WILLIAM SHIELL (1785 - 1853)
By Richard C. Shiell and Dorothy Anderson, Melbourne, Australia.
Revised version March 2005. For reader comment please contact the first author on email@example.com
There were a number of males by the name of William Shiell on Montserrat at various times. In fact, for two decades, three individuals of this name shared the same 39 square miles that constituted the tiny island of Montserrat in the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean.
William, the subject of this paper, fathered three boys named William. He himself was one of the 7 children of Queely Shiell, the largest land and slave owner on Montserrat  and he rose to become President of Council on Montserrat. At his prime William was a man of great importance on the island and he even served as Administrator for two periods in the 1840s. He is variously listed as William G. Shiell by one authority  and William P. Shiell by another  but we have located no evidence that he used or possessed a middle name and in all documents the authors have sighted he signed his name just “William Shiell”. Certainly his brother John registered only one name when he enrolled at Lincoln’s Inn in London in 1808 but their other brother James Phipps made constant use of his illustrious middle name.
As we have noted above, William sired three sons who received the name William. The first recorded son was born in 1823 to Mary McNamara who may have been his mistress for a time. This child was possibly brought up by his mother and the McNamaras, a seafaring family. He grew to adulthood on Montserrat and is noted in charge of several small vessels trading from Montserrat. He gained his masters certificate in Britain in 1853 just prior to his departure for Australia.
In June 1826, according to historian Dr Griffin, William, who was by now on the Legislative Council of Montserrat, married Mary Cabey Semper , the daughter of another major landowner Dudley Semper. A son was born in August of that same year, 1826, and named William. Apparently this young man did not survive beyond his early 20’s because William senior was said by Dr Griffin to have named another son William in 1850. It was claimed by the same authority that this infant son died aged 5 months.
Dr Griffin also listed other sons to William and his wife Mary. Henry was born in 1827, John Ross 1834, James Phipps 1836, Queely 1837 as well as the second William in 1850. There must have been daughters as well, for in a letter to Lord Stanley in May 1842 William claimed to have eight children so this would leave room for three living daughters at that time. Writing to Lord Grey in April 1850, an impoverished and despondent William Shiell claimed now to have seven children so presumably the smallpox and cholera epidemics of the late 1840s had taken their toll on the lives of one or more of his children by that time. One death was certainly that of the oldest boy, William, for whom his father had been trying to obtain an army commission since 1842.  The tragic loss of this young man would have been a reason to reuse the name for his last born son in 1850.
William was already in financial difficulty in the late 1830s as a result of the declining revenues from the sugar plantations. This was a direct consequence of the Emancipation of slaves in 1834 and the reluctance of the blacks to perform hard manual labor once freed. At any rate the going rate of pay on Montserrat, 5 pence per day, was small incentive to work hard for a former master, especially when even this meager reward was frequently weeks or months delayed.
The British Government, through their regional Governors, tried to get the various former slave colonies to improve the daily rate and reliability of pay and, in return, they were encouraged to collect rental on land leased to the former slaves. This was strongly resisted by most of the Colonial Councils and elected Assemblies on a variety of reasons. Some of these reasons had merit but mostly it was sheer conservatism on the part of the plantation owners who could not see any possibility of getting extra work out of the island‘s laborers.
In practice, the more enterprising laborers simply migrated to islands where the pay rate was higher (e.g. 9 pence per day on Trinidad) and where opportunities were far greater for an industrious man while the lazy and less enterprising individuals remained behind
on Montserrat. This emigration was actually encouraged for a time by a bounty paid to ship owners to transfer workers from Montserrat to Trinidad and British Guyana.
A severe earthquake in 1843 caused extensive damage to houses and sugar mills. To pay for the cost of repairs, the sugar producers obtained loans from the British government and were saddled with large interest payments that further reduced the value of their Estates.
Administrator Baynes took 12 month’s leave of absence from August 1846 and William, by virtue of his position as President of the Legislative Council, once again became the Interim Administrator of Montserrat. William’s brother, John Shiell was the Chief Justice of Antigua and although it is not known if the brothers were close, they certainly shared the same social strata and had a profound common interest as the likely beneficiaries of their father’s numerous estates on Montserrat. Both were under the authority of the Leeward Islands governor, Mr Higginson, who resided on Antigua.
During this brief time in power William appears to have encouraged the estate proprietors on the Montserrat Assembly to refuse to ratify a British Government Bill for a cattle tax, on the grounds that it was illegal. He was further accused by Baynes of some interference with the Treasury to his own advantage.
William himself seems to have taken 6 months leave upon the return of Administrator Baynes in 1847 and was recorded as being in England for at least part of this period. His brother John died in September 1847 that may have been just before William’s departure or shortly afterwards.
It is tempting to think that William may have gone to England in a last ditch attempt to gain favor with his aging and once wealthy father. Unfortunately, Queely had a stroke and some days later, on 27th November 1847, he died. It is very likely that William was in London at the time.
During this period the sugar producers of the West Indies received another blow when , following the repeal of the Corn Laws, the tariff imposed on sugar from other regions was also lifted. This meant that people in Britain could buy cane or beet-sugar from Europe or elsewhere at competitive prices.
The death of Queely and the realization that he was to inherit only debt-laden properties must have been a bitter blow to William. Furthermore, a Codicil to Queely’s Will in early 1847 stipulated that the surviving sons provide a large annuity of £500 for life to his daughter Eleanor. He had been staring into the face of bankruptcy for some years and there now seemed no way out of his financial problems.
