William Blair

1741-1782. He was the son of Daniel Blair of Edinburgh.

Having served in the merchant marine and then been employed at various times in the Navy as a servant, able seaman and midshipman, Blair was commissioned lieutenant on 9 October 1760, some five months after passing his examination. From October 1765 until March 1766, he commanded the Deal Castle 24 for the sick Captain Digby Dent, and he briefly held the command of the Senegal 14 from October 1771, taking her around to Sheerness from Spithead to be docked and paid off in the following month.


Captain Blair lost his life at the Battle of the Saintes in 1782

On 14 October 1777 he was appointed the first lieutenant of the Grafton 74, Captain Andrew Wilkinson, and on 6 December promoted to the rank of commander. Joining the sloop Wasp 8, he went out on a cruise before returning to Plymouth in mid- January, and thereafter he undertook a return voyage to Cork.

Blair was posted captain of the Albion 74 at Plymouth on 18 April 1778, and from 4 May he served aboard the Princess Royal 90 as flag captain to Vice-Admiral Hon. John Byron in the fleet that sailed for North America on 9 June, and which was scattered all over the Atlantic by storms. After sailing for the Leeward Islands in December, he commanded the Princess Royal in Byron’s badly directed Battle of Grenada on 6 July 1779.

Having been replaced by Captain Harry Harmood when Rear-Admiral Hyde Parker succeeded Byron as the commander-in-chief and took the Princess Royal as his flagship, Blair joined the Nonsuch 64 on 31 August in order to bring home the Leeward Islands convoy. Departing St. Kitts on 3 October under the orders of Captain Digby Dent of the Royal Oak 74, all but eight of the convoy parted company in storms off the Newfoundland Banks and the remainder arrived at Portsmouth on 21 November. The same storms also saw the Nonsuch spring her masts, and after being docked she was paid off on 8 March 1780 at Sheerness.

On 2 March 1781 he was appointed to the newly launched Dolphin 44 at Chatham, and after sailing from that port for Blackstakes on 11 May, she arrived in the Downs two weeks later. Joining Vice-Admiral Hyde Parker’s North Sea squadron, Blair commanded the Dolphin at the Battle of the Doggersbank on 5 August, his ship fighting in the line of battle where she was roughly handled by the Dutch cannon. This display of courage, in which his ship suffered casualties of eleven men killed and thirty-three wounded, earned him special praise from the Admiralty.

On 23 August 1781 he was appointed to the newly commissioned Anson 64 at Plymouth, and following her launch on 4 September she sailed within days to join the Channel fleet. Shortly afterwards orders were received for her to be victualled for foreign service, and on 29 October she arrived at Portsmouth from Plymouth, prior to going out to the Leeward Islands in January 1782 with Admiral Sir George Rodney’s reinforcements.

The Anson fought in the leading squadron of Rear-Admiral Francis Samuel Drake’s division at the Battle of the Saintes on 12 April 1782, and Blair was one of three men killed aboard her when he was struck by a 24-pound shot that cut him in two and propelled his upper remains across the quarterdeck.

A monument to Blair and Captains William Bayne and Lord Robert Manners, who also lost their lives from wounds incurred at the Battle of the Saintes, was erected in their memory in Westminster Abbey. His will stated that he resided in the City of London.