"Wives and Sweethearts in Quilliam's Navy" is another eye-catching title for the Spring Quilliam Lecture on Thursday 27th April in Arbory Church.
It win be given by Professor Elaine Chalus, DPhil. FRHistS of Liverpool University. The title will ring familiar chords for those familiar with traditional naval toasts, but the subtitle to the lecture 'Coping with Separation during the Napoleonic Wars' is probably more informative of its content. The subject has been inspired by the diaries of Betsey Fremantle, a prolific writer, and the redoubtable wife of Admiral Thomas Fremantle. Betsey was at the forefront of the dramatic times that marked the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, and recorded it all with an acute pen. She nursed Nelson when he lost his arm at the Canary Islands, and knew from personal experience what life aboard the ships of Nelson's navy was like. When apart from her husband, she ran the family affairs, and progressed their social aspirations, proving them very much a team. She was, in many ways, the role model for the modern military wife.
Betsy started keeping her diaries at age 11, and though they have been known about in abridged form for many years, it was our lecturer, Professor Chalus, who tracked them down and was given unrestricted access to them by Betsey's descendants. With the keen eye of a historian, she has been able to extract hitherto unknown facets of social and personal life in naval families at the time when John Quilliam was also at the height of his career. A little like the Quilliam story, we will hear at the lecture, not just the famous aspects of Betsey's life, but the new material on her role as their family's bedrock. We look forward to these insights and hope that as well as our usual followers of naval history, we might engage a wider audience. Maybe for once, not just Captain John Quilliam, but also his wife Margaret Stevenson, might look down on our proceedings with a benevolent eye!
Tickets will be available at: The Bay Hotel Port Erin and Bridge Bookshop in Port Erin, and within the parish from Mike Berry (824550), or Phil Smith (832146/495146). Tickets are free of charge, though there will be a retiring collection to collect funds for our further projects.
The Quilliam Group is enormously grateful for the ongoing amount of support our efforts attract, making this, a thoroughly community based event. Andy Roy of Baker Tilly (Isle of Man) has provided financial support. Martin Brunnschweiler of the Bay Hotel will be sustaining us with a tot of rum as we listen to the musicians from the gallery.