James Macnamara

1768-1826. He was born in County Clare, Ireland in 1768, the son of Michael Macnamara of Cahir Tuagh and of his wife, Bridget Walters.

In 1782 Macnamara entered the navy aboard the Gibraltar 80, Captain Thomas Hicks, which vessel sailed for the East Indies station on 6 February with the broad pennant of Commodore Sir Richard Bickerton. Shortly after their arrival in India he transferred to the Superb 74, Captain Henry Newcome, the flagship of the commander-in-chief, Vice-Admiral Sir Edward Hughes, in which he fought at the Battle of Cuddalore on 20 June 1783 before spending a short while as an acting lieutenant aboard the Monarca 68, Captain John Gell.

Having returned to England, he saw duty aboard the Europa 50, Captains Edward Smith and Richard Fisher, the flagship on the Jamaican station of Rear-Admiral Alexander Innes from 1784-6, and he was commissioned lieutenant on 1 December 1788. During the Spanish Armament in 1790 he served as a junior officer aboard the Excellent 74, Captain John Gell, before transferring to Vice-Admiral Lord Hood’s flagship Victory 100, Captain John Knight.

At the commencement of the French Revolutionary War in 1793 Macnamara was once more serving on the Victory with Vice-Admiral Hood and Captain Knight, and he was present at the occupation of Toulon from August, being promoted commander on 22 October of the sequestered French frigate Lutine 32, a rank that was confirmed on 16 May 1794. This vessel was reportedly fitted out as a 24-gun bomb-ketch, and early in 1794 she conveyed Toulon royalist refugees to Leghorn from the Hyères Islands, whilst in the same period she detained two Genoese vessels off Corsica which were attempting to supply the blockaded French at Calvi. In June Macnamara delivered transports to the siege of Calvi, before on 7 September the Lutine entered Leghorn once more. He still appears to have held her command in the late summer of 1795, employed in the collection of vessels from various ports in the Mediterranean and escorting them to Gibraltar, but by the time the Lutine left the Rock on 25 September in a convoy led by Commodore Thomas Taylor of the Fortitude 74, she was under the command of an acting captain, Commander William Haggitt.

For a short while Macnamara was reportedly the acting-captain of the Bombay Castle 74 in the Mediterranean, prior to moving to the frigate Southampton 32. On 29 September off Genoa he chased the French frigate Vestale 36 and three corvettes in a thunderstorm, but upon getting up to within point-blank range of the former he lost his mizzen mast, and despite hoisting a jury rig he was unable to run his opponent down. He was however posted captain with seniority from 6 October 1795, this elevation having apparently been delayed due to an administrative error, and he subsequently served off Genoa with Captain Horatio Nelson, and against the coastal trade off Toulon and Marseilles.

HMS Southampton

On 9 June 1796 Macnamara was summoned aboard Admiral Sir John Jervis’ flagship and given the strongest hint, although not a direct order, that he should attack the French corvette Utile 24, which was anchored under the batteries in the Hyères Roads. Having entered the waterway under neutral colours, his boats stormed this vessel and brought her out under fire, for which action his first lieutenant who had led the boarding party, Charles Lydiard, was deservedly promoted to command the prize. In October Macnamara effected the evacuation of Ajaccio when Rear-Admiral Robert Man’s defection necessitated the withdrawal of Jervis’s fleet from the Mediterranean, and on 2 December he captured the Spanish sloop Corso 18 off Monaco at the second attempt in a gale and under the fire of the enemy batteries. Once rejoined to the fleet, the Southampton was responsible for repeating signals at the Battle of Cape St. Vincent on 14 February 1797, and she eventually reached home with dispatches in the first week of July to be paid off some months later.

Macnamara next joined the Cerberus 32 following the sad drowning of her commander, Captain John Drew, at Plymouth on 11 January 1798. Having put out of the Devonshire port on 28 January, the frigate arrived at Portsmouth from Guernsey two days later, and after serving out of Portsmouth she was stationed off Northern Ireland in the summer. Departing Lough Swilly on the northern tip if Ireland to cruise off the Orkneys on 29 July with a squadron consisting of a 64-gun sail of the line and three other frigates, she returned to the fjord in County Donegal and later set out with two other frigates to search, unsuccessfully, for a French force that had reportedly been in Sligo Bay. During the autumn she cruised between Cape Clear and Cork with a frigate squadron.

