The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

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The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby bill » Fri Sep 10, 2010 9:44 am

Search for A Sword - The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N. (1772 - 1849)


" Two hundred years ago, exactly eleven weeks to the day after Nelson’s great battle at Trafalgar, on January 6, 1806, one of Scotland’s oft-forgotten heroes, Captain John Fleming R.N. of Glencreggan and Muasdale in Kintyre, was involved in an action for which his ‘singular gallantry’ led him to be presented with a ‘sword of honour’ from The Patriotic Fund of Lloyds of London, the whereabouts of the sword, last known to be in the possession of Fleming’s grand-daughter, a Miss Eddington, a frequent visitor to Lauder, in The Scottish Borders, around 1930, now unknown.

While Fleming's exploits were immortalised in Dr Norman MacLeod’s story of “The Old Lieutenant and His Son”, a book widely read in later years in both Britain and America, the story begins in 1658 when Fleming’s great-great-great-grandparents, James Flemying and Jenat Strang, from Kirktoune of Kilbryde, now better known as East Kilbride, came to the holding of ‘Bellirgiemore’ in Kintyre, their descendents, including Fleming’s uncle’s family, farming at Ballivain, on the west side of Kintyre, beside the Westport, from around 1719 till 1844. Fleming’s father Matthew, being a younger son, left the farm to the hands of his brother and took to the sea to become a shipmaster, Matthew losing his life, almost in sight of home, when his ship was wrecked off Gigha.
Inspired no doubt by his father, John Fleming, who was born on the last day of December 1772, too went off to the sea and was a junior officer on a merchant ship when, in 1794, at the age of twenty-one, he found himself being press-ganged to join the navy as a seaman ! Six years earlier, in 1788, The Admiralty, to curb the excesses of the press- gangs which received a ‘bounty’ for each new ‘recruit’, had instituted the Impress Service,commanded by commissioned officers who carried warrants recently signed, but undated,by magistrates to seize their victims.

Under the rules, crews of out-bound merchant ships, naval auxiliaries, ration-suppliers and Trinity House ships and their apprentices were all protected from seizure and, under the rules, no captains, chief mates or pilots belonging to any ship, whether inward or outward-bound could be seized either - The word ‘press’ itself was a corruption of the French ‘prest’ and the ‘prest’ or ‘imprest’, like ‘the King’s shilling’, was a token of the wages due to whoever was enlisted !
Thus, confronted by the press-gang and well-knowing that they could legally seize him at that particular point in time, Fleming, to avoid being employed as an ordinary seaman, volunteered to join the navy provided he was allowed to join as a midshipman ! And so it was that the 21-year old John Fleming began his naval career on the 18-gun“Hornet” in 1794.

By February 1795 , Fleming, because of his previous merchant ship experience, had quickly been elevated to the position of Master’s Mate. The duties of a ship’s sailing-master were indeed even more comprehensive and arduous than those of any officer aboard and his supervision and responsibility extended to almost all the public stores in the ship and in particular to the ship’s stores of water and spirits and to the state of the ship’s cables and anchors. It was also the sailing-master’s responsibility to report the daily use of water to the captain and, twice a day, to report to him the ship’s position, together with the bearings and distance of the port to which the ship was bound, or of the nearest land desired.Between February 1795 and October 1800, Fleming then successively served on the “Flora”; the 32-gun “Lowestoffe”, which had been home to the newly promoted ‘Lieutenant’ Nelson from April 10, 1777 until the summer of 1778; the 38-gun“Tamar ”, where Fleming during the unsuccessful attack on Porto Rico in The West Indies in April 1797; the 64-gun“Dictator ” and then, in 1798, to the 38-gun“Fisgard” patrolling the French coast.

