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Royal Naval Biography/Blamey, George William

[Post-Captain of 1810.]

The family of Blamey, originally Blayney, is of Welsh extraction, and claims to be descended from Cadwallender, King of the ancient Britons. Captain Blamey’s direct ancestor, Edward, a younger son of Thomas ap Jevan Lloyd, after serving Queen Elizabeth in the Low Countries, accompanied the Earl of Essex to Ireland, and settled in that kingdom, of which he was created a peer by James I, July 29, 1621. Two brothers belonging to this family fled from the “Emerald isle,” to avoid political persecution:– one went to Normandy, the other took up his residence at Tregony, co. Cornwall, and changed his name to Blamey.

The subject of this memoir was born at Devonport, in 1768; and he appears to have joined the Nonsuch 64, Captain Walter Griffith, before he was eight years old! Although much too young to take a part in any of the operations, he was present at the performance of many, if not all, the services in the Chesapeake and Delaware rivers, at the commencement of the American revolutionary war. In 1778, we find him again at school; and in 1780, embarking on board the Inflexible 64, then attached to the Channel fleet under Admiral Geary, but subsequently sent to the relief of Gibraltar, under Vice-Admiral Darby. While engaged in that service, she was warmly engaged with the Spanish gun-boats, and Mr. Blamey witnessed the demolition of the greater part of the besieged town[1].

In 1781, this young officer was placed under the patronage of Sir Geo. B. Rodney, by whose side he served on the memorable 9th and 12th April, 1782[2]. After the recall of that celebrated chief, he continued in the Formidable with Admiral Hugh Pigot, under whom he completed his time as a midshipman. At the peace of 1783, Mr. Blamey joined the Culloden 74, fitting at Woolwich for the purpose of being stationed as a guard-ship in Hamoaze; but feeling dissatisfied with a life so inactive, and having a strong desire to make himself acquainted with the whole coast of North America, from Hudson’s Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, he subsequently proceeded, in pursuance of that design, accompanied by two young friends possessing a similar spirit of enterprise, in whose company he encountered difficulties almost insurmountable, and experienced the greatest privations, being often frozen up in his little bark without a single comfort to sustain life, some-times obliged to consume part of the vessel for want of fuel, and frequently compelled, after traversing the ice and reaching terra firma, to undergo all the varieties of misery and want. At the commencement of the French revolutionary war, Mr. Blamey joined Commodore Ford, at Jamaica, and was actively employed during the operations against the enemy in St. Domingo[3]. His promotion to the rank of Lieutenant took place about 1704, on which occasion he was appointed to the Success 32, Captain Hugh Pigot, with whom he had been intimate in his early days.

From that frigate Lieutenant Blamey removed to the Intrepid 64, commanded by the Hon. Charles Carpenter; and in her he assisted at the capture of la Perçante French national ship, mounting 26 guns, with a complement of 200 men, near old Cape François, Feb. 1796.

Lieutenant Blamey’s next appointment was to be first of the Jamaica, late la Perçante, from which ship he removed to the Leviathan 74, bearing the broad pendant of Commodore Duckworth, with whom he returned to England in 1797, after an absence of nine years. We subsequently find him serving as first of the Assistance 50, Captain Robert Hall, on the Halifax station, from whence that ship brought home H.R.H. the Duke of Kent, Aug. 31, 1800. During the passage to England, Lieutenant Blamey had the good fortune to obtain the favourable opinion of that illustrious personage, whoso warm friendship ho enjoyed until his lamented demise.

Early in 1801, Lieutenant Blamey again joined the Leviathan, then bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Duckworth, who had recently succeeded Lord Hugh Seymour in the chief command on the Leeward Islands station; and in whose despatches announcing the surrender of the Danish and Swedish colonies we find the following passage:–

“I intend giving an acting order to Captain John Miller Garnier, of the Hawke, and my first Lieutenant, George William Blamey, an officer whose exertions in the present expedition entitle him to my warmest support.”

Lieutenant Blamey was accordingly appointed to succeed Captain Garnier, and he continued in the Hawke sloop until the cessation of hostilities. While commanding that vessel he sailed round the island of Trinidad, and keeping within a mile or two of the shore, with the lead constantly going, visited every settlement, made a rough sketch of the coast, and furnished the Hydrographical Office with soundings which may always be depended upon. The whole of this service was performed in the course of a week.

Captain Blarney’s next appointment was, in 1804, to an armed vessel, employed protecting the trade in the British and St. George’s Channels, on which irksome and unprofitable service he remained nearly three years. We afterwards find him commanding the Mediator frigate, armed en flûte, and fitted for the conveyance of supplies to the different blockading squadrons.

In that ship Captain Blarney continued until the early part of 1809, when, having recently assisted at the embarkation of the British army at Corunna, and received on board a great number of sick and wounded soldiers, he was attacked with violent fever and ague, which induced the Admiralty to appoint the late Captain James Wooldridge to act for him until his recovery.

Hearing, while at sick-quarters, that the Mediator was converted into a fire-ship, for the purpose of being employed against the French squadron in Aix roads, Captain Blarney hastened to rejoin her, but had the mortification not to reach the British fleet until the day after her destruction. This circumstance naturally gave him great distress, the officer acting during his absence having been thus afforded an opportunity of gaining great fame, immediate promotion, and extraordinary marks of distinction[4].

As some compensation for his disappointment, Captain Blamey was shortly afterwards appointed to the Harpy brig, then under repair at Portsmouth, and intended to form part of the expedition preparing against Antwerp. On the arrival of that formidable armament off Walcheren, Captain Blamey was selected by Sir Richard J. Strachan to land as second in command of the naval brigade under Captain Charles Richardson, to whose memoir (in Vol. II. Part II) we must refer our readers for an account of the services performed by the seamen on shore between July 30, and Aug. 15, 1809. It will be sufficient in this place to state that the “zeal and bravery” displayed by Captain Blamey were highly spoken of, both in the naval and military despatches announcing the surrender of Flushing.

After the evacuation of Walcheren, the Harpy was sent to Halifax, from whence she conveyed 150 troops to Lisbon. Captain Blamey’s post commission bears date Oct 21, 1810. He subsequently commanded the Loire frigate, for a short period, off the Black Rocks, and the Comet of 20 guns, on the Newfoundland and other stations: the latter ship was paid off in Dec. 1814.

This persevering, but by no means fortunate officer, married Eunice, eldest daughter of David Pearl, of Hampton, state of Connecticut, Esq., and a grand-daughter of Major Allen, who distinguished himself in Canada under the immortal Wolfe. Captain Blarney’s two brothers died in the naval service: his sister married Captain, afterwards Major Hutcheson, of the 71st regiment.

Agents.– Messrs. Barnett and King.

  1. See Vol. I, Part I. p. 4, and note at p. 33.
  2. See Vol. II, Part I, note † at p. 52; Vol. I. Part I. note at pp. 35–39; and id. Part II. last part of note * at p. 437.
  3. See Vol. I, Part II, p. 505, and note † at p. 805 et seq.
  4. Captain Wooldridge had the honor of breaking the enemy’s boom, and was presented with a gold chain and medal in addition to the other rewards to which his conspicuous bravery so justly entitled him – post rank, and continued employment. The Patriotic Society also voted him a sword value 100l. He died suddenly, in the prime of life, at Penzance, Aug.31, 1814.