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Myles Standish - A Manx Connection?

Young's discoveries rendered Cubbon's genealogy obsolete, and Young constructs his own. [13]. He attributes three sons to the deceased John: John , Myles and William. He bases this on the assumption that the Standishes habitually called their first-born sons John, evidencing it by "the fact that Myles' father and grandfather were each called John, and Myles appears to have called his own eldest son John" [14]. This is of course not true of the Ormskirk Standishes in general: Robert and Margaret called their first son Thomas, and the second John. But it would be true also of William jr.. However Young holds so firmly to his hunch that he posits an eldest son John for "John the Son", and in order that Myles might be the true heir of the Father in 1602, assumes his early death.

In this case the name of the heir should have been inserted in the Abbeylands roll following the death of the Father in 1602. But the name John Standish appears in the 1607 roll. The Derbys had the sequestrated Abbeylands assigned to them from the Crown only in 1609, and a basic new roll appeared in 1610. On this the name is William Standish jr. Why was it eight whole years before the change was made? Most probably because the roll was ill-kept, and changes within the family were let pass, not least because it would cost the family a "fine" to register the change. It might also be because until the heir became of age the estate remained in the care of the executors of the old owner, and William only came of age in 1607. But the real question is: why is it that the name of Myles was never inserted?

It is here that Young brings in Jeremy Bang's discovery in Leiden of an entry in the books of St. Catherine's hospital of a soldier brought in on October 18, 1601. The entry names him as "Nys Sickem" altered to "Nyls Stansen". This would be a most credible sighting of Myles, were it not that the entry concludes with the note that he died on November 1, 1601. If it were indeed our Myles, history can have few cases of greater exaggeration in reports of death. Bangs maintains that it really was Myles, and that by an understandable mistake his discharge from hospital was recored as burial.

Yet the question remains: when John the Father made his Will in June, 1602, did he or did he not believe Myles was dead? If he did, why did he speak of "John's towe sonnes" ? And if not, why was not Myles' name written in the roll? It was not till eight years later that William Jr.'s name was entered. Is it credible that the truth was not established by then? Myles was hardly oblivious to the parish from which conceivably he would take a wife, and whose lands he would tenaciously claim all his life, and it is inconceivable that the false rumour would not have been exposed. The Leiden conjecture rather deepens than resolves the problem of Myles. The fact remains that having come to the exact point in Standish history and Manx history where we should find the name of Myles in our archives, it is just not there.

Many as are the mysteries that surround the personality of Myles Standish - his religion, his lost lands and his ancestry yet the greatest mystery is of his own name. No one of such a name seems to have been known in Europe.

Young overcalls his hand in citing J. J. Kneen's Personal Names of the Isle of Man, p.xxxv, as a witness for Myles' Manx origin:

Another indication that Myles did not belong to the English branches of the family, is that the name Myles does not occur in any of those branches. However the Christian name Myles is, according to J. J. Kneen a substitute for the Celtic name Maolmhuire, and it is to be found in early Manx registers. (15)

But the fact is that among the personal names listed by Kneen as actually found in early records, neither the name Myles nor Maolmhuire ever features. The name was common in England (there was a Miles Standish in London in 1438) but it is never found recorded in the Isle of Man. (16)

Conceivably it might be a corruption of more common names like Michael, or even of that ancient Manx forename, still to be found in the 16th century, Mold. There may be no baptismal registers in the Island till 1596, but land records list scores of names of individuals (chiefly male), and never once is the name Myles found. It is quite inconceivable that any Manx family would have christened a son Myles in 1584. And Standishes least of any. For in all the traces of that family in the 16th and 17th centuries, only some half-dozen male names occur; Edward, Reginald, Peter (early 16th century), Huyn/Huan/Evan (1540-90), John (1530-1670), William (1580-1660) and Gilbert (1580-1620). And on the female side, there seems as little likelihood of Standishes calling a daughter Rose or Barbara.

The dilemma that dogs any attempt to establish a Manx origin for Myles (or an English one for that matter) is that all arguments must be from silence. It was to be some 35 years after his birth that the name now written so indelibly in history, left any written record of itself.

