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The Battle of Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar took place on October 21st 1805 during the Napoleonic Wars, and saw the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte’s plans to invade Britain, but also the death of Admiral Nelson, the county’s finest naval hero, on board his ship HMS Victory.

John Wilson was known as a maritime and landscape painter, becoming an honorary member of the Royal Scottish Academy. The painting won a prize when displayed at the British Institution in 1825 and is considered a significant work.

In a strange quirk of fate, there is another very strong connection between Cumnock and the Battle of Trafalgar. John Johnstone, born in 1871 was a Royal Navy sailor on board the Colossus at the Battle, where he received a major wound to his thigh which nearly killed him. However, he is believed to have been one of the last surviving participants in the Battle, and spent his last years in Cumnock. He also wrote and published a poem ‘Lord Nelson’, which attracted the attention of noted poet and writer A.B. Todd.

The painting and poem, and more background about John Wilson and John Johnstone, will be on display at the Baird throughout 2010.