MARY ANN SHIELL (1829-1896)


Compiled by Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson, Melbourne, Australia, 2001, (revised April 2007)

For reader comment please contact the first author on



Mary Ann (Annie) was born in Montserrat on 11th Sept 1830[1].  She was the daughter of James Phipps Shiell and Elizabeth Carey.[2] She had an older brother Henry Shiell, born August 1826, who is also covered in this biographical series.[3]


 In 1851 Annie married Yorkshire doctor, Thomas Masters Howes (born 4 June 1814[4]) who, according to Montserrat amateur historian Dr Norman Griffin, had come to Montserrat in 1835 seeking a warmer climate for his tuberculosis.[5] In 1846, Thomas Howes had leased the 200 acre plantation “Amersham”, just east of Plymouth, from the estate of Warner Ottley (deceased) at £80 per year for a period of seven years.[6] It is there that the family lived for many years.[7]


Mary Ann (or Annie as she was called) was said to be Thomas Howes’ second wife and she had three children with him- Seymour Wylde Howes (born 28th Feb.1852), Florence Emily (1st Nov 1856) and Lilian Elizabeth (14th April 1858). Thomas Howes died 14th November 1857, a few months before his youngest daughter Lilian was born.[8]


Migration to Australia.

In 1876 Annie’s daughter Lilian Howes, then aged 18, went to Australia to visit her uncle Henry Shiell. He had migrated to Australia with his wife Mary in 1853 but after 6 years as a Clerk of Courts and then 7 as a Police magistrate in the Riverina district of southern New South Wales, he had obtained the post of Coroner in Sydney in 1866.[9]


Whilst working as a governess on a country property at Uralla, Lilian met the widowed grazier John McMaster from the New England region of northern NSW. They were married in Sydney on 20th June 1883 and had six children (4 boys and 2 girls) and leave an extended family in Australia.[10]


Annie and her younger daughter Florence sailed to Australia, arriving in 1883. This was probably to attend Lilian’s forthcoming wedding in addition to house-keeping for her brother Henry and his ailing wife Mary. Henry was widowed in 1885 [11] and married the 27 year old Agnes Olive Landreth on 7th September 1887. According to the McMaster document the three women did not get on, so Annie and Florence went to stay with Lillian and her growing family at her husband’s sheep-grazing property known as “Croppa”, in northern New South Wales.  Henry Shiell died a year or two later on 30th January 1889.[12]


Later Years


Annie Howes lived on with her daughter at “Croppa” until she died of a heart ailment at Warialda, NSW on 23rd Oct 1896, aged 66 years. Her grandson Henry Shiell McMaster wrote of her –

                   Grannie(Annie) and Auntie(Florrie) were two dear sweet souls loved by all and they were a great comfort to us children. I have nothing but pleasant recollections of their lives. Granny, crippled, with her hands bent up with rheumatism, sitting in a tall-backed stiff chair, wearing a small cap and knitting slowly but surely, ever ready to advise and help any of the children.”


A photograph of a young Lillian Howes exists and shows no trace of the “West Indian” facial characteristics seen in photographs of Matthew Phipps Shiell and the Australian William Shiell, suggesting that her parents and grandparents were most likely of pure Caucasian stock.


Writing of her many years later, her son Henry Shiell McMaster says of his mother,       Lillian-

                “Mother was very keen on driving. She had a strong, comfortable sulky and a fine horse “Dapple” and she was able to visit her neighbours, take trips to town, and even to Glen Innes (many miles away). Later she had a buggy and pair of horses for longer trips.

                 Mother also gave great clerical assistance to father who was much older than she was. Soon after her marriage her handwriting appears in the records at “Croppa” and even in Father’s business diary which she kept up to date while he was away from home.  She had maids but did all the cooking for a very full home as,  in addition to the six of us,  she and father used to like to invite other young people  to “Croppa” for us to play with us.”


Florence never married and acted as a governess to her 6 nieces and nephews. She died at “Croppa” on 1st August 1904. A description of her was provided by nephew Henry Shiell McMaster-


 “Aunt Florrie taught me my lessons until I was about 10 years old. Aunty was not strong but she controlled us with kindness. She loved reading and gardening and had many birds as pets and a very large black cat called “Zulu”. Mother and Aunt Florrie were accomplished equestriennes, and in their riding habits and hard hats made a handsome pair. Mother on her chestnut, “Prairie Bird”, and Aunt on her black mare, “Bracelet”. They would accompany father on many of his long trips around the district when they would often be away overnight…”


Annie’s only son Seymour died in 1892 but he already had 4 sons and 2 daughters of his own to carry on the family name. Most of his 6 children left Montserrat but S.W Howes (another Seymour), is mentioned in later documents of Montserrat.[13].







