a private school belonging to a Thos. Murray near London, and while there, in 1767, had a very serious illness. His parents were staying at the time at Moffat, in Scotland, and Sir George was torn between his wish to go to London and his fear of telling the boy's mother - who had a very great affection for this her youngest son - lest the shock should do her harm. At length however he recovered, though he seems not to have been a very healthy type, for ten years later his father noted that he needed 'a change from that constant application which the business of the Bank implys and which the weakness of his constitution rendered necessary for him.'

His father had a friend and agent in Glasgow who was named Robt. Carrick. This gentleman collected payment for the spirits which Sir George shipped to Scotland through his smuggler friends. In 1773, James went to Mr. Carrick to learn the business of a banker, though at the same time he was buying and selling tobacco, etc., in partnership with a Mr. James Brown. In August, 1774, Carrick determined to start a new Bank in which James and his father - who provided the money for both of them - invested a capital of £500 each along with Carrick and four others. This business opened on 28th March, 1776, in the offices, and apparently under the name, of the Old Bank. It accepted deposits, on which 3% interest was allowed, and was conducted on sound principles. Carrick, for instance, though anxious to see their notes circulating in the Isle of Man, refused in no uncertain manner to ask for ducal patronage, and declared that the Bank would stand on its own feet and neither beg favours from nor pay court to any man.

In this Bank James at first acted as accountant - Carrick was manager and cashier - but gave it up in 1778, when we find him established with the firm of Morton, Craig, Moore & Co. and having £1,200 invested in the manufacture of Prints; £500 in making Malt and buying grain; and with shares in various trading ventures such as one of his brother George's to the Mediterranean - probably shipping fish to Italy. He dealt also in sugar; in Irish yarns and Indian silks; traded in surplus army stores and was considering embarking in the Baltic trade - importing from Petersburg and Archangel timber and iron, etc. In the middle of 1779 he married - the lady was Catherine Cosnahan 2 - and the future looked bright. In fact, as he says himself . . . 'Only one circumstance is wanting to complete my happiness, which continues in spite of my endeavours to the contrary - that is a disposition fond of gaiety (and) trying to obtain more than my circumstances or inclination will follow ' . . . A dangerous disposition and an inclination which was before long to prove his undoing.

2 Daughter of Hugh Cosnahan, M.H.K., of Ballakew (Malew) and Douglas, and Elinor Finch. (See Proc. N.H.A. Socy. Vol. IV, No. 4, P. 52).

Like his brother in London he had shared in various Privateers.

What stirring fighting names they have - the 'Enterprise,' the 'Alert ' and the ' Tartar ' - the latter a vessel carrying 28 guns, 95 men and a complete company of marines - and at that time cruisnig against the Dutch. The 'Alert ' evidently had a high reputation as a lucky ship, so much so that James avers he could sell his £300 share in her for £1,000. The 'Black Prince ' was another lucky ship, but the 'Fame ' was lost with most of her crew.

Numerous other ships engaged in this paying but dangerous business are mentioned, including the cutter 'Resolution ' of Leith, esteemed the fastest sailor ever built, which had as owners the Lord President, the Lord Advocate, Lord Lauderdale, the Provost of Edinburgh and other gentlemen. These ships sailed not only as commerce destroyers - as we should call them to-day - but also carried freight themselves. For instance the 'Quebec,' Capt. Carr, in which James had an eighth share, was loaded on Government account with provisions for Madeira - conjectured to be intended as a supply depôt for Gibraltar - and was given sixteen guns and instructions that after discharging her cargo she was to load wine for Quebec, but while on the way there was to cruise for six weeks in search of what she might find; while a small vessel of 50 tons - a former smuggler and a fast sailor - sent out to trade between the islands in the West Indies, was given six guns to 'put her in Fortune's way.'

On the 14th April, 1780, a son was born to Mrs. James and, though he already had a cousin of the same name born a year earlier, was duly christened George and in true Moore style sent to stay with his grandparents at the family nursery of Ballamoore.

About this time James started in the business of insuring ships - a profitable but risky one in which many merchants were being tempted to try their fortune - and soon flattered himself with being a lucky dealer whose ships all came safely home. So he felt well established, and when the sloop 'Venus ' left Glasgow with coals for the Island - to be used for curing fish - he asked that she might bring back in her his horses and his dog. Then came the crash. James disappeared, leaving his affairs in disorder, many creditors and no account of his debts or assets.

