St Helena Online

Tag: Samuel Ally

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

Samuel Ally's gravestone with a lot of script engraved on it.

Life of a St Helena slave to be marked with a wreath

Samuel Ally's gravestone with a lot of script engraved on it.
The grave of Samuel Ally is a familiar landmark on the Isle of Man. Picture: Alan Rice

Samuel Ally was born a slave on St Helena but won his freedom – only to die, still a teenager, on another island 5,000 miles away. Now tribute is to be paid to his memory.

His story had been all-but forgotten on St Helena, though not completely lost. But on the Isle of Man, where he lived his last years as a servant, his grave is a well known landmark.

Councillor Mervyn Yon was told of his story when he met delegates from the Isle of Man parliament, the Tynwald, at a recent convention in Scotland – and he promised that a wreath would be sent to be laid on the grave.

St Helena Online understands that arrangements for the wreath-laying are still being made.

Isle of Man postage stamp shwoing Gov Wilks and Napoleon
A postage stamp recalled Governor Wilks’s connection with Napoleon

Samuel was granted his freedom by Governor Mark Wilks, who was in post when Napoleon arrived on the island as a prisoner.

The authorities in London decided that a military general should oversee the deposed emporer’s exile, and Governor Wilks – who was only a colonel – was relieved of his post and paid compensation for his disappointment.

He went home to an estate on the Isle of Man, in the Irish Sea, and took Samuel with him.

When Samuel died, his employer paid for an expensive gravestone at Old Kirk Braddan Church. The text, some of it still legible after nearly 200 years, describes Samuel in lavish terms:

“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.”

Alan Rice of the University of Central Lancashire notes that there was an irony in Samuel’s “brief black presence” on the Isle of Man.

Councillor Mervyn Yon
Councillor Mervyn Yon

He writes: “The island’s links with the slave trade… had been at their height in the mid-18th Century, when Liverpool and Lancaster slavers stopped on the island to load illegal duty-free Rotterdam cloths.

“Manx maritime tradition provided captains and crew members to the trade, including one of its most famous exponents, Captain Hugh Crow.

“Ally’s grave is a physical marker of a history that hitherto has been buried in the footnotes of history.”

Nearly 200 years on, it seems Samuel Ally is to be restored to his place in St Helena’s history too, as a result of that chance conversation in Scotland.

SEE ALSO:
Slavery

LINK:
Samuel Ally’s grave

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