“The Battle of Trafalgar was in fact won even before the first cannon was fired. The true victory over the French invasion plans lay with the ‘unobtrusive heroes’ of the Royal Navy who patiently watched over the ports scattered along the enemy coastline, twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, effectively preventing the French and Spanish from putting an invasion fleet to sea.” If this statement by Dan Cruickshank is correct, then three naval officers connected to Glencairn can claim to have played their part with distinction.
Admiral Sir Robert Laurie K.C.B. 1764-1848
Robert Laurie was the only son of Lieut: General Sir Robert Laurie of Maxwelton &endash; M.P. for Dumfriesshire for 30 years. Young Robert, aged nearly 16, is said to have run away to sea and entered the navy in 1780 as a Captain’s servant. He had such an adventurous career that by the end of 1805 he was lucky to still be alive. In 1794, when a Lieutenant, he was severely wounded in the cheek. Then after getting his own command &endash; Zephyr, a new sloop; he captured a French privateer – La Reflechie, with a crew of 67 men. In 1801, by then a Captain, he took charge of the ships boats of his own ship &endash; the Andromache (32 guns) and another ship, in a night attack against 25 Spanish ships off Cuba, protected by three armed galleys. These put up such a strong destructive fire that he only captured one galley after nine men had been killed and 12 wounded.
Robert succeeded his father in 1804 becoming the 6th and last of the Laurie baronets. He obtained command of the Cleopatra with 38 guns and 200 men and in February 1805 he attacked La Ville de Milan of 46 guns and 350 men. Nearly three hours later, Sir Robert and his ship were captured. Six days later the British 50 gun ship Leander captured both ships. Captain Laurie was appointed to command the former French vessel when refitted as a 38 gun frigate &endash; Milan.
Commander Charles Adam Lennock 1777-1862
The career of Commander Lennock was described in the ‘Glencairn Gazette’ December 2003. He returned to the St: Albans (64 guns) in 1804 on the Home station and in August 1805 he was appointed to the Standard (64 guns). He retired to Broomfield Cottage having married Lilias Corson of Dalwhat.
Admiral George Gustavus Lennock 1775-1866
George was Charles Lennock’s elder brother who entered the navy, aged 14, as a Captain’s servant in 1789. While a Lieutenant he was badly wounded in the West Indies. During 1805 and until August 1806 he had the acting command of the sloops Shark, Drake and Mignonne on the Jamaica station before being confirmed in the rank of Commander.
In the summer of 1812 Commander Lennock “made a dashing attack on 14 brigs (each armed with 3 or 4 long 24 pounders) and drove three of them on shore. His quickness, indeed, in deciding upon this exploit, and his skill and spirit in executing it, obtained him very high approbation”. His dispatch from the Raven (18 gun brig sloop) off the Scheldt was published in the ‘London Gazette’.
George Lennock married, in 1829, Anna, the eldest daughter of John Walker of Crawfordton. They had a son, George James, who failed to live up to his parents’ expectations being constantly in debt. Their daughter, Anne Murray, married George Gustavus Walker in 1856 at St: James’s church, Piccadilly.
Admiral Lennock lived at Kelton Mains, Dumfries, before moving to Broomrigg, Holywood, where he died on 7 May 1866 aged 91.
It could have been many weeks before these three officers read of the outcome of the battle off Cape Trafalgar on 21 October 1805; perhaps in ‘The Times’ of 7 November, or maybe in the ‘Dumfries Weekly Journal’ of 12 November 1805.
Although no local men seem to have fought at Trafalgar there was sufficient sympathy to enable parish ministers to send in collections “by order of the Presbytery to the Patriotic Fund at Lloyd’s, to be applied for the relief of the wives and families of those brave men, who, in their Country’s cause, lost their lives in the late victorious naval engagements”.
Parish of Glencairn £12.0.0 Parish of Tynron £ 5.10.0
Sources: Dumfries Weekly Journal 1806; A Naval Biographical Dictionary, W.R. O’Byrne 1849; The Lauries of Maxwelton, I.O.J. Gladstone 1972; Invasion, Dan Cruickshank 2001Note: Many thanks to Mike Laurie for providing the photograph of Admiral Laurie. Thanks also to Mrs Eva Adamson and Neale Lawson.
© A.B. Hall