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

For reader comment please contact the first author on richard.shiell@gmail.com



According to William himself there were 8 children [1] but we have a letter from Montserrat historian Dr Norman Griffin that another son was born and died in 1850. [2]  We were given the names of 6 of the boys by Dr Griffin.  These were William, Henry, John Ross, James Phipps, Queely and another William, born after the death of the firstborn. Unfortunately we do not know Dr Griffin’s sources and have not been able to verify the existence of most of these sons in the historic record. To make up the numbers provided by William there must have been at least 3 girls and one can speculate that, by the conventions of the day, there would possibly have been a Mary after the mother, an Elizabeth, after the maternal grandmother and perhaps an Ann, named after the paternal grandmother.


We know from one of William’s letters that some or all of the children received some part of their education in England.[3] Unfortunately, except for the letter regarding the oldest son William and the later records of Henry, these young folk disappear into the mists of history. Presumably some other children survived to adulthood and the authors sincerely hope that some day, a descendent of this branch of the family will get in touch with us.


GUNNER” SHIELL . A gun used to be fired from Fort Barrington, near Plymouth at eight o’clock in the evening. The custom was discontinued in the 1880s when a member of the local militia by the name of Shiell was killed while operating  the muzzle-loading cannon. Nothing further is known about him. [4]


HENRY SHIELL was probably the 1827 son of William and is mentioned as the lessee of the Bransby’s Estate in 1852 [5] and a Henry M. Shiell, husband of Rosetta, is noted as dying in 1869 at aged 42.[6] These two Henrys were probably the same person. 



At present little is known about this man except for the following snippets from the historical record-


1.                  1842. “John Shiell returned for Town of Plymouth and Kinsale in place of William Dyett”.[7]  This would indicate that in addition to owning property valued at more than the statutory minimum amount. He was probably able to read and write and was probably at least 21 years of age at the time (i.e. born 1821 or before).


2.                  1848. John N. Shiell appears on the records as a Provision Farmer. [8] We do not know the name attached to the middle initial “N”. This would possibly give an indication of the surname of his mother.


3.                  After some years of following the customs of Montserrat in regard to the naming of offspring on Montserrat it is the belief of the authors that John N. Shiell was possibly the illegitimate son of the barrister-at-law John Shiell. The initial “N” may certainly have been of significance and may give the clue to the identity of the colored mother.  There were not many surnames beginning with “N” on Montserrat in the entire history of the island so after scanning hundreds of pages of documents we can take our pick from only eight.[9]


4.                  The author met a John Shiell and his daughter Mollie in Plymouth in1984 (he had several other children as well Clifford, Hilton, Anez, and Nymphis).  He was the guard at the Bank of Canada on the S.W corner of High and George Street. He was very black and knew little about his ancestors except that his father, who died around 1944 had been Arthur Shiell and his grandfather, born in the 19th century had been John Shiell.  This grandfather may have been a descendent of John N. Shiell, possibly his son or grandson, but this point has not yet been clarified.


5.                  Our informant stated that Arthur Shiell had a brother called Cornelius who had a number of children also (John, Agnes and Florence Shiell, Alfreda (Weeks) and Mary(Semper). The author met Alfreda, who was in her mid-30s in 1984 but did not hear where the others were living at that time.


JOHN SHIEL.  Died 24th June 1899, aged 36 (thus born 1863)[10]. He could have been a son or grandson of John N. Shiell. He was very probably the father of Arthur and Cornelius Shiell, fathers of the 20th century Shiell clan on Montserrat.



His relationship to the other Shiells is unknown. He appears only once in the records being mentioned in correspondence between MDS and his son Phipps 19th August 1887. 

“I bought 2 leeches and Moro Shiell put them on one of my legs.  I bled much but there has not been the slightest improvement”. ( MDS died 4 months later on  Jan. 6th 1888).


P. SHIELL noted as being paid a refund of £2-4-8 for duty paid on some hoes.[11]

Someone of the same initial is recorded as selling one coal pot to the Government at for 4 shillings for the Hospital.[12]


PRISCILLA ANN SHIELL (nee Blake), born 13th April 1828 and died 14th April, 1910, aged 82 years. She was the wife of Matthew Dowdy Shiell and mother of author M.P Shiel (Matthew Phipps Shiell).


ROSETTA SHIELL , (maiden name unknown). She was the wife of a Henry Shiell and received a pension of £1 per month after his death in 1869.[13] She died in 1886.[14]


S. SHIELL. On Sept 24th 1892 a person by this name was paid 2 shillings for weeding at the hospital.[15]


SARAH SHIELD (sic) noted in the Montserrat records by A Reynolds Morse in 1979, relationship unknown and date of death inadvertently not recorded.[16]  Note that “Shield” was a common misspelling of the name Shiell throughout the island records then, as it remains today.



APPENDIX XXXIII - The Blake family of Montserrat.


The West Indies branch of the Blake family seem to descend from John Blake, Mayor of Galway in 1646.  His 2nd son, Henry, emigrated to Montserrat in 1670. Henry later sold his share of the estates to his brother John who died in 1692 leaving a daughter Catherine, who married Nicholas Lynch of Antigua.


