[from Ellan Vannin vol 3 #9 p377/383 Dec 1928]

[W. Cubbon always had an interest in genealogy but, for all his librarianship, his genealogies need careful checking]


[As more than one writer has made the statement that the Rev. T. E. .Brown had no Manx blood in his veins, the following paper, read by Mr W. Cubbon to the newly-formed Tom Brown Brotherhood, in Douglas, will prove of more than ordinary interest and should settle the question once for all]

On the 23rd October, 1739, Captain Robert Brown the First, the great-grandfather of Tom Brown, was married to Margaret Cosnahan in Douglas Chapel.

I do not know who her father was : it was possibly the Rev. John Cosnahan, Vicar of Braddan, or it may have been Hugh Cosnahan, the merchant, of Douglas, who was the father of the first High-Bailiff of Douglas.

At any rate, we know that she was of the well-known Cosnahan family of Ballavilley, Kirk Santan, which produced five vicars, and the mortal remains of whom lie under what is known as "the great stone " in that churchyard.

Our first record of the Cosnahans is Sir John Quosnoghan, who was Vicar of German in 1587. He lived behind the churchyard in Peel market place, On the Bishop’s Barony. He had a son called Sir William Coshegan, who succeeded him. Here is a reference to Sir William, in a document signed by the Warden; of Kirk German, in the year 1634:—

" Our minister was admitted to preach by the Rev. Father in God George Lloyd, and so continnueth from that time to our Comforte, blessd be ye Almighty."

Answering the Bishop’s question if the minister keeps an alehouse, they say : —

"Our minister’s daughter sometymes selleth a suppe of ale, but yt hindereth not his power nor discharges his calling."

The Rev. William had a brother called Sir Philip Coshegan , who went to Kirk Soddon (Santan) in 1634. He married into the family of the Moores of Ballavilley, and the Cosnahans subsequently became the owners of that land for many generations, until the Crebbins came in by marriage with the Cosnahans.

Coming back to Captain Robert Brown the first, there is a document, dated 1743, in which Robert Brown’s name appears as the person responsible for bringing two Douglas carpenters before the Ecclesiastical Court for working at their trade on Sunday morning in Douglas Harbour.

Robert was a captain of a Douglas trading vessel. He was probably an owning master. There are Customs records of him as master bringing goods into the port of Douglas. There exists in the Museum a specimen of his handwriting, which is certainly not that of an illiterate man.

His first child was Catherine, born in 1740 ; Philip, in 1742; John in 1744; Hugh. in 1747 ; Margaret, in 1750 Eunice, in 1753; Jane, in 1757; and Robert, in 1761.

The last (named Robert after his father) was Tom Brown’s grandfather. We will call him Captain Robert the Second. He was baptised in Douglas Chapel on 30th September, 1761. He followed his father’s profession, and, in time, became a captain also.

He married, somewhere about the year 1778, Jane Drumgold, daughter of James Drumgold, who gave his name to a street in Douglas, which had been formerly called, in old documents, Red Cross Street.

Jane Drumgold’s mother was Jane Stowell. According to an authority, Mr. R. J. Moore, who was High-Bailiff of Peel, these Stowells belonged to Ballastole, Maughold. This was also Tom Brown’s opinion, and his sister, Mrs. Williamson see p. 108 of "Manx Worthies"), repeats that statement. If this is correct, Tom Brown’s pedigree on the Stowell’s side can be traced to John Stoale, of Ballastole, in 1643.

There is preserved an official record, dated in 1763, of Jane Drumgold’s qualification for confirmation in Douglas Chapel. It is interesting to note that her name is written by the Vicar alongside that of her friend and companion Eunice Brown, the sister of the young man who was eventually to marry her.

The first child of Captain Robert Brown the Second and Jane Drumgold was named Breaker [sic ?], and he died in infancy.

Captain Robert the Second died at sea abroad, early in his career.

His only other child (at any rate, the only son) was Robert Brown the Third, who became Tom Brown’s father (1792-1846). He was baptised in Douglas Chapel on 10th February, 1792.

The Rev. Robert Brown married Dorothy Thomson. He was chaplain of St. Matthew’s; and afterwards Vicar of Braddan. He had eight children, viz. : Robert the fourth) ; Hugh Stowell, called after his relative, Hugh Stowell, of Ballaugh ; William ; Thomas Edward, called after the Rev. Thomas Howard and the Rev. Edward Craine, Vicar of Conchan ; Alfred ; Dora ; Margaret; Harriet.

The Rev. Hugh Stowell Brown Tom’s eldest brother), in his Autobiography (p. 4) says : —" Although I am a Manxman born, I do not know that I have any Manx blood in my veins."

I have already given ample and undoubted proof of the fact that there was very good Manx blood in his veins, coming from the Cosnahans and the Stowells.

He continues :" I have English blood from the Birketts, Scotch from the Thomsons, amid Irish from the Drumgolds."

He is probably right respecting his mother’s father, John Thomson, belonging to Jedburgh ; but we had many Thompsons in the Island at that time, sailing to and front Scotland, and it is quite possible that his mother was one of these. In 1759 there was baptised in St. Matthew’s a Margaret Thompson, daughter of Mr. John Thompson and Mrs. Dorothy Martin. You will notice the Christian name John in each case.