All through 1798 the people of Britain had lived in a state of wild excitement, nearly every day bringing tidings of threatened invasions or of the misfortunes of the campaign in The Low Country, under the Duke of York, of all the financial difficulties which then beset the British Government and of the construction of a French Flotilla at Brest, where Fleming’s
“Fisgard” was patrolling, to be employed for landing troops on Britain’s shores. The feelings of excitement were intensified by the slow rate of sending and by the exaggerated stories carried by travellers. All this created alarm and the presence of an enemy was feared from even the most unexpected quarter and there was no way that Fleming could have known of the drama unfolding back at home in far-distant Kintyre !
Shortly after six o’clock that evening, Monday, October 8, 1798, a horseman, who, judging from the worn out appearance of his horse, had ridden hard and fast, trotted past Inveraray’s church and asked for direction to Provost Lachlan Campbell’s house. The messenger had ridden post haste from Campbeltown and he now informed the stately old gentleman that he had been dispatched to summon the military as the French fleet was cruising off Cantyre and that several crews had already landed and begun to plunder some of the farms. The people were panic-stricken and many were fleeing in the direction of Tarbert.
Provost Lachlan Campbell and the messenger set off for the Maltlands Barracks where they conveyed the startling news to Colonel Clavering. The men were collected and fell in, the only piper the regiment possessed marching up and down the lines, pipes in full blast screeching the Campbell call and the regimental drummers beating away with might and main and a supply of oatmeal, a little salt and 60 rounds of ball shot, with corresponding amounts of gunpowder, were served out to each man and, as darkness set in, the Volunteers marched out through the town with Colonel Clavering, Captain Macdougall of Gallanagh and their adjutant, Captain Stevenson at their head.
Without the aid of any moon that night, the march, down to Lochgair, on by the old Cossack Inn above Achnaba, round the head of Loch Gilp, went on till they reached West Loch Tarbert where, having covered 38-miles, a short halt was called. Here the people were in a state of intense excitement as the French fleet was still hovering about and a company was detached, to march over the drove road and round the high lochs to Carradale. It arrived in time to find one of the French ships tacking close inshore to take advantage of the evening breeze to carry it offshore again and the detachment, not understanding the ship’s manoeuvre, took cover and began a fusilade. The French sent a few shots in their direction and sailed off.Meanwhile, the regiment had marched south to Kilchenzie, where they detached another company and then on across the hill to Dun Bhan, some three miles to the north of the new Mull of Kintyre lighthouse, completed just a decade before, in 1788 and, before daybreak on the Friday morning, October 12, 1798, the Volunteers were startled to hear heavy firing coming from seaward. They could see flashes of fire as guns were fired and, at intervals, the sound of cheering fell on their ears. The men were posted along the shore and too began firing volleys. As the cheering came from the sea, they also set up hurrahs of defiance knowing that a battle was in progress. When daylight came they saw the French ships had been engaged by a British squadron, under the command of Sir John Warren and by noon that day seven of the nine French ships had been captured and the French defeated.

Eight days after the action off The Mull of Kintyre, on Saturday, October 20, 1798 and Fleming aboard the 38-gun gun “Fisgard” patrolling the French coast off Brest, they found themselves in action against the 42-gun French frigate “L’Immortalite”, 281 men against 580 men on the enemy. After having engaged the French ship for nearly an hour in a running fight, the“Fisgard” managed to bring the much bigger“L’Immortalite” to close quarters and, after a sharp action of some twenty-five minutes, in which the whole of the running rigging of the British ship was cut to pieces, the Frenchman, taking advantage of his opponent’s crippled condition, tried to make an escape.

