Home > John Coghlan (~1754-1807)

John Coghlan (~1754-1807)


John Coghlan joined Resolution as a midshipman on 21 June 1772.  The muster described him as 15 years old and from Glamorgan.  However, when he died in 1807 he was listed as being 53 years old so his birth was more probably in 1754.


Coghlan was descended on his mother’s side from the Jones family from Castell Ffwl-y-mwn (Fonmon Castle) near Barry in Glamorgan.  Philip Jones (1618-1674) was a leading member of Oliver Cromwell’s parliament.  Coghlan’s father was a wealthy Bristol merchant, who traded in African slaves among other commodities.


His privileged background might have made it difficult for Coghlan to accept life in Resolution.  His shipmate, John Elliott, in his memoirs, described Coghlan as “Wild & drinking” and 16 years old.  Coghlan was punished twice.  On 1 February, 1773, he was sent before the mast for quarrelling with the captain’s servant.1  Two days later he was restored as a midshipman.  On 18 March, 1775, he was confined in irons after threatening violence to the ship’s cook with a knife.2  He was released on 20 March after promising to behave in future.


He is otherwise unmentioned in Cook’s Second Voyage narratives.


He left the navy shortly after this voyage, purchased a commission in the army, and was soon serving in North America.  In early 1777, Coghlan married Margaret Moncrieffe, the fourteen year old daughter of Major Thomas Moncrieffe.  Gaine’s Gazette and Weekly Mercury reported, “Last Monday Evening [February 24, 1777] Lieut. John Coghlan, of the 7th, or English Fuzileers, was married by the Rev’d Dr. Auchmuty, to Miss Margaret Moncrieffe, only Daughter to Thomas Moncrieffe, Esq.”


Margaret Coghlan later wrote a memoir in which she described the marriage as “honourable prostitution”. She also wrote that Coghlan subjected her to “barbarous treatment” when they sailed to Britain.  The marriage was destined for failure, and the pair soon separated.  Margaret Coghlan gained some notoriety of her own with several affairs. She died in 1787.  Her memoirs were published in 1794.


John Coghlan, meanwhile, pursued his military career, including a short spell in the Russian army.  The Annual Register describes him as becoming “dissipated and unstable” and that he, “entered with avidity into every fashionable vice and folly of the day.  His extravagance, and attachment to the fair sex, gradually involved him in poverty and ruin.”


Coghlan died in 1807 at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, alone and in total poverty.  Nobody claimed his body, and after two weeks he was buried in the grounds of the hospital.


John Robson



  1. Cook’s Log, page 1485, vol. 21, no. 1 (1998).
  2. Cook’s Log, page 1717, vol. 23, no. 1 (2000).

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 40, volume 36, number 3 (2013).

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Margaret Moncrieffe was my 4x g grandmother on my father's side. I've read her memoirs but have many unanswered questions... Do you have any information on her later life?
By Nicky Loftus on 6/7/2020 11:14:10 PM Like:1 DisLike:1
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Dear Maria
I have not been able to find a death date for Margaret. The information about her life post the horrible Coghlan is very hard to verify. As well as the article you have seen I do have a family tree which I would be pleased to send if you let me know your email. John
By john robson on 8/10/2016 11:39:01 PM Like:0 DisLike:0
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I am a descendant of Margaret Moncrieffe and searching for more information about her. Would you mind letting me know how you know the year she died and any other information/references about her please.
Many thanks
By Maria Moncrieff on 8/10/2016 12:20:18 AM Like:0 DisLike:0

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