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Honour for freed slave

REMEMBERING: Clerk of Tynwald Roger Phillips and Speaker of the House of Keys Steve Rodan by the grave of Samuel Ally grave at Old Kirk Braddan Church. The slave was born in St Helena in 1804 and died in the Isle of Man, after being freed, in 1822. PHOTO: Paul Dougherty.

REMEMBERING: Clerk of Tynwald Roger Phillips and Speaker of the House of Keys Steve Rodan by the grave of Samuel Ally grave at Old Kirk Braddan Church. The slave was born in St Helena in 1804 and died in the Isle of Man, after being freed, in 1822. PHOTO: Paul Dougherty.

 

A FORMER slave buried in Kirk Braddan church yard is to be honoured in a special ceremony later this year.

House of Keys speaker and Garff MHK Steve Rodan told the story of Samuel Ally, born in St Helena in 1804, to Councillor Mervyn Yon of the St Helena Legislative Council.

Both men were at the British Island and Mediterranean regional annual conference which was hosted in June this year in Edinburgh by the Scotland branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.

Mr Rodan told the story of how Samuel Ally was born into slavery working for Kirk Michael born Colonel Mark Wilks, who was governor of St Helena at the time of Napoleon’s exile there. Colonel Wilks granted Samuel Ally his freedom and was accompanied by him when he returned to the Isle of Man in 1816.

When Samuel Ally died in 1822 aged just 18, he was buried at old Kirk Braddan church, complete with a headstone paid for by Colonel Wilks.

Work has already taken place to clear the site and tidy up the grave ahead of the wreath laying ceremony later this year.

With help from Clerk of Tynwald Roger Phillips, Mr Rodan has cleared the grave of weeds and Manx National Heritage conservator Christopher Weeks has cleaned the headstone.

Most of the inscription is legible. It reads: ‘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.’

Councillor Yon has agreed to send a wreath to lay on the grave at the ceremony later this year,

Mr Rodan said: ‘This story is a moving one that highlights the loyalty of Samuel Ally and the humanity of Colonel Mark Wilks, a former Speaker of the House of Keys.

‘From a parliamentary perspective this account is yet further demonstration of the many opportunities the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association affords member nations – even those some 5,000 miles apart - not only to forge new but also preserve valuable links from the past.’

On his return Colonel Wilks was elected to the House of Keys and in 1826. His second wife was Dorothy Taubman, daughter of the Speaker of the House of Keys. After the death of his father-in-law, he became speaker of the house. A portrait of Mark Wilks still hangs in the Tynwald buildings. He died in 1831 in Berwickshire, aged 72.

 

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