Back in Montserrat by the early part of 1848, William continued to attract censure from Administrator Baynes for the inefficient management of his estates and the non-payment of his labourers. His April 1850 Report to Governor Higginson describes him as “ possibly the evil genius of the colony”. There were other accusations of impropriety against him as well, such as of not paying the taxes due on a property under his care and then buying this properties cheaply at the resulting forfeiture sale. (His defense was that he was buying it back cheaply for the former owner.)
On top of all this, smallpox (1849) and then cholera (1851) epidemics caused great distress and a further decline in workforce numbers and morale on Montserrat.
William was ruined and in late 1850 he was forced to resign from Council on grounds of insolvency. His father’s old estates were confiscated  and sold very cheaply  and it is said that William and his wife Mary both died in 1853. There has been no record of their deaths located in Montserrat so it is likely that after his financial ruin, William and Mary and the younger members of their family may have gone elsewhere to live.
We were able to find only four further mentions of this branch of the Shiell family in the Montserrat records. Dr Griffin claimed that a young Queely later served on the Assembly but we have not yet been able to confirm this and he may have been wrong. Henry Shiell, who was probably the 1827 son of William, is mentioned as the leasee of the Bransby’s Estate in 1852  and a Henry M. Shiell is noted as dying in 1869 at aged 42. These two Henrys were probably the same person. Rosetta, the wife of a Henry Shiell, received a pension of 1 pound per month after his death  and died in 1886.
The Shiell name continued on Montserrat until recent times but the present bearers, who are very dark-skinned, have no idea of their ancestry prior to the early 20th century. It is possible however, that they are descendants of John N. Shiell, a colored provision farmer, who may himself have been the natural son of Queely’s second son John..
Known Historic References to William Shiell
1808. Appointed to Council of Montserrat.
1808. William is Judge of Court of Chancery and Grand Session (no salary).
1809. William mentioned as being on the Council. The President is Hon. Joseph Herbert.
1810-1820. William is Postmaster at Plymouth, Montserrat.
1815, June 17th. William signs a document as “acting Comptroller of Customs.
1819. Colonel Shiell supported Attorney General R Musgrave against F.Gore Willock.
1823, January 8th. Mary McNamara gives birth to a son called William. William Shiell, a planter, is said to be the father.
1822-25. William is still on Council. (Mary McNamara, his presumed mistress, is recorded as paying taxes, so she was obviously a small property owner or business woman in her own right).
1826, June. William marries Mary Cabey Semper, daughter of Dudley Semper. James Phipps Shiell was a witness according to Montserrat historian Dr Griffin.
1826, August. A son William is born to William and Mary (nee Semper). (Dr Griffin)
1827. A second son, Henry, is born to William and Mary.
1834 . William Shiell is elected President of Council.
1835, August. William Shiell is suspended from Council over a legal matter.
1836. William Shiell is back as President of Council.
1836. William Shiell and John Cannonier jointly awarded £1693 in an amended award for slave compensation.
1839-43. William is still President of Council.
March 1840. Administrator Hamilton died and William assumed the office of Administrator ”by virtue of his office of President of the Council” - no annual salary but he is given fees of £94. He is allowed a house and 10 days leave but took neither of these.
1840. Letter from William Shiell to Lord John Rupert soliciting a job - presumably that of Administrator of the Government.
1840, August 12th. William requests leave for one week to go to Nevis on business- this was granted.
1841, June. William unsuccessfully solicits an army commission for his oldest legitimate son William.
1842. May 7th Letter from William Shiell to Lord Stanley, Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies. William again solicits an army commission for his oldest legitimate son, William, ” I am the father of 8 children, 3 receiving education in England and 3 upon the point of being sent there for a similar purpose”...” eldest son William, now in his 16th year ”. 
1842. November. Riot in Plymouth, Montserrat.
1843, Feb 8th- worst earthquake in Montserrat’s recorded history with great destruction and 6-8 deaths.
1843, April. William again solicits a commission for his son.
1845. William still President of Council
!846, Aug 8th. Severe drought on Montserrat. President Baynes on leave, so William is re-appointed Administrator of the Government with a salary £250 for the period.
1847 Aug 12th. William applies for 6 months leave of absence.
1847, September. William’s brother John dies in Antigua. He was a Barrister at Law and the Chief Justice of the Island of Antigua.
1847, November 27th . Queely Shiell dies in London. The final Codicil to his Will of January 1847 leaves his debt-laden properties to his sons John (who had died 2 months earlier) and William.
1847, December. William is still President of Council and Baynes is back as Administrator.
1847. A report by Administrator Baynes criticizes the earthquake loan from the British Government to the Planters of Montserrat. “…injurious to the general interests of the island. Of the whole amount of £20,000, £15,000 was lent to 5 individuals…….. The entire revenue of the country is answerable under the Act for the defaults made by these individuals one, who received £6000, has not paid a single sixpence and another who received £5000 has paid interest for one year only although the time fixed for the payment for the third year is near at hand….” Property values are down to half their listed value and William Shiell, no friend of Baynes, is presumed to be one of these unnamed individuals.
1847. William Shiell was listed as the manager of 16 sugar estates and a number of stock estates. These included 7 belonging to his father Queely valued at £44,700 and 5 belonging to the “Heirs of Dudley Semper”, valued at £27,500. These prices were quite unrealistic as the properties all carried heavy debts and were virtually un-saleable. He personally owned only one small stock estate (Morris’s) valued at £1000.
1848, William is censured by Baynes, (along with some other attorneys) for inefficient management of estates and frequent non-payment of wages to plantation laborers (which were 1 shilling local currency per day).
