Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Admiral Cochrane artefacts go on display for first time

Portrait of Lord Cochrane by James Ramsay Pic: Trustees of National Museums Scotland
Image caption A portrait of Cochrane by James Ramsay is on show at the exhibition

The life of an admiral who inspired the character Jack Aubrey, portrayed in the film Master and Commander, is to form an exhibition in Edinburgh.

Novelist Patrick O'Brian partly based his 19th Century captain on the seafaring Scot, Thomas Cochrane.

The display charts Cochrane's life, from growing up in Fife, to battling Napoleon's Navy, from scandal and disgrace to becoming a Chilean hero.

Admiral Cochrane, the Real Master and Commander opens later.

The National Museum of Scotland exhibition includes objects that have never previously been on public display.

The artefacts include medals, trophies and personal mementos and a portrait of Cochrane by James Ramsay.

Personal objects connect the man with his remarkable story throughout the exhibition, from the pocket watch Cochrane was given by his father when he first went to sea to the Bosun's Call silver whistle he kept as a souvenir from his naval service.

Dr Stuart Allan, senior curator at National Museums Scotland, said: "Cochrane's story is as remarkable as any of the fictional exploits which he inspired and yet he remains a figure who is not widely remembered or recognised in Scotland.

"This exhibition aims to remedy that by giving people a unique chance to see first hand artefacts, documents and portraits from Cochrane's lifetime."

Curators said the exhibition reveals a "fiery character with difficulty accepting authority".

It charts his rise from his first major exploit in capturing the Spanish frigate El Gamo in 1801 to one of his most notable achievements, the attack on the French fleet in the Basque Roads in 1809.

The exhibition also includes the Star of Bath, the Knighthood awarded to Cochrane for this action as well as graphic display charting the progress of the battle.

National hero

He became an MP after this but then dramatically lost his rank, seat and peerage after being controversially found guilty of a stock exchange fraud.

After his trial, he emigrated with his family to Chile, where he took command of their navy in the war of independence with Spain.

His successes led to his becoming a national hero in Chile, where he is remembered to this day.

Among the decorations and gifts on display is a sea chest presented by the people of Chile, inscribed 'Soy de Cochrane' (I belong to Cochrane).

This chapter of Cochrane's career also inspired a central character in one of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe novels.

He was known by name to Napoleon, praised in verse by Sir Walter Scott, and Lord Byron said in 1821 "There is no man I envy so much as Lord Cochrane."

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