Despite the seeming unmanageable condition of the“Fisgard”, her officers and crew quickly repaired her rigging and soon came again to close quarters with the French frigate, this second close action lasting just under two hours and resulting in the surrender of the “L’Immortalite”, her commander and 54 of her crew killed and another 61 wounded.
Fleming, whose own ship had lost only 10 men and had 26 wounded, was then appointed second-in-command of the“L’Immortalite”, she taken as a prize.
The Frenchman safely delivered, Fleming returned again to the“Fisgard” and we next hear of them, still on patrol off Brest in 1800 where, on June 11 that year, they ‘cut out’ a convoy of two ‘chassee marees’ and eight merchant ships, guarded by a French gunboat, taking supplies in for the French fleet, the operation totally successful despite being also under the fire of a heavy coastal battery and a constant fire of muskets from the shore and too despite the forays of another three armed French boats. Twelve days later, on the banks of the Quimper River, near the same point on the French coast, Fleming contributed to the destruction of three shore-based batteries,each mounting seven 24-pounder guns. Two parties of marines were landed, one on each bank of the river to protect the boats from the“Fisgard”, the enemy retreating to ‘an inaccessible distance’ up-river and the British then immediately landing, storming and blowing up the shore batteries.
Then, on July 1, 1800, Fleming was instrumental in the destruction of five French ships carrying 50 guns between them and fifteen other ships, laden with equally valuable argoes, lying under the protection of six shore batteries and numerous flanking guns on every projecting point of the island of Noirmoutier, in The Bay of Biscay.
On this occasion, Fleming and six other officers, together with 185 men, set off in the ship’s boats soon after darkness fell and, by midnight, were encountering some very formidable resistance as they tried to board the French ships. Despite all, Fleming and his colleagues succeeded in securing all the ships but, deciding it was impossible to bring them out of the anchorage on a rapidly falling tide, they set fire to them all to deny them to their French enemy.
The Frenchmen, lying within the island, were also very near to the sands and, as Fleming and the boats’ crews tried to head back out on the falling tide to the“Fisgard”, they found themselves constantly bottoming on the sands and then, within another ten minutes, stranding them under a constant rain of fire from the shore batteries and, to make matters worse, Fleming’s men found a huge party of nearly 400 French soldiers closing up on them from their rear.Now, with no chance whatsoever of refloating the boats, Fleming’s inspiration was to make yet another attack on another French boat, large enough to carry them all to safety, which, rather challengingly, lay away from them on the opposite side of the bay and had in the end to be dragged two miles across the sands before, the men themselves up to their necks in water, she could be properly floated.Despite the very precariousness of their position and four officers and eighty-eight men being captured, a hundred men, including Fleming, returned safely to the anxiously waiting“Fisgard” offshore and, as a consequence of his
resourcefulness in the action, John Fleming was given his Lieutenancy on October 2, 1800.Three years later, in November 1803, he was wrecked off San Domingo in the 28-gun “Garland”.
Now Fleming was appointed a Senior Lieutenant in the 74-gun“Theseus”, which had carried Nelson’s flag in 1797 and, from the decks of the“Theseus”, Fleming witnessed the surrender of the French squadron, with the remains of General Rochambeau’s army on board from Cape Francois and, in the early part of 1804, Fleming too shared in the unsuccessful attack on Curacao when engaged on The West Indies’ station.

Promoted First Lieutenant to the 36-gun“Franchise”, an eighteen-month assignment on the opposite side of The Atlantic from the glories of Trafalgar, Fleming landed on Curacao with a party of seamen and marines and destroyed several heavy shore-based gun batteries before, in separate hard-wrought actions, capturing two French privateers.
Then, exactly eleven weeks to the day after Nelson’s great battle at Trafalgar, on January 6, 1806, the“Franchise”,having learned from a neutral ship of the likely presence of some newly arrived Spanish warships in the Bay of Campeachy, in The Gulf of Mexico, Fleming’s captain, Sir Charles Dashwood, decided to take a risk and extend his patrol area so that he might, with what he thought was but little risk, ‘cut out’ the Spanish ships.
The very shallowness of The Bay of Campeachy made it impossible for Fleming’s captain to bring the deepish-draughted“Franchise” close inshore and, as darkness fell that night, she anchored some five leagues offshore, in about four fathoms of water, abreast of the town of Campeachy itself - For the record and for the curious, a league was in these days understood to be equal to three nautical miles, 5.5695 kilometres.
With some fifteen or so miles to row in to the enemy, it was estimated that the 64 men in the three ship’s boats would reach their objective around 4 o’clock in the morning, well before the moon, now in the final days of its last quarter, would rise, but, due to the runnings of tide and currents, the boats were delayed and alert lookouts on the Spanish enemy ships quickly spotted the approaches of the labouring boats in the receding moon’s light.
Within minutes, the ten Spanish ships - two brigs, one of 20-guns with an 180-man crew, the other of 12-guns with a 90-man crew; an 8-gun armed schooner and seven 2-gun gunboats - had all slipped their anchor cables and commenced a most severe and heavy carronading which might soon have sunk the three boats from the“Franchise”.

On a point of history, as all Scots should know from their schooldays, the‘Carronades’ took their name by virtue of the fact that the first of their design of guns was produced by Scotland’s ‘Carron Ironworks’ . First fitted to Royal Navy ships in 1779, these highly useful guns had a maximum range of about 1,100 yards.

