Richard Mayne (explorer)

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Rear-Admiral Richard Charles Mayne CB FRGS (1835 – 29 May 1892) was a Royal Navy officer and explorer.

Richard Mayne was the son of Sir Richard Mayne KCB (the first joint commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) and the grandson of Judge Edward Mayne. Both his father and grandfather were graduates of Trinity College, Dublin.[1][2] Richard Mayne was educated at Eton. He was a scion of a family that settled at Mount Sedborough[3] in County Fermanagh during the Plantation of Ulster and subsequently at Freame Mount, County Cavan in Ireland.,.[4][5][6]

Royal Navy career[edit]

Exploration of British Columbia[edit]

In 1856 Lieutenant Mayne was attached to the Nautical Survey of Vancouver Island and British Columbia. Mayne sailed with Captain George Henry Richards on his expedition in HMS Plumper and also on HMS Hecate to survey the coast of British Columbia (1857–1859), and there came to serve in the Royal Engineers under Colonel Richard Moody and was assigned the exploration and mapping of hitherto unknown parts of the colony. His journal of these activities is a classic source of British Columbia history, as are those of his Royal Engineer colleague Lieutenant Henry Spencer Palmer. Mayne Island in the Gulf Islands is named after him, and Hecate Strait for his vessel. For this work, in 1860, he was promoted to Commander and returned to England.[7] In 1862 he was appointed to the command of HMS Eclipse, for service in New Zealand, and took part in the native wars until severely wounded in 1863 and invalided home. For these services he was mentioned in despatches and promoted to the rank of Captain; and in 1867 received the Companionship of the Bath.[8]

Straits of Magellan expedition[edit]

Mayne commanded HMS Nassau on the survey expedition to the Straits of Magellan, 1866–9.[9] The naturalist on the voyage was Robert Oliver Cunningham. Charles Darwin requested the Lords of the Admiralty to ask Capt. Mayne to collect several boatloads of fossil bones of extinct species of quadrupeds. Admiral Sulivan had previously discovered an astonishingly rich accumulation of fossil bones not far from the Straits. These remains apparently belonged to a more ancient period, than the collection by Mr Darwin on HMS Beagle and by other naturalists and therefore of great interest to science. Many of these were collected with the aid of Hydrographer Capt. Richards R.N. and deposited in the British Museum.[10]

Admiral Mayne was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and served on its Council. He was the author of Four years in British Columbia and Vancouver Island.[11]


In 1870 Captain Mayne married Miss Sabine Dent, a daughter of Sir Thomas Dent (1796–1872), founder of Dent & Co., Hong Kong, and his wife, Sabine Ellen Robarts, daughter of James Thomas Robarts (1784–1825), another influential opium merchant. Sabine Dent was the niece of Lancelot Dent, of Flass House. After his marriage he only served a short term afloat in command of HMS Invincible. He retired as a Rear-Admiral in 1879.[12]

Political career[edit]

After retiring from the Navy, he unsuccessfully contested the Welsh constituency of Pembroke and Haverfordwest as a Conservative at the 1885 general election. He was elected as Member of Parliament (MP) there the following year, serving until his death shortly before the 1892 general election.[12][13]


  1. ^ Alumni Dublinis
  2. ^ A genealogical and heraldic dictionary of the landed gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, Fourth edition. BURKE. Sir John Bernard, London: Harrison, 1875, 1886. 2 vol.
  3. ^ Inquisition Ultonium, Fermanagh (33),(40) and (55) Car I
  4. ^ Calendar of State Papers Ireland, 1611-1614,HMPRO, Edited by The Rev C.W. Russell, D.D., and John P. Pendergast, Esq.,London: Longman & Co. 1877
  5. ^ The Plantation of Ulster, Rev. George Hill, Belfast: McCaw, Stevenson & Orr, 1877 in particular Pynnars Survey p.481-2
  6. ^ The Fermanagh Story, Pedar Livingston, The Clogher Historical Society, 1969
  7. ^ Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. xxxi, p.297, and vol. xxxii, p123
  8. ^ Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society: Obituary, p.473-5
  9. ^ Dictionary of national biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. 63 vols. and 2 supplements (6 vols.). London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885--1912
  10. ^ Letter from B.J. Sulivan, 27 June 1866 and nn. 6 and 7 in the Darwin Letters. See:[1], [2]
  11. ^ NB in the context of that title the name "Vancouver" references the Colony of Vancouver Island, as the modern city of Vancouver had not yet been founded or named at the time of publication. Likewise the name "British Columbia" references the Colony of British Columbia, which was not yet united with Vancouver Island as a single colony.
  12. ^ a b  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1894). "Mayne, Richard". Dictionary of National Biography. 37. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 
  13. ^ Historical list of MPs: P, at Leigh Rayment's Peerage pages
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Allen
Member of Parliament for Pembroke and Haverfordwest
Succeeded by
Charles Allen