Hugh, continuing, says his mother’s mother was Eleanor Birkett. She died in 1842, aged 82 ; therefore she was born about 1759.

Birkett is not a common name. It is worthy of note that his grandmother, Eleanor Birkett, was born 27 years after the Rev. Thomas Birkett became Chaplain of St.. Matthew’s, in Douglas (1732-5). He, I believe, came from Cumberland, as a young man. It is possible he was the father of Eleanor Birkett, Hugh’s grandmother. The Rev. Philip Moore, the scholarly Vicar of St. Matthew’s. married, in 1737, a Mary Birkett.

It is, perhaps, also worthy of note that there were other Birketts connected with the Island. The first we learn of was William Burkett, who was a corporal in Captain James Chaloner’s company at Castle Rushen in 1659. The second was Thomas Burkett, an able-bodied sailor, who was concerned with Fletcher Christian and Peter Heywood, of Douglas, in the Mutiny of the " Bounty," in 1787.

In addition, I find that in 1794 there was baptised in St.. George’s Church, Douglas, a Henry Robert Birkett, son of Edward Joseph Birkett and Dorothy Black. So that the Birketts were not strangers to Douglas.

* * *

The query might be put : From what source did Tom Brown get his poetic gift ? I do not think he got it from the Brown side of the family.

The name Brown , prior to the 19th century , was an uncommon one in Mann, but there existed a family of that name, as landowners, from the time of our earliest Manorial records. In 1513 it is recorded that Robyn Brown held a portion of the Treen of Lambfell, in Kirk German . In 1601 and in 1603 there is recorded one Henry MacBrown, as holder of an Intack in Ballaugh.

In the parish of Kirk German, again in 1643, we have the record of the family owning lands and. houses in Peel Town, one of which pieces of ground was called "Brown’s Garden." The family is also recorded as owners in Peel in 1703. Less than 40 years after that date we have the record of Tom Brown’s great grandfather’s marriage with Margaret Cosnahan.

I suggest that Tom Brown got his great intellectual gifts from the Stowells.

Captain Robert Brown the Second had a sister Ann who married Thomas Stowell, of Ballastole, Maughold. He was, according to High-Bailiff Moore, a member of the: same family as Anne’s own mother.

Thomas Stowell and Ann Brown had 15 sons and one daughter. He had the reputation of being a great wit. He would go to Douglas Market to buy provisions, and declare that he had a family of 15 sons and each had a sister ! This family was great in bulk, hut it also was exceedingly good in quality. I will illustrate the quality by naming a few of them.

The first, John , born in 1762, died in 1799. He was an advocate and became Master of the Peel Grammar School. He wrote really fine verse, and copies of his poems are now very rare.

Let me give you a few lines to show the quality, written in 1790. He is describing the events surrounding the great struggle between the patriotic House of Keys and the selfish fourth Duke of Athol. "Squire Saugrogh " was Captain John Taubman, the leader of the House of Keys against the Duke. :

Witness Squire Saugrogh when the news was told.
How that his country's precious rights were sold
He tore his wig, he let his oxen go,
"O Yee , " He Cry‘d . "what should poor Mannin do!"
Then posted on , ten times as mad as Paul.
Nor stopt till he had reachd the Council Hall
Where, in a gloomy,sadly, pompous state
The Great, the Grand August Assembly sate.

Our hero made his motion to the house,
Thrice scratch’d his pate, the third time seize a l--se
Nor smuggled him, as common people do,
But held the culprit up to public view,
And in the presence of the Twenty-Four,
Put him to death : Would Cato have done more
Thus ev’ry tyrant should be serv ‘d," he said,
Who dares to trample on a Manksmans head."

[Fpc - it may be worth reading further as the poem is actually in praise of the Duke of Athol ! and not as that great manx nationalist William Cubbon would have us believe]

The second brother was Thomas Stowell, Clerk of the Rolls, who published the first Collection of the Manx Statutes in 1792.

The third of the fifteen sons was Hugh Stowell. the great divine and scholar, Rector of Ballaugh, who was Bishop Wilson’s biographer.

[ Hugh’s son (also Hugh), the well-known Dean of Salford, was a gifted poet, who displayed that talent chiefly in hymn writing. Every collection includes his well-known hymn : —

From every stormy wind that blows.
From every swelling tide that flows,
There is a sure. a calm to retreat,
'Tis found beneath the mercy seat.

and Sunday School scholars in every land have sung ~

Jesus is our Shepherd,
Wiping every tear
Folded in his bosom
What have we to fear ?

I have come across an unpublished poem, written by the Rev. Hugh Stowell in 1821, on the death of his uncle, the Clerk of the Rolls; a very fine effort.]

The fourth in this family was William, a painter who met with an accident and became a teacher. He assisted his nephew, the Rev. John Stowell, who was chaplain and schoolmaster at St. Matthew’s.

The fifth was the Rev. Joseph Stowell, who became headmaster of the two Peel schools : the old Grammar and the Mathematical.

I think it is a reasonable assumption that Tom Brown got his great gift of poetry from the Stowells. The only Brown before Tom who showed an aptitude for literature was his father. In this case he was only exhibiting the Stowell facility for versification.


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