Duncan McIsaac was born circa 1776 in Kenmore, Perth and Kinross, Scotland, United Kingdom to Patrick McIsaac (-) and Ann Campbell (-) and died 1857 Devon, England, United Kingdom of unspecified causes. He married Kezia Whitehead (-1831) 2 March 1812 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom. He married Johanna Palmer (c1791-1858) 12 July 1832 in East Stonehouse, Devon, England, United Kingdom.

Name Birth Death
Children of Duncan and Kezia McIsaac

Margaret 1813
Gosport, Hampshire

Evalina c1819
December Quarter 1893
Bedminster, Somerset

Henry Duncan bap 18/12/1823

It has not been proven definitely that Patrick McIsaac and Ann Campbell are the parents of this Duncan McIsaac, but it is highly likely. A Campbell connection is established with Duncan’s second wife Johanna. This however, may have been a surname given to her at a first marriage, as Duncan’s tombstone states that his parents-in-law were a ‘Nathaniel and Catherine Palmer’.

Little of Duncan's early life, before joining the navy, is known.

Navy Service Record

There are two documents in the National Archives that refer to Duncan McIsaac’s navy service. One has been obtained which outlines his service in the navy from 3 April 1799 through to 4 November 1843, a total of 44 years.

He was 22 on entry in April 1799 and was placed as an able seaman on the HMS Vanguard. This was a quiet placement of only 5 months, and he was on the boat when it was brought out of commission at Portsmouth.


The day after embarking from the Vanguard, Duncan was placed on the ship Malta, where he remained between 12th April 1800 and 17th December 1800. The Malta was subsequently attached to the fleet under Lord Collingwood, and spent their time watching Cadiz.


The day after embarking from the Malta, Duncan returned to the ship Vanguard, where he would remain for the next five years.

He was onboard when in 1801, under the command of Captain Sir Thomas Williams, Vanguard sailed from Portsmouth on April 20 to join the Baltic fleet. The fleet, under Vice Admiral Pole, returned on August 10. Vanguard sailed again on August 19 with six other ships to cruise off Cadiz. The ship was victualled and stored for five months at Gibralta and sailed for Jamaica in December.

In 1803, under the command of Captain James Walker, Vanguard was operating out of Jamaica. On July 24, two French ships put to sea from Cape Francois in San Domingo during a squall in an effort to evade the Vanguard and three other ships that were blockading the port. The French ships separated during the night but one (called the Duquesne) was overtaken the following day and captured after a short exchange of fire with Vanguard which lost one man killed and one wounded.

In September the French troops in northwest Sant Dominigue were being closely pressed by the rebel slaves under General Jean-Jacques Dessalines. Captain Walker, off the Mole St. Nicholas, persuaded the General not to put the garrison of Sant Marc to death but to march them round to the Mole in safety where Vanguard would take possession of the shipping in the bay. The 850 men of the garrison, all very emancipated, were successfully evacuated.

The American schooner Independence was captured by the Vanguard on November 16, and two French schooners Rosalle and St Rosario were taken on December 22. Vanguard was paid off by the end of 1805, at which time Duncan moved on to his next post. His date of exit was 29th October 1805. On the voyage he had served as both an able seaman and a sail mate


Duncan's next posting was aboard the ship Pompee, where he would serve for 7 years. It is probably the most eventful of his postings.

In 1806 the Pompee was captained by Captain Dacres, and was the flagship of Sir Sidney Smith in the Mediterranean. With his squadron that included the ships Thunderer, Standard, Endymion and Active, the Pompee entered the Dardanelles on the 19the February as part of Vice Admiral Sir John Duckworth's force. They anchored within musket shot of a Turkish squadron consisting of a 64-gun ship, four frigates, four corvettes and four smaller vessels lying under a 31-gun battery on Port Pesquies. Half an hour after the British ships open fire all the Turkish vessels ran ashore on the Ashiatic side except for one corvette and one gunboat which were captured. The redoubt was then carried by Liet. Mark Oats with Pompee's marines after a short bombardment. Five seaman belonging to Pompee were wounded.

