HENRY SHIELL (1827-1889)


Compiled by Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson, Melbourne, Australia.


(Revised version May 2005. For reader comment please contact the first author on richard.shiell@gmail.com )



Henry Shiell was born in Montserrat in August 1826,[1] the son of James Phipps Shiell and Elizabeth Carey [2]..  He had a sister Mary Ann, born two years later on 11th September 1830.[3]  Henry’s father, the Comptroller of Customs for Montserrat [4], died when Henry was only seven years old and nothing further is known of his mother. In spite of the loss of his father, it is still highly likely that he was dispatched to boarding school in England as were so many of the sons of the wealthy West Indies landowners and public officials.  In view of his later career in the law it is possible that he may have even spent some time at one of the Inns of Court preparing for the bar. Lincoln’s Inn was preferred by many West Indian gentlemen and his uncle, John Shiell, a King’s Council and later Chief Justice of Antigua, was enrolled at that institution from 1808-1813.[5]


 Henry married London-born Mary Ann Wilcox (1827 -1885) on Montserrat 29th March 1849.[6]  She had arrived in the West Indies in 1845.[7] Another Henry Shiell has been recorded on Montserrat at this time.[8]



 He was a cousin, thought to be the son of Council President William Shiell.[9]


The fortunes of the Shiell family gradually declined for years along with the economy of Montserrat.[10] Many of the inhabitants had migrated to other islands following Emancipation, attracted by the prospects of higher wages. In addition Montserrat was struck by an earthquake in 1843. This caused great destruction and a further efflux of residents both white and black. Huge loans from the British Government were acquired to repair the damage. Outbreaks of small-pox and cholera at the end of the decade caused great loss of life and further economic woes.


     Henry and his wife must have decided to immigrate to Australia and they arrived in Melbourne on the ship Lady Flora in August 1853.[11] This was not long after the first major gold discoveries in the British Crown colonies of New South Wales (1850) and Victoria (1851) and corresponded with a huge influx of adventurers and fortune hunters that continued for decades.[12] In Australia, Henry rapidly found good employment, first as a Clerk of Petty Sessions at Deniliquin, New South Wales, from 1853 at a salary of £175. From October 1857 he earned additional £50 as an Agent for the Sale of Crown Lands and further “spot fees” as Registrar of Births, Deaths and marriages and Commissioner of the Supreme Court for taking Affidavits at Deniliquin. In April 1859 Henry was appointed Police Magistrate of the Balranald District, based at Lang’s Crossing Place, NSW(later known as Hay)and he surrendered his Deniliquin posts.  His salary was £375 with an additional £45 for horse feed. In 1863 his salary was increased to £450. [13] 


Henry was not without his critics and the Pastoral Times gave him a particularly bad time in the early years of his reign as Police Magistrate.[14]


We have on various occasions had to comment on Mr. Shiell’s conduct as a magistrate – of his cruelty on one occasion to a woman, and of his general inefficiency as a public officer for so important a post.  A police magistrate in a secluded district can do an immense amount of wrong to parties who from their ignorance or obscurity are unable to make their wrongs known either to the Government or through the Press.  We do not speak of Mr. Shiell from a superficial knowledge of his character, but we formed an estimate of his status from data that cannot well be controverted.  We are aware of the mode in which he obtained his appointment, and we are also acquainted with the manner in which he discharges his duties.  Of his fitness for the situation which he holds we are certain that opinions cannot be divided; he is just as much at home in his position as Daniel Lambert would have been in a regiment of “light horse”.[15]


The authors are keenly interested in how a 26 year old man with no degree or stated occupation came to obtain such a lucrative and prestigious post so soon after arrival in a strange land.[16] The Editor of the Pastoral Times evidently knew the facts but we are not privy to them and can only guess. It is a known fact that thousands of colonial public servants had deserted their posts and flocked to the new goldfields where, if you were very lucky, the mineral equivalent of year’s salary could be earned with a morning’s work. Literate gentlemen of good character would have been in great demand to act as Magistrates and for other public offices. Henry may have had contacts with the Governors of the Colonies of both New South Wales[17], and the adjacent new Colony of Victoria.[18]


The Port Phillip District had separated from New South Wales in July 1850 and the new Colony took the name of Victoria. The Riverina district, formerly the northern part of the District of Port Phillip under the jurisdiction of La Trobe, was thereafter administered from Sydney. By the time Henry Shiell arrived in Australia on 18th August 1853, La Trobe had already resigned as Lt. Governor the previous December and was awaiting his replacement to arrive from England.[19] He did not depart until May 1854 and it is not known if Henry and Mary Ann called at Government House to pay their respects. From the time the gold rushes in the Colonies commenced in 1851 it was extremely difficult to get and keep public servants and it is very possible that the Administrations of both FitzRoy and LaTrobe had advertised overseas for suitably qualified personnel.


