Main Sections
Blog Categories

Myles Standish - A Manx Connection?

A glance at the genealogical table shows that the pattern of a father John with two sons, one being William, occurs in two generations. Not only with John the Son and his "towe sonnes", but also with John the Father, his son William (the elder) and the unnamed 'basse-boye'. What is known of the subsequent story of these last?

Hitherto we have not considered the contents of the Will of John the Father. He bequeathed to his base-boy 'one heiffer and 8 sheep, to be in my brother (ie. Gilbert's) keeping till the said boy come to years of discretion, and if the said boy die before the said years, that then the said goods be returned to the executors.' He also left his brother Gilbert the croft he was living in, for his natural life, and proceeds 'and if my base-boy do survive the said Gilbert, then the said boy shall have the foresaid croft being of the annual rent of 6d.' In a codicil to the Will, he leaves to his son William 'the Clerkship of Kirk Christ and Kirk Andrews, the Close of Knocksemerke, and the Largie Rennie'.

Gilbert had his own intacks which in 1618 passed into the name of his daughter Katherine, presumably on his death. Meanwhile in 1609 he executed a deed (not registered however till 1629) exchanging with William junior claims he might have on the Standish estates, for 'two little parcels of land near the ground of the said William' and the right to the hay-crop on land in 'Close Qnappan' (the Abbeyland which includes Ellanbane). (28)

There is enough in the above to make us ask whether the situation of the four William-and-John deeds may not be more applicable to the circumstances of the basse-boye and William the elder, both of whom were sons of a "late John Standish of Island Bane." It was in 1618 that Gilbert died; the 1618 deed of quittance could be read as the base-boy's receipt to William the elder that he had received at last the Father's bequest. The 1630 order from Lord Strange's Commission turns on the poverty of the younger brother, and the inadmissibility of his claim to be joint executor. This also accords better with the circumstances of an illegitimate son. Legitimate Standishes would hardly need cry poverty. John is also to surrender to William his title to 'fields called Eargartney', as opposed to the cottage, croft (and cow) which he retains. There seems a clear echo here of the provisions of the Father's legacy to his basse-boye. There seems a good case then for identifying the illegitimate son with the John of the deeds, and the husband of Margaret Carran.

There is a further argument. The land at issue in 1630, and again in 1641 is Close Moar and an adjacent croft. It was the area in Sulby round Primrose Hill, and as such is clearly the Close of Knocksemerke that the Father expressly left to his son William, in contradistinction to what he called 'the Whole' which represented what would pass to his legitimate heir. How then could Close Moar have been in any way the concern of the Father's grandchildren, the 'towe sonnes' of the Son?

So the pattern of the Lezayre Standishes takes final shape. The inheritance of old John of Island Bane became divided into two. His sons, William and the base-boy (whose name would thus turn out to be, not unexpectedly, John) were located in the west of the parish round Close Mooar and Primrose Hill. His grandson, William Jr. was established round the Nappin and Ellanbane.

We know nothing of the Close Moar Standishes, neither of William the Elder himself, nor of John and Margaret and their 'small children'. Was one of them the William Jr. of a sale in 1659 of a close adjoining Close Moar? Or did the Elder leave a son William? Equally lacking is any notion of where a Rose and a Barbara might fit in.

Burial records in Lezayre begin about 1700, and thereafter no Standishes figure. So we must presume that the Close Moar side did not long survive the extinction of the name in Ellanbane in 1672. Then this last passed via Christian Standish to the William Christians of Milntown. But for a century more sons bore the name of Standish Christian, not infrequently writing it in records of the Spiritual and Secular Courts, and so suggesting that chips of the old block, from which perhaps Captain Shrimpe was hewn, were still about in Man.

We said earlier that the puzzle of Myles lay in identifying and isolating the three lads that the old Father exasperatingly refrained from naming in his Will. If we are satisfied that John was the baseboy, and William jr., the younger of Son John's 'Towe sonnes', then where do we find the older of the two, born in 1584? The way is again open to entertain the possibility of Young's original hunch that the missing older son of the 'towe sonnes' John was our missing Myles-shaped blank.

These then are the facts. In the face of them we can see that far from there having been any lasting oral tradition to associate Myles (as opposed to his wives) with Ellanbane or Lezayre, the notion originates with William Cubbon about 1914. We can see too, thanks to the research facilities at the Manx Museum and the availability of Manx archives, that there is no trace at all of anyone named Myles Standish in our history.

