Captain Crow and Colonel Wilks

Two Manxmen involved in the slave trade; one commanded slave ships, the other freed his slave.

By Manx National Heritage

Colonel WilksManx National Heritage

Colonel Mark Wilks (1759-1831), freed his slave

Colonel Mark Wilks was a Manx soldier and administrator. In 1813 he was appointed Governor of St Helena while Napoleon was imprisoned there; Napoleon was said to have found him a highly engaging and affable man. Wilks was elected to the House of Keys, becoming Speaker in 1822. 

Samuel Ally graveManx National Heritage

Samuel Ally's Grave

Born into slavery, Samuel Ally was granted his freedom by his master Colonel Wilks, whilst Wilks was Governor of St Helena.  When he returned to the Isle of Man, Wilks brought Samuel with him. Samuel died aged just 18 and was buried in Kirk Braddan churchyard.

Old Kirk Braddan (early 20th century) by J. Valentine & Sons LtdManx National Heritage

A Grateful Master

Samuel's gravestone at Kirk Braddan was paid for by Wilks. The inscription reads, 'This stone is erected by a grateful master to the memory of a faithful servant who repaid the boon of liberty with unbounded attachment.'   

A model of Truth and Probity

The inscription continues, '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.'

Captain CrowManx National Heritage

Captain Hugh Crow (1765-1829), Slave Ship Commander

A contemporary of Wilks, Captain Hugh Crow was born in Ramsey. While Wilks freed his slave, Crow worked in the slave trade from Liverpool. His memoirs describe his career as a slave ship captain. He was in command on seven separate voyages.

Ramsey harbour (late 19th century) by J. Valentine & Sons LtdManx National Heritage

'A Necessary Evil'

Crow said, 'I have viewed the abstraction of slaves from Africa to our colonies as a necessary evil, under existing circumstances.' Crow felt the trade in slaves was justified because it provided labour for plantations in the West Indies and America. (Photo: Ramsey Harbour)

Crow (Manx Worthies) by unknownManx National Heritage

Captain Crow had a song written about him by slaves

Crow claimed good relations with slaves on his ships and a song written about him said,

'Captain ain’t flogging with a whip and nobody dying on his ship...
And if the boys got hit by a ball
He go see them in the hospital
And sit down and talk and pity them.' 
(New Version)

Boats sailing in the sea off Niarbyl (1911) by George GoodwinManx National Heritage

The Last Slave Ship Captain

Hugh Crow was the last captain of any English slave ship. The Kitty’s Amelia’s final slaving voyage from Liverpool was the last legal one for an English ship. Records indicate that Kitty's Amelia lost 16% of the 277 slaves she set out with and 23 of her 43 crew. (Photo: Niarbyl)

Maughold church (1890) by unknownManx National Heritage

When he retired from the sea...

A later article in The Isle of Man Examiner (27 November 1953) says that Crow declined a seat in the Keys and was renowned for his humane treatment of slaves. He died and was buried in Maughold Churchyard in 1829.

Crow and Wilks by unknownManx National Heritage

History of the slave trade and the Isle of Man

You can learn more about the Island's historic links with the transatlantic slave trade by reading Frances Wilkins' Manx Slave Traders (1999) or by getting in touch with Manx National Heritage Library and Archives who can tell you about the resources you can explore.

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