John Brisbane

1735-1807. He was descended from a long-established Renfrewshire family and was the son of Thomas Brisbane and of his wife, Isabel Nicholson.

Brisbane was commissioned lieutenant on 5 August 1757 and promoted commander of the Virgin 12 at Barbados on 17 October 1760, the promotion being confirmed by the Admiralty on 21 May 1762. In March 1761 he was one of seven men wounded with another being killed when his boat attempted to cut out a schooner laden with coffee off St. Lucia under fire from the people ashore, thereby requiring Lieutenant Lambert Brabazon to return to the Virgin to gather more men to complete the capture.

He was posted captain on 24 September 1761, and although his movements over the next year are subject to confusion the most likely scenario is that he was appointed immediately to the Lizard 28 at Barbados in succession to the late Captain James Doake, earning a quick success on 8 October when in passage from Antigua to St. Kitts this frigate took five vessels out of a convoy of seventeen bound from St, Eustatius to Martinique. On 7 February 1762 he was appointed to the Nightingale 20 on the same station by Rear-Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney, which vessel was despatched three days later to England carrying Captain George Darby of the Devonshire 66 with dispatches announcing the capture of Martinique. It would then appear that having returned to the West Indies but without the Nightingale, which had been docked in Woolwich, Brisbane was appointed to the ex-French corvette Echo 24 in August, coming home in May 1763 to be paid off.

On 4 October 1769 he was appointed to the sloop Cruizer 8 in succession to the late Captain Edward Cricket, serving predominantly in the Downs and leaving her in September 1770 to join the Cerberus 28, which he commissioned at Chatham. After being stationed in the Downs for the early months of 1771 he then departed for Spithead prior to cruising in the Channel. In June 1772 he sailed from Plymouth with Rear-Admiral Richard Spry’s squadron on a cruise to return in early August, and he ceded the command to Captain Hugh Dalrymple in October.


The arrival of the French fleet at Rhode Island obliged Captain Brisbane to destroy his own and four other frigates

In December 1775 Brisbane recommissioned the Flora 32, which left Chatham on 10 March 1776 and entered the Clyde in April to collect a convoy of thirty-three sail and the Royal Highland Regiment. Days after sailing for North America on 29 April a violent storm off Ireland caused the convoy to fragment, and it eventually crossed the Atlantic in dribs and drabs, although a good number were captured by the Americans. The Flora, which had been listed as missing, arrived at Staten Island in early August to join the campaign to capture New York, and in October she escorted some twenty transports from Sandy Hook to Louisbourg to collect coal for the use of the troops. In the following January she sailed for Antigua in escort of victualling transports for the army, but after arriving on 3 March 1777 she was delayed in her return to North America until the end of May by sickness and desertion.

In June 1777 the Flora was cruising off Cape Ann before being sent to join Rear-Admiral Sir Peter Parker at Rhode Island. On 8 July she assisted the Rainbow 44, Captain Sir George Collier, in the re-taking of the British frigate Fox 28 and the capture of the American frigate Hancock 34, and she carried the former into Halifax. By 19 July the Flora was at Providence, Rhode Island, and she then cruised off Connecticut and Boston in the late summer prior to returning to Rhode Island. Here she was unable to close inshore to prevent the rebels molesting the Siren 28, Captain Tobias Furneaux, after that vessel had driven aground on Point Judith on 6 November.

Brisbane was the senior naval officer at Rhode Island when the French fleet arrived in August 1778, obliging him to destroy the Flora, four other frigates, and two sloops to prevent them falling into enemy hands. He then remained at Rhode Island as the senior officer assisting the Army in manning the batteries against the French and the rebel army.

After returning to England he commissioned the newly launched Alcide 74 at Deptford in July 1779, the vessel being manned almost entirely by Scots and Irishmen bar a handful of Englishmen. She eventually made her way around to Spithead in November to join the fleet destined for the relief of Gibraltar which was congregating under Admiral Sir George Rodney. Accordingly, she fought at the Moonlight Battle off St. Vincent on 16 January 1780 where her main-topmast was shot away by the Monarca 70, but where she suffered no casualties. Subsequently when the fleet reached Gibraltar the Alcide had to be towed away from the Spanish batteries.

The Alcide arrived back at Portsmouth on 6 March with Rear-Admiral Hon. Robert Digby’s division, and after being coppered at Plymouth in April she temporarily rejoined the Channel Fleet at Spithead before entering Cork on 24 June to collect a convoy for the West Indies. Brisbane vacated the command soon after the Leeward Islands fleet reached New York on 14 September, and bearing Admiral Sir George Rodney’s and Vice-Admiral Marriot Arbuthnot’s despatches he arrived at the Admiralty on 13 November.

During the summer of 1781 he recommissioned the Hercules 74 in home waters to participate in the Channel Fleet’s June-November campaign, but he was obliged to leave her in December as his poor health prevented him from taking her to the West Indies.

Brisbane was not thereafter employed, but in accordance with seniority he was promoted rear-admiral on 21 September 1790, vice-admiral on 12 April 1794, and admiral on 14 February 1799. He died at Southampton on 10 December 1807, and was buried in the catacombs of All Saints Church in the town.

Brisbane married Mary Young on 11 June 1759 at Stonehouse, Devon and had five sons: Commander John Douglas Brisbane who drowned on one of the prizes from the Battle of the Saintes in 1782; Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Stewart Brisbane who was killed on San Domingo in 1795; Commander William Henry Brisbane of the Navy who died in 1796 having been poisoned by French prisoners at Gibraltar; Rear-Admiral Sir Charles Brisbane, and Commodore Sir James Brisbane. He also had six daughters.