Flowers for a St Helena slave

Flowers on the resting place of a former St Helena. Picture courtesy of David Jones, Isle of Man

Flowers on the resting place of a former St Helena slave. Picture courtesy of David Jones, Isle of Man

A small wreath rests on the grave of Samuel Ally, a St Helena slave boy who won his freedom, only to die as a teenager on an island far away.

The ring of ivy and bright flowers was laid in an Isle of Man churchyard, connecting Samuel once more with his homeland, 190 years on.

Samuel's lavish gravestone (David Jones)

Samuel’s lavish gravestone (David Jones)

St Helena councillor Mervyn Yon was told Samuel’s story by the Speaker of the House of Keys – part of the Isle of Man parliament – when they met at a conference in Edinburgh.

The grave at Old Kirk Braddan Church is well-known on the island in the Irish Sea.

Councillor Yon promised to send a wreath to lay on the grave. It arrived some months later.

The grave was cleared by Mr Speaker and the Clerk of the Tynwald, and a conservator cleaned the headstone.

It tells of Samuel’s devotion to Colonel Mark Wilks, who gave him his freedom when he was governor of St Helena, then took him home to the Isle of Man. It says:

An African and native of St Helena. Died the 28th of May 1822 aged 18 years. Born a slave, and exposed to the corrupt influences of that unhappy state, he became a model of TRUTH and PROBITY for the more fortunate of any country or condition.

This stone is erected by a grateful master to the memory of a faithful servant who repaid the boon of Liberty with unbounded attachment.

Mr Speaker and Roger Phillips, Clerk of the Tynwald, at the grave of Samuel Ally

Mr Speaker and Roger Phillips, Clerk of the Tynwald, at the grave of Samuel Ally

The Speaker, the Honourable Steve Rodan, said: “This story is a moving one that highlights the loyalty of Samuel Ally and the humanity of Colonel Mark Wilks.”

Colonel Wilks had become Speaker of the House of Keys in 1822, the year of Samuel’s death.

He had been governor on St Helena when Napoleon arrived. The famous prisoner found him “affable”.

  • St Helena Online thanks David Jones for sending a photograph of the wreath.

SEE ALSO: Life of a St Helena slave to be marked with a wreath

LINK: Tynwald pays tribute to St Helena slave – Isle of Man parliament

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