George Muir, c1774 to 1828, always referred to here as 'Senior' to distinguish him from his son, may have been born in London on the 26th of July 1774 and baptised on the 7th of August at Saint Luke Old Street, Finsbury. In later years, in the musters of ships of His Majesty's Navy (see below), his place of birth is recorded variously as Fife, Dunfermline, and on one occasion Duncaster (an old spelling of Doncaster). His age at joining ship is recorded reasonably consistently indicating a date of birth somewhere between 1774 and 1776 inclusive.
There are no compelling, or even suitable, George Muir baptisms in the Scottish Old Parish Records for the whole of the 1770s. But that doesn't mean he wasn't born in Fife, or even more specifically Dunfermline. It simply means his baptismal record has been lost, or we don't know enough about the man to recognise his baptism when we see it. Despite the fact that the 1774 Finsbury George Muir is an attractive candidate for several reasons, it is almost certain that he is not 'my' George Muir. Finsbury George Muir is attractive for two reasons: firstly, two of his three recorded siblings (see right) have Christian names which appear again in family history. This can't be said for any of the George Muir baptisms in Scotland. Secondly, Finsbury George's father was called Thomas, and he and his wife were born, brought up and married in and around Dundee, Angus just north of Dunfermline and the whole Fife area on the east coast of Scotland. It seems they were married in Dundee in 1763 and then travelled to London in time for the birth of their first child in 1764. Thomas Muir was recorded in the baptisms of his children as a watchmaker. Beyond that I know nothing. I can find no record of the death or burial of either Thomas or his wife Katherine. I can find no records of the marriages or deaths of Finsbury George's two brothers and sister. It is quite plausible in the context of the high child mortality of the age that all three died in childhood. Perhaps George was alone. Perhaps he didn't really know where he was born, only having a rough idea of his age and recalling some scraps from his early childhood about Scotland being home. If you had never been there, but only heard about it as a child, you might easily grow up with the idea you had been born there too, and have it in your head as Dunfermline instead of Dundee. However, despite all that, it is pretty clear that Finsbury George is not our man because he appears totally convincingly in another family history – quite seperate from mine.
So the search goes on…
Thomas Muir bapt. 16 Sept 1739 Dundee
Parents: Thomas Muir and Hellen née Scott
Katherine Doig bapt. 6 Dec 1740 Dundee
Parents: James Doig, and Kathn. née Paterson
Marriage of Thomas and Katherine:
22 Feb 1763 Dundee, Angus, Scotland
Recorded children of Thomas and Katherine,
all baptised at Saint Luke Old Street, Finsbury:
The Royal Cypher on a Georgian cannon
The first safe record of George Muir Senior comes almost forty years after his birth. On the 9th of April 1813 his first recorded child was baptised in Portsmouth. This was George Muir (hereafter 'Junior'). The parents were George and Hannah Muir and the “Quality, Trade or Profession” of the father was recorded as “Sailor”. There is no record of George and Hannah's marriage, however she was born Hannah Malone and had been married to a James Harrison before her relationship with George Muir Snr. She and Harrison had had three issue (see right). It is not clear what happened to Harrison but it is quite possible he was a sailor too, and lost his life at sea during the war.
Seven months after the birth of his son, George Muir Snr. appeared in the muster of one of His Majesty's Ships, namely Montagu(e). He is rated AB (Able Bodied); his place of birth is given as Duncaster; he joined the ship on the 26th of November 1813, and he either volunteered or was pressed at Deal, a small but busy town on the coast of Kent opposite the large and relatively safe sea moorings known as The Downs. The one thing that can be drawn from this entry is that he had been to sea before. You didn't get rated AB without some experience, and for a man pushing forty and approaching the end of the Napoleonic Wars it is highly likely that he had been at sea in the Royal Navy for years. Unfortunately, because he joined at Deal, not being transferred from another ship, searching earlier musters becomes something of a raffle. However, we do know, almost for certain, that he was not at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
James Harrison bapt. 10 Jan 1779 Portsea
Parents: George Harrison and Mary née Perrey
Hannah Malone born circa 1777
Marriage of James and Hannah:
28 Aug 1797 Alverstoke
Recorded children of James and Hannah,
all baptised at St. Thomas, Portsmouth:
Recorded children of George Muir and Hannah,
both baptised at St. Thomas Portsmouth:
HMS Montagu(e) 74 guns
Third Rate, two deck, Alfred Class
Built Chatham Dockyard
Ordered 1774, Launched 1779, Broken Up 1818
Captain Peter Heywood from July 1813
James Augustus Harrison, stepson of George Muir Snr., died in 1812 at a little over twelve years old. The next date was the birth of George Snr. and Hannah's second child Ellen in July 1815, about a month after the Battle of Waterloo and the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Incidentally, it is not known what became of Ellen. Her baptism appears to be the only safe recorded event in her life.† George Snr. was still in the Montagu(e) in July 1816 and may well have stayed with her until she was decommissioned and broken up in 1818. Meanwhile, Hannah had died. She was buried in Portsmouth on the 19th of May 1817. This left George Snr. a widower, who earned his living away at sea, but with at least three children at home in Portsmouth. However, help was at hand.
Stepdaughter Mary Ann Sophia Harrison may have been baptised as recently as 1807, but there is a note against her name in the record that she had actually been born on the 20th of September 1798, making her the eldest. Anyway, soon after her mother's death she married on the 14th of July 1817, two months short of her nineteenth birthday, George Brine, a 34 year old brazier of Portsmouth. It is highly likely he was employed by the dockyards. It is clear that the surviving children, seven year old Reuben Harrison and his four year old half brother George Muir Jnr. (and if she was still alive, half sister Ellen) were looked after by Brine and his young wife while George Snr. was away at sea.
On the 16th of August 1819 the forty five year old George Snr. volunteered in Portsmouth to be Rear-Admiral The Honourable Sir Henry Blackwood's steward aboard HMS Leander. This was a large, modern frigate of 58 guns which had been built by Wigram at Blackwall and launched in November 1813. She had been designed to counter the heavy American frigates. She took part in the blockade of the USS Constitution off Boston in 1815 and she was at the bombardment of Algiers in 1816. In 1819 she became Blackwood's flagship for his three year tour of duty as Commander-in-Chief in the command simply called the East Indies. To get such an appointment it would seem that George Snr. had been a trusty and good seaman for many years and was now getting a little long in the tooth for swinging about in the tops or working the guns. To be listed among an Admiral's domestics — indeed his chief domestic — would have earned him a great deal of kudos, grudging admiration and not a little jealousy from his messmates. And not just any Admiral: Blackwood had been one of Nelson's favourites and was a 'top man'.
Put simply, George had landed a plum job.
( † For more about this see Ellen Muir )
George Brine bapt. 02 Feb 1783 St. Mary's Portsea
Parents: Edward Brine and Elizabeth née Arnold
Marriage of George Brine
and Mary Ann Sophia Harrison:
14 July 1817 Alverstoke
Rear Admiral The Hon. Sir Henry Blackwood
HMS Leander 58 guns
Fourth Rate, frigate, Leander Class
Built by Wigram at Blackwall
Ordered 1813, Launched 1813, Broken Up 1830
The Hon. Sir Henry Blackwood from Aug 1819
Flag & Commander in Chief, East Indies
Captain Charles Richardson from July 1819
Also Flag Lieutenant Price Blackwood
The flag of the Mogul Empire in India
The flag of the Honourable East India Company
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