Sunday, 6 November 2011

Captain James McIlhago

On 1 September last I wrote about Robert McElhago, who with his whole crew was drowned when his ship capsised in Drogheda harbour. Robert was based in Irvine, on the west coast of Scotland, and was part of our Ayrshire clan family in the 18th Century. He drowned in December 1797 in the ship named 'Industry', and this tragedy was reported in the newspaper called the Belfast Newsletter, on 8th December.

I recently went back to the Newsletter Index and searched for references to 'M'Ilh...'. It brought up six more items of Port News ten years earlier than the shipwreck, between August 1786 and July 1787, all concerning a ship called Mary whose master was McIlhago. Was this Robert, with his surname spelled slightly differently? Fortunately one report, that for 25-29 May 1787 (p.2) included the ship's master's Christian name, James. The ship Mary was a cargo boat carrying a variety of goods, including salt, cork wood, fruit, salmon and linen cloth.

I have for some time believed that James McIlhago who in 1765 was involved in founding a library in the USA (see my blog of 7 Feb 2009) must have been a sea captain, and surely now we have found that indeed he was. He must have returned from the USA to Irvine, Ayrshire and taken over the 'Mary'. The name of the ship might well indicate that either his mother or his wife's name was Mary, though I have to say that we have no proof that he ever married. My belief is that he was an uncle of the Robert who drowned in 1797.

1 comment:

  1. I have found another reference to a ship named Industry which could be the same as the one wrecked at Drogheda. It is on the Shetland website, as follows: 'In 1785 a sailing sloop named “The Industry”, registered in Lerwick, drove ashore on the seaward side of the Old Tolbooth, part of the site of present day Small Boat Harbour, in Lerwick Harbour, on October 29th 1785. All of the crew were saved.' So Drogheda in 1797 may not have been the first time that the ship came near to disaster.