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Scottish Archaeology Month at Dumfries Museum

John Paul Jones, the son of a gardener, was born in 1747 at Arbigland on the Solway coast.  He grew up to become a captain in America’s emergent navy, and was soon harrying his homeland as part of the colony’s revolutionary war against Britain.  At the age of 32 he took command of the ship Bonhomme Richard and fought a sea battle which has been described as “one of the most desperate and sanguinary in naval history”.

The Bonhomme Richard was sailing with four other American ships when they engaged a British merchant convoy guarded by two Royal Naval vessels, the Serapis and Countess of Scarborough, off Flamborough Head.  A savage battle resulted, lasting nearly four hours, and many lives were lost on both sides.  Jones was outgunned by the Serapis, but managed to bring the Bonhomme Richard alongside the heavier vessel and lash the two ships together.  Although his own vessel was blazing and shipping water, he boarded the Serapis and captured her.  He had to abandon the Bonhomme Richard, which sank after 36 hours.

Neyland has been involved for some years in the search for the Bonhomme Richard by Ocean Technology Foundation (OTF), an undersea research and education organisation, in conjunction with the US Naval Historical Centre. The OTF has been using sonar and magnetometer scanning techniques to locate several different wreck sites, as far as 20 miles out from Flamborough Head.  He comments “To find whatever remains of Jones’s vessel would locate an iconic vessel in US history”.

Admission is free.  Booking is not required but as space is limited visitors may you may prefer to telephone 01387 253374 to reserve a place.