By January 1799 the Cerberus was at Plymouth, from where she was ordered to Cork towards the end of March. In early August it was reported that she had carried a Spanish prize valued at £100,000 into Cove near Cork, and she then enjoyed a successful cruise against the enemy in the Bay of Biscay, in which amongst other captures she took the Bordeaux letter-of-marque Echange 10 on 28 September, which had been bound for Saint-Domingue. On 20 October she pursued eighty Spanish sail under the escort of four frigates off Cape Ortegal, successfully capturing a brig in an action during which she silenced one frigate and rammed another, and on 14 December she reached Plymouth from the Bristol Channel. A cruise off the Texel followed, and she arrived off the Nore at the end of the year.

During August 1800, following a long fallow period when the Cerberus was assumedly in dock, she fell in with an East India convoy off Cork and escorted it safely to Plymouth, and on 12 September she departed Portsmouth for Cowes to take on troops for Jersey, prior to proceeding to Ireland. She was back at Plymouth by 30 September, and on 17 October sailed to pick up a convoy at Cork for delivery to Newfoundland.

In March 1801 the Cerberus in company with the Emerald 36, Captain Lord James O’Bryen, set out for Jamaica from Cork with a convoy, but she had to put back on the 17th after encountering contrary winds before eventually departing on 1 April and reaching Barbados with the fleet after a passage of thirty-seven days. A further twelve-day passage then followed before she reached Port Royal, Jamaica on 11 June. Remaining on that station, Macnamara’s command lost a prize crew consisting of a midshipman, a master’s mate and ten seamen when their captured vessel sunk in July off Cuba, this following the earlier drowning of a midshipman by the name of Nepean, and of a sailor who had gallantly tried to save that young officer.

Despite the end of hostilities in March 1802, the Cerberus remained in the Caribbean off San Domingo before she left Jamaica on 7 December with Major-General George Churchill a passenger. She eventually arrived in Bantry Bay, Ireland, on 16 January 1803 having sustained serious damage aloft in the passage, including the loss of her mizzen and fore-topmasts; indeed at home there had been great concern for her safety. She then sailed around to Portsmouth under lower jury-masts, and having been ordered around to Sheerness she was paid off at Chatham in February.

On 22 April 1803 Macnamara was honourably acquitted at the Old Bailey of manslaughter, having mortally wounded Colonel Robert Montgomery in a duel at Chalk Farm sixteen days earlier over a dispute between their dogs in Hyde Park that morning, his second being Captain Robert Barrie. Macnamara was also wounded in the duel, and his surgeons insisted that he was too ill to be taken into custody at Newgate. It was judged that Montgomery had caused the original insult, and a series of naval witnesses, including Admiral Lord Hood, Vice-Admiral Lord Nelson, Admiral Lord Hotham, Admiral Sir Hyde Parker and Captain Sir Thomas Troubridge, bore testimony to Macnamara’s ‘honesty, good humour and pleasant, lively companionable nature.’ The duel and its aftermath caught the public’s attention, and for days afterwards the newspapers reported the events in great detail.

In May 1803 Macnamara offered his services to the Admiralty but no employment was forthcoming, other than in March 1804 when he was offered, but declined, a post in the Irish Sea Fencibles.

In July 1804 a black servant by the name of Dixon won a case against Macnamara in the Kings Bench for assault after he had been thrust against railings in Cavendish Square and called an ‘insolent black dog’ following his reaction to Macnamara’s favourable comment on the appearance of a woman that Dixon had been conversing with. On 25 February 1805 Macnamara was back in court before Lord Ellenborough, the Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, over a dispute with Dixon’s employer, a sub-lieutenant in the Life Guards by the name of Marcus Henry Lynch, whom Macnamara had declared to be ‘a scoundrel’, and who he had threatened to ‘shake a whip over’for his refusal to dismiss the servant. Ellenborough brought proceedings to a halt by demanding that the counsels resolve the dispute without the need for a trial, but with the affair rumbling on, Lynch’s fellow officers demanded that he be removed from duty for failing to challenge Macnamara over the remarks. Eventually, in June 1806, Lynch won damages against his brother officers for having to resign his commission.