In 1808, Pompee's new captain was Capt. George COCKBURN,and it left for the West Indies on 1 October. While on passage to Barbados she fell with and, after a long chase of 18 hours, captured the French brig corvette Pylade on the 22 October. She was armed with fourteen 24-pounder carronades and two long 9-pounders. Eight days out of Martinique she was commanded by Lieut. Cocherel with a crew of 109 men.

Pompee took part in the attack on Martinique on 30 January 1809 under the overall command of Rear Ad. Sir Alexander Cochrane. About 600 men of the Royal York Rangers invested the fort on Pigeon Island on the 1 February. Five howitzers were landed from Pompee and got up to the top of a commanding height by the exertions of Capt. Cockburn and his seamen who supported the soldiers in completing the batteries. After three days bombardment the fort surrendered.

Rear Ad. Cochrane entrusted the whole of the naval arrangements ashore to Commodore Cockburn and he was supported by Capts. Barton, Nesham and Brenton. The French in Fort Bourbon were surrounded by batteries which kept up a continual bombardment, driving the enemy from his defences, until the garrison surrendered on the 24 February, 28 days after the expedition sailed from Barbados. Mr James Scott, master's mate, Mr Thomas Mills, midshipman, and Mr John Edevearn, gunner were wounded on shore and Robert Rundle of the carpenter's crew, Moses Butler, able seaman, and Patrick Makey, landsman, were killed.

Later Sir Alexander transferred his flag from Neptue to Pompee anchored in Fort Royal Bay, Martinique. In January 1810 he embarked artillery and stores at Martinique and sent ships of war to collect troops from different islands in preparation for an attack on Guadeloupe. They were ordered to rendezvous in Prince Rupert's Bay, Dominica. On 22 January Lieut. Gen. Beckwith and his staff embarked on Pompee and they sailed for Dominica, arriving on the 24th. At noon on the 27th. Pompee and the transports of the second division anchored off Gosier, Guadeloupe, and the troops were landed the following morning. Pompee followed as they advanced along the shore until they reached the heights of Palmiste then on the afternoon of 2 February, when Pompee appeared off the town, the civilians of Basse Terre, but not the troops in the forts, sent off a flag of truce. It took two days of fighting before the French General Ernouf surrendered the island.

In 1811, Capt. Sir J. A. WOOD took command of the Pompee, and the ship went to Lisbon. It was at Basque Roads in the autumn. In 1812, Pompee came back to England near Spithead in Hampshire.


It was during the time in Spithead that Duncan spent time ashore. On the 2nd March 1812, he married Kezia Whitehead at Portsmouth. Pallot's marriage index records that at the time of the marriage, Duncan was a gunner about the HMS Victory. This is not supported by his service record.

Royal William

Duncan's next posting was on board the Royal William, for 4 months between 18th December 1812 and 19th April 1813. Little is known about the Royal William, except that it was broken up almost immediately after Duncan served on it.

During this period, Duncan's first child, a daughter named Margaret was born at Gosport in Hampshire.


The next ship Duncan served on was the Albacore, between 20th April 1813 and 18th December 1815. At this time, he had been promoted to the new rank of gunner.

During this time the ship had three commanders, James Boxer, Joseph Patey and Theobald Jones. It spent most of its time in this period near Brazil.

Unknown ship

Duncan's next posting between 29th December 1815 and 22nd July 1817 was on a ship whose name is difficult to read on the service record. It was based at Plymouth, and Duncan had the rank at this time of 'superannuated gunner', meaning he would get a pension when he retired.

Pilot and second child

His next posting was on the ship Pilot, which was also based at Plymouth. He spent two years on the ship between 23rd July 1817 and 20th August 1819.

Duncan and wife Kezia would have another daughter named Evalina, whose exact date of birth or baptism has not been ascertained. I suspect it is during this period at Plymouth that she was born.


