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Among the young gentlemen of HMS Indefatigable, the one who rose to the greatest fame within his own lifetime was Jeremiah Coghlan.  Coghlan, a young Irish merchant sailor, joined the navy in dramatic style when he came to the assistance of the Dutton East Indiaman, which was wrecked off the citadel at  Plymouth in 1796.  Captain Sir Edward Pellew, who had boarded the Dutton to assist with the rescue, was so impressed with Coghlan’s conduct, that he offered him a place on his quarter deck and he joined the Indefatigable as master’s mate.  So began a long and dashing naval career, which saw Coghaln feted by the press, who dubbed him Intrepid Jerry, and lauded by the Admiralty. Even Earl St Vincent was ‘transported’ by the ‘noble exploits’ of this ‘gallant seaman’[1] and rewarded him with a gold sword worth one hundred guineas.  Such was Coghlan fame, that when he died in 1844, at the ripe old age of sixty-nine, numerous obituaries and accounts of his funeral were published in the press.   This remarkably florid description of Coghlan’s funeral appeared in The Hampshire Advertiser on Saturday March 30, 1844.

His obsequies were those of a sailor. Six seamen, sons of the ocean, like himself, bore him to his place of final rest.  Emblematic of the heart it shrouded – now cold indeed – but which once glowed with irrepressible energy and indomitable courage, his coffin was of English oak – and instead of the melancholy pall, it was covered with the flag beneath which he had fought his way through danger and death, to victory and fame, which was his glory enough, and now honoured in death – and upon it, emblems of his rank were placed, his hat and sword – the last a testimonial form his great chief and example of the approval of the achievement of some daring exploit.  The procession was mostly composed of those who, like him have trod the path of glory in the service of their country, few, perhaps, but fit mourners; yet there were not wanting those who, “though they live at home in ease,” know how to appreciate and honour those who have kept that home unviolated by the hostile foot of the invader; and grateful must it have been to brave hearts to witness the last sad tribute of esteem and admiration paid to one who was among the bravest of that redoubtable band who, in the hour of England’s jeopardy, when Europe was leagued in arms against her, manned her “wooden walls” and rolled back the tide of war in destruction and death on the discomfited assailants; while the grateful voice of the nation hailed the brave deed with enthusiastic joy, and fame crowned their brows with imperishable laurels; the historian registered their acts to all coming time; and the poet, raised by the glory of his theme, celebrated their names in songs that shall perish only with the land to which they belong.

Note the length of that final sentence, they don’t write them like that any more!

[1] Marshall, 1828, p. 301.

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