– Posted on Friday 29th September 2023

Manx National Heritage is disappointed to report ongoing damage to the bronze bust of Captain John Quilliam RN in Castletown.  Designed by Manx sculptor Bryan Kneale RA MBE, the bronze sculpture depicts Captain Quilliam in uniform and commemorates his role as the most famous Manxman to have participated in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Commissioned by the Council of Minister’s Trafalgar Committee, the statue was originally unveiled in 2005 to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.  It later won the Marsh Award for Excellence in Public Sculpture, an award recognising the UK’s most outstanding public sculptures and works of art.  Unveiled in 2005 by Captain Jack Ronan, 15 years on, aptly, Captain Jack once again did the honours in unveiling the Quilliam bust in its new home looking out to sea on the Quarterdeck opposite Castle Rushen.

Kirsty Neate, Head of Collections for Manx National Heritage said:

“Information has been provided to the Police in relation to instances of senseless vandalism to this important piece of public sculpture.”

Manx National Heritage are assessing the impact of the vandalism and the potential costs to the charity of further repair to the statue. The public are asked not to try to remove the damage themselves as this may cause further harm to the sculpture.

Ms Neate continued:

“This damage to the statue is particularly upsetting, as ‘Captain Quilliam’ was only very recently returned to the Quarterdeck following extensive conservation work.  Manx National Heritage is dependent upon charitable donations to support our conservation undertakings and the work on the statue was funded by a donation from the Friends of Manx National Heritage”. 

“It does not send out a positive message to visitors to Castletown and our Island to see such prominent heritage objects from the national collections vandalised in this way.”

Anyone who has information about the incidents should contact Police Headquarters on 01624 631212.


Editor’s Notes

Serving with Admiral Lord Nelson, Captain John Quilliam was First Lieutenant aboard HMS Victory.  Born in 1771 at Ballakelly Farm in Marown, he was the son of a farmer and joined the Royal Navy in 1791.  He showed great potential and rose through the ranks, rapidly receiving a commission. He became the equivalent of a millionaire in 1799 with his share of the prize money after the capture of a Spanish Treasure ship.  At the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801 he came to the attention of Admiral Lord Nelson, who requested that he serve aboard HMS Victory.  During the Battle of Trafalgar, the ships wheel was shot away.  Quilliam rigged up a temporary method of steering her using ropes, in the gunroom below.  Quilliam took up a seat in the House of Keys but returned to sea to command several ships before retiring at the end of the Napoleonic Wars.

The site across from Castle Rushen, known as the Quarterdeck, was formerly the site of a Customs House and was recently landscaped by Manx National Heritage as part of Castletown’s regeneration.

Image: The late Captain Jack Ronan RN unveiling the Quilliam bust

Image 2: Damage to the sculpture

Media contact:

Lynsey Clague BA (Hons) MCIPR

Communications Manager – Manx National Heritage

T: 01624 648032



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