1849, December 4th. Letters from Mrs Therese Kennedy, heiress of Sir Michael Cole and widow of Captain Kennedy, “…friend of Mr Edmund Semper and Colonel Shiell….”
regarding the sale of her 350 acres for only £20 after late payment of £2 tax (W. Shiell the executor, who usually paid this tax for her, was laid up after a severe fall from his horse at the time).
1850, March 13th. Dispatches-“Smallpox prevailing to an appalling extent on Montserrat”. October 31st. A report by Administrator Baynes mentioned the double infliction of unusual drought and a loathsome disease which prostrated in illness more than three fourths of our population. 
1850, April 9th. Letter from President Baynes to the Governor in Chief Mr Higginson complaining of William Shiell……. “This man is possibly the evil genius of the colony, not only has he by bad management ruined himself but he drags down the Island by him. It would be hazardous under any circumstances to allow him ever again to administer the government……”
In another letter he says “…Mr. Shiell, who as storekeeper and trader in this town was at the time largely engaged on mercantile and other concerns…” 
1850, April 27 William Shiell writes to Rt. Hon. Earl Grey, Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies seeking the job of Provost Marshall.
1850, May 17th. Correspondence of Mr. Richard Goodall, who was appointed Master of Chancery, regarding bankruptcy and other charges against William Shiell.
1850, July 1st. Letter from B. Howes (a Public Servant in England) to Mr. Higginson regarding the propriety of removing Mr.W. Shiell from Council. “…. There are imputations too, affecting the conduct and character of Mr. Shiell, which if established against him, we suggest the propriety of removing him from the seat which he holds in the Council of Montserrat, and it is further alleged that he is bankrupt, which under ordinary circumstances ought itself to be disqualification. Lord Grey requests in particular to be furnished with your opinion on this subject”.
1850, July 9. W. Shiell applies again for the job of Provost Marshall, also as Clerk of Court and Secretary of the Island.
1850, 24th July. Further letter from Howes regarding William Shiell. “…that Mr. Shiell, a Member of Council, is distinctly accused of having, in his capacity of receiver in Chancery, neglected to pay taxes on properties in his charge until they were put up for sale by the Provost Marshall, and of having then bought the properties himself in his private capacity for almost nominal prices. His only explanation is that he did not intend to buy them for himself, but for the benefit of the parties for whom he was acting in trust as Receiver - but he does not deny that the deeds were such as to convey the property absolutely to himself. Neither is it denied that his accounts received were not ordered as they ought to have been” 
In defense, William, in a letter dated 22 July 1850, claimed to have been unable to pay the taxes on time because he was “dangerously ill at the time and confined to my bed.” 
1850, Aug 12th. W. Shiell informs of the death of Mr. Hamilton, the Provost Marshall (and the son of a former President). He again requests the job as his replacement.
???see above, July 9th
1850, Aug. 20th. A British Colonial Office official’s attaches the following comments to Shiell’s letter of July 9th “But this is the person whose conduct or misconduct rather as Receiver in Chancery in Montserrat has formed the subject of a recent correspondence with Mr Higginson 20 Aug 1850”
1850, August 27th. Last date with William Shiell in attendance as Council President.
1850, September 14, October 28 & 30. Letters and complaints against Baynes and Dobridge.
1850, Oct 31st. President Baynes reports on the 1849/50 smallpox epidemic, “the loathsome disease which prostrated in illness three-fourths of our population” also in the same letter ‘“the Asssembly elections- a watershed with 6 whites and 6 coloreds being elected” 
1850, Nov 14th. Letter from William Shiell to Lord Grey referring to a document listing Shiell properties seized and sold. “..My Estates which have been thus confiscated enabled the proprietor, my late Father, to educate a large Family, of seven children. The income from these properties amounted to more than £5000 per annum, sterling, after deducting the expenses”.He also complains of the inappropriateness of appointing Mr Baynes, “a stranger who is totally unconnected in the Island”, as President.
1851, January 28th. A 28-page letter from Governor Mackintosh to Earl Grey containing charges against President Baynes, mentions William Shiell’s resignation or retirement in different places and asks that the vacancy be not filled “because of the difficulty under its present distressed circumstances in furnishing a sufficient number of adequate candidates” .
1851, Feb 10th . President Baynes in a letter mentions “the street in the Strand between Messrs Sheill’s (sic) and Semper’s stores”.
1852. The Montserrat Council and Legislative Assembly are amalgamated into a new Legislative assembly of 12 members (4 appointed and 8 elected by the freeholders of the island for 3 year terms (2 from each of the 4 Parishes).
1852, August. The Montserrat Customs House was closed.
1852. Tuitt’s Estate, 200 acres, the property of William Shiell was sold to Thomas Greer for £317 subject to repayment of the £1050 loan form the British Government for repairs subsequent to the 1843 earthquake.
1853. William Shiell senior dies - his wife Mary dies the same year.
1853, August. Henry Shiell, son of William’s brother James Phipps Shiell arrives in Australia. After some years as a rural Clerk of Petty Sessions and then Police Magistrate in New South Wales, he settled in Sydney as the city Coroner.
1853, December, William Shiell, illegitimate son of ex-President William arrives in Australia as 2nd mate of the brig “Gazelle”.
1854. President Baynes is dismissed.
1869 February 1st. Henry M. Shiell died on Montserrat, aged 42.
1886, Sept 30, Rosetta Shiell, wife of William’s 1827 son Henry, died aged 52.
1889, January 30th. Henry Shiell, son of James Phipps Shiell dies in Sydney Australia.
1896, October 23rd. Mary Ann Shiell, daughter of James Phipps Shiell, dies at “Warialda”, Australia.
1899. William Shiell, the illegitimate son of President William and Mary McNamara dies at Homebush, Victoria, Australia aged 76. He now has over 300 descendents in Australia.
