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Manx Claim Trafalgar Hero 28 February 2005

Isle of Man politicians and maritime enthusiasts are seeking official recognition that a hero of the Battle of Trafalgar was a Manxman.

Captain John Quilliam (1771-1829) is well known on the Island for serving with distinction in the Royal Navy. Born to a farming family from the south of the Island he is celebrated in the House of Manannan heritage centre for 'sailing the Victory into battle'.

But on the ship's muster list displayed on board HMS Victory in Portsmouth dockyard and on the Royal Navy's official website, Captain Quilliam has been described as English.

Earle Law, Nelson aficionado and landlord of the Trafalgar pub on Douglas harbourside, and Quintin Gill, Rushen MHK and ex-Royal Navy sailor, were not impressed. They made various representations to the commanding officer of HMS Victory and already the website has been changed to show his place of birth was indeed the Isle of Man.

He said:

"Captain Quilliam is buried in my constituency - in Arbory churchyard - and I have attended the annual October 21 ceremony at the graveside. I am delighted that the Commanding Officer of HMS Victory, Lieutenant Commander Frank Nowosielaski, has corrected the website already, and he has undertaken to correct the main display board at Portsmouth at the next opportunity. I appreciate that it's a very expensive commission and is unlikely to be altered for some years but the many people who have made representations about Captain Quilliam's true nationality can be satisfied that it will be rectified in due course."

The news was welcomed by Tourism Minister David Cretney.

He said:

"I am grateful to my Tynwald colleague Mr Gill, and Mr Law - and many others through the years - for their persistence in ensuring Captain Quilliam is finally recognised as Manx at Portsmouth.

"It is particularly pleasing because the Isle of Man is uniquely commemorating its sea faring traditions throughout this year under the banner of Sea Isle of Man 2005."

Dominic Delaney, chairman of the Sea IoM committee, commented:

"Captain Quilliam was extremely proud to be Manx and I am sure he would be pleased to know that his nationality is now acknowledged by the Royal Navy he served so well.

"It's coincidental that the Isle of Man Department of Tourism and Leisure is dedicating a year of events to its maritime and nautical history this year. Throughout the year a range of events will be taking place with activities for all ages from concerts at the Villa Marina to various boat races including a Trawler Race, Tin Bath Championships and Round the Island Yacht Race. There are a number of special activities planned for 2005 which we look welcoming visitors to."

The Island's award-winning museums will depict its unique maritime history with special presentations and exhibitions at the Manx Museum in Douglas, the House of Manannan in Peel and the Nautical Museum in Castletown.

The Isle of Man Post Office and the Isle of Man Treasury will be issuing commemorative stamps and coins with a maritime theme.

The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company is celebrating its 175th in business with a programme of events this year linked to Sea Isle of Man. One of the company's first is to sponsor a talk on Nelson by world authority, Dr Colin White. It will be held at the Manx Museum on Friday March 4, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are available, free of charge, from the Steam Packet's Imperial Buildings and the Manx Museum.

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