Sir Charles FitzRoy left the Colony in disgrace in 1855 but Henry Shiell’s career still continued to prosper under the subsequent administrations.  Whether this was due to ability, lack of suitable replacements, further political patronage or his Masonic associations is unknown. It is clear from reading various entries in the “Pastoral Times” of that era that he had his ardent critics as well as admirers in the Riverina district.


September 1859: Henry Shiell was criticised by the Pastoral Times for the manner in which he advertised for tenders for the building of the Court-house and Lock-up at Hay.


We are informed that the “Bench of Magistrates at Lang’s Crossing-place” have called for tenders for the erection of a Court-house and Lock-up at the Murrumbidgee.  We have reason to believe that our informant is correct in stating that some farcical pretence of soliciting competition has been made; but beyond a manuscript placard or two, in the handwriting of Mr. Henry Shiell, who receives Government pay as Police Magistrate for Balranald and Hay, nothing has been done to give publicity to the matter.  A few persons may by chance get a sight of these choice specimens of magisterial calligraphy, or possibly some individual may get private information that will enable him to work the oracle.  But surely such is not the way to carry out the contract system, and it is not likely that the Government will tolerate it.  The surest means of obtaining bonâ fide competition would have been the insertion of advertisements in the local journals; but this course has not been adopted, and the perpetrator of the blunder has only himself to blame if suspicious people extract disagreeable inferences from the circumstances.[20]


A shepherd, William McCall, who had been convicted of “furious riding” by Henry wrote a long letter to the Pastoral Times in his own defence and concluded a long tirade with the following passage-


Really it is a pity that the Police Magistrate of Hay can find nothing else to do to pass his time away than to sit for hours in an armchair in front of a public-house, like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  Woe to the poor stockman or shepherd who may cross his magisterial path; he will either have his pockets lightened or his liberty curtailed by this worthy representative of Justice Shallow of Shakespearian memory.[21]


William McCall chose imprisonment rather than pay the fine and was subsequently taken to Deniliquin Gaol.  He served his sentence of two months imprisonment there. 


There are many references to Henry Shiell in the Sydney and regional newspapers over the subsequent years. In early March 1860 he was required to travel to Wentworth to supervise the sale of land there, a distance of 300 miles from Hay.


OUR POLICE DISTRICT. – Mr. H. Shiell, our police magistrate, starts next week for the Darling junction, having received orders from the Government to superintend the first sale of land in the new township of Wentworth, and to stay there for one month after the sale to receive the money for the land sold.  The distance from Lang’s Crossing to Wentworth is 300 miles, so that we may safely calculate on Mr. Shiell being taken away from his duties in this part of the district for two months.  Whether the Government have the remotest idea of the distance they are sending the P.M., we are inclined to have considerable doubts, seeing their utter want of knowledge of the general formation of the outlying district.  Why Mr. S. Cole, Crown Land Commissioner at Euston, or any one of the neighbouring J.P.s, could not sell land, seems to be a question that puzzles every one on the Lower Murrumbidgee.  The Balranald police district extends 800 miles from Lang’s, namely, 300 miles to the Darling junction, and then 500 miles up that river to Fort Bourke.  There seems no reason why the Police Magistrate might not be sent to any part of the district; so perhaps one of these days he will receive notice to proceed to Fort Bourke.  He will then have to provide himself with a mob of horses and a barn full of oats, and a large waggon to carry hay for his horses, and, thus rigged out, he will, if he loses no time, be able to travel through his district including some trips up the Lachlan, perhaps five times every year.  When Martin Chuzzlewit and Mark Tapley were setting out for the land of Eden, they could not make out why everyone was so anxious to say farewell to them, but when they arrived at their destination they soon discovered the reason.  In the same way, when Mr. Shiell receives notice to start for Fort Bourke, we shall bid him a doleful farewell, for what hope can there ever be of his coming back from a part of the country where there is neither feed for man nor horse, and where savage blackfellows still roam.  We shall fully expect to hear of the P.M. being found a Fort Bourke in a starving condition, and lamenting his own sad fate in being sacrificed to the incompetence of some ill-informed Minister in Sydney, who had not the remotest idea as to whether Fort Bourke was fifty or five hundred miles from the P.M.’s place of residence.[22]    


In a subsequent report dated 10 March 1860 the Lower Murrumbidgee correspondent again discussed Henry Shiell’s journey to Wentworth.