Other members of the Blake family associated with the West Indies were –


Patrick Blake of St Kitts who married Mary Ann, daughter of Andrew Bodkin of Montserrat, leaving one son,


Martin Blake of St Kitts. Martin married Sarah, daughter of Dominick Trant.


Andrew Blake of St Kitts married Marcella French and died in London in1760 leaving issue.


Sir Patrick Blake married Annabella, daughter of Sir William Bunbury and had one daughter and 2 sons.


Sir Patrick Blake, of Montserrat and Langham, Co Suffolk, officer in the 10th Dragoons, married Maria Charlotte Phipps on 12-8-1789 and died without issue on 27-7-1818. (Caribbeana, page 68 and 74.) The Phipps family was very prominent on St Kitts and in England.  Many members were knighted and Sir Constantine Phipps (1655-1723) became Lord Chancellor for Ireland (1710-14)


Sir Henry James Blake, brother of the above, married 13-2-1794, Louisa Elizabeth, daughter of General Hon. Thomas Gage and had 4 children, Sir Henry Charles, Admiral Patrick John, Rev William Robert and James Bunbury Blake.


At the time of slave compensation in 1836 a number of Blakes were noted as receiving compensation. Elizabeth Burt Blake received £75-18-9, Elizabeth Blake £97-11-2, Susannah Blake £45-12-2, Isabella Blake £70-19-8, Henry Blake £321-18-7, Henry Blake and William Harnett £283-18-4, John Blake £68-9-0, Mary Browne Blake £83-13-2 and Martha Blake £34-4-2. It is not known if these Bakes were white or colored but they were certainly "middle-class" enough to each own a number of slaves.


One branch of the Blake family was, by 1850, one of the largest property owners on Montserrat but Priscilla’s relationship to this family is unknown.  Her father had possibly once been a Blake family slave. The absence of Priscilla’s father William from the list of those compensated possibly indicates that the family were either too poor to own a slave or had been liberated so recently themselves that they did not consider slave ownership a proper thing. 



APPENDIX XXXIV - Possible middle names for John N. Shiell.


While of no great importance, it is interesting to speculate on what the initial “N” could represent in this colored gentleman who was elected to represent the town of Plymouth on the Montserrat Assembly. While middle names could be normal Christian names they were very frequently surnames and an indicator of family connections. There were not many surnames beginning with “N” on Montserrat in the entire history of the island and after scanning hundreds of pages of documents we can take our pick from only the eight.


Nation, Roger, a landowner and signatory to a petition in 1668. No sign of the name after that time.


Neale, Rania. Compensated for the loss of slaves valued at £50 in 1836


Neave, Sir Thomas, absentee landlord, (but he may have left his genes and name around the island after occasional visits)


Necombe (?Newcombe) , Margaret, a small landowner recorded in the 1729 census, name not seen subsequently.


Nicholson, Dr Alex, a landowner in Plymouth in 1673. Name does not appear on Montserrat subsequently but is prominent on Antigua.


Nixon James, laborer, married a Montserrat girl Elizabeth Wyke in 1725, and we have a record of him still living on Montserrat at the time of the census of 1729. No sign after that.


Northward, John.  A provision farmer noted in 1848 and almost certainly colored.


Nugent, Captain Thomas Nugent was the first to arrive in 1681. Then there was Christopher Nugent,( Lord Delvin, son of the Earl of Westmeath) and in 1801 John Nugent of Dysart, Westmeath and Lt Governor of Tortola. The latter had no legitimate dependents and in his Will of 1801 he left his West India estates to his Irish nephews the Savage brothers Andrew, Patrick, Roger, John and William.


John Shiell, a barrister on Antigua and later the Chief Justice married Elizabeth Jane in the late 1830s. It is thought that his wife’s maiden name was probably a Nugent as she and her daughters owned and later sold Delvin’s Estate in 1861. Elizabeth most probably inherited this Estate from her father who may have been Christopher Nugent.


Some personal names rather than family names

It is possible that we are on the wrong track altogether so let us look at some possible Irish or English Christian names in that era starting with “N”. There are very few from which to chose - Nathanial, Nathan, Ned, Neil, Nicholas and Norman are the only ones that spring to mind.



Copyright © 2006 By Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson.

Used with permission of the authors.

Return to M.P. Shiel


[1] Letter to Lord Stanley dated 7th May 1842.


[2] Letter from DR Griffin to one of the authors (RCS) dated  25th August 1974.


[3] Letter to Lord Stanley as mentioned above.


[4] Crandall, Donald R. “A Military History of Montserrat, W.I. page 312.


[5] T. Savage English typescript, page 205


[6] Montserrat monument inscription


[7] CO 177 23  also BPP, H of C, 1848, Vol 45.


[8] These were small market gardens and this would almost certainly mark him as both poor and coloured.


[9] See Appendix XXXIV


[10]  Recorded in “The Quest for Redonda” by A. Reynolds Morse. Source of information is unknown.


[11] Old Treasury Cashbook, Montserrat.


[12] Ibid.


[13] Ibid.


[14] Monumental inscription.


[15] Old Treasury Cashbook, Montserrat.


[16]  The Quest for Redonda, printed privately in 1979 for the Reynolds Morse Foundation