Captain John Quilliam RN (born Marown, Isle of Man 29 September 1771 - died Michael, Isle of Man 10 October 1829) was a Royal Navy officer and the First Lieutenant on HMS Victory at the Battle of Trafalgar. He was a farmer’s son from the Isle of Man who was impressed in the Royal Navy in 1794.
The eldest son of John Quilliam and Christian Clucas of Ballakelly, he was apprenticed to a stonemason, and then worked as a labourer until he was impressed into the Royal Navy in 1794.
Unlike most impressed sailors, Quilliam rose rapidly in the Royal Navy. He is first recorded in 1797 at the Battle of Camperdown when he was made a Lieutenant by Admiral Duncan. He was a Third Lieutenant on HMS Ethalion.On 7 October 1799 Quilliam's share of prize money for the capture of the 36 gun Spanish treasure ship Thetis was over £5000. He was First Lieutenant aboard HMS Amazon at the Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, his gallantry and calmness under fire following the death of Captain Edward Riou and all the senior officers on his ship was rewarded with being made First Lieutenant on HMS Victory by Horatio Nelson.
Quilliam soon repaid the faith Nelson had placed in him as the following extract from James's Naval History of Great Britain shows, he assisted in steering her into action at Trafalgar: - "Just as she (the Victory) had got about 500 yards of the larboard beam of the Bucentaure the Victory's mizzen-topmast was shot away, about two-thirds up. A shot also struck and knocked to pieces the wheel; and the ship was obliged to be steered from the gun room, the first lieutenant (John Quilliam) and master (Thomas Atkinson) relieving each other at the duty.
In 1808, he was captain of Admiral Stopford's flagship, HMS Spencer. In 1812, he was captain of HMS Crescent and served as such until the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. During this time he captured a 14 gun American privateer, the Elbridge Gerry during the War of 1812.
He then returned to the Isle of Man and resided at the White House in Kirk Michael. He was re-elected a member of House of Keys in 1817.
Qulliam died in 1829 and was buried in the graveyard at Kirk Arbory.
There is the following inscription on his tombstone;
"Sacred to the memory of John Quilliam, Esq., Captain in the Royal Navy. In his early service he was appointed by Adml. Lord Duncan to act as lieutenant at the Battle of Camperdown; after the victory was achieved, this appointment was confirmed. His gallantry and professional skill at the Battle of Copenhagen attracted the notice of Lord Nelson, who subsequently sought for his services on board his own ship, and as his lordship's first lieut. he steered the Victory into action at the Battle of Trafalgar. By the example of Duncan and Nelson he learned to conquer. By his own merit he rose to command: above all this he was an honest man, the noblest work of God. After many years of honourable and distinguished professional service, he retired to this land of his affectionate solicitude and birth, where in his public station as a member of the House of Keys, and in private life, he was in arduous times the uncompromising defender of the rights and privileges of his countrymen, and the zealous and able supporter of every measure tending to promote the welfare and the best interests of his country. He departed this life on 10 October 1829 in the 59th year of his age. This monument is erected by Margaret C. Quilliam to the memory of her beloved husband."
- pp.962-963 Marshall, John Royal Naval Biography : Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers, Superannuated Rear-Admirals, Retired-Captains, Post-Captains, and Commanders, Whose Names Appeared on the Admiralty List of Sea Officers at the Commencement of the Present Year, Or who Have Since Been Promoted, Illustrated by a Series of Historical and Explanatory Notes ... with Copious Addenda: Superannuated Rear-Admirals. Retired Captains. Post-Captains Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1825
- p.963 Marshall