WENTWORTH LAND SALE. – Mr. H. Shiell, P.M., started this week for Wentworth, Darling Junction, where he has to hold a land sale on the 15th instant.  He made an attempt to set out some days ago, but the roads were in such a fearful state after the heavy rains that he was unable to proceed; even now it is difficult to travel fast, and there are many flooded creeks to be passed.  It is believed that the Sydney officials were under the impression that from Lang’s to Wentworth’s was only seventy miles, whereas it is in reality at least 280 miles.  Even when performing ordinary duties the police magistrate has to travel 100 miles to get from Lang’s to Balranald.  The Government apparently have no idea of distances in the bush, and the sums allowed for forage are consequently ridiculously small, particularly when oats, as at present, come to be fifteen shillings per bushel, and the grass feed all over the country is so bad that it is almost impossible to travel any distance without carrying a supply of oats with you.[23]



In May 1866, after 13 years in the Riverina, Henry and his wife moved to Sydney where, in July 1866, he was appointed District Coroner at an annual salary of £350, less than he had been receiving in Hay, but without the arduous travel requirements.[24]


He was apparently in severe financial distress at the time of his departure, with debts of some £600. Even after the sale of his buggy, house and possessions in the town of Hay he could still only pay his creditors 9 shillings and 5 pence in the pound.[25] It is possible that Henry’s Masonic connections helped in obtaining his new post and in the leniency extended by his creditors.[26]


At a testimonial dinner held in Hay on 9th May 1866. Many speeches were made and he was presented with a purse containing forty sovereigns. He wrote a letter of reply dated 11 May 1866-


Gentlemen, – I was unable at the time of presentation of your address to me, through Dr. Taylor and Mr. Falkiner, to reply or thank you for the purse of sovereigns which accompanied it.  Permit me now to do so, and to add that your kindness at the present juncture will ever be remembered by me.  In reference to your observation regarding the manner in which I discharged my public duties, I can with safety say that I essayed at all times so to acquit myself of my judicial functions as to gain the confidence of the community and satisfy my own conscience.  I was animated by a determination to deal impartially on all occasions, and to devote my whole time and attention to the performance of the duties which I was assigned to discharge.  Whether or not I succeeded in so doing is for you and the Government to say.  After seven years’ residence amongst you, and nearly thirteen in Riverina, it would be affectation on my part were I to say that my departure does not generate feelings of regret.  I have many friends, and, I hope, but few enemies behind me.  In your midst some of my best and happiest days have been passed.  Wishing you all health and happiness, and a speedy end to the protracted drought, I remain, gentlemen, yours very faithfully, HENRY SHIELL.


At the time of his departure he was stated to be a faithful supporter the Church of England and the Deniliquin Hospital “For years [Henry Shiell] has been a steady supporter of that noble institution, the Deniliquin Hospital, through evil and through good report, not deserting it when its finances were at the lowest ebb, and always ready with his counsel and assistance.” [27] 


“It is well known that the Rev. Ralph Barker publicly acknowledged that he felt himself greatly indebted to Mr. Shiell for his invaluable assistance in managing Church matters as well as for the undeviating Christian kindness which he had for so many years experienced at his hands.” [28] 


Henry’s salary as Sydney Coroner was increased to £450 in 1867 [29] and he remained in this post in that rapidly growing city for the remaining 22 years of his life. In 1876 he was visited by his 18 year old niece, Lilian Howes, from Montserrat.  While acting as a governess in the country she met and married widowed grazier John McMaster. Her older sister Florence and her mother Annie Howes (nee Shiell) came to Australia at the time of her wedding in June 1883. They eventually went to live with Lilian at “Croppa”, her husband’s grazing property at Warialda in northern New South Wales. The first born of the subsequent 6 children was named Henry Shiell McMaster.[30]


Mary Ann Shiell died on 11th October 1885 [31] and Henry married 27 year old Agnes Olive Landreth at Trinity Anglican Church in Sydney, on 7th September 1887.[32] Sixteen months after his second marriage he died of hepatitis, on 30th January 1889, after an illness lasting 2 months. He was aged 62 and there were no children from either of his two marriages.[33]


With the death of Henry the legitimate male line of James Phipps Shiell appears to have died out but the blood-line continues though the numerous descendents of his sister Mary Ann Howes.[34]  



Appendix I.  

