1781 – La Cologne

This sea battle took place four miles off St Abb’s Head in April 1781. The ship La Cologne aka The Calonne, was commanded by Luke Ryan of Rush, County Dublin, Ireland. I have found many more sources to add to this story but in the meantime, the full story, including some background, and Ryan’s trial, is told here.

Captain Luke Ryan (Hibernian Magazine, May 1782)

A letter from Edinburgh, dated April 18, contains the following authentic information: Yesterday morning, about two o’clock, the Berwick man of war, and Belle Poule frigate, four miles off St Abb’s Head, fell in with La Cologne, privateer of Dunkirk (formerly the Tartar), the noted Luke Ryan, commander, mounting 32 guns and 250 men. The privateer having in the dark mistaken the Berwick for a Greenland ship, ordered her to bring to, and fired several broadsides before they discovered their mistake, but when the Berwick’s lower ports were opened, they endeavoured by crouding sail to make off, at the same time cutting adrift a boat, with a Lieutenant and 13 men, which was lying at the stern, for the purpose of boarding the supposed Greenlandman. Having shot ahead of the Berwick, the Belle Poule gave chase, and engaged her 45 minutes, until the Berwick came up, when she struck at half past eight am. The privateer had one man wounded, and the Belle Poule none in the least hurt. Ryan had been only five days from Dunkirk, and had taken, a short time before he fell in with the above ships, the Nancy, [Captain John] Ramsay, of Aberdeen, bound for Newcastle, and ransomed her for 300 guineas. We are informed that this celebrated depredator behaved with great intrepidity. The crew are a mixture of French, Yankies, Scotch, Irish, and one Dutchman, who was pilot. It is said that Captain Ryan asked the commander of the Aberdeen ship which he had taken, if there were any ships of war on the coast. The commander, who had seen the Berwick and Belle Poule, replied that there were only two fine Greenlandmen, upon which Ryan immediately swallowed the bait, and set sail in quest of them; when he was fortunately taken. Luke Ryan is about 30 years of age, and says he would have taken the Belle Poule if the Berwick had not come up. It is said he would not allow the colours of the Cologne to be struck till he was knocked down by one of his own men, and he then attempted get hold of a match to blow up the powder-room and his ship. Upon that account he was put in irons till he arrived at Leith, when he was treated with every degree of humanity that could be expected. He sails under the commission of the King of France, and it is said five privateers about the same force sailed from Dunkirk to cruise in our seas, of which Ryan was Commodore, and all their signals were taken on board the Cologne.

Hampshire Chronicle, Monday 30 April 1781

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