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Napoleon, Nelson and the Knight

Sir John Malcolm

Georgian Period

Major-General Sir John 'Jock' Malcolm (1769 – 1833) was a Scottish soldier, Statesman, and in later life a historian. Born at Burnfoot, Dumfriesshire, he served in the East India company. Having distinguished himself at the Siege of Seringapatam in 1792, he was engaged in Diplomatic roles, overseeing several treaties with Persia. He would later go on to become Ambassador to Persia, Resident of Gwalior (1803–1804) and Governor of Bombay 1827–1830. As a historian he wrote extensively on India and Persia, publishing several books which became influential on thinking on the region.


After his death an impressive obelisk commemorating his life and achievments was constructed, which today towers above Langholm in Dumfriesshire.


The Four Knights of Eskdale


In 1730 the Duke of Buccleuch gave Sir Pulteney Malcolm’s grandfather, the Reverend Robert Malcolm, the lease of a house and sheep farm at Burnfoot, on the north bank of the River Esk, four miles upstream from Langholm.  He hoped that this would supplement the Reverend’s meagre income as Minister of the neighbouring parish of Ewes.


Shortly after Robert’s death in 1761, his son George married Margaret Pasley, the second youngest child of a neighbouring family.  They began their married life in the small house of Douglan, Burnfoot.  George had intended to follow his father into the church, but a slight speech defect precluded this, so he took up farming.


Over the next twenty years the couple had 17 children, ten sons and seven daughters, all but one of whom survived into adulthood.  Unfortunately George’s farming income did not increase with the number of his children, and he was bankrupt by 1780.


As a result he was forced to find careers for his children when they were still very young.  Fortunately he was a man of considerable charm and he had influential patrons.  Four of his sons went into the Navy, two into the East India Company, two became independent merchants in India, one an Anglican priest in England, leaving one to take up local employment in Scotland.


Four of them, James, Pulteney, John and Charles, achieved knighthoods and became known as The Four Knights of Eskdale.


Lithographic Print
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
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Sir John Malcolm
Dumfries & Galloway Council