William Duddingston

1740-1817. He was born in November 1740 in Kilconquar, Fifeshire, the third born son of fourteen children of James Duddingston, and of his wife, Margaret Gillespie.

After service in the merchant marine on the Fifeshire coast from 1752-5, Duddingston joined the Navy and passed his lieutenant’s examination on 13 June 1759, prior to being commissioned lieutenant on 10 October that year.

The burning of the Gaspe in1772

Continuing his career in the rank of lieutenant, he commanded the schooner Gaspe 6 from 26 April 1768, although he did not join her until 13 September, suggesting that he took passage out to North American waters to assume command. Serving on that station for the next four years, he spent the majority of his time in anti-smuggling operations, with one detained vessel being a French polacre from La Rochelle, which was carried into Placentia after engaging in illicit trade during the early autumn of 1769. In November that year the Gaspe arrived at Halifax from Philadelphia to undergo repairs.

On 10 June 1772 the Gaspe was boarded by a band of locals at Providence, Rhode Island, after she had grounded in shallow waters the day before whilst in chase of a suspected smuggling vessel. Duddingston, who had raised the ire of the Rhode Island residents by an excessive interpretation of his instructions, was shot in the thigh, his crew were forced into the boats to be detained in Pawtuxet village, and the Gaspe was burned. Initial reports back home stated that he had been killed in the incident, but he survived his dangerous wound and convalesced ashore for some time before returning to England. At his court martial aboard the Centaur 74 in Portsmouth Harbour on 15 October, he was cleared of responsibility for the loss of his ship, being ‘acquitted with honour’, and on 15 February 1773 he was granted a pension of £91 per annum in respect of the wound he received in the boarding of the Gaspe.

Meanwhile, on 28 August 1772 he had been promoted commander of the sloop Bonetta10, which elevation was probably for purposes of rank only, for there is no evidence that he ever took her to sea, and it would appear that he was still convalescing at this time.

Duddingston was appointed to the sloop Senegal 14 on 18 January 1775, the fitting out of which vessel was rushed through at Chatham. Sailing for Boston with dispatches for General Thomas Gage on 16 April, he remained thereafter on the North American station. On 28 May 1776 the Senegal arrived at Halifax, and on 1 June Duddingston left her due to his poor health, handing her over to Commander Roger Curtis. Taking custody of General Sir William Howe’s dispatches dated 8 June, he delivered them to Whitehall on 6 July.

On 21 March 1777 he was appointed to the sloop Cameleon 14, which completed her fitting out at Deptford on 13 May, although again it is not clear that he ever took her to sea. Instead, he was posted captain of the Boston 28 on 19 September, which frigate was fitting out at Woolwich. On 20 November she arrived at Portsmouth from the Downs, and by the spring of 1778 she was operating in the St. George’s Channel for the protection of the trade. At the beginning of May she was at Greenock having been unable to intercept the American privateer Ranger 18 and her prize, the Drake 20, which had been captured by John Paul Jones’ vessel in Carrickfergus Bay on 24 April. Continuing in employment off the west coast of Scotland, on the 25th the Boston sailed from Greenock for Ireland with eight transports carrying Highland regiments. During December she was at Belfast, and in January 1779 she captured a French privateer and her two prizes in the Irish Sea, which she carried into Carrickfergus.

On 19 April 1779 the Boston took possession of the Brest privateer Revenge 26, which had entered Larne Harbour in distress with a vastly reduced crew, having been engaged the day before in a six-hour duel with the Glasgow privateer Sturdy Beggar 20. Throughout the summer the Boston continued to cruise in the Irish Sea with frequent visits to all the major ports on both sides of that waterway, and in September she was at the Isle of Man before embarking on another cruise in search of John Paul Jones’ privateer force. During the early days of November she joined the escort of the West India convoy as is sailed past Plymouth, and after continuing on to Sheerness, she was refitted and coppered at that port over the next three months whilst also being re-rated as a 32-gun frigate.

In March 1780 the Boston returned to her duties off Ireland and western Scotland via Milford Haven and Holyhead, and she captured the French privateer Rusine 24 in the Irish Sea in July. She remained on her station with very little incident until 4 June 1782, when she arrived at Portsmouth having brought a convoy over from Cork. She was paid off on 18 July, and thereafter Duddingston saw no further service.

A wealthy man, in retirement, he purchased houses in Fife and Edinburgh, including a villa, Elie Lodge, which was situated on three acres near Elie on the Firth of Forth. He became a superannuated rear-admiral on 12 November 1794.

Rear-Admiral Duddingston died on 27 October 1817 in Earlsferry, Fifeshire.

On 17 November 1802 at Mugdrum House, Fifeshire, he married Antonia Steaurt-Barclay. The couple had two sons, one of whom died shortly after birth, and two daughters. His nephew, Robert Heriot Barclay, entered the Navy and rose to the rank of commander.

The musket ball which wounded Duddingston during the Gaspe affair in 1772 remained in his body for the rest of his life, gradually working its way down to his right knee and rendering him lame.