Was Myles Standish a Manxman?


Interest in the problem of Myles Standish is likely to occur with the regularity of Halley's Comet at the centenaries of the voyage of the "Mayflower" and the birth of Myles himself. Recently in the Island a particular question has kept popping up like King Charles' head: was he a Manxman born at Ellanbane? It is a nice thought. Too often the question is answered with a facile affirmative in the mood of: "My mind is made up. Don't give me facts, they only confuse me." When in Heritage year, however, statements appear in our Press (as in the 1986 Tynwald Week Examiner) affirming facts about his schooling and his wedding, and linking him with Ellanbane in a context of making it a museum and memorial to him; and when all this is given the imprimatur of an issue of Manx postage stamps in his honour, then it seems that facts ought to be looked into and perhaps King Charles' head be exorcised. Who has a surer duty to see this done than our Natural History and Antiquarian Society?

I thought the matter might start with me, since in researching my own family, I had found our name associated with the Standishes in Lezayre as frequent partners in intacks throughout the 16th century, as adversaries in a law-suit in 1583, as witnesses of deeds they executed from time to time, in a 17th century deed described as "loving friends and kinsmen", and in 1634 "presented" with them for the highly improbable sin of "taking up too much room in church". So I set to work on a piece of human archaeology, unearthing and piecing together allusions to the Standishes out of the fragmentary documents relating to landholding and litigation in those centuries, so as to build up a profile of the family. There were of course no relevant registers of baptisms, marriages or burials for that period. Nor can I claim that my dredging has been exhaustive, but I have trawled the ground fairly thoroughly, and offer it for what it is. My object is primarily to present facts and lay out the problem.

Interest in Myles has grown alongside American self-consciousness. The Civil War was a great stimulus. Longfellow contributed to it through narrative poems that form a series of literary frescoes to popularise the national heritage, and among them is his Wooing of Myles Standish. More precise historical studies can be traced back to Bellknap (1797), and then through Nathaniel Morton (1820), Alexander Young (1824), E.J.A. Boyle (1896), Edward Arber (1897) to publications preceding the tercentenary of the "Mayflower" in 1920. Of these last the outstandingly valuable one is that of Thomas Crudas Porteus, vicar of Coppul, Lancs. His Captain Myles Standish, his Lost Lands and Lancashire Connections was published by Manchester University Press in 1920, but a full article by him had already appeared in the October number of the New England Historical and Genealogical Register of 1914. [1]

A more recent American book Saints and Stranger, by Geo. F. Willison (1945, reissued 1964) admits that Myles' life is "virtually a blank page to the day when he and his wife Rose stepped on the deck of the Mayflower". But from his New England days we gather than he acquired the pejorative nick-name of "Captain Shrimpe" because he was short in stature, with red hair, and a florid complexion which flamed to crimson when he flew into a rage, which was often. "A little chimney is quickly fired", people would say. American tradition makes him left early an orphan, enlisting as a teenager for the Netherlands war in the English contingent that was disbanded in 1609. In Holland he must have met John Robinson and impressed him with his military competence. Tradition also speaks of his commission as Lieutenant over the name of Queen Elizabeth, but this cannot now be located. [2] Comment has been passed on the fact that the Pilgrim State never elected him Governor, and that he alone of all the Leaders was never a Church-member, a remarkable thing with their theocratic constitution. The two facts may well be related. Yet he was Assistant Governor most of his life, and Treasurer to the Colony. It has been speculated that he might have been a Catholic. Certainly the Standishes of Standish firmly retained their Catholicism when the other Lancashire branches adopted Protestantism. Myles' library records show it contained anti-catholic literature. At any rate when the Colony had to express its mind on Religious Toleration in 1646, Myles was in favour of it.

Whatever the origin of the tradition that both Myles' wives were Manx, Willison records that nothing is known of Rose's family, and of Barbara only that she was Rose's sister and came out on the "Anne" in 1623 to marry Myles. It seems that the fact that her name is entered as Standish on her land-settlement deed, where her maiden name would have been expected, has prompted the notion of blood-relationship with Myles too.

In contrast with this shadowy picture, the words of Myls' Will, dated 1655, stand out in remarkable precision in what they reveal of him:

I give unto my son and heir-apparent, Alexander, all my lands as heir-apparent by lawful descent in Ormstick, Borscough, Wrightington, Maudsley, Newborrow, Crawston and the Isle of Man, and given to me as right heir by lawful descent, but surruptiously detained from me my great-grandfather being a second or younger brother from the house of Standish of Standish.

