John Richard Falconar, who sailed in Adventure during Cook’s Second Voyage, became a lieutenant in the Royal Navy on 20 November 1779. His father, Magnus Falconar, was Master Attendant at Sheerness and Plymouth dockyards during the 1760s and early 1770s. Presumably, he used his position and influence to place his son on a navy ship in the late 1760s.
Magnus Falconar was born at Bo’ness in West Lothian in 1721, and married Elizabeth Ailway in London on 20 April 1750. They led something of an itinerant life judging from the birthplaces of some of their children: Elizabeth was born in Portsmouth in 1751, Magnus in Cornwall in 1752, Ann in Watford in 1763, Charles in Plymouth in 1765, George in Sheerness in 1767 and John Richard, who was born on 28 October 1756 at Cheltenham in Gloucestershire, the county where his mother came from.
John Richard Falconar’s first position in the navy was 13 months spent as a captain’s servant in Belle Isle. It was followed by 14 months in a similar capacity in Pearl. Falconar then had 7 months in HMS Somerset as an AB before joining Adventure, again as an AB, on 5 February 1772. He became a master’s mate on 1 April 1773. Falconar kept a log during his time on the Adventure.1
After the voyage, Falconar spent 20 months as a midshipman in Boyne prior to obtaining his lieutenant’s certificate in 1779. He served in Nonsuch from 1780 but was wounded in May 1781. Nonsuch (64 guns) under Captain James Wallace encountered the French ship, L’Actif (74 guns) in the Bay of Biscay. There were two engagements during which Nonsuch was badly damaged as well as losing 26 men killed and 64 wounded.2
Falconar reappeared as a lieutenant in Dictator in 1783, a new 3rd rate recently commissioned by William Parker (who served with Cook in Grenville) and based as a guardship at Sheerness.
John Richard Falconar married Anne Macleod on 16 August 1781 at Portchester in Hampshire. He died a few years later on 1 January 1784 while serving in HMS Dictator. He was buried in Chatham churchyard, Kent.
Magnus Falconar (the older) died in 1775. His will,3 proven on 30 September 1785, was written in 1753 so offers little information. The younger Magnus Falconar married Dorothy Hewson, the younger sister of William Hewson, in London in 1774. Hewson was a surgeon (a partner and colleague of the eminent William Hunter), and Magnus Falconar became his assistant. Hewson died in 1774 and Falconar continued his work before his death in 1778. Magnus and Dorothy had two children: Jane born in 1775 and John born in 1777. Both died in their infancy.
Falconar served with Thomas Whitton Andrews in Adventure, and it appears the two men became close friends. Andrews, the ship’s surgeon, married Falconar’s older sister, Elizabeth in 1775 at Stoke Damerel.
John Richard’s brother, Charles Falconar, died when the East Indiaman on which he was sailing, Haswell, was wrecked off Portland on 6 January 1786. He was only 21. The youngest brother, George Falconar, also served in the Royal Navy. He married Margaret Jones (née Lindoe) in 1805, and they had a son, George Augustus Hayward Falconar, born in 1806, who married three times and had six children.
My thanks to Jane Maw Cornish, who assisted in the compilation of this piece.
Lieutenant’s Certificate for John Richard Falconer
In pursuance, etc of the 1st inst we have examined Mr. John Richard Falconar who by certificate appears to be more than twenty three years of age, & find he has gone to sea more than seven years in the Ships & qualities undermentioned (viz)
Captain’s servant & Able seaman
His Journals for the Adventure are to be dispensed with by their Lordships Order of the 09 August 1774. He produceth Journals kept by himself in the Boyne & Certificates from Captain Hartwell of his diligence and sobriety. He can splice, knot, reef a sail, etc and is qualified to do the duty of an Able Seaman and Midshipman.
Dated at the Navy Office the 18 November 1779.
Charles Middleton, E LeCras, North.
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 37, volume 35, number 2 (2012).
your email address will not be published