Letter from Dr Norman Griffin to Dr Richard Shiell

(Note- Dr Griffin was probably writing from memory and a number of errors and omissions have been detected in these two letters)


25th August1974

Richmond Hill,

 Montserrat, West Indies.


Dear Dr Shiell,

I was interested in reading your letter asking for information about your Montserrat family published in the “Montserrat Mirror” of 16th instant. It happens that William G. Shiell, who seems to have been the first on the scene came out from Ireland at much the same time as my great-grandfather, John Griffin who was born in Hutchin, Hertfordshire, England , in 1784 and married in Montserrat in 1815.


William G. Shiell, was born in 1784 and married in Montserrat in 1826 to Mary Caby Semper, daughter of Michael Joseph Semper.  This was in June 1826 and in August (2 months after) a son was born and named William.  We have no further record of this son and it could be that he was your great-grandfather who arrived in Australia as Mate on the brig Gazelle in 1853; maybe he ran away to sea from school either in Montserrat or in England.


Of the other children of Wm G. Shiell we have few records. Several seem to have died as children; the family lived at The Grove or at Richmond ( these two estates probably even then run as one). Another son Henry was born in 1827; John Ross was born in 1834, James Phipps in 1836, Queely in 1837, and the last, born in 1850, was also given the name of William but died at 5 months.


When Queely was born William G Shiell was President of the Council of Montserrat; in 1848 he owned one estate called Morris’ in the South of Montserrat (small and unimportant in comparison with many others), but was Attorney for about 10 others including a number shown on a list of Montserrat estates as owned by Queely Shiell; he was also Executor, Lessee or Receiver in Chancery of another 14 estates. Presumably as President of the Council he had to divest himself of some of his properties, giving his son the titles. Wm. G. Shiell died in 1853 as did his wife Mary.


In 1849, Henry Shiell, Bachelor, married Mary Ann Wilcox, and we have reasons to believe that he emigrated to Australia but have no idea as to whether he was in touch with any of your family. In 1851, Thomas Masters Howes (of Yorkshire England) who had come out from England in 1835 married a Mary Ann Shiell (relationship not defined) and in 1879, 2 years after her husband died, she went out to Australia with her 2 daughters, one of whom married a McMaster whose son Shiell McMaster became a landowner and sheep farmer in New South Wales. It is thought that Mary Ann was some relation of Henry’s and went out to him in Australia.


Sorry that this Aerogramme does not leave room for more. There is a long story about another family named Shiel (with one l) starting with one Matthew Dowdye Shiel who came out from Ireland and claimed descent from ancient kings of that country. If you are interested I will write again.

Norman Griffin M.D. (Mc Gill 1922)


2nd Letter from Dr Norman Griffin to Dr Richard Shiell


29th October 1974.

Richmond Hill,

Montserrat,   West Indies.


Dear Dr Shiell,

Thanks for your letter of 17th September received on 25th. I agree generally with some of your deductions from information available and in particular about the likelihood that your William Shiell may have been the son of the original William before his marriage to Mary Cabey Semper. Sorry I cannot check on the 1823 dates as all records of the births before 1829 have been lost.


As regards the economic conditions of Montserrat in the 1840-1860 period, the effects of emancipation of slavery which took place in 1834 was becoming felt and the labour situation was difficult. Many estates were sold for indebtedness or changed hands to newcomers at a fraction of the value at which they were rated a few years earlier.


It seems that Queely Shiell was the only one of the original William who like his father was interested in agriculture; he followed his father as a Member of Council and in charge of the Richmond and Grove Estates.  It is suggested that the other brothers followed some other calling, either in business or in Government, though we have no records to confirm this assumption. Certainly none of them produced a family in Montserrat.


