Admiral Lord Viscount Duncan  - 1731-1804

A bronze statue of Admiral Duncan was commissioned for the Bicentenary Celebrations of the Battle of Camperdown on 11 October 1997. It shows the Admiral in the vicinity of his birthplace (Castlehill, High Street, Dundee) looking through his telescope. Paid for by private sponsorship the 12-foot sculpture by Janet Scrymgeour Wedderburn has the following inscription:

"Admiral Lord Viscount Duncan of Camperdown was born in Dundee on 1st July 1731. In a naval career spanning fifty-four years, he saw early service in the search for Prince Charles Edward Stuart off the West coast of Scotland, and afterwards with the British Navy in the Mediterranean, America, West Africa and Cuba. In his later years he earned wide respect for his handling of the serious naval mutiny of 1797, but achieved his greatest fame through his remarkable defeat of the Dutch fleet under Admiral de Winter off Camperdown on the 11th October 1797, thus thwarting a possible invasion by French and Dutch troops. He was made a Viscount on 17th October 1797 and died on 4 August 1804. In the words of Admiral Lord Nelson, 'the name of Duncan will never be forgot by Britain and in particular by its Navy'."

The painting on this page is by Sir Henry Raeburn (1756 - 1823) Admiral Lord Duncan, 1798 (Incorporation of Shipmasters, Trinity House, Leith)

As Victor of the Battle of Camperdown, the Battle of Britain of its day, Adam Duncan became a national hero and at a height of 6'4" was known as 'the handsomest Man in the Navy'. A contemporary described him as 'nobly beautiful, his forehead high and fair, and his hair white as snow. When passing through Chatham, the inhabitants were so struck with his figure and appearance that they came out of their houses and followed him as far as the eye could reach'. Stylish women wore Camperdown Hats and dandies sported Camperdown vests.

Adam Duncan was born at Bluebell House in the Seagate to a prominent family with ancient links to Dundee, both his father and grandfather were provosts of the City and his father Alexander married Helen Haldane of Gleneagles. The family home was at Lundie but Duncan spent most of his time at his town house where he attended Dundee High School [then called Dundee Grammar School] and at 15 joined the navy.

On June 6th 1777 he married Henrietta Dundas and they had 7 children. His heir, Robert Dundas Duncan completed Camperdown House in 1828 and in 1831, William IV conferred the title Earl of Camperdown on the son of the famous Admiral.

Lord Duncan's chance for real distinction came at the end of a long career, when he was 66, and he availed himself of it valiantly: his tenacity in the blockage of the Texel, where the Dutch Fleet had its port, handling a mutinous and insufficient force in stormy seas and his calculated audacity during the actual engagement gained international recognition.

Newbolt describes the situation in his poem "Admirals All"


Fifteen sail were the Dutchmen bold,
Duncan he had but two;
But he anchored them fast where the Texel shoaled,
And his colours aloft he flew,
"I've taken the depth to a fathom," he cried,
And I'll sink with a right good will,
For I know when we're all of us under the tide,
My flag will be fluttering still"

The feared invasion of Ireland perished with the Dutch Fleet commanded by Admiral de Winter. Because of his admiration for his Dutch Adversary, Admiral Duncan, in keeping with his chivalrous spirit, refused to accept Admiral de Winter's sword at the time of the Dutch surrender and shook his hand instead.

The sword shown here is the presentation sword awarded to Admiral Duncan by the City of London, the gold, enamelled and diamond-set hilt with Camperdown motifs was especially made by the goldsmith James Morriset, at a cost of 200 guineas.

For his exploits Duncan was created Baron of Lundie and Viscount Camperdown and given a 3000 a year pension, by far the largest pension ever awarded and a reflection of the nation's gratitude. In 1800, four years before his death, Admiral Duncan planted a tree on the lawn near the south elevation of what would become Camperdown House. The flourishing sycamore is known forever as the 'Admiral's Tree'.

The twilight years of the Admiral's life were spent mainly at Lundie. The figurehead from Admiral de Winter's flagship, the Red Lion of Holland rampant, was brought to Lundie House and the Vrijheids bell was installed at Lundie Kirk. His family were growing up and at the time of his retirement the children's ages ranged from 10 to 22 years. Sadly, the eldest son Alexander died in Malta in 1803.

In the summer of 1804 the Admiral, aged 73, travelled south to London to offer his services to the Admiralty. On the return journey he stopped overnight in Cornhill, near Coldstream and retired in good spirits after dinner. He was taken ill shortly afterwards and died peacefully before the local doctor could arrive.

He lies buried in the tranquillity of the little churchyard at Lundie.

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Admiral Duncan Camperdown Trust - Naughton House, Wormit, Fife, Scotland, DD6 8RN United Kingdom - +44 (0)1307 820410