Appendix I. First Letter from Dr Norman Griffin to Dr Richard Shiell
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)
Appendix II, Second Letter from Dr Norman Griffin to Dr Richard Shiell
29th October 1974.
Richmond Hill, Montserrat,
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 a 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 neighboring 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
Sincerely, Norman Griffin.
Appendix III…. Petition from William Shiell to Lord Stanley, Secretary of State for the Colonies, stating his credentials and seeking assistance in procuring an Army Commission for his oldest son.
Montserrat 7 May 1842
To the Right Honorable Lord Stanley
Her Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies
The Humble Memorial of William Shiell President of Her Majesty’s Council for the Island of Montserrat
That your Memorialist was appointed a Member of Her Majesty’s Council, in the year 1808 and has continued to act in that capacity ever since, being a period of thirty two years, that he succeeded in the month of March 1840, upon the death of Mr President Hamilton, to the local government of the Colony, which he administered until the Month of August 1841, without deriving any Emolument from the Crown, or the Colony, to the satisfaction of those who were placed in authority over him, and with advantage to the general Interests of all classes of Her Majesty’s Subjects in the Island.
That he was superseded in the government of the Colony by Mr Edward Dacres Baynes, the Provost Marshal of Dominica, by Mandamus under Her Majesty’s Royal Sign Manual, and that he receives from the Crown five hundred Pounds per annum, as the Officer Administering the government of the said Colony.
That your Memorialist always anxious to support the dignity of the Station, to which he had been involuntarily called to fill, entertained at his own private expense, all public functionaries who visited the island in their Official Capacities, during the period that he administered the government of the Colony.
That your Memorialist is the Father of Eight children, three of them receiving their Education in England, and three upon the point of being sent there for as similar purpose, that he is desirous, having served her Majesty’s Royal Predecessors, and Her most Gracious Majesty, with the strictest fidelity, in his said capacity as a Member of Her Majesty’s Council, And as President administering the Government of the Colony, during his term of office, to obtain a Commission, in the Army for his Eldest Son William Shiell, now in his Sixteenth Year, but that he is prevented from purchasing the same, from a variety of concurring causes not necessary to be enumerated here, without doing a manifest Injury to the Interests and claims of his other children.
That your Memorialist therefore most humbly solicits your Lordship to take the premises into your consideration, by using your intercession in his behalf and recommending him in the proper quarter, as one not undeserving of the Royal favor, with the view of procuring for his said Son William Shiell a Commission in Her Majesty’s Army, in any Regiment of the line, which may be deemed by those in Authority, most fitting and expedient to appoint him.
And your Memorialist as in duty bound, will ever pray.
From William Shiell- Report of the Montserrat Blue Book for the year 1846
Mr Baynes in his Report of the Blue Book for the year 1845 has so fully and amply enlarged upon every subject connected with the general statistics of the colony, that it would only be a repetition and waste of words if I were to attempt to write anything in addition to that able and valuable document, to which I must only pray a reference for the general and very useful information it conveys.
The metayer or metae system, adverted to by Mr Baynes in his Report, has made considerable progress since he left the government of the colony; many of the proprietory body, not having capital or funds to cultivate at their own expense their estates, have been compelled to resort to this system, allowing the labourers in some instances one-half of the produce made, in others one-third; and there are at this moment not less than twelve estates in this island in actual operation under this system of cultivation, so that there is every reasonable probability there will be an increase in the staple export of the island to what it has been for several preceding years, in consequence of those estates that were abandoned being brought again under cultivation.
The sensible remarks noticed by Mr Baynes on the subject of emigration need scarcely be adverted to by me, were it not for the circumstances that since he has left the colony Her Majesty’s enlightened Government have done away with the payment of all bounties on the removal of labourers from one colony to another, and which has conferred the greatest boon on the island.
The facilities afforded to emigration to the insalubrious climate of Trinidad and British Guiana since the 1st of August, 1838, from having two vessels continually employed from this port in conveying away its labourers, would in a short time have denuded this little colony of its adult population, had it not been for the timely interference of Her Majesty’s benevolent Government in putting a stop to so nefarious a traffic.
Being largely connected with the landed interest of the colony, I have much satisfaction in reporting, that since the prohibition matters have assumed a more healthy state, the labourers more settled in their habits, and apparently contented with being located on their respective estates. The population of the island for the year ending 31st December, 1846, is 3336 males, 4029 females, total 7365; of which 3742 are employed in agriculture. Births 223, marriages 45; deaths 119’manifesting an evident increase in its population.
…………..notes on imports and exports…………………..
Notwithstanding the island is and has been for months visited with a severe drought, to the extent of retarding considerably the ensuing crop, there is every reason for congratulation in the apparent rising prosperity of the colony; and should it be vouchsafed, under Divine permission, to fructify the parched and arid lands with an abundance of refreshing showers, we may still indulge in the pleasing expectation that the ensuing year may prove prosperous, and compensate the proprietor of the soil for all his trouble and expense.
Wm. Shiell, President.
Dispatch from Governor Higginson to Earl Grey
Government House, Antigua
June 7, 1847
I have the honour to forward the Blue Book of Montserrat for 1846 together with the Report accompanying it, from the President administering the Government.
I have so lately addressed your Lordship in regard to the condition of this island that it seems unnecessary for me on the present occasion to trouble your Lordship on the subject, further than to remark that Mr President Shiell appears to take a more favourable view of its prospects than I was lead to form during my recent visit, and which I earnestly trust may be justified by the result. The President’s long experience and intimate acquaintance with the past and present state of Montserrat afford him the means of arriving at, probably, a more correct estimate of its capabilities than my limited knowledge enabled me to do. His expectations seem to be founded, in a degree, upon the successful working of the metayer system of cultivation, which is now being more frequently adopted; and we may reasonably anticipate that if by that or any other method the numerous estates now lying abandoned can be reclaimed, and more general advantage can be taken of the undoubted resources of the colony, considerable progress will be made in restoring this once flourishing and still beautiful island to its former wealth and prosperity.
