From the Isle of Man to worldwide


Updated April 2016 with notes from A Manx Notebook and the Isle of Man Museum

THE NAME, like many Manx names that begin with Q, is of Celtic-Norse origin deriving from the McWhaltrough clan of Kentraugh, an important estate of early times. (The name Kentraugh translates as 'head of the shore') The Land was given, tradition has it, to the first McWhaltrough (or Mac Whaltroughe) in Mannin Beg who was said to be a half-brother of one of the Norse kings. (See also appendix for etymology of name).

There is a belief among Qualtroughs that the name could be a mispronunciation of a Spanish identity, a survivor of the defeated Armada of 1588. Historians, however, have discounted this suggestion as the nearest shipwreck to the Isle of Man was on the coast of Ireland and all survivors were accounted for. The speculation has been fed on the appearance of some Qualtrough descendants in each generation who have olive skins, dark liquid eyes and flashing smiles. On the other hand many Qualtroughs show Viking characteristics - big frames, fair complexions and light blue eyes. Most of us, though, look much like everybody else, en masse.

The Kentraugh Estate 1974 Showing the main house in the centre front and the Mill at the extreme left. A Tower built in Italiante architecture can be seen in the top right hand corner - see more photos below. 

Photo Courtesy of the Manx IMuseum

At the rear is some very Italianate architecture, now sadly in need of some restoration.

Photo Courtesy of

A great stone wall ran along the foreshore and is still in existence. Some say this wall was built as an effective shelter against the wild storms of the Irish Sea, others that it was a bastion of defence against invaders; yet others that the powerful southside family of Qualtroughs built the wall as a cover for their private and possibly dubious activities - smuggling of whisky and rum-making, maybe. The gates to the driveway of the house were operated mechanically, shutting out intruders.

The Main House - Photo from the mini-series “An Island at War"

Going back to the name, it was recorded as far back as 1419 and 1430 with a William and a Jenkin MacQualtroughe being named as Members of the House of Keys (Manx Parliament). In the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries some of the family were Deemsters – the lawmakers in various districts of the Island who were judge-and -jury in settling disputes and punishing wrongdoers. And there is a ballad telling of the jaunty deeds of one Captain Richard Qualtrough, a privateer on the side of the British in the Napoleonic wars – the TYGER Privateer he is called, after the name of the ship he sailed.

Over a side gate is the interesting inscription 

"Judge not your fellow man's condition,

Until you be in his position"

Fame and fortune wax and wane. Certainly the Qualtroughs tumbled from their pinnacle. Information taken from Mona Douglas's book, THEY LIVED IN ELLAN VANNIN tells how one of the hereditary owners of Kentraugh lost the ancient seat through the application of a harsh Manx law in the early 19th century.

He had mortgaged the property for $452.46 (sterling) - quite a sum of money in those days - just why we are not sure. But family whispers are that Demon Drink had something to do with it (Perhaps that is why the first New Zealand Qualtroughs, pillars of the Wesleyan Church, were strongly anti-drink.)

The whole business was something of a put-up job, very shady. The mortgagee, claiming financial difficulties, forced the closure of the mortgage and the Qualtroughs were doomed. In default of cash payment the mortgagee claimed not only the value of the money loaned, with interest, but the estate, including household chattels. This was the entitlement. It was the law of the land, no matter how harsh.

The mortgagee, a self-made man anxious for greater social prestige, it was said, was known as "Neddy the Brewer". (Note that tie-up with Demon Drink - suspicious, isn't it?) According to Mona Douglas's references, Neddy the Brewer, whose surname was Gawne, tore down the stone tablet recording the building of Kentraugh by its hereditary owners with the words "There goes the last of the Qualtroughs from Kentraugh"

Deposed Qualtroughs must have been hard-pressed to think charitably upon the old family motto which had been carved over the doorway of the dwelling: "Judge not your fellow man's condition until ye have been in his position.”

About 2010

(James Qualtrough, a devout Christian, commented sadly in his shipboard diary on a later Gawne judgment appertaining to the Qualtroughs which had some similarity. He made it when recording the incident of the woman passenger charged with stealing.)

Ned Gawne prospered, however, and social standing was achieved for his descendants as his son married a cousin of the Duke of Atholl and became a Speaker in the House of Keys. Records note - fairly -that both he and his wife were known and honoured for their acts of charity. Maybe Neddy the Brewer was a sharp one but he wasn't the first, nor will he be the last, in the annals of human behaviour, to push home an advantage.

Speaker Gawnes Carriage at Kentraugh in 1867

Photo Courtesy of the Manx IMuseum

Anyway the feud between the Qualtroughs and the Gawnes has been diluted by the streams of time and is of academic interest only now to us, descendants of the immigrants. Had they not suffered loss of lands and position by the action of kinsmen it is unlikely that there would be New Zealand lines today

From Google Maps 2016

Unlikely but not improbable for many of the Qualtroughs were seafarers - that Viking blood? - and shipbuilders. One William Qualtrough (he died in 1878) owned a shipyard in Douglas. His travels took him as far away as Australia where he married a Manx girl immigrant whose surname was Gawne. So there's forgiveness for you, both of them offshoots of the families rifted by bitterness and scorn.

© 2021 by Malcolm Qualtrough, Elizabeth Feisst and the late John Karran Qualtrough. 

Hosted by Ask Web Design, Isle of Man.

© Copyright by Malcolm Qualtrough, Elizabeth Feisst and the late John Karran Qualtrough.