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  Shirleys of Hyde Hall,

Pedigree of the Shirleys of Hyde Hall, Jamaica

1817 List of Slaves - Etingdon Estate

1817 List of Slaves - Glamorgan Plantation


 Biographical Sketch of Hon. Henry Shuley [Shirley]

By Oscar Plummer
(Taken from the Daily Gleaner, 14th October, 1911, 4 : 1-4)

Henry Shuley was a native of Savoy, his education was rather a superior one,
by his own account he had a considerable property, which he lost at the time
in Savoy being conquered by and annexed to republican France. Mr. Shuley
proceeded to St. Petersburg where he asserted he was attached to the suite
of Lord Cathcart, the British Ambassador there. He asserted the cause of his
separation from his Excellency was that one of his Lordship's daughters
entertained him for an ardent affection, which he being unable to resist, but
overcome by his regard for the lady and considering the difficulties and
inconvenience to which she might be reduced, then existing no prospect of
obtaining her father's consent, he most prudently retired by taking "French
leave". He repaired to England and then proceeded to Jamaica to make a tour
of that island. On his arrival he dressed very gay, and started a smart
equipage, he spoke and wrote English with fluency and easily got access to
the best society and before long paid his addresses to a rich widow,
proprietress of Petersfield, a fine sugar estate in the parish of St. Thomas in
the East. They were married. The widow's being somewhat encumbered, dealt
inadequate support for an establishment of those moving in the first circles
being at the time very expensive in Jamaica, Mr. Shuley took the first
convenient opportunity to represent this to his lady and to press the benefit
her health would receive by a residence in England. He prevailed on her to
retire there, as his own personal expenses in the island would be
comparatively small by his living en garcon. And he would manage the
plantation, pay off the debts in a few years and remit his ample means for all
her engagements. Thus if he did not become actually proprietor of Petersfield
plantation, that property at least served to give him credit and as the
foundation of raising a fortune in his own right, nor did he allow these
advantages to escape him. He purchased other sugar estates in the parish
St. George, and others. Certainly he had at first to mortgage them to their
value. The times, however, were favourable and Petersfield always gave a
helping hand in liquidating the debts on his own estate. Mr. Shuley became a
rising character and was elected a member of the House of Assembly. One of
his first acts there was highly unpopular. He proposed to introduce a bill to
subject the Militia of the island, TO CORPOREAL PUNISHMENT.

The Militia of the island were in all respects very different from what they now
are. They consisted of planters, merchants, clerks, and tradesman,
mechanics, etc. all in good circumstances, many of them being wealthy
merchants, they find their own clothing, the Cavalry, their own horses, they
serve gratuitously, receiving no pay except during the existence of Martial
Law, and then a mere trifle hardly adequate to pay for small refreshments
when on duty. The Kingston Militia took ire at the proposed measure of Mr.
Shuley and no wonder either they confined their officers to prevent them being
implicated in the proceedings which they contemplated. They elected other
officers and marched suddenly to Mr. Shuley's house in Spanish Town which
they surrounded, the owner having barely time to escape from a window. It
was resolved to burn the house, the library was cast into the yard to
commence the bonfire and was consumed.

The house and furniture was about sharing a similar fate and only saved by
the interference of several members of the House of Assembly, who pledged
themselves that Mr. Shuley's proposal should be instantly quashed. They
kept their word. Popularity and court favour however rise from very different
sources. Mr. Shuley on the vacancy of the Custos-ship of the parish of St.
George was nominated to fill the situation. During the rebellion of the
Trelawney Town Maroons in 1795-96, an invasion of the Brigands from St.
Domingo was expected, it was almost apprehended that the Maroon town of
Charleston would join that of Trelawney in the rebellion therefore, the Colonial
Government considered it prudent to adopt decided, prompt and secure
measures to prevent if possible the last named proceeding. For this purpose
early one evening with out previous notice, a sqadron of the 20th Light
Dragoons, two companies of the 63rd Foot with frafts from the Kingston Horse
and Grenadier Militia, the Infantry being mounted for the occasion were
assembled and marched about 40 miles to Charleston Maroon Town, near
Buff Bay which it was expected they take by surprise and so prevent their

