George Mouat Keith
Sir George married Catherine "Kitty" Howard, who was 14 years old at the time, on 1 May 1793 in Calcutta, India - his own daughter Margaret Rebecca Mouat Keith married John Frederick Ellerton on 9 August 1816 in Calcutta also. He died in Mantes, France (his death being reported in the Times) having lived in Evreux, France. Probate of the "Will of Sir George Mouat Keith, Commander in His Britannic Majesty's Navy of Evreux, Normandy, France" did not occur until 5 January 1852, some 30 years after his death.
Sir George’s eldest son had died at Sierra Leone, and this is reported in the Gentleman’s Magazine for 1823, which stated that George Mouat-Keith, only son of Sir George Keith, bart., RN, had died on 14 March of 'the African fever', aged 18. Sir George had at least one daughter, Margaret, who had married John Frederick Ellerton of the East India Company in 1816. In 1824 the Times reported the birth of a granddaughter, Elizabeth Mary Ellerton, at Keith’s house in Camberwell.
Lineage, baronetcy questions and book
Sir George's lineage can be traced back to Patrick Mowat of Loscragy who got a charter of Loscragy and Culpedauchis from Robert the Bruce in 1309, and was thus the first laird of Balquholly. Indeed, some claim to trace the lineage to 1066 - "Prince Patrick de Monte Alto came over to England with William the Conqueror in the year 1066, so that, all of the name of Mowat in Great Britain and Ireland are descended of him".
The son of Sir John Mouat Keith, Baronet (1729–1788), both father and son's Baronetcies have been called into question in two separate newspaper queries. At the time of writing, no definitive proof has been discovered to support father and son's claims to be Baronets. However, Sir George seems to have successfully navigated his Naval career with the title of 'Baronet', prominently so, given the title page of his book A Voyage to South America and the Cape of Good Hope in His Majesty's Brig Protector. Published in 1819, the book lists many of the 'great and the good' of British society as its subscribers, including HRH The Duke of Clarence, HRH The Duke of Kent, The Right Honourable Lord Viscount Keith (no known relation), HRH The Duke of Sussex and assorted Lords, Ladies, MPs. The book was dedicated to the Right Honourable Lord Viscount Melville of the Admiralty, who was also listed as a subscriber. Sir George was himself a subscriber to "A Geological Survey of the Yorkshire Coast".
Sir John was the son-in law of William Chalmers (1695-1770), twice Provost of Aberdeen in 1738–1739 & 1746–1747. There is a reference in "Aberdeen Journal Notes and Queries" Vol 2 p 118 that John Mowat Keith of Keithfield married Margaret, daughter of William Chalmers, merchant and late Provost of Aberdeen, in 1761. The estate of Keithfield was in the parish of Tarves, Aberdeenshire and was previously known as Tilliegonie.
The Admiralty’s manuscripts ledgers of captains and ships show that he had been in command of HMS Boxer from 27 September 1804 to 5 June 1805, taking command of Protector on 6 June 1805 and remaining with her until 8 March 1806.
Sir George was present at the capture of the Cape of Good hope in 1806. While at the Cape, Keith and Protector captured a Dutch East Indiaman (the former James Sibbald, and her cargo of cochineal, ivory, indigo, etc., supposedly worth £300,000.
In 1808 Sir George transferred to HMS Redbreast, another gun-brig, on the North Sea station. According to information released by the Admiralty Office, on 9 and 11 August 1808 then Lieutenant Keith was instrumental in rescuing 'the Spaniards' from the Danish privateer Mosin and two Danish Navy ships in the rivers Jahl and Weser, without casualties on either side. The captured privateer and Danish Gunboat 206 were subsequently sold.
On 16 May 1809 'Lieutenant' Sir George Mouat Keith Bart., 'Commander' of Redbreast was credited with the capture of Anna Sophia, Grisstadt and Wannerne, and on the following 24 July Twee Gesetsters, with those 'actually on board' being promised a bounty, according to Act of Parliament. Although it is not stated in the records, Anna Sophia may have been another Danish vessel as Anna Sophie was the eldest daughter of King Frederick III of Denmark.
In 1811 he was involved in a skirmish in the Jahde - "On the 1st of August, as a squadron, consisting of the 32-gun frigate Quebec, Captain Charles Sibthorpe Hawtayne, 16-gun brig Raven, Commander George G. Lennock, gun-brigs Exertion and Redbreast, Lieutenants James Murray and Sir George M. Keith, baronet, and hired cutters Alert and Princess Augusta, were cruising off Texel, information of some Danish gun-brigs was received, which induced Captain Hawtayne to despatch ten boats from the squadron, under the command of Lieutenant Samuel Blyth, containing 117 seamen and marines, to cut them out." The squadron received intelligence from earlier captures of four Danish gun brigs lying at anchor at the island of Nordeney and Hawtayne sent in a cutting-out party of 10 boats. Each of the Danish vessels had a crew of 25 men.
In 1813 and 1814 Sir George took part on the sieges of Cuxhaven and Gluckstadt (then in the hands of the French). "To Lieutenants Kneeshaw and Sir George Keith every praise is due, for their able support during the bombardment." Keith was presented with a gold medal by the Swedish Government.
On 16 March 1814 Sir George transferred to HMS Variable on promotion to the rank of commander. No subsequent command is recorded. Variable appears to have been a schooner that had been purchased in Jamaica some years before and went out of service during 1814. The name was given to another schooner taken from the Americans in 1814, but not until later in the year.
On 21 January 1815 Sir George was noted in the Journals of the House of Commons as having been paid £21/1s/0d for carrying the Aide-de-Camp of the King of Prussia (then Wilhelm l The Great) to Dover, and the Chancellor General to the Emperor of Russia (then Nicholas I) to Ostend (curiously, aboard the Redbreast which he ceased commanding some years earlier).
In 1810 Sir George was the defendant in an action brought by one Arthur Nicolson (a direct descendent of Bishop Nicolson of Dunkeld) over the ownership of the Shetland isle of Papa Stour (then known as Pappa's Tower).
Mr Nicolson, of Bullister and Lochend[disambiguation needed], was a merchant in Lerwick who purchased a large amount of landed property, including the Island of Papa Stour, which he acquired from John Scott of Scottshall on 16 May 1716.
Mr Nicolson claimed possession of the island, and other lands, these having originally been 'acquired from the family of Mowat Keith' and by right of seisin in 1739. The root of the issue appears to be the renunciation of the lands by Sir George's father, John Mowat Keith, as a result of debts to John Scott.
Sir George lost the case on the grounds that Mr Nicolson was effectively a 'sitting tenant'.
Sir George had a miniature portrait by the "well-known Jewish miniaturist painter, Solomon Polack, a friend of William Makepeace Thackeray", a Flemish artist of 6, Artillery Lane, Bishopsgate Street, London, which was displayed at the Royal Academy of Arts. According to information supplied privately by the Royal Academy Library "Solomon Polack was born at the Hague in 1757. He settled in England and exhibited miniatures at the Royal Academy from 1790 to 1835. He was in Ireland for a time, probably before 1790, and followed his profession as a miniature painter in Dublin with success. He died in Chelsea in 1839.".
Sir George was a Christian who spread the word of God amongst his crews.
Correspondence regarding the authenticity of the baronet titles can be found here.
- The Nautical Magazine. 1 January 1832.
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- The Evangelical Magazine and Missionary Chronicle. 1 January 1821.