The family history would not be complete  without the story of  the Shiels  (spelt with one “ l “) written up by Charlesworth Ross six years ago in the Caribbean Quarterly, a publication of the Extra Mural Department of the University of the West Indies.  It begins with Matthew Dowdye Shiel who claimed descent from the ancient Kings of Ireland and was living in Montserrat in 1865 and trading between Montserrat and the neighbouring islands. He had had 8 daughters before producing a son named Matthew Phipps Shiel born shortly before that date.  This son went to live in England where he became a novelist and got to know many celebrities such as Robert Louis Stephenson and Wilde; he was quite a linguist and once had a job as interpreter to the International Congress of Hygiene and Demography.


Charlesworth Ross, himself a West Indian, whom I know very well, went to visit him in his later years when he was living in an Alms House near Horsham on a Civil List Pension, and had a very interesting conversation with him. He afterwards wrote up his story describing him as the first West Indian Novelist. He discovered that his Grandmother was one of the Shiel sisters. Of his other sisters we know little, except that the last surviving one was still alive in 1935 and living in St. Kitts with a niece. She was in looks much as you describe other Shiell descendants in Australia. It may well be that Matthew Dowdye Shiel was an illegitimate son of the original William Shiell in Montserrat.


 I hope this is of interest to you


 Norman Griffin.


Appendix II

Charles Augustus FitzRoy was born on 10th May 1796, the son of General Lord Charles FitzRoy and  grandson of the 3rd Duke of Grafton, He was educated at Harrow and commissioned in the Horse Guards at aged 16. He saw action at the Battle of Waterloo and was wounded. In 1820 he was gazetted captain and married in the same year to Lady Mary Lennox, eldest daughter of Charles, the 4th Duke of Richmond and Charlotte, daughter of the 4th Duke of Gordon.


He was promoted in 1825 to the rank of Lt. Colonel and appointed deputy Adjutant General at the Cape of Good Hope. After service in the Cape he returned to England and was elected to the House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Bury St Edmunds. He was in Parliament when the 1832 Reform Bill was passed, and voted for the measure.


In 1833 he retired from Parliament and the army and lived a quiet life while his relatives used their influence to find a desirable position for him. It took four years before he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Prince Edward Island off the coast of Canada in 1837 and he was knighted shortly before his departure.  In 1841 he was made Governor of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies where he won respect for his tact and moderation.  In 1845 he was chosen by Lord Stanley to succeed Sir George Gipps as Governor of New South Wales. He arrived in the colony on board the HMS Carysfort with his wife and oldest son George on 2nd August 1846. His wife and younger children Mary and Arthur joined them later.


Lady Mary was portly and religious and 6 years older than her husband but being gentle, kind, charitable, affable and accessible she was very popular in the Colony. On 7th December 1847, less than 18 months after their arrival, tragedy struck. Sir Charles and his wife were en-route to a wedding in the vice-regal carriage with 4 fresh horses-in-hand. Sir Charles liked to drive and was at the reins when they rounded a corner too fast. The carriage overturned and the occupants were the hurtled out, Lady Mary dying almost immediately from brain injuries and Sir Charles’ ADC, Lt. Charles Masters dying 8 hours later.


Sir Charles was distraught and at first thought of giving up his post and returning to England but his financial situation did not permit this. He stayed on but without Lady Mary’s restraining influence tongues were soon wagging about the partiality of the Governor and his two sons for women. This brought him into conflict with the more respectable members of the public and in particular with Legislative Council member, the Reverend John Dunmore Lang.


Fitzroy left Australia on January 28th 1855 after 8 eventful years in the Colony of New South Wales. On  December 11th of the same year he married Margaret Gordon, widow of a Melbourne land agent.  He died on February 16th 1858 at the age of 61 years. (From Australia’s Heritage, Vol. 5, page 824-26.)



Charles Joseph La Trobe was born of Huguenot descent on March 20th 1801 in the Hatton Garden district of London. Both his father and grandfather were clergymen of the Moravian Church and were associated with the movement to abolish slavery. They were a cultured family, his father Christian Ignatius La Trobe, had been a friend of Joseph Haydn, and various members made their mark in music, literature, art and architecture.