His father hastened to Glasgow to see if the banking business in which both he and James were concerned - and with which James had apparently again become connected - was involved. George, from London, tried his best to get in touch with the fugitive, offering him every possible assistance and pointing out that however bad things were it would be much the best course to return and face them out; as while misfortune was no crime, to evade his responsibilities as he was doing cast a stain on his reputation and on that of his family. And in the most generous terms he offered, if this were done, to start him in business again in London. But when it became known that James, hearing of the loss of a ship which he had insured for a considerable sum, had sent an express messenger to London to try and reinsure her there before the news became public, even George had to acknowledge that things were really bad. For, as he wrote to his father, 'misfortune might have been retrieved, but this unexpected stroke prevents the possibility of either giving him public countenance or support. The only refuge he can now shelter under is privacy and retirement.'

We next hear of him in Paris, from which city he informed his father on the 1st December, 1781, that he was setting off for Nantes, where a friend of his - a Mr. Williams - lived, and from where, after a short stay, he would leave to join his brother Phil. in America.

And what of his young wife left ' dejected and depressed ' to fend for herself and a six-months-old baby in Glasgow? 'I sincerely pray,' she writes, 'that God may preserve and assist him in all his endeavours. It is not in my power to answer his letter as I have nothing to inform him off, and his affairs are too confused for me to understand. He thinks my settlement will be of more use by his going than if he had stayed and settled with his creditors, and I thought he knew me too well to think that any advantage I could reap would be of greater weight with me than his staying and acting in an honourable manner.'

Fortunately for her Sir George and his wife - those long-suffering but reliable parents - were not the folk to let their daughter-in-law down. He offered to settle on the children his stock in the Old Bank and to allow their mother the interest from it for her support, while it was arranged that she should go to Ballamoore as soon as the gales of winter should subside and render the passage less disagreeable. But a few months later her baby died. Her furniture was seized on behalf of her husband's creditors, though they refused to have it touched until she was ready to leave. When she did - in April, 1782 - she and her sister travelled by what seems a roundabout route, going first to Edinburgh and from there by diligence to Carlisle and Whitehaven. Sir George's friend Mr. Carrick of the Old Bank accompanied them as far as Edinburgh; a kindly act, but one for which he did not forget to charge Sir George with his expenses.

James, meanwhile, having been declared bankrupt, had arrived at Nantes and gone into partnership with his friend, Mr. Williams, under the style of Williams, Moore & Co., having establishments there and at L'Orient and business relations with both his brothers - George in London and Phil, in America. By no means abashed by his experiences in Scotland he tried to do things in a big way; asking for clerks to be sent to him from London - he suggested £6o a year for a good man - speaking of handling £50,00o worth of goods and offering, in magnificent style, posts and favours to any who might ask them of him. In fact, while actually living on small remittances from his father he was cutting quite a dash, making the best impression he could, associating with such important people as he could meet and, to do the thing in style, complying with French fashion by wearing wig and sword, etc. He says ' I am now so much of a Frenchman as to like their breakfasts - Strawberries, peaches, nectarines, apricots and grapes with wine are not disagreeable. Tea is a thing we never taste, therefore does not hurt.' Indeed he is not backward in giving his character when he says of himself, ' An eagerness for riches and avidity for fame was too deeply implanted in my nature for a merchant. I have been hasty, precipitate and swayed by passion. I know it, Sir - experience teaches caution - I do not yet consider myself fit for a mercantile life. However, I am a little altered from what I was - had I not met with a settlement here you would have heard of my being in a more active line (perhaps a prisoner) therefore it is better as it is.'

He could write regularly to his father at this time, but of his poor deserted wife all he can say is ' she shall hear from me when I am finally settled '; though he did suggest that if his father found it inconvenient to write she should do so for him. At the same time he asks that his niece Kitty (Philip's daughter living at Ballamoore) should write to him regularly, promising in his magnificent manner that if she did, ' in return she shall hear from me respecting her parents, and if she is exact I will encroach on her father's generosity and let her feel the effects of it.'