I have, & etc
Final Codicil from the typed transcription of Queely Shiell’s Last Will and Testament ( For the entire transcript of this long and detailed Will please see biography of Queely Shiell by the same authors)
This is the third Codicil to the last Will and Testament of me Queely Shiell formerly of the Island of Montserrat in the West Indies but now of Clarges St. in the County of Middlesex Esquire which Will bears date the twenty ninth day of April one thousand eight hundred and forty four whereas I have by the second Codicil to my said Will and which bears date the twenty second day of November one thousand eight hundred and forty five given to my granddaughters Eleanor Allan and Louisa Allan an annuity of three hundred pounds for their lives and the life of the survivor charged on my West India Estates to take effect after the decease of their mother Eleanor Allan and it is my intention that my said granddaughters shall have an annuity of four hundred pounds instead of the said annuity of three hundred pounds Now therefore I do revoke the said annuity of three hundred pounds bequeathed by my said second Codicil And I give to my said granddaughters and to the survivor of them in lieu thereof during their and her lives and life an annuity of four hundred pounds to take effect only in case my said granddaughters or either of them shall be living at the decease of my daughter Eleanor Allan and to be charged and chargeable and which I do hereby accordingly charge upon and against my West India Estates and to be payable and paid at such and the same times and to be recoverable together with a proportionate part up to the day of the decease of the survivor of my said granddaughters in such and the same manner as the said annuity of three hundred pounds was intended to be under the provisions and powers in that behalf contained in my said second Codicil all of which provisions and powers it is my intention shall be applicable and incident to the annuity hereby bequeathed and intended to be substituted as if the same powers and provisions were herein repeated And in addition to such personal estate in Great Britain which I shall die possessed of and which by my said second Codicil I have bequeathed to my said daughter Eleanor Allan as therein mentioned I give and bequeath to her all and every sum and sums of money charged upon or due or owing to me or to which I am entitled from Gerrald’s Estate and Trants Estate respectively in the Island of Montserrat and the securities for the same respectively And I devise to my said daughter Eleanor Allan her heirs executors administrators and assigns all such estate right title and interest which I am in any manner entitled to by way of mortgage or otherwise in the same several estates or either of them in respect of the monies owing to me therefrom And I also give to my said daughter all and every sums and sum due and owing to me from John Kirwan now or late of the said Island of Montserrat Esquire on his xxxxxxx[bono?] and Warrant of Attorney Indguient or otherwise howsoever And whereas under and by virtue of my second Codicil and this present Codicil my two sons will become entitled as tenants in common in fee simple to all my plantations and lands with the buildings works machinery cattle live and other dead stock upon or belonging thereto in the said Island of Montserratt or elsewhere in the West Indies subject and charged with the annuity of five hundred pounds bequeathed by my said second Codicil to my said daughter Eleanor Allan and with the said contingent annuity of four hundred pounds hereby bequeathed as aforesaid Now my Will is and I do hereby direct and declare that the property to which my said Sons shall so become entitled shall likewise by subject and liable to all and every or any debts or debt sums and sum of money whatsoever due or owing by me therefrom at the time of my decease and to all liabilities (if any) incurred by me or on my behalf in respect thereof or any part thereof or otherwise in the said Island of Montserratt in the West Indies in exoneration and discharge of my personal Estate in Great Britain and of such other specific personal estate as I have hereby bequeathed it being my intention that the benefits intended for my said daughter shall be freed of all my West India debts and liabilities whatsoever and save so far as the same is hereby altered I confirm my said Second Codicil in all other respects In witness whereof I the said Queely Shiell the Testator have to this Third Codicil to my last Will and Testament set my hand and seal this first day of January in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty seven - Queely Shiell - xxxxx - Signed sealed published acknowledged and declared by the said Queely Shiell the Testator as and for a third Codicil to his last Will and Testament in the presence of us we being present together at the same time who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto subscribed our names as witnesses - Matt Hale Ely Place Solr - Clifton Nielson - Wm Shuckburgh Garlick Clerks to Messrs Hale Boys & Austin Ely Place Solicitors
Proved at London with three Codicils the 18th December 1847 before the Worshipful William Galvert Gurtsis Doctor of Laws and Surrogate by the Oath of John Hopton Forbes Esquire one of the Executors for Great Britain to whom Administration was granted having been first sworn only to administer power reserved of making the like grant to Sir Samuel Scott Baronet the other Executor for Great Britain when he shall apply for the same.
Letter from Edward D. Baynes President, to the Governor in Chief of the Leeward Islands( Mr I.M Higginson Esquire) dated 9th April 1850
Montserrat 9th April 1850
Circumstances have occurred since I addressed Your Excellency my confidential despatch of the 28thultimo that render it, I think advisable that I should communicate again with Your Excellency on the subject. An overwhelming number of executions have been recorded against Mr Shiell the President of the Council, and the Marshal has in consequence levied on the stock of every property belonging to, or rented by him in the island. The result will be, that as he is, under one designation, or another, proprietor, lessee, attorney, Receiver, or Executor, in possession of 17 out of the 35 Sugar Estates in the island that what from the want of cattle and want of means half of the growing crops will not be taken off and the cane in all probability will be left to perish on the ground. At the mean time the labourers remain unpaid and have such large sums due to them while there is not the remotest chance of their ever obtaining even their half of the sugar belonging to the negroes on the properties marked on the metayer system has been seized. It is to be feared with this example of bad faith before their eyes, the labourers on the other properties conducted on this plan will throw up the work on their hands.
