[Ferrerius, Appendix to Boece's History; Lindsay of Pitscottie's Chronicle; Lesley and Buchanan's Histories; and Pinkerton's History, in which there is the fullest account of Cochrane.]
COCHRANE, THOMAS, tenth Earl of Dundonald (1775–1860), admiral, son of Archibald Cochrane, ninth earl of Dundonald [q. v.] and of Anne, daughter of Captain James Gilchrist [q. v.], was born at Annsfield in Lanarkshire on 14 Dec. 1775. He was destined for the army by his father, who when he was still a mere child obtained for him a commission in the 104th regiment, while his uncle, Captain Alexander Forrester Inglis Cochrane [q. v.], placed his name on the books of the several ships he commanded; so that some years later, when his father yielded to his wish to go to sea, he had already nominally served in the navy for nearly five years. In reality he joined his first ship, the Hind, commanded by his uncle, on 27 June 1793, at the comparatively mature age of seventeen years and a half. His introduction to the service was a rude one, but he entered into it with a peculiar zest, and under the able teaching of 'Jack' Larmour, the first lieutenant of the Hind and afterwards of the Thetis, he rapidly learned the practical mysteries of the profession, and was on 14 Jan. 1795 appointed acting lieutenant of the Thetis, though he was not confirmed in the rank till 24 May 1796; the required six years of sea service being satisfactorily accounted for by the books of the various ships his uncle had commanded. The Thetis was then on the North American station, and continued there till the autumn of 1798, when, on her return to England, Cochrane was appointed to the Foudroyant, carrying the flag of Lord Keith, who was going out to the Mediterranean. On arriving at Gibraltar Lord Keith moved into the Barfleur, to which ship Cochrane accompanied him, rather to the dissatisfaction, he believed, of older officers. A rugged self-sufficiency had already shown itself in his temper, and, now that he was freed from his uncle's control, was not long in getting him into a difficulty with the first lieutenant, Philip Beaver [q. v.], who brought him to a court-martial for disrespect. Lord Keith, who was anxious to get to sea, hurried the trial over with a gentle admonition to Cochrane to 'avoid flippancy.' He continued in the Barfleur during the blockade of Cadiz and the voyage up the Mediterranean; followed Lord Keith to the Queen Charlotte, in which he served during the fruitless pursuit of the French fleet out of the Mediterranean, to Brest, returning also in her when Keith resumed the command of the station [see Elphinstone, George Keith, Viscount Keith].
On the capture of the Genereux, 18 Feb. 1800, Cochrane was appointed prize-master, to take her to Port Mahon; and was thus happily absent from the Queen Charlotte when she was burnt off Leghorn on 17 March. He was shortly afterwards, 28 March, promoted to command the Speedy, a brig of 158 tons, armed with fourteen 4-pounders, and 'crowded rather than manned' with ninety officers and men. In this burlesque on a ship of war Cochrane was ordered to cruise off the Spanish coast, which he did with signal activity and success, capturing in the course of the summer and autumn several merchant ships and small privateers, and rendering the Speedy a marked object of the Spanish authorities. On 21 Dec. he ran close up to a large frigate specially fitted out, in the disguise of a merchantman, to put a stop to his cruise. He had painted the Speedy in imitation of a well-known Danish brig, had shipped a Danish quartermaster, and now dressed him in Danish uniform to personate the Danish captain. The Spaniard sent a boat to board her, the Speedy ran up the quarantine flag, which effectually kept it at a satisfactory distance, and so the two vessels parted. After cruising with singular good fortune for another month, on 1 Feb. 1801 he put into Valetta, and the same evening attended a subscription fancy-ball, in the dress of an English seaman. Some of the French royalist officers under whose patronage the ball was given supposing that he really was a seaman, ordered him out. Cochrane, refusing to go, was collared by a Frenchman, whom he promptly knocked down. He was then carried off to the guardroom. A duel followed, in which the Frenchman was shot through the leg, and a ball passing through Cochrane's clothes bruised his side.
On the following day the Speedy again put to sea, and, with occasional intermissions, continued cruising along the Spanish coast, with the now customary good fortune and success, till 6 May, when, off Barcelona, she fell in with a large Spanish frigate, which had put to sea in search of the Speedy. As some dissatisfaction had been expressed at his not attacking the frigate on 21 Dec., Cochrane gave the order to prepare for action, though his ship's company was reduced to fifty-four, all told. The result is without a parallel in naval history. Without any surprise, in broad daylight, this little brig ran alongside the frigate, and after a few broadsides, in which every gun from the Speedy told, while the Spaniard's shot passed harmlessly overhead, Cochrane, at the head of his men, boarded and carried her, a frigate