[From Peel City Guardian 16 Sep 1899]


Every visitor to the Isle of Man knows the pretty valley through which both road and and railway run from Douglas, to Peel: And everyone making this journey across the Island has seen midway between these two towns, the tall chimney of an important lead mine rising conspicuously from an elevated position on the southern slope. It overlooks Marown Church and the village of Crosby, and Mr Hall Caine’s romantic residence at the foot of Greeba. Striking as its situation, the name of the place is even more striking to the Scottish tourist. The mine and the estate to which it belongs are both called Ellerslie after the Renfrewshire home of Wallace, our debt to whom was so well summed up by Lord Rosebery the other day. One is naturally surprised at the occurrence of a place name so thoroughly Scottish in the midst of the characteristic Cregs and Slieus and Ballas of Mona. It is more astonishing even than the Manx name on Ailsa Craig. But the story of this exotic planting on the kindly soil where it has taken firm root is a simple though a sad one, and it may be interesting to students of Burns as offering one more proof of the clear insight into character and true judgment of men possessed by the poet,

In a letter to Mrs. Dunlop, written at Ellisland on the 10th of April, 1790, Burns said ;-"Do not you think, Madam, that among the few favoured of Heaven in the structure of their minds (for such there certainly are), there may be a purity, a tenderness, a dignity, an elegance of soul, which are of no use, nay, in some degree absolutely disqualifying, for the truly important business of making a man’s way; into life ? If I am not much mistaken, my, gallant young friend, Anthony, is very much under these dismal qualifications:' '

It was in 1828, nearly forty years after the words were written, that Anthony Dunlop died, but his career throughout was an illustration of the accuracy with which Burns gauged the character of a youth of sixteen. The youngest son of a large family, with a good education, a well-balanced mind, gentle disposition, high spirit, and strong sense of honour, he was yet unfitted to face the rough work and endure the hard knocks of the world. But, as is very often the case with those of like sensitive and impressionable natures, be receives more than his fair share of the same rough work and hard knocks. Anthony was sent from home in his thirteenth year to make a career for himself in the Royal Navy. He saw a good deal of service, chiefly in the East Indies. But promotion came more slowly then than in the succeeding years of Nelson's wars, and he retired before he had attained to the command of a ship of his own. In 1808 he married Ann Cunningham, daughter of the collector of Customs at the port of Irvine. For some years he and his wife resided in Cumberland, but the restlessness born of a life spent at sea drove him to the Isle of Man, where he dreamed of making a fortune at last as a tenant-farmer. The place he chose for this operation does not appear a very likely one to a competent judge today. It was the farm of Banks' Howe, on the bare upland lying between Kirk Onchan and the sea, where the Howestrake golf links now are. Breezy and bracing, it is an ideal spot for a holiday, but the soil is poor and thin, and capable of raising only the lightest crops. Perhaps its proximity to Douglas captured his fancy. Perhaps admiring the beauty of hill and glen and seaworn cliff, he made like Burns at Ellisland, "a poet's, not a farmer's choice." Perhaps after all it was the low rent that was its attraction, and one would think it might be possible to live, even today, on a farm of 517 acres, within easy reach of markets, for which the owner required only £300 a year. But long before the 15 year's lease, of which Mr Dunlop entered in 1808, had expired, he was anxious to be rid of Banks’ Howe. During the latter years of his residence there--that was after the peace of 1815--the price of farm produce fell to an alarming extent, and a dispute with his landlord in regard to deteriorations; like Burn’s difference with John Morin, of Laggen, when he left Ellisland, for Dumfries, only made matters worse. In 1822 he gave up Banks' Howe; and tried another venture. The estate of Ballakilley, in the parish of Kirk Marown, was for sale. It consisted of nearly 500 acres with another 100 acres of mountain land and £8,000 was the price. This did not seem too high, for the property was declared to be tithe-free [fpc - it is Bishop's Barony which may have explained this confusion], and the taxes were not heavy. Mr Dunlop calculated, that he ought to clear £1,000 a year from it, and in this expectation he concluded the purchase of the estate. Rejoicing, in its beautiful situation, though all unaware of the mineral wealth concealed beneath the surface, he prepared to make it a pleasant home for his old age. First of all, he altered its uncouth native name to Ellerslie, in remembrance of the place where him great ancestor, Sir William Wallace. was born. By this name it is still known, and Ballakilley is forgotten; except by a few very aged people, who learned it from their elders long ago. The next step was the erection of a noble mansion, with the necessary farm buildings close at hand The square of offices was much more commodious than is usually, found on an estate of the size, being over 60 yards across, and the mansion, too, was large in proportion to the property. The works were, of course, very costly, but unlimited credit was at the disposal of the owner of Ellerslie. For a time fortune seemed to shower favours on him with a liberal hand. He was elected Member of the House of Keys for the parish of Kirk Marown, an office he held for five years. And he was particularly, happy in his family life. His four sons all gave promise of being successful men. The eldest, William Wallace Dunlop, received his commission as ensign in the Fiftieth Regiment, and went out to India. The second son, Alexander, entered the house of John Anderson & Co., in Glasgow, and afterwards went to Buenos Ayres to conduct a branch business for that firm. Charles, the third son, also went into business under Alston, Freeling & Co., merchants in Liverpool. The youngest son, Franklin, was entered at Woolwich Academy to prepare, like his eldest brother, for the army. Three daughters remained to brighten the social life of the home at Ellerslie.