This clause acted like a map of buried treasure on his American descendants, and for generations they have pursued the Lancashire claims. In the process they have pieced together a genealogy of remarkable length and distinction. [3]. Yet their search for Myles himself in it has led only to a page in the baptismal register of Chorley parish church for 1584, which they found had been rendered illegible with pumice-stone just at the place where the registration of Myles' baptism might conceivably have been. Equally negative have been all their legal efforts to recover lost lands in Lancashire. [4].

But what of Myles' Manx inheritance?

The earliest record of any suggestion that Myles might be a Manxman appears in a letter from William Cubbon to the I.O.M. Examiner of June 27, 1914. This was in a reply to a letter to that paper from Porteus asking for word of Standish connections with the Island. Already in 1900 A.W. Moore had researched the subject for his Manx Worthies, but it is of Rose and Barbara that he writes, as putative wives of Myles, "whose connection with Lezayre, or at least with the Isle of Man was generally acknowledged". [5]. He clearly himself assumes that Myles was from Lancashire, and in reference to the claims in the Will, suggests that possibly these derived through the wives.

Cubbon's letter makes no attempt to argue his case, and indeed the weight of the letter is the surprise of his querying the assumption of Porteus that Myles' was born about 1584. His birth, he contends, cannot be fixed within a period of nineteen years. He suggests there was no reason for 1584 other than the fact that this is the year that has suffered erasion in the Chorley registers. He speaks of 1565 as the date American historians seem to favour, justifying it from a statement in The Exploits of Myles Standish, which he regards as originating directly from Governor Bradford, that Myles died "very ancient and full of dolorous pains". Could a man of 72 be called "very ancient"? Whereas a lifespan of 1565-1656 might. Cubbon also believed that Myles received his commission in London when aged eighteen, and returned to the Island after the siege of Ostend to be married. He speaks categorically of Ellanbane as his birthplace, on the strength of a stray page from the first Computus (Abbeyland Rent-roll) for Lezayre following the sequestration of the monasteries, dated 1540, where "Huan Standish is set down as holding the lands of Ellanbane on the Sulby river". [6].

However in the paper which Cubbon read to this Society in December 1919 [7] , and which he states to be the first serious claim "that Myles was of Manx parenthood as were also his parents", he makes no demur about Myle's birth year as 1584/5, presumably on the second thoughts that though seventy two might be young to be called very ancient, fifty five was rather too old to be taken on as military commander for a virgin colony in the New World.

The 1919 paper relies heavily on Porteus' article of October 1914, The Ancestry of Myles Standish, (in which incidentally, Porteus was perhaps influenced by Cubbon to say that Myles was born either in Lancashire or the Isle of Man). Porteus had fully documented the fortunes of the Ormskirk branch of the Standishes and their property situation following the marriage of Robert Standish to Margaret Croft, as far as a deed of 1540, dealing with precisely that same group of Lancashire estates listed in Myles' will. It defined the "remainders" of the succession among the heirs of Robert and Margaret, their three sons, Thomas, John and Huan. Basically it was to follow Thomas' male heirs, and when they failed, to pass to John and his; if these failed, to Huan's line. Both John and Huan had connections with the Isle of Man. Indeed Huan appears on the Computus in the very year of the instrument.

Cubbon appends his speculative genealogical table, and repeats:

It is presumably from Huan of Ellanbane that Myles was descended, for that is the only estate on the Island to which a Standish is set down in the records. If Myles was right in his claim to Manx real-estate, he must have claimed by virtue of descent from Huan of Ellanbane. (ibid p 290) [8].

Cubbon assigns a son, Gilbert, to Huan, and then suggests that Myles was his son. [9]. But it is only in recent years that the claim that Myles was a Manxman born at Ellanbane has been argued in depth, in G.V.C. Young's monograph Pilgrim Myles Standish, First Manx American, and its addendum The Pilgrims in the Netherlands. [10]. As would be expected from one who at the time was serving the Manx Legislature as a draftsman, and had access to archives, Young's ample documentation shows a research more exhaustive than Cubbon's seventy years before. Moreover Young had carried his enquiries into the Netherlands, enlisting the support of Dr. Jeremy Bangs who had researched the Pilgrim Fathers' history in the Leiden Archives. Young had also discovered on the Island two documents of prime importance seemingly unknown to either Cubbon or Porteus, which throw considerable light onto the structure of the Manx Standish family. These and the full documentation of Porteus on the Lancashire Standishes are fully set out in the appendices of PMS, pp37-48.

