Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Significant Scots
Sir Pulteney Malcolm

MALCOLM, SIR PULTENEY, Admiral of the Blue, G.C.B. and G.C.M.G.— This gallant admiral was one of that brotherhood of the Malcolms, whose talents raised them to such high distinction. He was born on the 20th of February, 1768, at Douglan, near Langholm, Dumfriesshire, and was the third son of the family. Having chosen the naval profession as his path to fame and fortune, he embarked as midshipman on the 20th of October, 1778, on board the Sybille frigate, commanded by Captain Pasley, afterwards Admiral Sir James Pasley, Bart., his mother’s brother. Thus launched at the early age of ten, young Pulteney’s first trial of his profession was a voyage to the Cape of Good Hope; and at his return he was transferred to the Jupiter of 60 guns. His first promotion, after nearly five years’ service, was to the rank of lieutenant in 1783. After having served successively in several ships, and upon various stations, he was employed as first lieutenant of the Penelope of 32 guns at Jamaica; and as the war kindled by the French Revolution had commenced, it was not long until he was called into active employment. Among his services was the capture of the French frigate, the Inconstante, and a corvette, in which he assisted as first lieutenant, and afterwards carried the prizes to Port Royal. He also saw hot service as commander of the Penelope’s boats, in cutting out vessels from the ports of St. Domingo, and was so successful that he was promoted to the rank of commander in 1794, in which capacity he had the charge of the seamen and marines who were landed at the mole of Cape Nicola, to garrison that place, which had been surrendered to the British by their allies, the French royalists. After his return from that station to England, Lieutenant Pulteney Malcolm was advanced to the rank of post-captain in October, 1794, and on the following month was appointed to the command of the Fox frigate. In the early part of the next year he convoyed a fleet of merchantmen to Quebec, and afterwards another to the East Indies; and upon that station he captured La Modeste, a French frigate of 20 guns. In 1797 he was employed in the China seas, under the command of Captain Edward Cooke of the Sybille; and during the same year he had for his passenger homeward, Colonel Wellesley, who was then returning from India. Neither storm nor enemy occurred by the way to put the Quid times? Caeisarem vehis to the test.

In this manner Captain Malcolm was making way by useful services, in which his courage and professional skill were fully attested, and the singular fortune that seemed to have rested upon his family insured his well-merited advancement. In 1798 he was appointed to the command of the Suffolk, a third-rate of 74 guns, bearing the flag of Admiral Rainier, commander-in-chief in the Indian seas, and was afterwards transferred to the Victorious, in consequence of the flag being removed to the latter ship. On this station Captain Malcolm served till the end of the war; and on his passage homeward in 1803, he encountered one of those casualties to which his profession must be always subject.

In the Bay of Biscay the Victorious encountered such a violent gale, that it was kept with the utmost difficulty from foundering all that could be done was to make for the Tagus, where she was run on shore and broken up, while her commander and crew returned in two vessels that were hired at Lisbon for the purpose. After this disaster, Captain Malcolm had the command of several ships successively in the Mediterranean, until, in 1805, he was appointed to the Donegal, a third-rate, where he continued for six years. His ship formed part of the fleet under Nelson employed in the pursuit of the combined French and Spanish squadron to the West Indies; and at its termination he was sent to reinforce the ships under Collingwood off Cadiz. As the Donegal had been long at sea, it was necessary to refit her; and for this purpose she was carried to Gibraltar, where she lay at anchor in the mole almost wholly dismantled. This was on the 17th of October, only four days before the victory of Trafalgar. While thus reduced to inactivity, tidings reached Captain Malcolm on the 20th, that the combined fleet were in the act of leaving Cadiz, and knowing that when Nelson was afloat and on the watch a light would follow, he strained every nerve to get the Donegal ready for action. He was so successful that before night his ship was out at sea; and on the 23d, he joined Collingwood in time to capture the El Rayo, a large Spanish three-decker, which had issued with Gravina’s division from the port in which they had taken shelter, to attempt the recovery of the disabled prizes. Malcolm continued on this station till near the end of 1805, under the command of Admiral Sir John Duckworth, whom he accompanied in pursuit of a French squadron that had left port for the West Indies. In the naval engagement that ensued off St. Domingo on the 6th of February, 1806, the Donegal took an ample share, and at the close was intrusted with the charge of the prizes, which were safely conveyed to Port Royal, Jamaica, and afterwards to England. On returning home Captain Malcolm, for his gallant conduct in the action, received, with his brother-commanders, the thanks of both Houses of Parliament, and was honoured with a gold medal; he was also presented with a silver vase of one hundred pounds value, by the committee of the Patriotic Fund.