We can say with absolute confidence that if a man so named did ever see light in the Isle of Man, the name he would have been given must have been quite different. Is it then possible that Myles was a name acquired later in life? In the (unlikely) case that his baptismal name was Mold, self-consciousness might have led him to change it. But after all, 'Myles' is latin for 'soldier', and he was par-excellence the soldier of the Pilgrims. Could his profession have given him a nick-name that replaced an original baptismal name, which for Manx Standishes of that day wquld in all likelihood have been Huan or Gilbert, but most probably John?

On such an hypothesis, our line of investigation can only be to plot the family's presence in the Island in the hopes of finding on such a map some Myles-shaped gap, some vestige of a member of the family who dropped out of the Manx scene. Understandably, it could only be a faint trace, for he must have left the Island as a teenager.

Porteus has shown, and Young collected all his documentation in appendix 1 of PMS (pp 37-43), how the Standishes were an ancient landowning family with branches established over large tracts of Lancashire. They had family connections with the Derbys. Thomas Standish, a presumptive great-grand-uncle of Myles, married a Stanley of Latham. Several other names featuring in these documents, eg., Gerrard, Halsall, Stopforth, have been shown by Cubbon to have been associated in the 16th century with the Stanley administration of the Island. Like the Halsalls and the Radcliffes and other families of Lancashire the Standishes entered Island history following the establishment of the Stanley dynasty in the 15th century, and came to relate in status and influence towards the indigenous Manx somewhat as William the Conqueror's Normans did to the Anglo-saxons. They were an echelon of privilege and education, and formed the administrative class to govern a native population largely illiterate. As such, any Manxness in Myles would come from the distaff side, probably through Moores and Laces.

But unlike the Halsalls and Radcliffes, the Standishes did not root and spread here. How relatively restricted was their presence can be read from the Manx parish registers, where in all the total of baptisms, marriages and burials, there is not a single occurrence of the name before the 19th century. Even if such records were only officially begun in 1596, and in Lezayre, their particular parish, not till a century later, such absence signifies their fewness. Land records carry the name back to their earliest form, about 1500, when an Edward had a house in Castletown, and others were found in Pulrose. Only some half-dozen male forenames are found, and the male line at Ellanbane was extinguished in 1672. All evidence, then, suggests a single family, descendants of Robert and Margaret of Ormskirk, and particularly from their two younger sons, John and Huan.

In 16th century Lezayre their name is prominent among the intack holders. This seems to have been a time of reclaiming parcels of land from the curraghs, and Standishes are found holding concessions not only in Lezayre but in Ballaugh, Jurby and Andreas also, sometimes in their own names, more often in partnership, and frequently changing their holdings. Over threequarters of the century only three forenames are found: Huan, Gilbert, and predominantly John. I have found this name about 1535 among the holders of brewing licences in Malew. He would no doubt be the second son of Robert and Margaret, and could well be the John de Insula de Man who signs quittances on the Lancashire lands in 1572. But the grand John of the century was the one who besides holding intacks, was Coroner of Ayre from 1579, Clerk of Andreas, 1587, and a member of the Keys from 1587. Whether he was son to the other John or to Huan, he was known as of Island Bane. (17)

Apart from Gilbert (who died in 1618), only two names feature in the 17th century: William and John. Apart from a single cottage in the latter name, William dominates the land holdings. There were two Williams, sometimes differentiated by the terms Elder and Junior. There were also two Johns, undifferentiated in any way. William the elder was a son of John the Father; Junior was the grandson. It is the Johns who are the problem. One became Clerk of Lezayre in 1630, and died in 1671. He can be identified with the only son of William jr., who inherited Ellanbane. (18) The other was married to Margaret Carran, and he is the key to the mystery of Myles.

In this profile of the family, the link between the 16th and 17th centuries is the Will of John the Father, which however much it leaves in shadow, focuses a light on the most critical point of the search, and centres on the one moment in the family history which corresponds to the conditions of Myles' Will. Myles' claim was based on two distinct titles, one to the Lancashire estates, and quite another to the Manx lands. None of Porteus' documents ever alludes to any Manx lands in their claims. Manx land must have its own Manx title. Then again, only on the death of Huan of Ormskirk without male issue could that inheritance pass to the heirs of John or Huan. This occurred in 1606.