Charles was intended for the ministry but after education in Switzerland he taught at the Moravian Church School in Manchester, England and then returned to Switzerland as tutor to the family of Count de Portales at Neuchatel.  In 1833 he toured North America for 6 months with  dashing young Albert de Portales and joined forces with the young American author, Washington Irving, who described  him as “ a man of a thousand accomplishments; a botanist, a geologist, a hunter of beetles and butterflies, a musical amateur, a sketcher of no mean pretensions; in short, a complete virtuoso”


Possibly because of his own writings or his family’s connections with the anti slavery movement,   La Trobe was sent to the West Indies by the British Government in 1837.  His task was to examine measures necessary to fit the emancipated slaves for their freedom.  He followed his usual practice of keeping a detailed diary and sketchbook of his travels and submitted three long factual reports devoid of bias or personal opinion. The diaries are preserved in the State Library of Victoria.


In January 1839 La Trobe was appointed by the British Government as Superintendent of the Port Phillip District of the Colony of New South Wales on a salary of L800 per year. Aged 38 years he sailed from Britain with his Swiss wife Sophie, their young daughter Agnes, two servants and a prefabricated timber cottage, arriving in Hobson’s Bay on September 30th 1939.


He spent 14 years in the colony and was appointed Lt. Governor of the new Colony of Victoria when the southern region eventually separated from New South Wales in 1850. A deeply religious and intellectual man, he was the very antithesis of the rough and tumble colonials. The discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851 lead to further lawlessness and disquiet in the colony. Unpopular for most of his term, he resigned in December 1852 but stayed on for a year until his replacement, Sir Charles Hotham, arrived from Britain in May 1854.


On his return to England he felt the chill of Colonial Office displeasure but eventually, in 1864, was awarded a meagre pension of £33 per year.  He died in Sussex in 1875 but has been treated kindly by posterity with a Melbourne street, an Archives library and Melbourne’s 3rd University named after him. His enduring legacies are the Fitzroy and Botanical Gardens, the Yan Yean Reservoir, the State Library, Melbourne University and the Athenaeum Theatre which were all constructed with his encouragement and patronage. (Abridged from Australia’s Heritage Vol. 5.)



The Australian Magistracy: from Justices of the Peace to Judges & Beyond



“The office of Justice of the Peace (or magistrate) offered prized symbolic, practical and strategic advantages to those who could secure it.  Moreover, it was an office which conferred state power on prestigious, wealthy, private individuals who acted in an honorary capacity.  Prestige, financial independence and the traditional associations of the office offered secure footholds for the contest over power in the colony.”


Magistrates, sitting as a Bench, exercised jurisdiction over summary criminal offences (i.e., minor offences decided without a jury) and the administration of local ordinances.


“Central policy in New South Wales was entrusted at a local level to a landed magistracy which had policies of its own to promote.”


Early stipendiary (paid) magistrates were called “Police Magistrates”.  Their job combined the functions of preservation of the peace, detection of crime, the apprehension of offenders, as well as duties of sentencing and punishing.


After 1856 the number of paid police magistrates increased.  Their appointments were generally the result of “lateral recruitment” (a euphemism for political patronage).


“The recruitment and treatment of police magistrates ensured that they remained unusually autonomous government employees.”  Almost invariably governments “stonewalled constituency criticism of resident police magistrates”.


“Because governments had no systematic approach to promotion or rotation of magistrates, many of them became entrenched as the leading citizens of their communities.  As such they were barely distinguishable from the ‘traditional justice’.  The wicked workings of patronage actually served to perpetuate a semi-independence for the police magistrate.”


“The resident magistrates were, for most intents and purposes, the ‘government’ in their designated areas.  Like the paid magistrates in the eastern colonies in remoter areas their commission of the peace gave them official backing for carrying on a variety of functions, not least the administration of criminal justice.”




‘Law and Authority: The Magistracy in New South Wales 1788-1840’, Law in Context, Vol. 3, 1985, pp. 45-6.


High and Responsible Office: A History of the NSW Magistracy by Golder.


An Australian Legal History by Alex Castles.





[1] Obituary of Henry Shiell in the Town and Country Journal of 9 Feb. 1889. Also Henry’s 1887 marriage certificate, letters from Montserrat historian Dr. Norman Griffin and brief biography of Mary Ann Howes by Henry Shiell McMaster (A copy of this is in the possession of the authors.


