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A 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’.

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