This man is possibly the evil genius of the colony, not only has he by bad management ruined himself but he drags down the island by him. It would be hazardous under any circumstances to allow him ever again to administer the government.
I stated in my last that he interfered too much with the Treasury. I have since learned that during my absence he was not only in the habit of forcing the Treasurer to pay the Treasury paper in his hands before all other demands but even in preference to the prior lien prescribed by law such as the amounts allotted for the maintenance of the poor on one of which occasions Mr Burns a Member of the Board of Guardians resigned his seat.
When I returned here in August 1847 I found that the people refused to pay the cattle tax then due, Mr Shiell the Administrator of the Government in conjunction with Mr Armstrong and others having spread about a report that the tax was illegal. Under the resistance manifested against this impost when Your Excellency was in the island. Mr Shiell had actually encouraged it the people to oppose it by suffering his name to be included in the levy warrant, for every estate under his charge.
Before he left Montserrat in August 1847 and whilst still in the Administration of the Government he drew on his father the late Mr Queely Shiell for £419-13-7 to pay the interest on the loan from Government. Being in London when the Bill arrived, he went to Messrs Kensington of Mincing Lane who had it possession, and there accepted the bill which he himself had drawn as his father’s attorney in Montserrat, which he was, alleging that he was also his father’s attorney in England, which he was not. I send a copy of the original bill which is in my possession. It was of course protested and returned unpaid. I however compelled him to pay the Commissioners on his return.
I wish specially to observe that in communicating these facts, they are by no means to be received in the light of charges now brought against Mr Shiell, but as given simply in order to afford Your Excellency the fullest information on Your Excellency’s question as to the expediency of Mr Shiell being again allowed to administer the Government.
I may however remark in conclusion that setting aside the additional and immediate blow, the country is likely to receive from the failure of Mr Shiell and the too probable destruction in consequence of half the crop spared by the drought his removal and that of Mr Trott who is in similar circumstances from the list of proprietors both of them so long the drawback and the deadweight of the colony and the inveterate opposers of everything in the shape of improvement will be the most fortunate event than can befall the country supposing their large and valuable estates pass into the hands of parties possessed of capital to carry on the cultivation on a wiser system and more liberal scale.
I have the honor to be
Edward D. Baynes
Letter from William Shiell to Rt Hon. Earl Grey, Principal Sec. of State for the Colonies - dated April 27 1850 (CO 7 97)
The perfidious conduct of a Friend has reduced my Wife and Self with seven children to a state of beggary, and an Estate in this Island which has been in my Family for a period of one hundred and fifty years wrested from us forever- But why make this appeal to your Lordship, but to incite your sympathy and compassion in my behalf- I am now, My Lord, sixty five years of age at too advanced a period of life to visit other climes to repair my shattered fortunes- I have been upwards of forty years a Member of her Majesty’s Council in this Island and have administered the Govt of the Colony upon two successive occasions and think with all submission and deference, I am entitled to some little consideration -The Provost Marshall of this Island is in a precarious state of life, and not expected to live many days, and if your Lordship should deem me worthy to succeed him in the event of his death I most humbly crave your Lordships nomination to the appointment. It will be the means of preserving my wife and children from starvation. Lord Glenelg appointed the present Gentleman, Mr Hamilton to the situation, who was the son of my predecessor Mr President Hamilton.
I am the honor to be,
Most Dutiful and Humble Servt,
Excerpts from a printed document or leaflet from around late 1850 which, although unsigned, almost certainly originated from the pen of William Shiell.
William paid to have this item inserted in every newspaper from British Guiana to Jamaica. The purpose of this is made clear in the final sentence. “This enumeration of Property specified, and which has been sacrificed for one fortieth part of its value, is only brought under the notice of the Public to shew the manner in which property is confiscated in this island, when sold and brought under the hammer of a Marshal’s Sale.”
Lately sold in this Island, by Marshal’s Sale, the following under-mentioned Sugar and Cotton Estates, including Stock of every description, with a variety of Furniture, Silver and Plated articles, &c.,&c., three Houses in the Town of Plymouth , with Plantation Stores attached, and Lumber Yards to two of them, Twenty hogsheads of Sugar, and Three puncheons Molasses, the whole of which did not exceed the amount, or realize more than twelve hundred pounds sterling.
Six Sugar Estates comprising by estimation, 1000 acres of cane, pasture and provision land, with two Wind Mills and two Horse Mills, in complete repair, three sets of Works, all recently repaired, with Clarifyer and Coppers in them, sufficiently capable of boiling off annually, 400 heavy hogsheads Sugar, with large Still, Condenser, and Worm attached to one of them, also a Dwelling House, containing large dining room and drawing Rooms, five bed Chambers, with a Marble Gallery around the house with Out offices attached, all recently repaired, and a large Garden contiguous.
Four of these Sugar Estates, gave the late Proprietor, when Sugar was very high, £20,000 sterling in one year, and for several consecutive years, upwards of £5000 per annum after deducting expenses.
Two Cotton and Provision Estates, situated at the South part of the Island, containing upwards of 600 acres of Land, with fifty Mules, one hundred and fifty head of Cattle, forty Asses, several Horses, and a flock of Sheep, with Furniture, Silver and Plated articles, an extensive and valuable Library, a four wheel Carriage and Gig with Harness complete to the former, twenty hogsheads of Sugar, three puncheons Molasses, the whole of which did not sell for more than £1200 Sterling. This enumeration of Property specified, and which has been sacrificed for one fortieth part of its value, is only brought under the notice of the Public to shew the manner in which property is confiscated in this island, when sold and brought under the hammer of a Marshal’s Sale.