It often happens that services of the highest importance, even in warfare itself, are neither conducted with the roar of cannons, nor signalized with the fanfare of trumpets; and yet their right performance demands not only the highest amount of skill, but also of devoted patriotism. Such was the next duty in which Captain Malcolm was employed in the summer of 1808; it was to escort the army of Sir Arthur Wellesley from Cork to Portugal, and superintend its debarkation. And how strangely the veriest nautical flaw upon this momentous occasion might have altered the whole course of European history! With Caesar and his fortunes once more committed to his care, Captain Malcolm conveyed the officers to their destination in Mondego Bay, and superintended the landing of the troops, which was accomplished with the utmost precision and success, notwithstanding the obstacles of a heavy surf. This critical task being happily accomplished, he returned to England, where an affair of some importance to himself was his next transaction. This was his marriage to Clementina, eldest daughter of the Hon. William Fullerton Elphinstone, and niece of Admiral Lord Keith, which occurred on the 18th of January, 1809. Brief, however, was his enjoyment of a new and happy home on shore; for in little more than two months after, we find him afloat, and employed under Lord Gambier in the successful attack upon the French ships in Aix Roads. After this event, he was invested with the command of a squadron sent out on a cruise; and subsequently to superintend the blockade of Cherbourg, where he captured a number of privateers, and shut up others within the shelter of their land batteries. Little afterwards occurred till 1812, when he was appointed Captain of the Channel fleet; and in the year following raised to the rank of rear-admiral. In this capacity he was employed to convey a body of troops under General Ross to North America, and afterwards to assist Sir Alexander Cochrane in the conveyance and subsequent return of our forces employed against Washington and New Orleans. As great deeds and important services had accumulated to an immense amount during this stirring period, it was found necessary, at the commencement of 1815, to extend the order of the Bath into three classes; and on this occasion Admiral Malcolm was not forgot. He was created a knight-commander; and it was an unwonted spectacle to see three brothers, all distinguished in their several departments, invested with this honour at one and the same period.

On the return of peace by the deposition of Napoleon, Sir Pulteney Malcolm’s naval career seemed to have been terminated. But the escape of Bonaparte from Elba, compelled the weather-beaten admiral to weigh anchor once more; and he was appointed on this occasion to co-operate with the Duke of Wellington and the allied armies in their last great campaign. At its close, which consigned Napoleon to perpetual exile, Sir Pulteney was appointed commander-in-chief of the St. Helena station —a ticklish office, which brought him into frequent and friendly intercourse with the man whose movements he was obliged to watch, and whose chances of escape it was his duty to frustrate. In this trying situation, however, he conducted himself with such firmness and gentleness combined, and so greatly to the satisfaction of the fallen hero, that the latter, while he discharged the whole brunt of his indignation upon the unlucky head of Sir Hudson Lowe, had an entirely different feeling for the admiral. "Ah! there is a man," he exclaimed, "with a countenance really pleasing: open, frank, and sincere. There is the face of an Englishman—his countenance bespeaks his heart; and I am sure he is a good man. I never yet beheld a man of whom I so immediately formed a good opinion as of that fine soldier-like old man. He carries his head erect, and speaks out openly and boldly what he thinks, without being afraid to look you in the face at the time. His physiognomy would make every person desirous of a further acquaintance, and render the most suspicious confident in him." Such was the striking portrait of Sir Pulteney drawn by the hand of a master—one who was the greatest of painters through the medium of language, as well as the first of epic poets by deed and action. On one occasion, when the impatient spirit of the exile burst forth, he exclaimed to the admiral, "Does your government mean to detain me upon this rock until my death’s-day?" "Such, I apprehend, is their purpose," replied Sir Pulteney, calmly. "Then the term of my life will soon arrive," cried the indignant ex-sovereign. "I hope not, Sir," was the admiral’s answer, "I hope you will survive to record your great actions, which are so numerous, and the task will insure you a term of long life." Napoleon bowed at this gratifying and well-merited compliment, and quickly resumed his good humour. Sir Pulteney continued in the command of the St. Helena station from the spring of 1816 till near the close of the following year; and when he left it he was on the best terms with Napoleon, who frequently afterwards used to speak of the pleasure he had enjoyed in his society.

