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RATHBORNE, WILSON (1748–1831), captain in the navy, son of Richard Rathborne, a clergyman, was born near Loughrea, co. Galway, on 16 July 1748. In September 1763 he was entered as an ‘able seaman’ on board the Niger, with Sir Thomas Adams, on the Newfoundland station. As able seaman and midshipman he served for six years in the Niger. He then followed Adams to the Boston, and ten months later to the Romney, in which he returned to England in 1770. In 1773 he joined the Hunter sloop as able seaman, in which rating he continued for a year. He was then a midshipman for some months, and, seeing no prospect of promotion, accepted a warrant as master of the Hunter. It was not till 1780 that he was allowed to return to England, and, having obtained an introduction to the Earl of Sandwich, passed his examination on 16 March; two days later he was promoted to be lieutenant of the Bedford, with Commodore (afterwards Sir Edmund) Affleck [q. v.] In the Bedford he was present in the actions off the Chesapeake on 16 March and 5 Sept. 1781, at St. Kitts in January, and in the actions under the lee of Dominica on 9 and 12 April 1782. In the summer of 1783 the Bedford returned to England and was paid off. In the armament of 1787 Rathborne was in the Atlas, carrying Affleck's flag, and was afterwards appointed to the Colossus, one of the Channel fleet, in which he remained till 1791. In December 1792 he was appointed to the Captain, in which in the following year he went out to the Mediterranean, took part in the occupation of Toulon, in the reduction of Corsica, and in the action of 14 March 1795, when he was severely wounded in the right arm, and lost his right eye. He was invalided for the recovery of his health, and on 9 Nov. 1795 was promoted to the rank of commander.

In 1797 he had command of the Good Design armed ship, convoying the trade from Leith to the Elbe, or to Elsinore. In December 1799 he was appointed to the Racoon brig, which he commanded in the Channel, the Mediterranean, and the West Indies, where, on 18 Nov. 1802, he was posted to the Santa Margarita. He returned to England in the course of 1803, and, remaining in the Santa Margarita, was attached to the Channel fleet. On 4 Nov. 1805 he was in company with Sir Richard John Strachan [q. v.], when he fell in with the French ships which, under Dumanoir, had escaped from Trafalgar, but now, hampered by the frigates Santa Margarita and Phœnix, were brought to action and all taken. Rathborne almost immediately afterwards received his appointment to the Foudroyant, much to his disgust, as he conceived that a cruising frigate was likely to give him greater opportunities of distinction and prize-money. He appealed to the admiralty, and Captain John Wentworth Loring [q. v.], who was appointed to succeed him in the Margarita, amiably held back his commission till the pleasure of the admiralty could be known. In the end Loring was appointed to the Niobe, and Rathborne remained in the Santa Margarita till December 1807, when the ship, being quite worn out, was paid off. For the next two years Rathborne commanded the sea fencibles of the Essex coast, and from 1810 to 1813 had charge of the impress service in the Tyne. In 1810 he was granted a pension for the loss of his eye, and this was afterwards increased to 300l. a year. In 1815 he was nominated a C.B. In 1822 he was appointed superintendent of the ordinary at Chatham, a post which he held till his death in the summer of 1831. He married, in 1805, a daughter of John French of Loughrea, and left issue. His sister was the mother of John Wilson Croker [q. v.]

[Ralfe's Naval Biogr. iv. 347; Marshall's Royal Naval Biogr. iv. (vol. ii. pt. ii.) 739; Service-book in the Public Record Office.]

J. K. L.