At first the house of Williams and Moore prospered - at least James says they did, though he acknowledges that they were running big risks. His partner left for England with a sick wife - from whom James received ' more than a sister's friendship,' leaving him, by now employing nine clerks, in charge. Instead of playing safe he at once launched out and set himself up in a private office and arranged for the building of a new and commodious house to be taken on a lease at £100 a year. In this he lived at the rate of £100 a month keeping ' an open table and a flowing bowl from morning till night.'

He dreamed of great trading schemes in which all the family were to share; even the younger members of the Quayle connections were to be allowed to benefit from his generosity. His numerous transactions were - to quote his own words - ' too much for the limits of a letter. By Heavens, Sir, trifles will not stick long before me.' But soon after this, despite all his 'fine language, the danger signals were flying. Phil. was willing to join in his proposed partnerships and could talk as big as James. But when it came to the point he would not, or, as he declared, owing to recent losses he could not, produce the required funds. Mr. Williams was evidently getting frightened and refused to be a party to financing George in London, and, worst of all, there was a good prospect of peace being declared between England and America -- which would ruin his business as direct trade would be resumed.

' I may now,' he writes, ' turn Saint or what I please for the business I shall do in this port. Variety directs my life and actions, therefor 1 must persue my Goddess where she will lead me. Could I end my speculations well we will gain £3,00o which is doing tolerably well from nothing - we were just entering into the spirit of business and now farewell to it - if I lose it may take away what I have striven hard to acquire.' And lose he did. ' The fickle Wheel of Fortune to which I am no stranger ' turned against him. Two big American banking houses in France failed, and as he had avowed himself an American he shared in the consequent unpopularity of his adopted countrymen, while the newly established firm had not had time to acquire credit enough to enable it to weather the storm.

So he broke with his partner and gave up his house and servants, buoying himself up with the hope that if a remittance should come from Philip for the large sum he owed them he might yet set up on his own account. His father had urged him to try and pay off his debts, but he said this was impossible - he neither knew the amount of them nor if his creditors would accept a composition. Having broken with Williams he went in for smuggling with an American named Nesbit, ' the only American here that I have not had occasion to see the courage of, and the only one I have been well with.' What they were smuggling, or where to, the letter gives no indication, and this is the last of the series we have, though he must have left soon after, as we know he arrived in Philadelphia a few months later. It would seem that he had with him in Nantes a son of Philip's named Thomas who would seem to have come out to join him from Ballamoore - he had asked for him to be sent in a letter to Sir George dated 9th May, 1;82 - though it was not until a year later that he told the boy's father he was with him. When the business in Nantes failed he first of all thought of getting his nephew into some good French firm or sending him for a voyage or two in the 'Moore' or some other vessel. Then he decided that Thomas, who 'writes and talks French more correctly and better than English,' was heavy and slow, and wanted dressing up a little. So he 'placed him with a very handsome woman, accomplished, much admired, with many officers in her retinue ' of whom he had knowledge, and who had `obligingly offered to brush him up. He is to remain there two months and will do well if he can have some spirit forced into him, but he wants the graces most terribly and now is the time to give them. There wants but care to stop in time that he may not get too far, for the lady he is with is one that requires attention, compliments and flattery - takes amiss any inattention and is a French Woman.'

Two more letters from James we have. In one dated Calcutta 25th November, 1785, and filled with platitudes but little news, he speaks of having been sent to seek for trade openings in unknown places, and goes on to say that if he found any he would keep the knowledge to himself as 'charity begins at home.' One thing at least we may say about James' ideas regarding business - they did not change much. The real object of the letter seems to have been to beg his father to try and obtain for him through influence at Home a post as a Writer. Not that he really wished to serve the Company, but because it would open the gate to other opportunities, and, as he says, he knows the language and having been some time in the country and able - in his own expressive terms - 'to turn himself about in it,' he would know just how these opportunities could be used.

The second letter, to his mother this time, is dated a fortnight later and gives the impression that he was in command of a ship flying Danish colours and on the point of leaving for Pegu and Siam. But it is very vague, and with it we must leave him sailing away into another exciting and interesting but probably wildcat venture.

And here too we must close the record of this Manx father and the sons who brought to him all their troubles, for whom he did so much, and who - as I said in my opening words - requited him so ill.



Back index next

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