Details of Properties Managed by William Shiell and nominal value in 1841 (very optimistic prices even at that time, and things became much worse in the years ahead)
As manager for his father Queely
TUITE’S/BETHEL & HARRIS £20,000
As Receiver in Chancery and manager for the “Heirs of Dudley Semper”
STREATHAM’S & RILEY’S £7,000
GERMAN BAY £3,500
EDMUND SEMPER COVE (stock) £1,000
TRANTS and LOCUST VALLEY £7,900
NEEDSMUST £8,000 (owned by Mrs Ann Jeffers)
SPRING & REID’S HILL £10,000
OLD ROAD £7,000
SIR PATRICK BLAKES £2,000
DELVIN (Owned by Mrs John Shiell and daughters)
After the death of his father Queely, William was in 1847 listed as the Resident Proprietor of the following properties previously owned by his father-
GROVE & RICHMOND
Extract from a letter from William Shiell to Lord John Rupert
dated 12th March 1840
……….“Having been upwards of thirty years a member of Her Majesty’s Council in this Island I venture with all humility respectfully, to solicit your Lordship’s sanction and confirmation that I should succeed that Gentleman in the Local Government of the Colony and to which my long service as the Senior Member of the Board may entitle me to have some claim”……
 see separate biography by the above authors on the website http://www.alangullette.com/lit/shiel/family/Shiell_Queely.htm
 The author exchanged two letters with Montserrat amateur historian Dr Norman Griffin in 1974. (See Appendix I & II). He provided much material on William Shiell and his family. Some of this material has been independently verified but appeared he may have been writing from memory and several errors have already been detected. This material will be a challenge for later researchers.
 . In 1979, Mr A. Reynolds Morse, a wealthy American industrialist and ardent fan of the writings of M.P. Shiel, published a book entitled “The Quest for M.P. Shiel’s Realm of Redonda”. In this book he quotes from an interview with elderly, amateur Montserrat author and historian Dolores Somerville. She said that William Phipps Shiell married Mary Cabey Semper in 1823 (rather than 1826 as we believe). Mrs Somerville did not say where she obtained her information.
 When admitted to Lincoln’s Inn London on 22 October 1808 he is recorded as John Shiell, Gent, aged 20, son of Queily Shiell of Montserrat . (Lincoln’s Inn Archives)
 . The Phipps families were prominent in the West Indies, and were to be found in abundance on St Kitts. In 1746, six Phipps brothers( including a James Phipps ) and their nephew, comprised half of the Assembly of St Kitts. Good genealogical material has been published on people of that name in the book Carobbeana and elsewhere,
 Marriage certificate of William Shiell Jn. to Hannah Burkinshaw at Homebush, Victoria, Australia dated 1st November 1860. The couple had 8 children and leave many descendants including the present authors who are two of their great-grandchildren. ( see Montserrat to Melbourne- The Story of a Shiell Family in Australia by Dorothy Anderson and Richard Shiell - Packenham Press 1984).
 Dr Griffin said that Mary’s father was Michael Joseph Semper. He was incorrect, as from the Wills of both Micheal and Dudley Semper it is clear that Michael had no children, and Mary was one of the many children of Dudley Semper. There was considerable antipathy between William Shiell senior and Dudley Semper dating from as early as 1816 so it is likely that this union was without her father’s approval and she may have had to wait until she was 21. She was at an advanced stage of pregnancy and her son was born 4 months after the wedding. Dudley made careful provision in his Will that, on his death none of his Estate would fall into the hands of William Shiell or Mary’s children by William. (thanks to Claudia Semper, a descendent of Dudley Semper for a copy of the Wills of both Dudley and Michael Joseph Semper).
 see Appendix III.
 see Appendix IV.
 This letter is transcribed in Appendix III. A note from Governor Fitzroy accompanied this letter and on the back of this letter a civil servant has written… “I believe that to obtain a Commission in the Army without purchase is almost as difficult as to obtain a Peerage, except in the case of successful students at Sandhurst. Neither can I think that the claims of Mr Shiell could be put for a moment in comparison with those of Military Officers of high rank, who after spending long years in the Army are unable to obtain this advantage for their sons.”
 . Various methods were tried to attempt to induce the former slaves to continue in manual labour including an apprenticeship scheme and a later system, whereby the workers shared up to half the crop with the proprietor ( the “metayer” system). This system did not work well as the former slaves had always grown their own food on rent-free allotments and had little requirement for money.
 see Appendix IV - source CO7 97
 see Dispatch to Lord Grey by Governor Higginson -Appendix VII ( source CO7 98).
