8 July 2018


It's funny how one thing can lead to another. Going back to the old and forgotten church at Kirkmadrine - I snapped a couple of pictures there - of a gravestone still secured to one of the church's ruinous walls. Last night I deciphered the various inscriptions. This is what it said:-

This stone was erected
Captain John McKerlie Royal Navy
In grateful remembrance
of his parents
Who lie interred here
John McKerlie and Catherine
his Spouse
Also his twin Sister
Who died in infancy
And two brothers John & Alexander
Who also died very young
The above
Rear Admiral John McKerlie, died
September 12th 1846, aged 74 years
Harriet McKerlie, widow of the above
Rear Admiral John McKerlie
Died June 25th 1872, aged 88 years
Blessed are the dead who die
In THE LORD - Revelations

Clearly Captain McKerlie of the Royal Navy had done pretty well for himself. After erecting a memorial to his parents he went on to reach the exalted rank of a Rear Admiral.

Though I have not been able to track down an image of John McKerlie, I have discovered several things about him. He was a national hero and a close colleague of Lord Nelson. McKerlie fought at The Battle of Trafalgar and in an earlier military skirmish off the coast of Brittany he was aboard "The Indefatigable" when successfully assaulting the French ship "Les Droits de l'Homme". A painting of this event is displayed in the Brest Museum of Art in France:-
Though losing his right arm in this bloody encounter, McKerlie carried on his illustrious career and retired to Garlieston where he became involved in merchant shipping. He married Harriet and they had one daughter, Lillias, who wrote to "The Spectator" in 1914:-
Another interesting thing I have found out about McKerlie is that a memorial brooch was produced in his memory - containing a lock of his hair. Perhaps it was worn by his wife, Harriet and maybe Lillias inherited it. Anyway, it was sold fairly recently by The Armoury of St James's.

In his time, John McKerlie was a significant national figure. It is a little sad to think of him lying in that forgotten churchyard visited only by crows and occasional wood pigeons. No more the cries of men in pain nor waves battering the bows of "The Indefatigable" nor cannonballs booming. Now all is quiet. 
John McKerlie - Memorial brooch


  1. I too love the stories graveyards give us

    1. As time passes some of the best stories are buried under the weight of years.

  2. I would love to spend some time wandering through old graveyards in Scotland. Sounds like you're having a wonderful time!

    1. I was having a wonderful time Jennifer but now we are back home watering the sun-baked garden.

  3. How very interesting YP. The Nelson era used to be one of my interests. I don't recall coming across McKerle but then with my memory for names being what it is that's probably not a surprise.

    1. The internet can be a wonderful means of researching things. I have even seen the very house where McKerlie's daughter wrote that letter - now a nursing home close to Holyrood.

  4. You tell an interesting story of this character.

    1. I am proud to have resurrected his memory.

  5. This was a fascinating piece of personal (for McKerlie) and national history to read over my muesli this morning - thank you!
    When you say at the end that you find it a little sad that he is now only visited by crows and wood pigeon, I must say that I find it less of a sad and more of a comforting image. The words "Rest in Peace" really apply here, and I guess he has had enough excitement and pain in his life to appreciate all that peace and quiet now.
    When his wife and daughter were still alife, I suppose they came to visit as often as they could.

    1. That should of course have been "...were still alive".

    2. I see what you mean about "Rest in Peace". It would be very difficult to find a more peaceful place to rest.

  6. Actually, it seems comforting to think of him lying there in such a peaceful place, after such a tumultuous life. Didn't Nelson also lose a limb at Trafalgar? Seems like a frequent occurrence in those days!

    (I'm seeing after I wrote this that Librarian said just the same thing!)

    1. Don't worry. When I visit your blog I rarely look at what others have written.


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