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The Scottish Nation

SHANK, a surname derived from lands of that name in Mid Lothian. Murdoch Shank or Schank, of the family of Shank of that ilk, received from Robert the Bruce a grant of the estate of Castlerig, parish of Kinghorn, Fifeshire, in commemoration of his having discovered and taken charge of the body of Alexander III., who was killed in 1286, by his horse falling over a precipice near the sea, while riding in a dark night from Inverkeithing towards the castle of Kinghorn. The lands of Castlerig have remained in possession of his family ever since. They are mentioned in a charter of confirmation of the mortification of a chapel and hospital in Kinghorn in 1360, as then belonging to Robert Shank. Alexander Shank of Castlerig, the eleventh in descent from Murdoch and twelfth proprietor of Castlerig, died, without surviving issue, after 1747, when the estate devolved upon his kinsman, the Rev. Alexander Shank, minister of St. Cyrus, Kincardineshire. By his wife, Diana, daughter of Robert Scott of Duninald, the latter had three sons and two daughters. Alexander, the eldest son, was drowned at sea, in the total loss of the “Anna” of Bombay in 1817. Martin, the second son, died without issue. Henry, the third son, succeeded in 1825 to the estates of Castlerig and Gleniston, Fifeshire, and of the Villa, Laurencekirk, Kincardineshire. Mr. Shank, a deputy-lieutenant of the city of London, married, in 1808, Anna Maria, the sister of Sir James Rivett Carnac, baronet, of Rookcliff, Hants, at one period governor of Bombay, with issue, four sons and three daughters. Henrietta Anna, the youngest daughter, married in 1844, James Sibbald David, eldest son of Sir David Scott, of Duninald, baronet, K.H.

Of this family was John Shank, or, as he chose to spell his name, Schank, a brave and scientific naval officer, born at Castlerig in 1740. When very young he entered the merchant service, but subsequently joined the nary. After serving for many years he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant, and shortly after was appointed, first, superintendent, and then senior officer of the naval department of St. John’s, North America. The force under his command consisted of four different flotillas, which he rendered very effective in annoying the enemy, during the American revolutionary war. His exertions and great merit called forth the highest encomiums from the admiral commanding on the station, particularly on account of the wonderful expedition with which he constructed a ship of above 300 tons, named the Inflexible; which ship he built, rigged, and completed, and with it fought and beat the enemy, all in less than six weeks from the time that she was originally put on the stocks at Quebec! Besides fitting out various armaments to be employed on the lakes of Canada, he had the direction of four different dockyards at the same time. His services were also of great use to the army under General Burgoyne in 1777, which he attended in the capacity of engineer, and constructed several floating bridges and rafts for the progress of the troops over rivers, &c. At the peace, he returned home, and in 1783 was promoted to the rank of post-captain. Thereafter, he occupied his leisure with plans for the improvement of ship-building. In 1793, he published a treatise on an ingenious invention of his own relative to the construction of vessels for sailing in shallow water, by means of sliding keels, worked by mechanism. He was one of the original members of the “Society for Improving Naval Architecture,” and wrote several valuable papers for that institution. In 1799, he was appointed to superintend the transport service connected with the expedition to Holland; and, on the establishment of the Transport Board, he was nominated one of the commissioners. He retired from that office in 1802, in consequence of a disorder in one of his eyes. In 1805 he was raised to the rank of rear-admiral, in 1810 to that of vice-admiral, and in July 1821 to that of admiral of the blue. He died at Dawlish in Devonshire, March 6, 1823. He married a sister of Sir William Grant, master of the rolls, with issue.

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