1. Howe(s) was a well known name in the West Indies and Thomas, although said to be Yorkshire born and educated, may have been related to individuals on Barbados and St. Kitts. 


2. Thomas Risdon Howe was Government Printer in Basseterre, St. Kitts.  He had a son George born in 1769.[14]


3. A West Indian man, George “Happy” Howe, (relationship unknown), was the Editor and publisher of  Australia’s first newspaper, the “Sydney Gazette”,  from  5th March 1803.  (The Birth of Sydney by Tim Flannery - Text Publishing, Melbourne, 1999)



APPENDIX I (b) - Descendents of Seymour Wylde Howes.[15]

1. Seymour Wylde Howes. Oldest child of Thomas Masters Howes (1814-1857) and Mary Ann Shiell (1830-1896).[16]. He was born Feb. 28th 1852, baptized 12th April 1852, died 21st Oct. 1892). Seymour married Laura, daughter of  William Wilkins and Sarah Evelina Tucker  at Gages plantation on October 23rd. 1879 Laura was born at Roaches) plantation, October 4th. 1855 and baptised December 5th. 1855.

The family lived at Amersham plantation . Some time after the death of her husband in 1892 it is said that Laura sold Amersham and in 1911 bought Glen Innes, Trants and Rileys & Streatham plantations. She died on Montserrat, January 28th. 1920, at age 64.

The couple had 6 children:-

a. Thomas Masters Howes (b. 12th Oct 1880, died 1965). Married Maude Mabea 1913.   Five children- 

Laura, ??

Harriet, married Art McCrea- children Jim, Jan and Julie who live in Toronto

Wilma, married a bank manager

Thomas Masters (Tom) Pilot in Canadian Air Force

William David McCall Howes.(David). Married Hilda and live in Simco, Ontario- several children.

b. William Wilkin (Bill) (b. 20th Feb. 1882). Killed in a mining accident in Golden, B.C. Canada, 1902. (Never married).

c. Seymour Wylde Wilkin Howes (Wylde) (b. 1st July 1883, died 1923 from blood poisoning). Married Florence Mackenzie Gillie (1888-1967).[17]

Children of Seymour Wylde Howes (2nd) and Flossie

 Seymour Wylde (3rd) “Nick”. (1913-2004), married Ethel Dunlap and had children Nicola and Katherine

Queeny, born Feb. 14th 1915, married twice and had two children Carol and Jan.

Lena, married Joe Miller and had one daughter Daphne.

Kenneth Bruce. Born 4th Dec 1917. Became an Anglican minister, never married.

John Kingsley Howes, born Sept. 2nd. 1922. Married Frances Kirkup, had four children, Kirk; John; Judith and Laura.. 

d. Beatrix Lilian Howes (Trix)(b. 10th May 1885  died in England, 1958) married Dr. Gerald Heath in 1904 - four children .

Todd, married with one son.

 Leslie Lawrence (Chief Engineer and Manager of a sugar mill on St Kitts).

Kate – died of influena during the great epidemic after WWI.                                                           

Henry Wylde Edward Heath (1912-20020 - became a Police Officer in the Colonial Service and was later sent to Hong Kong where he rose to the rank of Police Commissioner (1959-67). He married in 1945 and he and his wife had two children Rodney and Angela.

e. Henry Randolph Howes (Harry) born 30th Nov.1887 died 1943... Married Monica Louisa Winifred Haines. He seems to have lived on Montserrat most of his life and a good photograph exists of the family taken on Montserrat in 1945.There were six children-

Laura (Loz) (m. Bill Sanford) one daughter , Jill.

Daphne (m. Eric Camacho & Raymond Norris).

William Seymour Randolph Howes (Jackie)( m. cousin Maureen Auchenleck) –two daughters Dilys and Penelope Ann,

 John (died aged 9 from poliomyelitis).