Fleming, his boat under heavy attack from the smaller of the two brigs and quickly followed by Lieutenant Peter John Douglas, in the barge and by Mr Lamb, in the ship’s pinnace, boldly dashed onto and boarded the brig which, despite her crew’s powerful resistance, they captured in secured within ten minutes of boarding her and the captured brig added to the British boats, the little flotilla, under Fleming’s command, forced the enemy to retreat into a corner of the bay and retire from the action. While five of the Spaniards were killed and another twenty-six wounded, none of Fleming’s sixty-four men were killed and only seven of them slightly wounded.
Fleming,his captain,Sir Charles Dashwood and their admiral,Admiral Dacres,Commander-in-Chief at Jamaica, were well pleased with the brig’s capture for she, the“ElRaposa”, pierced for sixteen guns though only carrying twelve, turned out to be near newly built and coppered (against worms) and, a good sailer, would make an admirableaddition to the navy’s fleet.

As an immediate consequence of his success, Fleming was ‘strongly commended’ by his captain, Sir Charles Dashwood, for his ‘meritorious conduct’ and his ‘distinguished merit and bravery’.

In later months, Fleming would be presented with a ‘sword of honour’ it, preserved in a shark-skin sheath, its handle too fashioned from the tooth of a shark, was given the following inscription on its blade - “From The Patriotic Fund at Lloyds to Lieut. Jno. Fleming of H.M.S. Franchise, for his gallant and spirited conduct in boarding and carrying by the boats of that ship, the Spanish Armed Brig Raposa, from under the fire of the Batteries and Ships of the Enemy, in The Bay of Campeachy, on the 6th of January, 1806, as recorded in the London Gazette of the 15th of April”.

After commanding the schooner“Decouverte” for a few months, Fleming was invested with the acting command first of the sloop“D rake” and then of the“Bramble” and serving in the Jamaica station until the summer of 1812 when he joined the 74-gun“San Domingo”, she wearing the flag of Sir John Borlase Warren and stationed on the coast of North America.


Afterwards, in temporary command of a prize, Fleming effected several more captures and was promoted to the command of the 16-gun sloop“Barbadose” in March 1813, his appointment later confirmed by commission dated November 2, 1814 and, while in command of her and yet again against some stout opposition, he captured four American privateers with their 29 guns and 288 men.

Subsequently, in 1815, Fleming and his sloop covered the debarkation of troops at the French West Indies island of Guadeloupe, Fleming then returning to England in May 1816 at the age of 43 and shortly afterwards retiring from the navy on half-pay, he too having already amassed a very considerable sum of prize money from his earlier successes in the service.

On his return to Campbeltown, Fleming entered the Town Council in 1817 and began to buy and build properties in the Longrow, Bolgam Street, Back Street, St. John’s Street and in the town’s Main Street where his name is commemorated on the gable at The Royal Bank of Scotland where the words “Fleming’s Land” is imposed above the entry and, as a town house, Fleming, in 1823, acquired a 76-year lease and built ‘North Park’.

Five years earlier, in 1818, Fleming had purchased the lands that we can best refer to as Muasdale and Glencreggan and at the same time he also bought a small estate on the north shore of Loch Melfort, it described as “the toune and lands of Kilchoan, with the island and mill thereof” and, at a later date, Fleming also became proprietor of ‘Drumore- na-Bodoach’ at Bellochantuy.
Fleming, taking an active part in the town’s affairs, became a Baillie and was elected Provost of The Burgh in 1832, the year in which the first gas street lights appeared in Campbeltown. Retiring from the town council in 1836, after completing nineteen years in office, Fleming continued to serve as a J.P., a Sheriff-Substitute for Kintyre and was, in the last twenty years of his life, a Deputy-Lieutenant of Argyllshire.

