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Significant Scots
Sir Samuel Greig


GREIG, (SIR) SAMUEL, a distinguished naval officer in the Russian service, was born 30th November, 1735, in the village of Inverkeithing in the county of Fife. Having entered the royal navy at an early period of life, he soon became eminent for his skill in naval affairs, and remarkable for his zeal and attention to the discharge of his duty, - qualities which speedily raised him to the rank of lieutenant, and ultimately opened up to him the brilliant career which he afterwards pursued.

The court of Russia having requested the government of Great Britain to send out some British naval officers of skill to improve the marine of that country, lieutenant Greig had the honour of being selected as one. His superior abilities here also soon attracted the notice of the Russian government, and he was speedily promoted to the rank of captain, the reward of his indefatigable services in improving or rather creating the Russian fleet, which had been previously in the most deplorable state of dilapidation.

On a war some time after braking out between the Russians and the Turks, captain Greig was sent under the command of count Orlow, with a fleet to the Mediterranean. The Turkish fleet, which they met here, was much superior to the Russian force, the former consisting of fifteen ships of the line, the latter of no more than ten. After a severe and sanguinary but indecisive battle, the Turkish fleet retired during the night close into the island of Scio, where they were protected by the batteries on land. Notwithstanding the formidable position which the enemy had taken up, the Russian admiral determined to pursue, and if possible destroy these by means of his fire-ships. Captain Greig’s well known skill and intrepidity pointed him out as the fittest person in the fleet to conduct this dangerous enterpise, and he was accordingly appointed to the command. At one o’clock in the morning captain Greig bore down upon the enemy with his fire-ships, and although greatly harassed by the cowardice of the crews of these vessels, whom he had to keep at their duty by the terrors of sword and pistol, succeeded in totally destroying the Turkish fleet. Captain Greig, on this occasion assisted by another British officer, a lieutenant Drysdale, who acted under him, set the match to the fire ships with his own hands. This perilous duty performed, he and Drysdale leaped overboard and swam to their own boats, under a tremendous fire from the Turks, and at the imminent hazard besides of being destroyed by the explosion of their own fire-ships. The Russian fleet, following up this success, now attacked the town and batteries on shore, and by nine o’clock in the morning there was scarcely a vestige remaining of either town, fortifications, or fleet. For this important service, captain Greig, who had been appointed commodore on his being placed in command of the fire-ships, was immediately promoted by count Orlow to the rank of admiral, an appointment which was confirmed by an express from the empress of Russia. A peace was soon afterwards concluded between the two powers, but this circumstance did not lessen the importance of admiral Greig’s services to the government by which he was employed. He continued indefatigable in his exertions in improving the Russian fleet, remodeling its code of discipline, and by his example infusing a spirit into every department of its economy, which finally made it one of the most formidable marines in Europe.

These important services were fully appreciated by the empress, who rewarded them by promoting Greig to the high rank of admiral of all the Russias, and governor of Cronstadt. Not satisfied with this, she loaded him with honours, bestowing upon him the different orders of the empire, viz. St Andrew, St Alexander Newskie, St George, St Vlodomir, and St Anne.

Admiral Greig next distinguished himself against the Swedes, whose fleet he blocked up in port, whilst he himself rode triumphantly in the open seas of the Baltic. Here he was attacked by a violent fever, and having been carried to Revel, died on the 26th of October, 1788, on board of his own ship, the Rotislaw, after a few days’ illness, in the 53d year of his age. As soon as the empress heard of his illness, she, in the utmost anxiety about a life so valuable to herself and her empire, instantly sent for her first physician, Dr Rogerson, and ordered him to proceed immediately to Revel and to do every thing in his power for the admiral’s recovery. Dr Rogerson obeyed, but all his skill was unavailing.

The ceremonial of the admiral’s funeral was conducted with the utmost pomp and magnificence. For some days before it took place the body was exposed in state in the hall of the admiralty, and was afterwards conveyed to the grave on a splendid funeral bier drawn by six horses, covered with black cloth, and attended in public procession by an immense concourse of nobility, clergy, and naval and military officers of all ranks; the whole escorted by large bodies of troops, in different divisions; with tolling of bells and firing of cannon from the ramparts and fleet: every thing in short was calculated to express the sorrow of an empire for the loss of one of its most useful and greatest men.


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