- John Paul Jones (1747-1792)
John Paul Jones was born in a small white-washed cottage at Arbigland near Kirkbean, Kircudbrightshire, on the Solway coast on 6 July 1747. (The house opened as a museum in 1993, with financial help from American supporters). At the age of 12 he went to sea and from cabin boy he rose to be the first mate on a slave ship.
Jones had a quick fiery temper and during his career faced mutiny and two charges of manslaughter. In 1773 he therefore departed for North America and settled in Virginia. Two years later he assumed the surname Jones - his father was a gardener named simply John Paul. He obtained a command of a ship in the newly formed American navy and waged war against British trading ships. He carried out a series of dazzling exploits which earned him a reputation as a great patriot (or a notorious pirate, if you were British).
In 1777 he crossed the Atlantic in the "Ranger" frigate of 26 guns and refitted at Brest in France. During 1778 he cruised in the Irish sea and at one point landed in Whitehaven on the Cumbrian coast (from where he had sailed earlier on the slave trade) and later landed in Kircudbright Bay in Scotland. He had planned to abduct the Earl of Selkirk (who had once tried to bring him to justice for his earlier deeds) but the plan failed because the Earl was not at home.
On his return to Brest he was given command of the "Bonhomme Richard". In 1779, sailing as part of an American fleet (sailing under the advice of the French) he sailed up the coast of Scotland and on the return journey, threatened to open fire on the port of Leith. He was then met by a group of British ships off Flamborough Head. During the engagement (described as "one of the most desperate and sanguinary in naval history) he shouted his celebrated battle-cry: "I have not yet begun to fight!". The "Bonhomme Richard" and the British "Seraphis" both sank but only after the latter had surrendered to Jones.
Jones returned to America in 1781 and was given command of the "America" the fledgling navy's largest ship, but he never set sail in her. He returned later to Europe, where he travelled for many years. In 1788 he was appointed as a rear-admiral in the Russian navy by Catherine the Great in charge of a squadron of ships in the Black Sea. He returned to Paris in 1790 and died there on July 18, 1792. His remains were returned to the USA in 1905 and laid to rest in the US Academy chapel.
Return to the Index of Famous Scots>
Where else would you like to go in Scotland?
News & Views>
All Features Index>
Search This Site>
Scottish Pictorial Calendar>
Places to Visit>