 [2]  In 1836 George Stanley Carey received a large payment as slave compensation on St. Christopher (BPP H of L 1838, Vol 15). He may have been the father of Elizabeth as a match between these two wealthy families would have been considered appropriate. See biography of James Phipps Shiell   (http://alangullette.com/lit/shiel/index.html#family )


 [3] The biography of Mary Ann Shiell/Howes may be obtained on http://alangullette.com/lit/shiel/index.html#family


[4] See biography of James Phipps Shiell on http://alangullette.com/lit/shiel/index.html#family


 [5]  CUST 34 503 and Lincoln’s Inn Enrolment Records. See biography of John Shiell on http://alangullette.com/lit/shiel/index.html#family


[6] Howes family records


 [7] From 1885 death certificate of Mary Ann Shiell (nee Wilcox)


[8] a).  Henry had a cousin named Henry and also born in 1827. He was the son of William Shiell, (who was later President of the Legislative Council of Montserrat  (see http://alangullette.com/lit/shiel/index.html#family)


    b). A Henry Shiell died on Montserrat Feb 1st 1869 aged 42, (tombstone inscription) leaving a widow Rosetta who received a pension of L1 per month (Old Treasury Cash Book entry).  As our Henry was already established and living in Australia this Henry was probably the above mentioned son of William Shiell as his age tallies with the birth date given by Montserrat amateur historian

Dr Norman Griffin to one of the authors (RCS) in 1974 (personal communication and see Appendix I).


[9] William Shiell was a very important person on Montserrat in the years 1808-1850. Firstly as Postmaster, then as a member and later President of the Legislative Council, Colonel in charge of the Militia, twice Administrator of the island and Attorney and Manager of a large number of Estates on behalf of absentee landowners (including many belonging to his aged father Queely Shiell).

( see http://alangullette.com/lit/shiel/index.html#family )


[10] The economy of the Leeward Islands was heavily dependent on sugar production which was labor intensive. With a ban on the importation or slaves into British Colonies from 1808 sugar production went into gradual decline. This became worse after the emancipation of the slaves in 1834 and even the establishment of a poorly paid “apprenticeship” system failed to get the land back into its former productive capacity. Land prices declined and natural disasters such as earthquakes and hurricanes caused widespread destruction. Loans from the British government for repairs encumbered many Montserrat properties with debts which made the former valuable estates almost worthless. Cholera and smallpox epidemics at the end of the 1840s added to their woes.


[11]  From Australian shipping records. The Lady Flora under Captain John G. Parker left London 14th April 1853 bound for Sydney and, taking the usual southern route around Australia, arrived in Melbourne on 18th August 1853, a slow voyage by the standards of the day. Henry, 26 and Mary Ann were amongst the 43 adults, 8 children and 6 infants in the Cabin accommodation. No specific occupation was listed for Henry- probably indicative of his status as “gentleman”.


[12] It is interesting to speculate on the reasons for Henry’ migration to Australia, and on his rapid accession to a powerful and relatively well-paid position so soon after his arrival. The Governor of New South Wales in the period  1846 to 1855 was Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy, who had previously been Governor of the Leeward Islands 1841-1845. (see Appendix II). As one of the small white minority of Montserrat, the Shiell family would have been known to Governor FitzRoy. Young Henry, while only in his teens, but a nephew of both the Antiguan Chief Justice and the Council President of Montserrat, may have also been a visitor to the FitzRoy home. FitzRoy loved parties, balls, race meetings and to hunt and had a teenage daughter who perhaps needed eligible dancing partners.  Perhaps he was offered a post in New South Wales where educated men with some legal training were in demand. With the economy of the Leeward Islands in the doldrums, he no doubt accepted gladly any offer of gentlemanly employment. (See also the “The Australian Magistracy” in Appendix IV)


[13] This and much of the detail of Henry’s professional activities in NSW result from the painstaking research by historian Ian Beissel for the Hay Historical Society, New South Wales, Australia. ( for more information contact hayhist@tpg.com.au )


[14] Ian Beissel has the following comments on the criticism directed towards HS by the Pastoral Times “The criticism could stem from any number of sources (1) some sort of vindictiveness or ill-feeling relating to Henry Shiell’s time in Deniliquin; (2) the editor’s perception that there were wrongs to be righted; and/or (3) district rivalry, with the perception that Hay might eclipse Deniliquin’s emerging role as the major stock-buying and dispersal centre of the western Riverina; or (4) some other reason(s).