Lilian (m. Felix Moore) they have children

June (m. Keith Murphy), adopted son Roger.

f. Sarah Evelina Howes (Sally) ( b. 18th Aug 1890, died 1957). Married Maurice Auchenleck (pronounced “O’Fleck”) in 1919, two daughters

Maureen -married her 1st cousin Jackie Howes.- 2 daughters Dilys and Penelope  Anne (Penny)

Jocelyn- married Ken Harpster, one daughter Barbara

APPENDIX I (c) - Children of Lilian Elizabeth Howes and John McMaster.

a. Henry Shiell McMaster b. Sydney 8th Oct 1884

b. Stanley Wylde Howes McMaster b. “Croppa” 29 May 1886

c. Florence Una McMaster b. “Croppa” 24 May 1888

d. Lily Morrison McMaster b. “Croppa” 9 Sept 1890

e. Seymour Bruce McMaster b. “Croppa” 27 March 1893

f. Douglas Lester Mc Master b. “Croppa” 13 July 1895



[1] Entry in Howes family Bible.


[2] 1896 Death Certificate of Annie Howes. (A copy is in the possession of the authors.)


[3] see website


[4] Information from Howes  Family Bible.


[5] ) Personal communication from Montserrat amateur historian Dr Norman Griffin and Howes family records.  See additional notes on the names Howe/Howes in Appendix I


[6] Records of Montserrat”,(unpublished manuscript by T. Savage English page 206.)


[7] Dates and details of the subsequent life of Mary Ann and her daughters are taken from a brief typed biography written by her grandson Henry Shiell McMaster.  A copy of this manuscript is in the possession of the authors.


[8] According to the McMaster biography, both father Thomas Howes and son Seymour were “poisoned by the negros”. It is more likely that this is anecdotal and they possibly both died relatively young of a disease such as tuberculosis which was known to be in the family and an insidious scourge in those days. (see Appendix I for a list of Howes family members)


[9] Information provided by Ian Beissel from the Hay Historical Society, New South Wales, Australia (for more information contact ).


[10] Information from the McMaster family.


[11]  Death certificate of Henry’s 1st wife, Mary Ann Shiell (a copy of which is in the possession of the authors)


[12] Henry Shiell’s death certificate, (a copy of which is in the possession of the authors.)


[13] There are numerous later references to Howes on Montserrat


1887- An indenture conveying Weeks’ Estate from the Montserrat Co. to

S.W. Howes and J.C. Collins.


1911 -An agreement with S.W. Howes of Roche’s Estate to sell lime juice to the Montserrat Co.


1922- Transfer of 30 acres from the Olverston Estate to S.W. Howes.


 1978 - An elderly grand daughter of Seymour Howes, Mrs Maureen Auchinleck Howes was interviewed on Montserrat by Reynolds Morse. She was said to be white and knew about her relatives Henry and Mary Anne and the migration to Australia in the previous century. One of the present authors  (R.C.S) spoke with her whilst on Montserrat in 1984 and found that she appeared to be slightly colored.


1984.   John McMaster in a letter to the authors, stated that his grandfather, Henry Shiell McMaster had corresponded with a Miss Jocylyn Howes on Montserrat many years previously and he thought that she may have visited him in Australia.


[14] Information from Terry Maddox of New Zealand, a descendant of George Howe.


[15]  This information was compiled from notes in the possession of Alannah Brown. Some information is thought to have been gathered by Montserrat researcher Dolores Sommerville and later information is from John Kingsley Howes.


[16] It was said that Mary Ann’s brother Henry Shiell was the best man at her wedding. Henry was said to be “the son of the Montserrat Commissioner, William Shiell of Gray’s Inn.” This is not correct as Henry and Mary Ann’s father was James Phipps Shiell, the brother of William and John Shiell. The source of this information is unknown but it is an interesting possibility as William filled many roles on Montserrat that would require legal skills (1808 Judge of Court of Chancery and Grand Sessions, 1834  President of Council, 1840 President Administering the Government of Montserrat, Administrator of at least 16 Sugar Estates and other properties for absentee landlords). We know a great deal about William Shiell (see The Shiell Family of the Caribbean Island of Montserrat by Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson ) but had never heard it suggested that he had studied for the bar at Grey’s Inn. Perhaps he commenced reading for the bar and never completed  his studies.  His brother, John Shiell, attended a rival legal faculty, Lincoln’s Inn (1808-1813). He was a barrister on Montserrat and Antigua and was later appointed Chief Justice of Antigua (1843-47).

[17] S.W. Howes was a prominent planter and member of the Legislative Assembly. He introduced many things to Montserrat. He is said to have brought the first automobile to Montserrat, around 1921/22 and built a factory to process Arrowroot. He brought the first pre-fabricated house to Montserrat from Canada.  He named this Woodlands House and installed the first indoor flush toilet, the first electricity generating water turbine,( 32 volts).


Copyright © 2007 By Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson.

Used with permission of the authors.

Return to M. P. Shiel