But clouds began in time to darken Mr Dunlop's happiness. First of all came a lawsuit at the instance of Mr Banks, the landlord of the bare, rocky farm he had left, who demanded payment of £4,000 for deteriorations suffered by his property. The claim was unjust and exorbitant, being founded chiefly on the loss of some untenanted cottages, the ruins of which Mr Dunlop had cleared off the ground. Nevertheless there was the trouble of resisting it, and the worry and anxiety attendants in making good his position before the Courts. Then Bishop Murray commenced an action for the recovery of tithes, said to be in arrears for fifteen years, although Mr Dunlop had been assured that Banks' Howe was in reality tithe-free, and subject only to a modified payment of 30/- per annum. Last of all. there was the enormous expense of the new buildings. He did not find himself so ready as he anticipated to meet the tradesmen's accounts and he was compelled to borrow twice over £6,000 When the crisis was approaching he told part of his troubles in confidence to James Grierson, a Dumfriesshire gentleman who had some business with the Island, and was a frequent visitor at Ellerslie. Arrangements were made for meeting the impending crash, and. the compatriots agreed to stand by one another. Suddenly, and without warning, at the end of April, 1828, Mr Dunlop left for Scotland. A month later he wrote from Edinburgh to Mr Grierson, explaining that circumstances had occurred which induced him to leave the Isle of Man, and, might render his return very uncertain. He concluded with the assurance that Mr Grierson would not suffer any inconvenience through what he had undertaken to do for him, and that he had left in his wife's hands all necessary documents in due order. His friend, alarmed at the tone of this letter, and anxious if possible to render assistance, wrote at once enclosing a cheque for £50 which he hoped might be of service. But the cheque was never cashed. To the claims of the Manx creditors such a sum was merely a drop in the bucket,

For the next month Mr Dunlop was practically in concealment, though some of his relatives knew quite well where he was On the morning of the 29th of June, 1828, he was found dead in the bedroom he had occupied or a night or two previously in an Edinburgh hotel. This was the end of a life which was pleasant and useful in many of its aspects though the good fortune It appeared to deserve persistently avoided it. Mr Dunlop showed high ability, refined taste, and the desire to make all happy with whom he came into contact. But he was deficient in that hardness known as worldly wisdom: His gentleness and unselfishness prevented him from being able to make a bargain in his own favour, and he would rather yield to extortion than resist it. There seems something amiss when a fate like his is all that the world has in reserve for men who are endowed with such honourable qualities. The Scottish name he gave his Manx estate recalls the tragedy of his life; and those who know the story of his misfortunes are no longer surprised at the occurrence of the name Ellerslie in Man:- Glasgow Herald.


[see ch11 of Bullock's History for a brief pen portrait of Dunlop; also Advocates Notebook page 50 re court case]




Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2001