As there was no further naval service for Sir Pulteney Malcolm, his rank in the navy continued to rise according to the established routine. He was advanced, therefore, to the rank of vice-admiral in 1821, and of full admiral in 1837. During this interval he was also invested with the Grand Cross of the Bath in 1833. To some of our narrow-minded political economists, who can only measure the value of public services by their noise and glitter, the rewards that had been conferred upon him were thought to be beyond his deserts; and an attack of this kind upon Sir Pulteney in Parliament, produced from one of his friends an indignant reply. We quote from it the following just and rapid summary of the admiral’s career:—

"He was the son of a humble sheep farmer, and had won his fame, as his brother, Sir John, also had done, without the aid of powerful friends. He had risen to the highest honours of his profession by his own exertions, and his honour, till the other night, had never been questioned; he enjoyed a spotless reputation, and possessed the friendship not only of the great men that were at present in existence, but those who had departed. He was the comrade in arms of the gallant Nelson; and in the last action in which that great man was engaged, he commanded a ship which had the splendid distinction of being called the Happy Donegal. He had the friendship of the first general of the day (the Duke of Wellington). He had the honour of conveying in the ship under his command the hero of Assaye. Sir Pulteney Malcolm at Vigo, landed the future conqueror of the Peninsula. At the special desire of the Duke of Wellington, the flag of Sir Pulteney Malcolm was flying at Ostend when the destinies of the convulsed world were decided in the field of Waterloo. As a conqueror, he became the friend of the conquered. His flag was at St. Helena during the time Napoleon was there, and by the cordiality of his disposition and manners, he not only obtained the confidence, but won the affections of that great man, who, in his last moments, acknowledged his generosity and benevolence."

Thus honoured in his public, and beloved in private life, Sir Pulteney Malcolm died at East Lodge, Enfield, on the 20th of July, 1838, in the eighty-first year of his age. A public monument has since been erected to his memory.

G'day Alastair
we received an e-mail this morning which we have quoted for your interest quote

Dear Eunice & Ron
I was very interested to read the letter from Charlotte Malcolm.  It is the content of the letters rather than the postage that interests me personally, although as a former museum curator I was often intrigued to find that early postmarks could give so much information.
The Malcolms were well known in Dumfriesshire and Wilhelmina was almost certainly from this family.  The name is not common in this part of the world.  You can read about the family (and possibly identify "Sir James") by looking at
Keep up your good work on your fascinating website.
Best wishes


So we went onto that web page and it was very interesting. The whole site is fascinating.  We thought you might like to look at this letter which was referred to in the e-mail.  You will find it on this url

We have a fair number of old letters from Scots and some of them are on our webpages, if you think any of these would be of interest to you let us know, you might like to have a link to our old letters?
Best wishes
Eunice and Ron in Australia

Return to our Significant Scots page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus