1663: Illiam Dhone

On this date in 1663, Illiam Dhone was shot for treason at Hango Hill on the Isle of Man.

William Christian — “Illiam Dhone” is a Gaelic sobriquet meaning “Brown William” — committed his fatal offense in 1651: as a powerful Manx pol charged with defense of the island against a prospective Roundhead invasion, he overthrew the Royalist lords and bloodlessly surrendered instead.

Although documentation seems to be fragmentary, an overreaching assertion of lordly prerogatives by James Stanley, Earl of Derby, of late made Cromwell‘s prisoner, might have prepared a powder keg ignited by the efforts of the Earl’s wife to ransom her husband by the Isle’s sacrifice.

Treason doth never prosper, so with the prosperity of Cromwell’s revolution, Christian earned the Manx governorship. Only upon restoration of the crown did his putsch come a cropper.

“In all likelihood Illiam Dhone was probably executed as an act of revenge by the Stanley family,” Roger Sims of the Manx Museum says. “However, the fact remains that Illiam Dhone’s actions in surrendering the island probably saved a great many lives and a great deal of property.”

The case, however, proceeded despite a general amnesty that should have spared the “traitor”. A week after he had already delivered himself of his dying denunciation against “a prompted and threatened jury, a pretended Court of Justice, of which the greater part were by no means qualified,” his appeal finally reached London — and was granted.

The patriot’s martyrdom made its mark in literature with the Gaelic ballad “Baase Illiam Dhone” (lyrics and translation, sheet music) and Sir Walter Scott’s Peveril of the Peak.

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