The generation of a great-grandson of such a 'second or younger son' was that represented in the Father's Will by 'John's towe sonnes' left unnamed. One can be identified as William jr, who inherited the Abbeyland holdings, lived in Ellanbane, married Margery Radcliffe, (18a), had a son John and a daughter Joney, served in the Keys, featured briefly on the Manx political stage in events connected with the English Civil War, and died in 1660.

But what of the other brother? Was Young right in his hunch that the first-born son of John the Son would have been named John? (19) And could the fact that he leaves no trace in history be due not to an early death, but to a teenage departure to adventures such as Young portrays (20), associated with Sir Francis Vere, brother-in-law of the then Earl of Derby? Could he be the Myles of history?

At any rate, only an elder brother of the William jr. who was born in 1586, and who had his name ultimately entered in the Abbeyland rolls, could fulfil the description of Myles as born in 1584, and surreptitiously withheld from his Manx rights. Thus we can locate exactly in the Standish family that Myles-shaped blank. It is precisely on Young's table where he indicates Myles, but he is the conflation of him with that shadowy elder John, whose name he so likely bore. (21) It is a remarkable coincidence that with the death of Huan of Ormskirk in 1606, the Manx Standishes were able to claim the Lancashire heritage. So that Myles was the first man ever to be able to make the joint claims of his Will.

It is not hard to create a scenario for him, leaving the Island at sixteen, still under-age for inheriting when his grandfather died. Happy in his military career, feeling no incentive to return home and settle upon a bucolic inheritance, ranking only the annual Lord's rent of 8/6, he shows no interest in the estate on reaching his majority in 1605. Most likely unaware till much later that on the death of Huan of Ormskirk the 1540 deed of settlement had added so considerably to his expectations, he acquiesces in William's de facto possession, and such was the Standish influence (his uncle William had inherited the Father's Clerkship of Andreas and Lezayre), that William's name was entered as de iure in 1610. (22)

However in his PIN addendum (p.36), Young explains how he had come upon a document that seemed to indicate that William had a brother John, who was not older but younger than he. This of course would be fatal to the theory outlined above. Unless the first-born John was truly dead, the name would hardly have been given to a younger son. It would also make nonsense of the phrase of the Father's Will 'my sonne John's towe sonnes'. With John as a younger brother to William jr., there could be no third place for Myles as a missing oldest son.

The document in question is filed in the Libri Cancellari (23). It is on the reverse of a deed of 1641, as a copy of a deed of 1618. In fact there are in all four documents of the 17th century all relating to the relationships of two brothers Standish, the elder clearly William, and the younger John. Moreover that of 1618 is the quittance John gives to William for the receipt of 'all goods moveable and unmoveable due unto me by the death of my father and mother'. The two brothers are expressly described as 'sons of John Standish late of Island Bane'. There are indications that the 1618 document had also been used in connection with some transaction in 1627 as well as 1641. And indeed in 1627 the Lib. Canc. contains two identical bills of sale of a piece of land in Ballaugh, called Christian's Close, one in the name of William, the other in that of John.

There is a fourth document concerning these same two brothers (24) . This is no less than a ruling of the Land Commissioners of the Derby regime, in response to a plea of John against his brother William, for a larger share in the estate of John Standish their father, of which he claims they were joint-executors. The estate dealt with was Close Moar in Sulby, and an adjoining piece of land. Lord Strange's Commissioners declared that the estate was held not jointly, but by William only, but having respect to 'the poverty of John, his wife and small children', John was to be (1) confirmed in the full ownership of 'the cottage and croft in which he now dwells and one cow'; (2) granted the occupancy of half Close Moar, paying half the succession fee, and half the Lord's rent (4/3), on condition that if ever he wished to let or sell any of the property, his brother William should have first option on it; and (3) he was to make over to William the proper title to fields called Eargartney (unclear) 'which he hath, lately awarded by a jury from the said William Standish'. (25)

The deed of 1641 (26) seems to be a sequel to this award. John and his wife Margaret Carran sell the half-close and the adjoining croft, Arreygurney, to their loving brother, William Standish.

Is Young right in seeing this family drama played out throughout the first half of the 17th century in Lezayre as part of history of John the Son's 'towe Sonnes', in which John is the younger brother of William, and their father 'John Standish late of Island Bane' is John the Son? (27) Or could it refer to another family group?