This presentation has started from the one sure fact in the problem, rooting back in Myles himself, and its validity vouched for by his deathbed self-understanding that he could lay claim to lands in the Isle of Man. We might expect that had he really been born here, he would have passed on a clearer consciousness of this to his family. We might have expected that the settlement he played a large part in founding might have been called not the Lancastrian Duxbury, but something Manx. But even so, it has seemed right to look for a point in Manx Standish family history where such self-understanding made sense.

We know that in 1602 John Standish the Father left two grandsons born about the very year tradition assigns for Myles's birth. Through the next half-century we find clear traces of only one. We know that the writing in of William jr.'s name in the Lezayre rent-rolls could correspond with a surreptitious detention if a son born in 1584 were supplanted by a brother born in 1586. As John Couch Adams, calculating from the behaviour of other heavenly bodies the existence of an unknown planet, turned his telescope where he judged he should find it, and so discovered Neptune, so I have looked, but unlike him, found nothing tangible: only a Myles-shaped blank.

It cannot have escaped notice that while it has been simple enough to locate the time-and-place spot, it has been a tour-de-force to fit him in so as to satisfy all the facts. There never was a Manx Myles. Why should there have been a John who became a Myles? And could the base-boy really have been the figure I have made him? We do not even know his name. We should not have expected that he would claim to be a joint executor with William the elder. Nor that he would have linked his mother with his father in describing his inheritance. Equally we would not have expected William the Elder to have been still alive in 1641, especially since the Clerkship of Lezayre he inherited passed in 1630 to his greatnephew, John of Ellanbane. Without that little phrase 'and the lle of Man' in Myles Will, noone would ever have looked for him here. Without the clue of 'surreptitious detention', noone would have looked twice at the smooth transition of the estates here from John the Father to William jr.:the only fact that confuses anyone is that Will.

So in the state of present knowledge, the answer to 'Was Myles Standish a Manxman' must be not proven, hardly probable, but conceivably possible. We need some positive evidence that could corroborate the existence of a missing heir, and turn our blank into a credible, however shadowy, figure. Something perhaps like this:

In his Mannannan's Isle, (p.45) David Craine, that doyen of students of our archives, writes of what he calls a mysterious 1602, when Deemster John Curghie of Ballakillingan left the Island without the necessary permit. Later, witnesses testify that the Deemster with Standish of Ellanbane appeared one day on the Kirk Andreas shore, and asked Gilbert Christian and John Crenilt of that parish to transport them to Whithorn in Galloway. When the boat-owners demurred in the absence of a licence, Curghie and his companions - who apparently were on urgent business though its nature was never disclosed pushed the boat into the water. The Andreas men, unwilling to see their vessel disappear in the hands of others, jumped in with them and they voyaged together to Scotland. On their return they were arrested and the Deemster confined in Castle Rushen. (29)

Who was this Standish of Ellanbane? Could he be the missing Myles? It sounds as if he went off with Curghie. Did he think it best not to return with him?

David Craine notoriously refrained from confusing his readers with any facts about his sources. I have never been able to find this occasion despite reading through both the Lib. Scacc. and the Lib. Canc. from 1600 to 1606. I found a case which resembles it. (30). It was heard on Sept. 3 1604, and Curghie was sent to prison to await the Governor's sentence, having been found guilty by the Keys of leaving the Island without the Governor's licence, and for pretending that he had it. But his larger fault was of having written letters criticising the Deputy Governor in a manner described (among other adjectives) as slanderous, scurrilous and untrue. The boat involved and the goods in it were confiscated. Attached is the testimony of a Robert Moore and William Standish. Moore's title of 'Sir' indicates he was a curate. He testified:

On the 14th February last past, John Curghie, deemster, in his own house delivered unto this deponent two letters to be carried to John Crowe on into England. And further saith that the letters this day read openly in the face of the Court are the very self-same letters which he received from him. And further saith that the said John Curghie came to this deponent the same day, before he went to the sea, and asked him whether he had the letters. Whereupon the deponent answered: Feel upon this, and laying his hand on his bosom, which the said deemster did, and felt that he kept them safe, and he departed from him.

The other was: - William Standish of the age of 18 years or thereabouts sworn and examined deposeth and saith that Sir Robert Moore, minister, the day he went to the sea, told this deponent that he had received two letters from the deemster Curghie to be carried into England, and thereupon suffered this deponent to feel them in his bosom where he had laid them. And afterwards the said deponent meeting the said deemster at Loughtoun asked him whether he had sent any letters with Sir Robert Moore into England or not. Whereupon the deemster answered that he had sent a letter to John Crowe. (31)

This is surely part of the story David Craine tells, yet it is certainly nothing like all of it. There is no suggestion here that the Deemster himself contemplated a clandestine trip away from the Island. In such a case he would have carried his own letters. This incident took place in February 1603/4, whereas Craine speaks of 1602. Craine is extremely circumstantial and detailed as regards names and places, and it was for Whithorn and not England that Curghie and his companions embarked. There were thus two completely different events behind Curghie's offence: an unlicenced departure to Scotland, and mischievous letters sent to a John Crowe in England. They are linked by the presence of a Standish.

