John Douglas


From a newspaper cutting of 1878, Sunderland Times, the late Martin Douglas was directly descendant from Sir John Douglas of Dalkeith, brother to the Laird of Liddesdale it goes on to say that his great grandfather was killed at the Battle of Culloden. His son John Douglas aged 10 escaped in the company of Thomas Drummond son of the Duke of Perth, and settled in Sunderland.

The Duke of Perth was a Drummond. His regiment originally consisted of two battalions, though one may have disbanded in Stirling. One of the companies was, I think, under the command of Major James Stewart, and a James Douglas served in this company.  James Douglas does appear to have survived, but I know nothing more of him.

The problem with the above story is that James, 3rd Duke of Perth was unmarried, and I have found no trace of any illegitimate children, so who Thomas Drummond was, I am unsure. There was a Lt Col James Drummond, Master of Strathallan, at Culloden (captured and pardoned). Numerous other Drummonds served in the regiment, but none appears to be a Thomas.

However, there is a nice twist to this tale, in that it is reputed that the duke did not in fact die on the ship on which he was escaping to France, but disembarked in the small village of South Biddick, on the banks of the River Wear outside of Sunderland, where he subsequently married. It is great story and can be read here:  or as a pdf.  No mention of any Douglases, though.

Martin Douglas, pictured left, wearing the normal gear of a Sunderland keelman, was famous for his rescues of people shipwrecked off the coast. But was Martin's father, John Douglas, a victim of the press gang?

This is the story handed down through generations and researcher Douglas Smith believes this may be true – but he is looking for hard evidence. Can anyone help?

If he was a pressed man, John Douglas was unfortunate indeed, for he had already had one miraculous escape.

He was a Jacobite who survived the Battle of Culloden, where the last charge of swordsmen from the clans in Scottish history was broken by cannon loaded with grape-shot and by volleys from a long red line of English soldiers, three deep.

John Douglas escaped and made his way to Sunderland in 1745(6), reputedly with the lad who was the "real" Duke of Perth, whose claims we have reported before.


Can anyone help?


Unknown Douglas - killed at Culloden, 1746
His son, John Douglas - escaped to Sunderland after Culloden, aged 10. Later pressed into the navy?
His son, Martin Douglas - a Sunderland keelman
His son, also Martin - great grand son on 'Unknown'???

In 1815, Martin Douglas may have instigated the riots that led to the destruction of a railway bridge carrying coals in an attempt to preserve the jobs of keelmen and his own, a 'running fitter'.

William Hyton and Martin Douglas, coal fitters, were declared bankrupt on 24 August 1822

On 28 April 1829, Martin Douglas, coal fitter, received great praise for his part in saving the crew on the sloop Bee of Blyth.


It is claimed that there is a line of descent from John Douglas through:
Vera and Bill Stanners
Donald and Carolyn Stanners
Rachel Stanners


Sources used in the compilation of this article include:
• The life and adventures, of Martin Douglas, Sunderland keelman and celebrated life saver – 1 Jan 1848 (Keelman and celebrated lifesaver)


• A coal fitter is the middle man between the coal mine owners and the coal merchants, usually the owner of the keels used for moving the coal.

• Current research indicates that the unknown Douglas could not have been the father of John Douglas, apparently aged 10 in 1746. John appears to have been born in 1756.



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This page was last updated on 11 October 2021

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