The ship that brought Wolfe Tone to Ireland

The dates on which Arthur Barrow transferred ship during his years as a Midshipman are not known.   During the period in which he may have been on board, HMS Donegal was re-commissioned under Captain Sir Jahleel Brenton and commanded by Captain John Dick, who subsequently became Admiral of the Blue.  Captain Dick during this period was present at a court-martial held on board HMS Caledonia at Spithead, the Right Hon. Lord William Paget having charges preferred against him ‘for forcibly ejecting Captain John Ayscough Esq. from the cabin allotted to him by the Commander-in-Chief on the West India and North American stations to accommodate a lady and her child.’  The court agreed the charges had not been proved (Don_1).  The Donegal  was the flagship of Vice-Admiral Sir Pulteney Malcolm at the blockade of the Dutch Coast in May 1832.  Later, she was involved in actions resulting in the trial of a Deal boatman who was accused of ‘hovelling’ – removing a marker buoy from a ship’s anchor and then attempting to gain salvage payment for ‘finding’ the lost anchor (Don_2).  The man’s sentence could have been transportation to the colonies for up to a maximum of 14 years for this ‘felony’.  In fact the accused was acquitted.    The Donegal also served on the Mediterranean and South America stations as well as being involved in affairs of state, for example the visit of the Duke of Orleans to the fleet offshore Deal (Don_3).  She was commanded by Captain Arthur Fanshawe on the Lisbon station during the latter stages of the Portuguese ‘Liberal Wars’ (Don_4, Don_5).


HMS Donegal

A 76-gun third-rate ship-of-the-line in the ship rating system of the Royal Navy, previously the French ship Hoche.  She took part in the French attempt to land in County Donegal in the west of Ulster, to support the Irish Rebellion of 1798.  She formed the flagship of an expedition under Commodore Jean-Baptiste Francois Bompart, consisting of Hoche and eight frigates, and transporting 3000 French troops.  Aboard Hoche was Wolfe Tone, the leading figure in the Society of United Irishmen. The ships were chased by a number of British frigates after they had left the port of Brest on 16 September. Despite throwing them off, they were then pursued by a fleet of larger ships under the command of Commodore Sir John Borlase Warren. Both sides were hampered by the heavy winds and gales they encountered off the west coast of Ireland, and Hoche lost all three of her topmasts and had her mizzensail shredded, causing her to fall behind. The French were finally brought to battle off Tory Island on 12 October 1798.
The battle started at 7 in the morning, with Warren giving the signal for HMS Robust to steer for the French line and attack Hoche directly.  Hoche then came under fire from HMS Magnanime.  The next three British ships into action, the frigates Ethalion, Melampus and Amelia, all raked the isolated Hoche as they passed before pressing on sail to pursue the French frigates, now sailing towards the south-west. With Hoche heavily damaged, Bompart finally surrendered at 10.50 with 270 of his crew and passengers killed or wounded, giving his sword to Lieutenant Sir Charles Dashwood. Wolfe Tone was later recognised and arrested.  Hoche having been captured, was commissioned into the Navy as HMS Donegal.  She was involved in various actions in the English Channel, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic (including Nelson’s chase of the French fleet across the Atlantic to the West Indies) during the Napoleonic Wars.  She was broken up in 1845.


Vice Admiral ‘Duckworth’s Action off San Domingo, 6 February 1806’ by Nicholas Pocock.  HMS Donegal is on the left of the painting, engaging the Jupiter.

HMS Donegal

The battle of San Domingo was the last fleet engagement of the war between French and British capital ships in open water during the Napoleonic Wars. The Royal Navy’s dominance off every French port made the risks involved in putting to sea insurmountable.

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