This expedition made a forced march during the night, only occasionally
halting for a little refreshment. By day light they were in a position close to
Charleston which they expected to occupy without resistance, their own
appearance being quite unexpected as they imagined, but on reconnoitering
they found the enemy wide awake the road leading to the villages broke and
lined - palisados constructed, and the inhabitants jumping about armed to the
teeth. What was to be done ? A parley was sounded, and the negotiation was
about commencing, when lo His Honour the Custos appeared, represented to
the Commander of the Forces the danger of an appeal to arms, surrounded as
he was by a force having every advantage of ground and defences. On the
other hand His Honor held a palaver with the Maroons told them that they
must obey "Massa Govenor", and he being aware of their fidelity he advised
them to send some of their chiefs to make their submission and remain as
hostages at headquarters for the good behaviour of their villages . All this was
accomplished and His Honour had the credit of saving detachment from being
cut to pieces and of being the good friend of the Maroons. His service to both
were great indeed, but how was all this brought about, an express having
been sent to him as Custos to prepare supplies for the troops, on their arrival
he immediately sent to the Maroons to be on the alert, to receive the military
with all due respect and he would soon make his appearance and effect all in
his power for their advantage. All is well that ends well, but had a single party
or even a chance musket had fired, sad, sad , indeed might have been the

In the year 1798 a voluntary subscription having been entered into by every
parish in the island for the aid of the mother country then struggling against
the desperate efforts of a ferocious enemy which threatened to invade and
even annihilate her as an independent nation. The parish of St. George
subscribed considerable sums for the purpose named which was paid into His
Honour the Custos to remit. The next year it was found that there had been no
remittance for the parish of St. George. About that period, Mr. Pitt, Prime
Minister, had resigned and was succeeded by Mr. Addington, the Speaker of
the House of Commons, and afterwards created Lord Sidmouth.

On the Custos being applied to for an explanation respecting the
non-remittance of the subscription for the parish of St. George, he replied in

And taking credit for himself for his prudence - "My dear friends, I did not like
to send the money to that man, Pitt, who is a great enemy to the colonies, to
assist him in his projects, but here are the bills for the whole of the moneys
which you can remit yourselves. I will endorse them to your order or save you
the trouble and remit them yourself." Such candor was irresistable. The
money was remitted.

"In early youth (writes the biographer) I had some acquaintance with Wm.
Richardson, Profesor of Humanity in the College of Glasgow. Previously he
was with Lord Cathcart during his embassy to St. Petersburg and wrote and
published a volume respecting Russia. One day I took an opportunity of
asking Mr. Shuley if he remembered him. He replied that there was no
individual of that name in the household of His Excellency, but on my wishing
to recall him to his mind by mentioning the volume which he had published.
After musing an instant he said, ' O yes sir.' I do now remember something of
de young man. He was one tutor, one pedagogin who did teach de young
children of my Lord dem ABC." About a year after returning to England, and
meeting with the Professor, chatting of former times and events, I told him
that in Jamaica I met a foreigner who had been very successful there and had
been formerly in the suite of Lord Cathcart in Russia, and asked the Professor
if he knew him.

'Shu'ey - Shuley,' replied the professor, I assure you it must a mistake, but on
my begging him to try and recollect, he promptly replied, 'I am quite right,
there was no such person among His Lordship's suite, but there was a
foreigner and I think he was a Swiss of the name you mention, but he was
only a Valet de Chambre and was kicked out of the house for attempting to be
rude to one of the Miss Cathcarts."

Whether the Professor or the Planter was the most correct I leave for the
readers to determine.

The Hon. Mr. Shirley was an agreeable companion, lived well, enjoyed himself
and left a considerable fortune.


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