 . Montserrat’s slaves had been emancipated in 1834 and all the owners were compensated by the British Government with amounts depending on the value of each slave. Queely Shiell had been the largest landowner on Montserrat and in 1841 seven years after emancipation of his slaves, the value of Queely’s 5 remaining sugar plantations was still listed optimistically at £44,500. In addition he had 2 stock estates (£400) and 3 properties in Plymouth (L1,150) making him still the largest property owner on Montserrat. See biography of Queely Shiell by the present authors Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson at the website http://www.alangullette.com/lit/shiel/family/Shiell_Queely.htm
 The Montserrat sugar producers were notably inefficient. They were unwilling, as well as financially unable, to modernize the cultivation and processing necessary to produce cheaper sugar. For instance, cultivation was by old fashioned iron hoes. There was no attempt to use the new German steel hoes. There were few horse-drawn ploughs and no steam powered sugar mills on the Island at all until after 1835.
 see appendix VI
 see Appendix VII - source CO7 98
 BPP, H of C 1851, Vol 34
 CO 7 98
 T. Savage English typescript, page 204
 see Appendices VIII, IX and X
 Dr Norman Griffin
 T. Savage English typescript, page 205
 Montserrat monument inscription
 Old Montserrat Treasury Cash Books
 see Montserrat to Melbourne- The Story of a Shiell Family in Australia by Dorothy Anderson and Richard Shiell – (Packenham Press 1984)
 see separate biography of John Shiell by the above authors on the website
 CO 178 18 and Blue Book 1848
 CO 178 1 and Blue Book 1829
 CO 152 91
 William still held this position along with the honorary title of “Colonel “ some 40 years later although “the Militia of this Colony was abolished many years since but Officers were permitted to retain their ranks in event of it being found necessary to raise a Volunteer Corps” (CO 178 19)
 C0 177 17
 CO 10 6
 CUST 34 503. The Comptroller at the time was his father, Queely Shiell, who was evidently on leave.
 CO 7 26
 1860 Australian marriage certificate of William jn. Although there is only circumstantial evidence linking Colonel William Shiell and the infant, no other planter called William Shiell has been found on the small island of Montserrat.
 CO 177 21
 Personal communication from Dr Norman Griffin1974- (see Appendix I)
 Personal communication from Montserrat historian, Dr Norman Griffin, 1974- (see Appendix I)
 CO 177 22
 CO 177 22
 CO 177 22 and H of C 1843, Vol.33
 BPP H of C 1838 V 15
 CO 178 10
 CO 7 63
 CO 7 63
 CO 177 2
 CO 7 98
 CO 393 6
 CO 7 72- see also Appendix III
 CO 7 73
 H of C 1843, V33
 CO 393 6
 H of C 1847 V37 and CO 177 25
 It is interesting to speculate on whether this visit to London was a result of his dispute with Baynes or to visit his aged and possibly ailing father Queely Shiell?
 CO 178 17 and CO 7 88
 Death certificate
 See Appendix VI. From the meager income of these debt-laden properties all his debts must be paid and a specified sum of £500 must be paid annually to Queely’s widowed daughter Mrs Eleanor Allan.
 CO 177 25
 Blue Book for Montserrat
 H of C 1848, V45
 These heirs probably did not include William’s wife Mary as Dudley had specifically barred her from receiving any benefits from his will when she married William. William was Lessee of another 5 estates valued at £28,500 and Executor for another 3 properties valued at £23,200.
 Blue Book for Montserrat.
 CO 7 97
 CO 393
 CO 177 26
 CO 7 98. It is presumed to refer to William Shiell but could have been Matthew Dowdy Shiell who was also a trader by this time. A store was not mentioned in the forced sale of William’s assets in late 1850. In another letter from Baynes on 10th Feb 1851 he mentions “the street in the Strand between Messrs Sheill’s (sic) and Semper’s stores”
 CO 7 97 (see Appendix VIII)
 Open shelf register, Kew PRO
 CO 393 9
 CO 7 97 (See Colonial Office comment on August 20th below)
 CO 393 9
 CO 7 97
 CO 7 97
 CO 177 26
 CO 7 97
 CO 393 8 gives the date September 1850, while CO 714 4 ???? lists 28th January 1851.
 CO 7 97
 CO 177 26
 CO 7 97
 CO 7 98. There were less than 100 white adult, land owning males on Montserrat by this time and even fewer with the interest or educational ability to fill all the legislative positions available.
 2 in No 18 BPP, H of C, A & P, 1851, Vol 34. It is unclear whether this is William Shiell’s store or that of Matthew Dowdy Shiell? The latter was a trader and storekeeper by the 1860s and possibly even much earlier. The store was not listed amongst the properties confiscated from William and forcibly sold after his bankruptcy.
 CO 7 101
 Typescript by T. Savage English, page 205. By this stage William had inherited all his father’s numerous estates but even after they were sold off for 1/40th of their former valuation they did not bring enough to prevent William’s bankruptcy.
 Dr. Norman Griffin, personal communication 1974.
 See biography of Henry Shiell (1827-1889) by Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson on the website http://www.alangullette.com/lit/shiel/family/Shiell_Henry.htm
 William jr. married in Victoria, Australia and leaves many descendants including the present authors who are two of his great-grandchildren. ( see Montserrat to Melbourne- The Story of a Shiell Family in Australia by Dorothy Anderson and Richard Shiell - Packenham Press 1984) and also website http://www.alangullette.com/lit/shiel/family/Shiell_William.htm
 Monument inscription on Montserrat. It is not known for sure if this Henry was the 1827 son of William Shiell mentioned by Dr Griffin but the birth date makes this highly likely. As he stayed on in Montserrat after the death of his father it is possible that his wife Rosetta was a colored woman and the couple had a poor future off the island. We have no record or knowledge of any children from this couple.
 Rosetta had received a pension of £1 per month since the death of her husband in 1869 (Old Treasury Cash Books, Montserrat).
 See Henry Shiell at http://www.alangullette.com/lit/shiel/family/Shiell_Henry.htm
 See Mary Ann Shiell at http://www.alangullette.com/lit/shiel/family/Shiell_Mary_Ann.htm
 See “Montserrat to Melbourne” by Dorothy Anderson and Richard Shiell, Pakenham Press 1984 and William Shiell at http://www.alangullette.com/lit/shiel/family/Shiell_William.htm
Copyright © 2005 By Richard Shiell and Dorothy Anderson.
Used with permission of the authors.