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[Post-Captain of 1806.]

This officer is the sixth son of the late William Tait, Esq. a merchant of Glasgow, N.B., by Margaret, sister of Admiral Viscount Duncan, whose eminent services have already been briefly noticed in our memoir of his son. Captain the Hon. Henry Duncan, C.B.[1]

Mr. James H. Tait was born at Glasgow; and in 1783 we find him embarking as a Midshipman on board the Edgar of 74 guns, then commanded by his maternal uncle, and stationed at Spithead as a guard ship. During the Spanish armament (1790) he was placed under the protection of the Hon. George Murray, with whom he served for some time in the Defence, another third rate, and whose patronage he ever afterwards enjoyed.

The dispute with Spain being settled without proceeding to hostilities, Mr. Tait next entered into the merchant service, and made several voyages previous to the commencement of the French revolutionary war; at which latter period he again joined his valuable friend Commodore Murray, whose broad pendant was then flying on board the Duke of 98 guns, but subsequently removed into the Glory, a ship of similar force. In April 1794, Commodore Murray being promoted to the rank of Rear-Admiral, and appointed commander-in-chief on the Halifax station, Mr. Tait followed that officer into the Resolution 74, from which ship he was soon after appointed by his patron to act as a Lieutenant on board the Thisbe 28: his commission, however, was not confirmed by the Admiralty until june 1796; previous to which he had been removed into the Cleopatra of 32 guns.

In the latter frigate, commanded successively by Captains Charles V. Penrose[2], Charles Rowley, and Israel Pellew, Lieutenant Tait continued until Oct. 1797, when he joined the Venerable 74, at the particular request of his noble relative. Viscount Duncan, with whom he remained in that ship, and the Kent 74, until Jan. 1799, when he received a commission appointing him to the command of the Jane, an armed lugger, forming part of the force under his Lordship’s orders. The north coast of Scotland was at this time infested by numerous privateers; and the appearance of the Jane, sent thither to protect the trade, was at first productive of increased alarm, she being rigged in a similar manner to many of those marauders. Lieutenant Tait, however, with a laudable zeal, established a code of signals which had the effect of removing all uneasiness from the minds of those engaged in coasting vessels, and at the same time enabled the inhabitants of Redhead, Montrose, Aberdeen, Peterhead, Banff, and Cromartie, to point out the direction in which any enemy’s cruiser might have proceeded after approaching either of those places during his absence. In addition to this service, he appears to have captured about fifty sail of French and Dutch vessels of different classes, and conducted himself, on all occasions, in so exemplary a manner as to call forth the thanks of the magistrates and town councils of Dundee, Aberdeen, and Banff, by whom he was presented with the freedom of those burghs, at a public diimer given to him previous to his recall from that station, and also recommended in strong terms to the Admiralty for promotion. His advancement to the rank of Commander took place April 29, 1802.

In June, 1803, Captain Tait was appointed to command a district of sea fencibles on the coast of Scotland; and in October following he obtained an appointment to the Volcano bomb, employed between Dungeness and Boulogne, in which vessel he continued until ordered to the East Indies, on promotion, at the close of 1804.

We next find Captain Tait commissioning and fitting out the Sir Francis Drake frigate, formerly a country ship, purchased at Bombay for his Majesty’s service:– in her he remained from Oct. 1805 until Mar. 1806, when he removed into the Grampus, a 50-gun ship, then employed in India, and subsequently on the Cape of Good Hope station; from whence he returned home in the summer of 1809, bringing with him a large fleet of the Hon. Company’s ships, and other traders, which he had taken under his protection at St. Helena. His post commission bears date Sept. 5, 1806; and shortly after his arrival in England he was presented by the Court of Directors with a handsome sum of money for the purchase of a piece of plate, and at the same time received a very gratifying letter, acknowledging the great attention he had paid to his charge during the passage.

The Grampus being paid off in consequence of her weak and defective state, Captain Tait did not receive another appointment until the close of the war with France, when he assumed the temporary command of the Venus, rated at 36 guns. He subsequently commanded the Junon and Pique frigates, on the Jamaica station, but was obliged to resign the latter, on account of ill-health, in Mar. 1817, since which he has not been employed.

Agents.– Messrs. Maude.

  1. See Vol. II. Part II. p. 979, et seq.
  2. We are happy in this place to have an opportunity of correcting an error in our first volume. The Cleopatra, when assailed by a most furious hurricane, was commanded by Captain Penrose, whereas we have described her as having been under the command of Captain Pellew at that period. The Cleopatra brought Vice-Admiral Murray to England at the close of 1795, and subsequently formed part of the Western squadron, under Sir Edward Pellew, now Viscount Exmouth.