By & large correspondents from Henry Shiell’s police district tended to support his actions & stick by him, though by the end of his period at Hay there are indications he had fallen out with a few key locals.


[15] Pastoral Times, 25 May 1860, 3(4); Daniel Lambert of Leicester (1770-1809) was renowned for his prodigious weight.  He was “exhibited” at Piccadilly in April 1806, when he weighed 52 stone 11 pounds (355 kg).  Lambert became a celebrity and featured in several caricatures of the time, including one showing him in military uniform on a horse, with Napoleon Bonaparte cowering at the prospect of the English "light horse”.


[16] .  Henry’s grandfather, Queely Shiell, had been the principal landowner on Montserrat and retired to London around 1843.  At the time of his death in 1847 he lived at 40 Clarges St. Mayfair. There were a number of other connections-the Duke of Grafton, grandfather of FitzRoy, had a home at 47 Clarges St. The Gordons, (FitzRoy’s mother’s family) lived at number 44 Clarges Street . Queely Shiell’s wife’s maiden name had been Gordon. These events may have all been co-incidental but they may also have lead to valuable contacts for the young Henry Shiell.


[17] See Appendix II for a summary of the life and career of Sir Charles Augustus Fitzroy.


[18]  Charles Joseph Latrobe, later the Lieutenant Governor of Victoria, was sent to the West Indies in 1837 on British Government business and has left two hand-written diaries of this mission and three long and detailed Reports for the British Government on the effects of Emancipation on the former slaves. Six pages of Volume 2 of his diaries are devoted to Montserrat.  In it La Trobe mentions Q. Shiel (sic) as a proprietor and Mr Steel / Steele a few times. He was probably referring to the Council President, William Shiell as there was no-one named Steel recorded on Montserrat at that time.  “Mr Steel” seemed to act as an official guide to Latrobe at times “off with Mr Steel in a little schooner the Henry.” This would be a responsibility that would very likely fall on the President of Council, especially as he knew the island so well. (The diaries may be inspected in the State Library of Victoria).


[19] See Appendix III for a brief discussion of the career of Charles La Trobe


[20] Pastoral Times, 29 September 1859, page 3.


[21]  Robert Shallow, an old school-friend of Falstaff in Shakespeare's Henry IV (part 2), is a middle-class country landowner and a Justice of the Peace.  The vapid and excessively formal Justice Shallow talks endlessly about trivial topics.  He is a boastful rogue who hopes to profit from Falstaff's friendship with Prince Hal.  He also appears as a foolish, doddering old man in The Merry Wives of Windsor.


[22] Lower Murrumbidgee Correspondent, Sydney Morning Herald, 10 March 1860.


[23] Lower Murrumbidgee Correspondent, Sydney Morning Herald, 21 March 1860, 3(5).


[24] Pastoral Times 28th July 1866.


[25] Pastoral Times 12 May 1866.


[26] From his Obituary in the Town and Country Journal of 9 Feb. 1889 we learn that Henry held the high rank of Past District Grand Master in the Scottish Constitution of Freemasonry within NSW.


[27] Pastoral Times, 19 May 1866, 2(6).


[28] Pastoral Times, 19 May 1866, 2(6).


[29] ‘Statistics of New South Wales’, 1867 Blue Book, Public Service Lists, Archives Office of New South Wales; most District Coroners were unpaid.


[30] From a brief biography of Annie Howes written by her son Henry Shiell McMaster. (A copy of which is in the possession of the authors). See also http://alangullette.com/lit/shiel/index.html#family


[31] A copy of this death certificate is in the possession of the authors .


[32] Olive and Henry’s marriage certificate (A copy of this is in the possession of the authors).


[33] Death certificate of Henry Shiell (A copy of this is in the possession of the authors).


[34] There is some circumstantial evidence to suggest that Henry’s father, James Phipps Shiell sired an illegitimate son, Matthew Dowdy Shiell, by a slave girl Priscilla Dowdy in 1824. For more detailed speculation on this possible line see also our papers on James Phipps Shiell, Matthew Dowdy Shiell and his son Matthew Phipps Shiell

 (http://alangullette.com/lit/shiel/index.html#family )



Copyright © 2005 By Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson.

Used with permission of the authors.

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