Stair Douglas (1)

Died 1789. He was the third of four sons of Sir John Douglas of Kilhead, Scotland, and of his wife Christian, the daughter of Sir William Cunningham. He was the uncle of Rear-Admiral Stair Douglas.

Douglas’ early service included a spell in the Leeward Islands aboard the Fowey 20, Captain George Mackenzie. He was commissioned lieutenant on 13 December 1756, later seeing service in that rank aboard the Brilliant 36, Captain Hyde Parker, and the Royal George 100, Captain John Campbell, flagship to Admiral Sir Edward Hawke in the Channel.

In 1764 Captain Douglas gifted the future negro ‘dandy’ Julius Soubise, to the Duchess of Queensbury

He was promoted commander on 7 July 1761 and ordered to commission the French prize Sardoine 14, which he took out to the West Indies in December. He had the Barbadoes 10 in the expedition to Martinique during January – February 1762, and was later despatched with Captain Hon. Augustus John Hervey’s force against St. Lucia. From March to July, having exchanged with Commander James Hawker, he commanded the bomb Granado 8. He next had the Port Royal 14 at the reduction of Havana in 1762, and he was posted captain of the Glasgow 20 on 29 June 1762 before quickly removing to the Richmond 32. Upon sailing for North America he retained the Richmond on that station until the end of the war.

In the winter of 1770 Douglas took the Seaford 20 out to Jamaica where he exchanged with Captain Walter Stirling into the Dunkirk 60, becoming the flag-captain to his old friend Commodore George Mackenzie at Port Royal. The Dunkirk returned to England towards the end of 1771 and was paid off in March of the following year. In November 1773 he recommissioned the Squirrel 20 which he took out to Jamaica in January 1774 before eventually returning home in 1777.

After a short period of unemployment Douglas recommissioned the Montreal 32 in late 1777, going out to North America and then taking the Portuguese and Mediterranean convoys out from Spithead on 12 October 1778 in company with the Hussar 28, Captain Elliot Salter. Thereafter he remained in the Mediterranean. On 1 May 1779, being in company with the Thetis 32, Captain John Gell, the Montreal 32 fell in with the French 74’s Bourgogne and Victoire in the Straits of Gibraltar, and although her consort escaped the Montreal was forced to strike after a token resistance. Shamefully the French continued firing into the Montreal for a good half hour after she had struck her colours, and then upon boarding the frigate raided the officers’ personal liquor. After being ferried to Alicante Douglas and his crew were released.

Upon being exchanged in 1780 he was appointed to commission the new Prince William 64 for service in the Channel fleet campaign of June-December, and he went out to the Leeward Islands at the end of the year with Rear-Admiral Sir Samuel Hood’s reinforcements. He was present at the capture of St. Eustatius on 3 February 1781, but blotted his copybook by firing on the Dutch frigate Mars 38 following the capitulation, being severely reprimanded for so doing by Admiral Sir George Rodney. The Prince William later fought at the Battle of Fort Royal on 29 April, suffering casualties of six men wounded.

Shortly afterwards, and apparently on account of his health, although Rodney’s criticism may have influenced the decision, Douglas transferred to the Triumph 74 in order to return to England. Sailing in company with a merchant convoy and the Panther 60, Captain John Harvey, he took the expeditious step of escorting his charges into Cork rather than the southern ports of England where it was known that a French fleet was lying in wait. After eventually reaching England the Triumph was paid off in November 1781.

Although appointed to the Grafton 74 in the autumn of 1782 Douglas resigned the command within a few days, apparently because of the state of his health, but more relevantly because she was then under orders for the East Indies. He briefly commanded the Cambridge 80 in early 1783, but she was paid off in May.

Douglas was not thereafter employed and he died unmarried in Richmond, Yorkshire, on 8 April 1789.

He was seen as mildly eccentric but was nevertheless well regarded by his contemporaries. In 1764 he gifted a 10 year-old negro boy from St. Kitts to the Duchess of Queensbury. The boy, who was named Julius Soubise would become an accomplished gentleman and by all accounts somewhat of a fop and a Lothario.