war hero remembered
AS THE country celebrates the bi-centenary
of the battle of Trafalgar a letter from one Farquharson
believed to have played his part describes the scene.
Roland Smith, who lives in
Israel but was born in Durham, England, contacted The
Lion’s Face to share the story
of James Farquharson which was passed down through generations
of his family and in the hope of finding the answers to
questions it poses.
“Why does he write HMS Culloden when no such ship was involved?
Was he referring to HMS Collosus?” he asks. “Maybe
there is a Farquharson out there who knows of the family
from Airlie and holds the key to some of his queries?”
James is known to have married Jane Christie.
His letter reads :
At sea, October 27 1805 , Cape St Vincent bearing E v
E1/4 E, distant 15 miles
Revered and Honoured Father,
Early this morning Lord Collingwood graciously informed
me he would forward a letter for you with his Private
Despatches per Swift Frigate to England. I was slightly
wounded in the Battle and am doing well, Thank God, but
my bosom is wrung with anguish from the loss of my dear
friend The Stoube Mr Erskine by an auloward incident.
The Admiral had ordered a General Thanksgiving and we
had just concluded service at which my lamented friend
had led the Praise on the small organ Lord Collingwood
had in his cabin when the cry arose that the French Prize
we were towing was on fire.
We had no boats all being knocked to pieces on the 21st
but warped as close as we could to the Frenchmen whose
crew together with our prizemen had to take to the water.
Several of our people sprang overboard to assist so being
MrErskine. With great difficulty we succeeded in saving
most of the crew with lines and slings. Mr Erskine had
saved three of The Frenchme n, one of our crew, and finally
the Midshipman in charge of the prize crew, a very young
lad. My lamented friend had just proceeded a few steps
up the side ladder when one of the bow guns in the Frenchman
exploded and a grape shot took him full in the breast.
His loss is (irreparable unclear) with the exception
of our Revered Admiral (Nelson). I knew no man who exercised
a greater power of drawing out the love and service of
those he commanded. His death will deepen the gloom already
hanging over the Fleet and he will be mourned in every
ship of The Squadron.
When we prepared him for burial
(Erskine) I took from his neck a small gold chain and
locket beautifully fashioned
to resemble a Highland Targe and on the reverse a monogram
of four letters - I think a Lady’s name "Mary" and
containing a lock of beautiful black hair. The features
of both his mother and sister are familiar to me from the
miniatures in his berth, it could not have been a (tress
unclear) of Lady Mary’s.
Lord Collingwood has sealed up this memento and permits
me to send it to you. May I request that on its arrival
you will procure a reliable person and have it despatched
at once to his family.
I must conclude as The Master of Arms waits for my letter.
And now commending you to the care of Almighty God I remain
Honoured Father Your true and affectionate Son, James Farquharson,
Acting First Lieutenant, H.M.S ‘Culloden’.