Where then did David Craine find the account of some other investigation involving Christian and Crenilt? If the document could be found it might throw light on our problem. As it is, the general background of the events seem to be indicated by a footnote in A. W. Moore's History of the Isle of Man (p.223). He is writing of Sir Thomas Gerard, who was Governor in the interim following the death of Earl Ferdinando, when the succession for the Lordship of Man was in dispute. Queen Elizabeth took over direct rule in view of the critical Irish troubles of those years and the danger of the Island falling into Spanish or Catholic hands. Only in 1609 was the Island passed back to the Derbys. Moore writes -

There had been a complaint against Gerard's conduct, as in 1605 the Lord Keeper asked the Officers and Keys "if he had done any constitutional act, or anything that would not tend to the good of the Isle, and to the maintenance of His Highnesses' Royalties", and they answered in the negative. (32)

Gerard is a name that features more than once in the complicated story of the Lancashire Standishes. And on the Island in 1595, the two Johns, father and son, were charged with being involved in a fracas with a Christopher Gerard (33) . For breaking Christopher's head and other hurts, the Standishes paid 30/- in fines and 4/- in compensation. There was a third man with them, whose aggression was limited to drawing his dagger (fine 4/-). His name was John Curghie. Have we here an echo of some attempted palace revolution? For if John the Father disliked Gerards (or Garrets), he was friendly enough with Curghle to leave the Deemster 20/- in his 1602 will.

There are other whisps of signs of Standish scrapes in those years. A stray piece of paper among the Wills of 1606 seems to record that William Standish had a sentence of 40 days imprisonment commuted by the General Sumner, Edward Christian, to a fine of 10/-, to be made in the form of a gift of a table for the Chapel at Ramsey. Was this also an indication of official hostility to the family?

If only we could tell which Standish pushed the boat out on the Andreas coast that day in 1602, and seemingly went off with John Curghie to Scotland. Old Father John was near his end. John the Son was already dead. It would hardly be William jr., who would be only sixteen. It might have been William the Elder. Or could it have been the man we are looking for, the missing 'Myles' himself? Little blame if under the circumstances he thought it injudicious to return, and once in Whithorn, headed for Leiden instead.

The answer must be somewhere in the archives. Should his name prove to be William, we are back at square one. But if it were John - or any other name (except perhaps Gilbert) - it could prove to be the first faint footprint on the Manx shore on the trail of a real Myles. It would be the unearthing of the first piece of fabric for William Cubbon's otherwise unsubstantial vision, without which there seems little justification for affording Myles' memory any Manx local habitation and name. But if it were found, what a wonderful postage stamp the incident would make!


(1) Porteus' studies began in 1912 with the chance discovery that in 1529 a Margaret Croft, widow, was paying rental for a list of holdings in Lancashire of precisely the same both in name and order as those in Myles' will (Piccope MSS, vol. iii, p.42, No. 114)

(2) It is from this lost document that American students calculated Myles' birth as about 1584. (New England Historical & Genealogical Register, Oct. 1914, The Ancestry of Myles'Standish, p.348).

(3) Lawrence Hill's forthcoming book Gentlemen of Courage Forward will trace the origins and exploits of the Standish family from the Doomsday Book through 41 generations to the present day. He calls Myles its most famous son, and accepts his Manx birth on the arguments of Porteus and G. V. C. Young's Myles Standish, Pilgrim, First Manx American.(4) The Will of Alexander Standish (1702) shows he had already employed lawyers in both America and England to investigate the claims. A particular effort in the long and fruitless search that followed was in 1846, when an association of Standish descendants examined the Chorley Parish Registers.(5) A. W. Moore, Manx Worthies, p.205.

(6) It is doubtful if Cubbon was right to speak of Huan as 'of Ellanbane' in 1540. The first documentary evidence I have found of the connection is dated 1618. It infers that the John Standish who died in 1602 was 'of Island Bane'.

(7) I.O.M. Nat. Hist. & Antiquarian Soc. Proceedings, vol. ii, pp 287ff.

