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, Captain John Morris, flying the broad pennant of Commodore Sir Peter Parker, he was wounded during the Battle for Charleston on 28 June 1776.

As a reward for his efforts at Charlestown he was promoted commander of the bomb Thunder 18 on 6 July 1776, serving in the New York campaign from July – October. He soon established a reputation for tyrannical behaviour which culminated in a court martial and a reprimand in March 1777 for hitting a subordinate across the face with a cane and using un-officer like language.

In May 1777 he was appointed to the sloop Senegal 14, and in June he commanded her off the Virginia Capes under the orders of Captain Benjamin Caldwell of the Emerald 32, who was much impressed with the younger officer.

Molloy was posted captain on 11 April 1778 and after handing the Senegal over to Commander John Inglis on 11 June he took command of the Trident 64, flying the broad pennant of Commodore John Elliott, and serving at the defence of New York in July and the Relief of Rhode Island during August. After sailing with Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron’s fleet to the Leeward Islands in December as an independent ship following Elliott’s return home, the Trident fought in the Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779. On one occasion during this period, and when the Trident was sailing close to the French island of Guadeloupe, her crew being weary of Molloy’s tyrannical command vacated the deck in a state of mutiny and ran below. 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.

The Battle of the Chesapeake – one of many in which Captain Molloy fought.

Remaining in the Leeward Islands, the Trident was present at the Battle of Martinique on 17 April 1780 when she lost fourteen men killed and twenty-six wounded, and Molloy was one of only five officers commended for his conduct by Admiral Sir George Rodney. He thereafter served in the remainder of the Leeward Islands campaign from May-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. The Intrepid later fought in the Battle of Fort Royal on 29 April 1781, and performed well at the Battle of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September, where she was second in line and one of four ships in the van which were badly damaged after being overwhelmed, losing twenty-one men killed and thirty-five wounded. She subsequently fought at the Battle of St. Kitts on 25/26 January 1782 where she lost two men killed, and due to the desperate condition of his ship Molloy was despatched to Jamaica, thereby missing the Battle of the Saintes. In May he departed the Caribbean with a convoy, and after arriving in England that August the Intrepid was paid off.

In March 1783 he commissioned the Carnatic 74 as a guardship at Chatham, transferring in the spring of 1785 to Plymouth where she was paid off on 19 April 1786. During the Dutch Armament from October to December 1787 he had the Fortitude 74, and in February 1789 was appointed to succeed Captain Robert Fanshawe aboard the Bombay Castle 74 at Plymouth. Having transferred to the Edgar 74 in January 1790, he commanded her during the Spanish Armament, in the course of which, during September, he took exception to the Duke of Clarence punishing a valuable man whom Molloy had lent to the Valiant 74, and who had been punished for the trivial, and to him unfamiliar offence, of hanging his trousers out of a port hole, a regulation that incurred a punishment of fifty lashes. There were also reports that the dispute between Molloy and the prince was of a political nature. He continued with the Edgar during the Russian Armament of 1791 as a guard ship at Portsmouth, although in February of that year she entered dock for repairs, and she was eventually paid off at Portsmouth at the beginning of September.

Recommissioning the Ganges 74 in December 1792, Molloy 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 at today’s value, after an appeal process. He then joined the Channel fleet and participated in the cruises of July-August and October-November, being present at the attack on Rear-Admiral Vanstabel’s squadron on 18 November. 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 Molloy was appointed to the newly launched Caesar 80, which arrived at Portsmouth from Plymouth on 14 February 1794. In the preliminaries before the Battle of the Glorious First of June he crucially did not close with the enemy during the skirmish on 29 May, neglecting orders to set more sail then wearing away from the French rather than tacking towards them. In the battle itself, where his ship led the line, he opened fire at long range rather than break through the enemy line as per orders, and then spent ninety minutes repairing his ship’s rudder. Once the fleet returned to port, he sensed an animosity towards him despite the loss to the Caesar of eighteen men killed and seventy-one wounded, and towards the end of June he requested a court-martial into his conduct.. At that time, and for many weeks afterwards, there were an insufficient number of admirals and captains immediately available to try him as the fleet was at sea, and having vacated the Caesar to Vice-Admiral Hon. William Cornwallis and Captain John Whitby he actually rejoined her at the end of December. However, when she was ordered to sea with the fleet in January 1795 he requested to be superseded pending the investigation into his conduct, and Captains William Mitchell and then Charles Nugent held the temporary command in his stead.

At the beginning of March 1795 Molloy once more wrote to the Admiralty asking for his court martial to proceed without delay, and this eventually began on 28 April aboard the Glory 98 at Portsmouth under the presidency of Vice-Admiral Joseph Peyton. The trial lasted over two weeks until concluding on 15 May, and despite his impressive fighting record, the acceptance that his personal courage had been unimpeachable on the days preceding the Battle of the Glorious First of June, as well as on many other occasions, and the fact that his ship had lost eighteen men 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. With respect to the Caesar’s casualties it was reported that he inflated the injured list to present a better defence.

By the beginning of June 1795 Molloy was so desperately ill at Portsmouth that his life was despaired of, but within the week he recovered and was able to leave his residence in Fratton for London. During September he was dangerously ill again with a fever, and in the meantime, having been omitted from the list of captains promoted to flag rank on 1 June, he resigned the service never to be employed again.

Captain Molloy died on 25 July 1814 at Cheltenham after a heavy fall.

In December 1785 at Stoke Church, Plymouth he married Juliana, a daughter of Admiral Sir John Laforey, 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 described as 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. In addition to holding a harsh opinion of his wife, Prince William disliked him intensely. His first lieutenant aboard the Senegal described him as a ‘most tyrannical over-bearing fellow’ who caused the previous first lieutenant to cut his own throat. 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 prior to his participation in the capture of the General Dumourier and St. Jago in 1793.