Duncan's next posting was for a period of 7 years aboard the ship Harlequin, between 21st August 1819 and 8th September 1827. Charles Parker was the captain between 1819 and 1821, where they served mostly off the county of Cork in Ireland. They were also in Cork in 1822.

How often the ship returned home is unknown, but Duncan and Kezia had a son named Henry Duncan baptised at Devenport on the 18th December 1823.

John Weeks and James Scott also became captains of the Harlequin during this period, and in November 1824, the ship was ordered from it's Irish station to Jamaica. It was there in 1826 when Charles Elliot became captain, and at the beginning of July 1826, the ship was at Port Royal with other ships Isis, Tweed and Rattlesnake.


Between 9th September 1827 and 23rd May 1828, Duncan is found aboard the ship Magnificent, invalidid. What happened to him is unknown, so we do not know if it is the result of injury or disease. The Magnificent had been a hospital ship in 1825, and by the time Duncan was aboard, it was a receiving ship in Jamaica. Then, on the 24th November 1828, the Magnificent headed back to Plymouth, where Duncan remained on it until 7th June 1829.


Whatever condition that Duncan suffered, he did not go to sea again and spent his remaining service on ships docked in Plymouth. His next posting was the Tamar, for 6 months between June and December 1829.

Death of 1st Wife

The name of the next ship Duncan served on is also difficult to read, but he served on it between December 1829 and 31st July 1836.

During this time, Duncan's first wife Kezia died and was buried on 14th March 1831 in Stoke Damerel, Devon. Her address was given as William Street, Stoke Damerel. Duncan remarried the following year to Johanna Campbell (nee Palmer) on 12th July 1832 in East Stonehouse, Devon.

Last Posting and census records

Duncan's last posting was aboard the San Josef, which was a gunnery training ship based in Plymouth. He spent the last 7 years of his navy career training new sailors in gunnery skills.

In the 1841 census for Devon, Duncan and second wife Johanna are listed in the 1841 Devoncensus at Gloucester Street, Stoke Damerel, with daughter Evalina living with them. In the 1851 census, Duncan and Johanna are at 17 Portland Place, Morice Town.

Duncan ended his navy service on the 14th November 1843, after serving for 44 years. By the end of his service he had earned 44/1/2/- in payment.


Duncan died in January 1857, most likely in Stoke Damerel, Devon. He was buried in the Stoke Damerel grave yard. His gravestone reads as follow:-

Duncan McIsaac, Gunner R.N.
Who died in the faith of Christ
Jan 4th 1857 aged 79 years
Them also which sleep in Jesus will
God bring with him. 1 Thes IV
Also to
Nathaniel and Catherine Palmer
Father and Mother in law of the above
Also Johanna
The beloved wife of the above who
Died September 1st 1858
Aged 67 years
Also Henry James R J Blake
Great Grandson of Duncan McIsaac
Who died April 23rd 1863 aged 3 years 5 months
Also to James Charles Blake
Brother of the above
Died May 31st 1864 aged 1 year 4 months
Also Francis Hicks R.N.
Who died January 21st 1867 aged 57

The Blake boys listed on the gravestone were the sons of James Charles Blake and Caroline Sarah Hicks. Caroline was the daughter of Margaret McIsaac who married Francis Hicks. Caroline and her husband James had 10 children altogether.


Duncan McIsaac left a will upon his death in 1857 in which all his property was left to his then wife Johanna. The will was documented on 4.6.1856 and was witnessed by a Robert Clark and a John Henry Ball. A Henry Ball also witnessed the wedding of his daughter Evalina in 1843.

Johanna McIsaac died in the September quarter of 1858, in the Stoke Damerel District only a year and a half after the will was proved. A will for her has not been located.


Footnotes (including sources)

Ω Birth
  • Probably 1777 if the gravestone was correct.

Eramophla, Robin Patterson


  • Service record of Duncan McIsaac
  • Birth, Death, and Marriage records
  • Baptism and Cemetery records for Devon
  • Wikipedia information on the ship Vanguard