The first of Young's two finds is a commission over the hand of the Earl of Derby himself in 1587, whoby these presents do give and grant unto John Standish the Elder and to John Standish the Younger, son of the said John of my said Isle, the room and place of the Clerkship of Kirk Andrews within the said Isle.....for and during the natural life or lives of the said John Standish the father and John Standish the son, and to the longer liver of either of them [11]

The other is the Will of John Standish the Father (as we shall normally call him), dated June 16, 1602. From it we learn that his wife was Mallie Moore, and that he had a brother Gilbert, a son William, a "basse-boy", and several daughters, of whom three are named: Keatryne Knayle, Joney and Margaret. He also alludes to "my sonne John his towe sonnes". These last two with his son William and his wife are to be his executors.

So we have a clear picture of the family structurein 1600. In the first generation there is John the Father with a brother Gilbert; in the next, a son William, daughters, and an illegitimate son, still living, and an eldest son deceased, obviously John the Son; in the third, the two sons of this last. The absence of any names for John's two sons and the "base-boy" in this Will bewitches the quest for Myles like the pumiced page in the Chorley registers. These three would be roughly of an age, although the base-boy would be uncle to the others, yet the youngest. He had still to reach "years of discretion" (fourteen), while the others were not "of age" (i.e. under twenty-one).

If Myles were indeed born in 1584, and if he were indeed of Manx birth, he would have been of an age with them, and surely one of them. In fact we shall find that the hunt for a Manx Myles will become the task of identifying and tracing these three anonymous lads through 17th century Lezayre. However one of them can easily be identified. In 1604 a William Standish gave evidence [12] and declared his age as "18 or thereabouts". His story can easily be traced. He becomes the William jr. of Ellanbane, well documented until his death about 1660.. Born in 1586, he would presumably be the younger of "my sonne John his Towe Sonnes".


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?

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 case.....in 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.



Manx Worthies
Compiled by A.W. Moore, M.A.,
Published at Douglas in 1901.

The earliest Manx emigrants, if we may believe tradition, were ROSE and BARBARA STANDISH, wives of the famous Myles Standish (b. 1586, d. 1656), the military leader of the Puritans who left England for America in the "Mayflower" in 1620. They are said to have come from Lezayre, and it is probable that their maiden, as well as their married, name was STANDISH. A branch of the Standishes, of Standish Hall, (1), in Lancashire, had settled in the Isle of Man, first at Pulrose, in Braddan, and then at Ellanbane, in Lezayre, since the beginning of the sixteenth century; and one of them, John, perhaps ROSE and BARBARA's father, was a member of the House of Keys in 1593. William Standish of Ellanbane, (2), who was perhaps his son, was a member of the House of Keys from 1629 to 1656, and he was concerned in the rising against the Stanleys in 1651. He was evidently a leading Manxman, since he was one of those who went aboard Colonel Duckenfield's ship to arrange terms with him in October, 1651. Between 1661 and 1665, John Standish, probably William's son, was an M.H.K., and was one of those who tried Illiam Dhone.

These Standishes held a quantity of intack property in Lezayre besides Ellanbane, and, though the family has long since disappeared, there is to this day a curragh called Standishes' Curragh in that parish. Whether this property, or any part of it, belonged to Myles in his own right, or through his Manx wives, we do not know, since, though he left certain estates both in Lancashire and the Isle of Man to his son Alexander on his death in 1656, and though Alexander by his will, dated 1702, also claimed these estates, a diligent search in the Manx manorial records has failed to discover the names of either ROSE, BARBARA, Myles or Alexander. As regards the two latter, however, it may be accounted for by the remarks in Myles' will that these estates had been "surreptitiously detained" (3) from him, so that it is possible that his son never obtained possession. Myles had been engaged in the war if independence in Holland, after which, when he was one of the garrison at Leyden, he became intimate with some of the Puritan emigrants from England, though he was never a member of their Church. He is said to have paid a visit to the Isle of Man shortly before 1619 and to have married (4), Rose when there. On returning to Holland with her, he was elected military leader of the emigrants, and left England with them at the end of the year. Rose was one of the first to succumb to the privations and diseases after the first landing at New Plymouth. In 1623, BARBARA, who is said to have been ROSE's sister, and to have been "left an orphan in England" (5), when the "Mayflower" sailed, went out in the ship "Ann" to Myles, and soon afterwards married him. They had six children, (6), and lived happily together for thirty years.

In 1871, a monument was erected to Captain Myles Standish, and at the dinner, which took place after it was unveiled, a tribute was paid to ROSE STANDISH, she being designated as "the type of womanly sacrifice". "It was a graceful act", writes Mr Johnson, "thus to remember the woman who had thrown in her lot with the Captain, and shrunk not at crossing the seas to a strange land....and who was one of the first of the gallant company to drop from the ranks a victim to privation and hardship". (7).


(1) Myles belonged to the same branch of this family; so that he and his Manx wives were probably cousins.

(2) Another William Standish was Vicar of Lezayre in 1630.

(3) "I give unto my son and heir apparent Alexander Standish all my lands as heir apparent in lawful descent in Ormskirk, Boscough, Wrightington, Maudsley, Newbury, Croxton, and in the Isle of Man, and given to me as right heir by lawful descent, but surreptitiously detained from me, my grandfather being a second or younger brother from the house of Standish of Standish".

(4) Unfortunately there are no church registers in the island of sufficiently early date to contain her marriage. The Ballaugh register, the earliest, begins in 1598 but, at first, contains only births and deaths, and there is neither a Rose nor a Barbara mentioned under the first category.

(5) Abbott, in "The Puritan Captain".

(6) Information from Belknap (orid. ed. Boston, 1794), per Mr Frowde; Carlyle in Dict. of Nat. Biog.; and the Rev. W. Ball Wright.

(7) "The Exploits of Miles Standish". Henry Johnson (London, 1897).

Isle of Man
by Canon E.H. Stenning
Published by Robert Hale Ltd., London, 1950

Another family closely connected with the parish of Lezayre is that of the Standishes. There have been Standish connections with the Island since 1572. The was a Standish, clerk of Lezayre, 1610, and another John Standish, of Ellanbane, was clerk of Lezayre, 1671. The connection of Myles Standish (1584 -1656), the Pilgrim Father, American colonist, and military leader of the Plymouth colony in New England, is interesting. Most probably he was born in Lezayre at Ellanbane. His first wife Rose and her sister Barbara (who was Standish's second wife) were definitely Manx. In his last will and testament we read: "I give unto my son and heir apparent Alexander Standish all my lands in Ormisticke, Borscouge, Wrightington, Maudsley, Newburgh, Crawston and the Isle of Man, and given to me as right heir...but surreptitiously detained from me , my great-grandfather being a second or younger brother from the House of Standish of Standish." Nothing definite is known of Myles till he was thirty-five , when he set sail in the Mayflower. There were three main branches of the Standish family, the Standishes of Duxbury and the Standishes of Ormskirk. Beyond doubt, as shown by his will, Myles was of the Ormskirk branch. The older document concerning the Ormskirk lands is signed by Johannem de Insula de Mane in 1572. This was twelve years before Myles was born.

In 1481, the family of Standish owned estates only in Ormskirk and Newburgh. In 1502, Robert Standish, the head of the family, married Margaret Croft, a wealthy heiress who brought into the Standish property the estates of Burscough, Wrightington, Maudslay and Croston. The marriage deed of these two is signed by two officials of the Isle of Man, Henry Halsall, knight, steward in Mann of the first Earl of Derby, and Thomas Hesketh, Receiver-General of the Island. In 1511, an Edward Standysh owned a house in Castletown, for which he paid rent 2s. 4d. per annum. Robert Standish and Margaret Croft had three sons, Thomas, John (the Johannem de Insula de Mane above mentioned) and the third Huan, who owned Ellanbane, Kirk Christ Lezayre.

Of these, Thomas, the eldest of Robert's family, in his marriage settlement left the very lands and estates mentioned in the will of Myles to trustees, to pay him, Thomas, for life; then for the rightful heir lawfully begotten; in default, to his brother John and his heirs; and in default again, to Huan and his heirs. But Thomas played ducks and drakes with the properties. He sold large parcels to one William Stopforth, Secretary to the Earl of Derby, Lord of Mann. This he had no right to do under his deed. Thomas had a son Hugh, who died without issue in 1606. John de Insula de Mane had no children, and died about 1580. Huan of Ellanbane had a son Gilbert, who, in 1629, transferred some lands in Lezayre to his grandson William Standish, who afterwards owned Ellanbane and became a Member of the House of Keys. No mention is made of any son of Gilbert, but it seems reasonable that he had two, one of whom was Myles, the other younger and the father of William here mentioned. Gilbert transferred the lands to this grandson William, and later, with them bequeathed the lands that remained in Lancashire from the estate of Thomas Standish, i.e. just those estates mentioned in Myles' will. The explanation, then, of the will of Myles Standish would be: "His grandfather, having heard nothing of his grandson Myles since he left on the Mayflower, assumed that he was dead, and left all the estates to his grandson William, Myles' nephew, which he had no power to do, since the marriage settlement of Thomas had entailed them to his heir Myles." Thus Mann can claim one very strong connection with New England which should be of very great interest to American visitors.