Andrew Douglas, sea captain

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Relief of Derry breaking the boom 


Andrew Douglas (d. 1725), naval officer, was born in Glasgow but became domiciled in Ulster, probably in Coleraine. In 1689 he was master of the merchant ship Phoenix, which was laden with provisions and stores for the relief of Londonderry, besieged by the forces of James II.

For some weeks a squadron of English ships had lain in Lough Foyle, unable or unwilling to attempt to force the boom with which the river was blocked. Positive orders to make the attempt were sent to Colonel Percy Kirke, who commanded the relieving force; and two masters of merchant ships, Browning in the Mountjoy of Londonderry and Douglas in the Phoenix(1), volunteered for the service. With them also went Captain John Leake in the frigate Dartmouth. As the three ships approached the boom the wind died away; they were becalmed under the enemy's batteries, and were swept up by the tide alone. Their position was thus one of great danger; but while the Dartmouth engaged and silenced the batteries, the Mountjoy first, and after her the Phoenix, crashed through the boom. The Mountjoy ran aground and for the moment seemed to be lost. She was exposed to a heavy fire, which killed Browning; but the concussion of her own guns shook her off the bank, and on a rising tide she floated up to the city. With better fortune the Phoenix had passed up without further hindrance, and brought relief to Londonderry's starving inhabitants, by whom Douglas was hailed as a saviour. A certificate signed by the town's governor, George Walker, and others recommended him to the king, and in February 1690 he was accordingly appointed to the command of the sloop Lark.

On 30 August 1691 Douglas was promoted captain of the frigate Sweepstakes in which, and afterwards in the Dover, Lion, and Harwich, he served continuously during the Nine Years' War, employed, it would appear, on the Irish and Scottish coasts, but without any opportunity for distinction. The Harwich was paid off in November 1697, and for the next three years Douglas was unemployed, during which time, with no alternative profession, he wrote repeated letters to the Admiralty, asking for his case to be taken into consideration. At last, in February 1701, he was appointed to the Norwich (60 guns) which he commanded for eighteen months in the channel, and in July 1702 he sailed for the West Indies with a considerable convoy. He arrived at Port Royal, Jamaica, in September, where for the next eighteen months he remained senior officer; and in July 1704 he sailed for England with a large convoy. He arrived in the Thames at the end of September, and while preparing to pay off wrote on 4 October of his desire to be moved with his crew to the soon-to-be-launched Plymouth. Douglas's request is curious, for at the time of his writing many of his officers and men were combining to try him by court martial on charges of sutling, trading, hiring out the men to merchant ships for his private advantage, and punishing them ‘exorbitantly’. He was tried on these charges at Deptford on 16 November 1704, and the court, holding them to be fully proved, ‘in consideration of the meanness of his proceedings’, sentenced him to be cashiered.

Douglas was reinstated in his rank on 24 September 1709 (with effect from 25 January 1710) by the earl of Pembroke, then lord high admiral, on the consideration of fresh evidence. In March 1711 he was appointed to command the Arundel, in which he was employed in the North Sea, and as far as Göteborg with convoy. While in her, on 15 December 1712, he was again tried by court martial, on this occasion for using indecent language to his officers and confining some of them to their cabins undeservedly, and for these offences he was fined three months' pay. He seems indeed to have been guilty, but under great provocation, especially from the lieutenant, who was at the same time fined six months' pay. In the following March the Arundel was paid off, and in February 1715 Douglas was appointed to the Flamborough, also on the home station. She was employed, mostly in the channel, in the operations concerned with the Jacobite rising of that year. The ship was paid off in October, and he had no further service. After several years on half pay as a captain he died on 26 June 1725.


From: Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 15


Of his family we know but little. He had with him in the Norwich and afterwards in the Arundel a youngster, by name Gallant Rose(3), whom he speaks of as his wife's brother, ‘whose father was captain in the army in Cromwell's time.’ He also on different occasions applied for leave to go to the north of Ireland on his own affairs, which fact would seem to imply that, notwithstanding his Scotch-sounding name, he was an Ulster Irishman.



1. The Phoenix is described as a 'ship of Coleraine', which carried 6,000 bushels of oatmeal, possibly from Scotland.


2.  A Captain Andrew Douglas of Mains (lineage uncertain) was involved in the slave trade of the late 17th and early 18th centuries. A well-known former slave was Scipio Kennedy. He had been brought to Scotland by Captain Andrew Douglas of Mains in 1702 from the West Indies, where he had been transported as a young boy from the African west coast. It is not known if this is the same officer. This Andrew Douglas's daughter, Jean married  married Sir John Kennedy, 2nd Bt Of Culzean.

3.  Possibly Ross, not Rose?



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