Alexander Mouat, who sailed on Cook’s Third Voyage, was born in Greenwich about 1761. He was the son of Patrick Mouat, a captain in the Royal Navy, who had captained HMS Tamar, the companion ship to Byron on HMS Dolphin, during his round the world voyage in 1764-1766.
The Mouats (the name appears variously as Mouat, Mouatt and Mowat) originated in the Orkney and Shetland Isles. A George Mowat of Hamnavoe married Margaret Mowat of Ollaberry in 1662. Their second son, James Mowat of Stennes, married Elizabeth Mackenzie and, together, they had at least three sons (George, William and Patrick) and a daughter, Sibella. All the sons went to sea with Patrick joining the Royal Navy.
The first son, George Mowat of Stennes, commanded a merchant ship. He had two sons: George Mowat, who became a captain in the Royal Navy; and James Mowat, who became an officer in the Bengal Engineers.
The second son, William Mouat, was also a captain in the merchant service. He is recorded as being in Charming Jane in South Carolina waters in the 1750s. He died in 1793 aged 84. William’s will records that Murdoch McKenzie, the man who pioneered naval surveying and who also came from Orkney, was a close friend. He may have even been a relation through William’s mother, Elizabeth Mackenzie.
The third son, Patrick Mouat, worked as a shipwright before joining the Royal Navy. He became a lieutenant in 1746 and a commander in 1758. In this rank he was commanding HMS Gramont when she was captured by the French in 1762 in St. John’s Harbour, Newfoundland. He then accompanied Byron on their voyage to the Pacific, during which Byron promoted him to captain, in 1765. Murdoch McKenzie’s nephew, Murdoch junior, sailed with Mouat in Tamar, highlighting the close relationship between the families. Patrick Mouat died on 5 May 1790, aged 78.
Patrick Mouat married1 and had five sons: Stephen Peter, James, Frederick, Charles and Alexander. Stephen Peter, born about 1751, became a commander in the Royal Navy in 1787. He married Frances Metcalfe in 1775 and they were stationed at Gibraltar for several years. Three of their many children died in infancy and were buried there. Stephen died in 1834. Three of his daughters married and an extensive set of grandchildren resulted.
Charles Mouat joined the East India Company. Frederick Mouat, a lieutenant in the marines died young in 1786. James Mouat is believed to have become a civil servant.
Alexander Mouat, born about 1761, followed his father into the navy. He attended the Royal Naval Academy at Portsmouth until withdrawn by his father to join Cook’s Third Voyage: “Whereas Capt Mouat hath desired that his Son Alexander Mouat may be discharged from the Royal Academy at Portsmouth in order to serve on board His Majys Sloop the Discovery at the request of Capt Clark her Commr You are herby required & directed to cause him to be forthwith discharged for that purpose accordingly. Given &c 20th March 1776 Sandwich J Buller Lisburne By &c G.J. DS.”2
Mouat joined Discovery as a midshipman on 25 March 1776. He and Thomas Shaw attempted to desert on Raiatea on 23 November 1777 by taking a canoe and paddling north to Tahaa. Cook gave chase but the deserters moved on via Bora Bora to Tupai, where locals caught them and returned them to the ship. William Bayly wrote: “put them both in irons both legs where they are to remain during our stay among the islands… Mouat is to do duty before the mast during the remainder of the [voyage].” Cook recorded: “This ended this affair which gave me more trouble and vexation than the Men were worth, and which I would not have taken but for the reason before mentioned and to save the Son of a brother officer from being lost to the World, for I could soon have supplied their places with Volunteers that would have answered our purpose full as well if not better.”3
However, Mouat continued as a midshipman until 20 August 1779 when he was rated an AB. On 29 April 1780, he resumed as a midshipman. After the voyage, Mouat became a lieutenant on 1 November 1780. He was in the East Indies from 1782 to 1784, firstly in Defence and then in Isis. He served in HMS Atlas from October to December 1787. In 1790 (when he wrote his will), he was a lieutenant in HMS Marlborough. He became a commander in November 1790. From February 1793, Mouat was in charge of HMS Rattlesnake, and took her to the West Indies where he died from fever on 11 October 1793. He was buried in Stock, Essex. He left a will.4
Alexander Mouat married Jane Mouatt5 on 24 November 1784 at Christchurch in Hampshire. Together, they had a daughter and a son. Margaret Jean (or Jane) Mouat was born 28 August 1785, and baptised on 10 March 1787 at Christchurch. John Alexander Mouat was born in 1793, so it is possible that Alexander never saw his son as he was away in the West Indies by then.
John Alexander Mouat also joined the navy becoming a lieutenant on 11 February 1815. He was a lieutenant in HMS Challenger, commanded by Captain Fremantle, when in 1829 Western Australia was claimed for Britain by Fremantle. There is a Mouat Street in Fremantle to mark the visit. He married Maria Janetta Mudge on 24 April 1828 at Brampford Speke in Devon. Maria was a relation of John Mudge, the horologist, and a cousin of Zachary Mudge, who sailed to the Pacific with George Vancouver. They both died at Bath, John in 1866 and Maria in 1889, apparently without children.
The lack of genealogical records coupled with the irregular spelling of the surname and the repetition of first names makes the Mouat story difficult to decipher. Alexander Mouat had a cousin Alexander of about the same age. He also had a brother James and two cousins called James and all three James may have spent time in India!
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 27, volume 34, number 4 (2011).
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