(8) We cannot be sure whether Myles descends from John or Huan, but a strong argument in favour of Huan is found in the Liber. Vast. of 1604. In this year a new setting-book was made of Intack-holders, and they were asked to accept it or show due cause otherwise. Until then Huan's name (in the form of Evan) had appeared on two intacks, although he must have been dead for some years. But these are now assigned to William, together with those that had been held by John. If William was thus heir to both John and Haun, it can be inferred that John of Island Bane was Huan's heir, and so his son. Also Standish-watchers have noted that Huan never signed any quittance in respect of the Lancashire claims, such as his brother John had done in 1572.

(9) There being no parochial records for these years, no dates can be assigned to the brothers John and Huan, nor is there knowledge of the nature of their families. Hence all genealogical tables in these studies are only speculative. Cubbon (Letter of June 1914) says the last Standish in the Keys was a John in 1717, but records do not seem to confirm this.

(10) Manks-Svensk Press, 1984 & 1985. Henceforth referred to as PMS & PIN.

(11) R. D. Kermode: Annals of Kirk Christ, Lezayre, 1954, p. 183.

(12) Liber. Scacc., 1604. No. 35.

(13) PMS, p. 13.

(14) ibid, p. 16.

(15) ibid, p. 17.

(16) John M. Robinson, late of Salt Lake City, has used the Genealogical Resources of that city to collect all recorded details of the Standish family. One English Standish had indeed borne the name of Miles. He is mentioned in Chancery PRO documents of 1438, as a Citizen and Grocer of London.

(17) Mr. Robinson has also made a complete Computer print-out of Standish holdings of intack (as opposed to quarterland or farms) in Lezayre through the 16th and 17th centuries. Their numbers rose from 2 in 1539 (in the name of Huan) to 24 in 1600, (John 15, Gilbert 5, and Huan 4.) in 1639 some 17 pieces were held in the name of William.

(18) R. D. Kerinode, op. cit., p.88' . . . sheweth how the Lord hath been pleased to call for John Standish their Parish Clerk and the place therefore void . . . Episcopal Wills, 1671/2.

(18a) Liber Canc. 1637, No. 77, implies that at that date William's wife was Mary Quaile. Margery Radcliffe must have been the second wife, since John's will of 1672 indicates that Margery Radcliffe was still alive, and John requested that he be buried in his mother's grave.

(19) PMS, p. 13.

(20) ibid, p.22.

(21) ibid, p. 13.

(22) Cf. Liber Monasteriorum, pp.228 & 251 for the Quarterland or Farm holdings. The Intack records were altered more promptly in 1604, when the Lib. Vast. shows the transfer to William with the comment that he was John's' nephew', the current word for grandson. (Cf Latin 'nepos'). For Standish high-handedness, the Father, as Clerk for Andreas, had land tenure written up by the Quest simply 'on the word of John Standish'. In 1582 William Kissage's claim against him for witholding land in Close Moar was never brought to trial on technical grounds.,

(23) Lib. Canc., 1642, No. 8.

(24) ibid, 1630, No. 21.

(25) The context of this 1630 award was the period of controversy and confusion over land-tenure stretching as far back as 1593, when all landholders were required to provide written leases for their property. This had been received by many with great suspicion as the beginning of a calculated legal ploy by the Stanleys to establish them as mere tenants-at-will of the Lord, and a fatal step in their claim always to have been free-holders. In the course of the struggle, in 1630, Lord Strange (later the 'great Stanlagh') sent over Commissioners to complete the provision of leases throughout the Island. They did not effect much. A. W. Moore History of the Isle of Man, (p. 880) cites Lord Strange as saying they were 'ill-chosen' and had 'merry times and bad reckonings'. One of the categories recognised for assigning leases was 'poverty'.

(26) Lib. Canc., 1642, No. 7.

(27) It must be asked: If the Son died before the Father, could he really have been entitled to be called 'of Island Bane'?

(28) Lib. Canc., No. 2.

(29) David Craine; Manannan's Isle, Manx Museum & National Trust, 1955. p.45.

(30) Lib.Scacc., 1604, pp 37 & 38.

(31) ibid, p.35.

(32) A. W. Moore, History of the Isle of Man, p.223, note.

(33) Lib. Scacc., 1595. pp 18 & 19. PMS, p. 15, says 'Gerard or Garrett'. The text reads Garrett.

(34) Though I have not since found any evidence of this sort, I have seen the will of Margaret Standish, daughter of John the Father, dated 1633 (Archidiaconal Wills, 1637), which (a) shows William the Elder was still living then, and (b) refers to a John Standish in a way consonant with his being the base-boy.