Anthony James Pye Molloy
@1754-1814. He was of Irish extraction and the nephew by marriage of Admiral Sir Thomas Pye.
Of his early service little is known, but Molloy was commissioned lieutenant on 3 August 1768 and first came to attention when as second lieutenant of the Bristol 50, flying the broad pennant of Commodore Sir Peter Parker, he was wounded during the unsuccessful attack on Charleston on 28 June 1776.
As a reward for his efforts at Charleston he was promoted commander of the bomb Thunder 18 on 6 July 1776, serving in the New York campaign from July – October 1776. In June 1777 he commanded the sloop Senegal 14 off the Virginia Capes in North America under the orders of Captain Benjamin Caldwell of the Emerald 32, who was much impressed with the younger officer, and he commanded her in the Philadelphia Campaign of August-October 1777.
Molloy was posted captain on 11 April 1778 and took command of the Trident 64, flying the broad pennant of Commodore John Elliott, and serving at the defence of New York in July 1778 and the action off Rhode Island during August 1778. After sailing with Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron’s fleet in December as an independent ship following Elliott’s return home he fought in the Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779.
Whilst the Trident was sailing close to the French island of Guadeloupe her crew, weary of Molloy’s tyrannical command, vacated the deck in a state of mutiny and ran below, whereupon in trying to confront them by going down the fore-hatch Molloy was grabbed by the legs and only pulled back to safety by his officers. The marines were called to restore order and within three days the crew were performing their duties normally as if nothing had happened.
Remaining in the Leeward Islands he was present at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April when he lost fourteen men killed and twenty-six wounded, and was one of only five officers commended by Admiral Sir George Rodney. He thereafter served in the remainder of the Leeward Islands campaign from May to July, and having moved to the Intrepid 64 in the latter month he sailed to North America with the fleet that autumn before returning to the West Indies. He fought in the Battle of Fort Royal on 29 April 1781, and later did well at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781 where the Intrepid was second in line and one of four in the van which were badly damaged after being overwhelmed, losing twenty-one men killed and thirty-five wounded. He subsequently fought at the Battle of St. Kitts on 25/26 January 1782 where she lost two men killed, but due to the desperate condition of his ship he was despatched to Jamaica and sent home with the May convoy, thereby missing the Battle of the Saintes. After arriving in England that August the Intrepid was paid off.
In March 1783 he commissioned the Carnatic 74 as a guardship at Chatham, leaving her in the spring of 1785 when she transferred to Plymouth, during the Dutch Armament from October to December 1787 he had the Fortitude 74, and during the summer of 1789 commanded the Bombay Castle 74 at Plymouth. Having recommissioned the Edgar 74 in January 1790, he commanded her during the Spanish Armament of 1790 and the Russian Armament of 1791 as a guard ship at Portsmouth.
Recommissioning the Ganges 74 in December 1792, he joined Rear-Admiral John Gell’s squadron at the commencement of the French Revolutionary War and patrolled off Cape Finisterre during April-May 1793, being present at the capture of the French privateer General Dumourier and her richly laden prize, the Spanish register ship St. Jago on 14 April, and eventually receiving prize money totalling £56,000 or £8m in today’s money after an appeal process. He then joined the Channel fleet and participated in the cruises of July-August and October-November 1793, being present at the attack on Rear-Admiral Vanstabel’s squadron on 18 November 1793. During the latter action he was leading the line of battle when the outlying frigates discovered the French but extraordinarily he failed to repeat their signals.
At the end of 1793 he was appointed to the brand new Caesar 80, and in 1794 led the line in at the Battle of the Glorious First of June. Crucially he did not close with the enemy during the skirmish on the 29 May, neglecting orders to set more sail then wearing away from the French rather than tacking towards them. In the battle itself, where once again his ship led the line, he opened fire at long range and then spent ninety minutes repairing his ship’s rudder. Learning of an animosity towards him from the officers of the fleet he requested a court-martial into his conduct, and this took place eleven months later aboard the Glory 98 at Portsmouth under the presidency of Vice-Admiral Joseph Peyton. Despite his impressive fighting record, a letter from one of his officers to a newspaper praising his courage, and the fact that his ship had lost eighteen killed and seventy-one wounded, Molloy was found guilty of failing to bring his ship into action on the 29 May and 1 June and was dismissed his command, never to be employed again. With respect to the Caesar’s casualties it was reported that he inflated the injured list to present a better defence.
Captain Molloy died on 25 July 1814 at Cheltenham after a heavy fall.
He married Juliana, a daughter of Admiral Sir John Laforey, in December 1785 at Stoke Church, Plymouth. This lady managed to court even more unpopularity than her husband, with Prince William describing her as ‘so ridiculously affected that she is universally ridiculed’. Prior to his marriage Molloy allegedly broke off an engagement with another woman whose curse upon meeting him in the street was held to bring about his downfall and disgrace. His daughter, Mary, married Admiral Sir John Poo Beresford but predeceased her father, and he also had two sons.
A bad tempered unpopular oppressive man and a strict disciplinarian both to his crew and his officers, Molloy was often mentioned as being a tyrant. Captain Lord Robert Manners of the Resolution kept good order in his own ship by threatening to discharge any repeat offenders into Molloy’s Intrepid. As well as holding a harsh opinion of his wife Prince William disliked him intensely. Molloy was nevertheless regarded as personally courageous, and was a good friend of Admiral Sir Roger Curtis whilst Fanny Burney described him as ‘sensible and agreeable, but somewhat haughty’.He was forever short of money.