Meanwhile, in June 1805 Macnamara had recommissioned the Dictator 64 at Woolwich, and in August she arrived in the Downs to join the squadron there, serving service under Admiral Lord Keith. In March 1806 the Dictator was with Vice-Admiral Thomas Macnamara Russell’s squadron in the North Sea, and on 4 March 1807 she arrived at Yarmouth from the Texel.

HMS Edgar

Macnamara next took over the recommissioned Edgar 74 in May 1807, sailing from St. Helens on 2 July to arrive at Plymouth two days later, and putting out from the Devonshire port to join the Channel Fleet. On 6 January 1808 she reached Plymouth from the fleet, and four days later went up the Hamoaze to enter the Barnpool. On 26 March, whilst still at Plymouth in Cawsand Bay, and at a time when Macnamara was ashore, his crew made a show of mutiny by demanding a new captain and new officers. They were faced down by a lieutenant and the marines, and five of the ringleaders were sentenced to multiple floggings following a court martial aboard the Salvador del Mundo under the presidency of Rear-Admiral John Sutton in the Hamoaze on 2 April, with the chief culprit being ordered to face seven hundred lashes around the fleet.

In the first week of April 1808 the Edgar sailed from Plymouth for the Downs to join a squadron which went out shortly afterwards to blockade the Dutch coast under the orders of Captain Benjamin Hallowell. On 24 May she arrived at Yarmouth from Flushing, and by 2 June she was in the Baltic at Gothenburg, having sailed there with a convoy in the company of the Brunswick 74, Captain Thomas Graves. Later that year she served in the Baltic under Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Keats, commanding the boats which seized two Danish vessels, the Fama 18 and Sѳormen 12, which were disputing the embarkation of Spanish troops at Nyborg on 11 August. The Edgar sailed for Leith at the end of the year, and on 27 February 1809 arrived in the Downs from the Scottish port prior to going around to Portsmouth for a refit.

In June 1809 it was reported that Macnamara had been instructed to escort six thousand Russians in thirty-five transports to the Baltic, and at the end of the month she sailed for the Downs from where she put out on her mission on 3 July. She was back at Yarmouth by 6 December from where she went up to Chatham at the end of the month, whereupon Macnamara left her. Shortly afterwards, in January 1810, he was announced as a ‘fashionable arrival’ in Conduit Street, London.

In March 1810 he was appointed to the newly commissioned Berwick 74, which in June was reported to have taken in her stores and guns and was proceeding to the Nore. On 21 November she arrived at Portsmouth, and shortly afterwards went into harbour to be docked. She left harbour on 8 January 1811, and she undertook a series of short cruises off Le Havre, Cherbourg, and the Isle de Bas during the spring whilst returning frequently to Portsmouth. On 24 March the Berwick drove the French frigate Amazone 40, Captain Bernard-Louis Rousseau, into a rock-strewn bay near Cape Barfleur, and after a number of smaller vessels joined in the attack the French ship was set on fire by her crew. The Berwick returned once more in early April to Portsmouth, and she subsequently served off the Texel before Macnamara left her in October.

On 4 June 1814 he was promoted rear-admiral, and he did not see any further service. In September that year he departed the Blenheim Hotel in Bond Street for the Continent, and once back in England he wrote to the Morning Post from his address in River Street, Bath on 10 December 1815 to complain of the conduct of two gentlemen in a box at the theatre, making derogatory remarks about their status as ‘gentlemen’. The men sent an emissary to Macnamara who referred them to his friend, Captain John Maitland, presumably a designated second, but happily the affair was settled without the requirement to set foot on the field of honour.

Rear-Admiral Macnamara died at Clifton, Bristol on 15 January 1826.

On 26 January 1818 at Walcot Church, Bath he married Henrietta Carleton, the widow of the Lieutenant-Colonel Hon. George Carleton, who had been killed in action in the Netherlands four years earlier. In 1821 he advertised a residence in Chamberlayne Street, Wells.