A Naval Biographical Dictionary/Skene, John McDowall

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SKENE, formerly Smith. (Commander, 1846.)

John McDowall Skene is son of Capt. John Skene, R.N., C.B. (1813), who acted as Master of the Egmont 74, Capt. John Sutton, in the action off Cape St. Vincent, 14 Feb. 1797, was First-Lieutenant of the Africa 64, Capt. Henry Digby, at the battle of Trafalgar 21 Oct. 1805, commanded the Beagle sloop at the reduction of St. Sebastian in 1813, and died in 1833 at Bin Rook, Cardy, Forfar, N.B. Commander Skene, whose father’s name was originally Smith, assumed his present surname on inheriting property in Scotland in 1846.

This officer entered the Navy, 17 Nov. 1825, as Fst.-cl. Vol., on board the Ganges 74, Capt. Patrick Campbell, lying at Portsmouth. Removing with Capt. Campbell in March, 1827, to the Ocean 80, he sailed in that ship in Feb. 1828 for Lisbon in escort of Don Miguel, and was employed in her off the Morea during the evacuation of Greece by the Egyptian army. He served next in the Briton and Stag of 46 guns each, Capts. John Duff Markland and Nich. Lockyer; and while in the latter ship he was engaged as Mate (he had passed his examination in June, 1832) in blockading the Scheldt pending the siege of Antwerp by the French in 1833-4. From 1835 until 1839 he was stationed in the West Indies for the suppressing of slavery, in the Nimrod 20, Capt. John Fraser; and for his subsequent services in the Magicienne 24, Capt. Fred. Thos. Michell, on the coast of Syria, particularly in sounding in a 4-oared gig and obtaining the correct depth of water along the whole sea face of the batteries of St. Jean d’Acre prior to the bombardment, he was promoted, 5 Nov. 1840, to the rank of Lieutenant. His subsequent appointments were – 15 Dec. 1840, 9 April, 1841, and 19 Jan. 1842, to the Princess Charlotte 104, flag-ship of Sir Robt. Stopford, Stromboli steamer, Capts. Woodford John Williams and Wm. Louis, and Ganges 84, Capt. Barrington Reynolds, all in the Mediterranean, whence he returned to England and was paid off in April, 1842 – 1 Aug. in the latter year, to the Resistance 42, troop-ship, Capt. Chas. Geo. Edw. Patey – and 1 July, 1843, to the Penelope steam-frigate of 650 horse-power, fitting for the broad pendant of Commodore Wm. Jones, Commander-in-Chief on the west coast of Africa. Of the latter vessel, which was indefatigably employed in the suppression of the slave-trade, he soon became First-Lieutenant. Being intrusted with the command of her boats on every occasion of importance, he was present in them at the destruction of Tombocorro and Minna and of all the towns and factories up the Gallinas river. In Oct. 1844 he took one slaver and destroyed another in the bay of Cacongo; on which occasion 4 of the enemy were shot. At the dying request of Commodore Jones, and as a reward both for his services during that officer’s long illness and for the state of discipline in which he paid the Penelope off, he was promoted, 26 May, 1846, to the rank of Commander. Since 21 June, 1848, he has been employed in the Coast Guard.