He married twice, his first wife being Mary Campbell, daughter of Campbell of Islandree and their daughter, Mary Jane, about 1841, marrying Smolett Montgomerie Eddington, at that time a lieutenant in the 28th Regiment of Foot, better known in later time as Colonel Eddington of Glencreggan, he dying in 1905 in his 89th year.
In 1848, at the age of 75, Fleming remarried, this time to Mary Smith, a daughter of the Rev. John Smith, late of Campbeltown’s Highland Church - Mary would survive him by twenty years and she died in Edinburgh on May 31, 1870. Fleming himself died on February 23, 1849 - His tombstone, referred to in Charles Mactaggart’s paper “A Ramble Through The Old Kilkerran Graveyard”, erroneously dating his death on ‘April 23, 1849’, was surmounted with engravings of a ship, an anchor and a sword.

Eleven years after Fleming’s death, his estate’s trustees, with a number of life rents, legacies and bequests still to settle, found it necessary to raise an action in the Court of Session to authorise them to sell some of the heritable properties which Fleming’s will did not empower them to realise.Accordingly, in 1860, both ‘Drumore-na-Bodoach’ and the lands of Muasdale were placed on the market and sold respectively to Robert Colvill and his son John, of Springside Distillery. John Fleming himself had been a cousin of Campbeltown maltster John Colville.

Though today’s keeper of Fleming’s ‘sword of honour’ and its whereabouts are presently unknown, it was in the possession of a Miss Eddington, a grand-daughter of Fleming, a frequent visitor to Lauder, in The Scottish Borders, in the 1930’s and, the nation having celebrated the 200th anniversary of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar, it would indeed be fitting to begin ‘searching for the sword’ and, if it is still in existence, seek permission to allow it to be put on display in Campbeltown Museum to highlight Captain John Fleming’s place in local and national history.













The above can be found at the link below.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/2724474/Searc ... -1772-1849
Last edited by bill on Mon Sep 13, 2010 4:21 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Search for A Sword

Postby glenn » Fri Sep 10, 2010 7:27 pm

Good post, Bill. Nice to learn something new each day from the forum - that's what i like about it, a fountain of knowledge.
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Re: Search for A Sword

Postby bill » Mon Sep 13, 2010 4:18 pm

If memory serves me right "North Park" the house built by Captain John Fleming R.N. is the one in the link below.


http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&sourc ... 7,,1,-5.89
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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby Ship called Dignity » Tue Sep 14, 2010 9:52 pm

Excellent post Bill, there is just to much history out there!
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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby ali7ms » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:07 pm

Thank you so much to the author of this article. I am new to this site and have only recently traced my husband's family back to one of John Fleming's uncles. Alas we have no knowledge of the whereabouts of he sword however I would love to hear from anybody who can give me furthe information of the family either before or after this period. :D
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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby Iain » Mon Sep 27, 2010 11:23 am

Thanks Bill. The URL you gave before has a problem. http://www.scribd.com/doc/2724474/Searc ... -1772-1849

I'll now be able to copy it correctly for my album. :)
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Re: Search for A Sword

Postby bill » Tue Sep 28, 2010 9:33 pm

bill wrote:If memory serves me right "North Park" the house built by Captain John Fleming R.N. is the one in the link below.


http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?f=q&sourc ... 7,,1,-5.89



So can anyone tell me if my memory is correct?Is the house shown on the Google map "North Park"?
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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby EMDEE » Tue Sep 28, 2010 11:56 pm

I would say that your memory is correct. :D
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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby Iain » Wed Sep 29, 2010 8:24 am

EMDEE wrote:I would say that your memory is correct. :D


Lucky them with that panorama and Davar Island ! Not surprised he chose that site to build..., and you can be just about certain that he had a private pier built for a boat ! :)
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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby bill » Sun Oct 03, 2010 3:06 pm

EMDEE wrote:I would say that your memory is correct. :D



Just one of the many houses I delivered to on my message bike about 47 years ago.Good to know the memory is still intact. :D
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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby ANNE WELLSTEAD » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:15 am

Bill-
Am curious about your mention of James Flemyng and Janet Strang as being Captain John Fleming's forebears, as that differs from the ancestry detailed in a family tree prepared for my branch of the Fleming family over 100 years ago, which states:
"The tradition was to the effect that three brothers Fleming came from Renfrewshire along with John Maxwell of Southbar, and settled in Kintyre about 1660. The following are the first Flemings mentioned in the Register of the Lowland Congregation in Campbeltown:
WILLIAM FLEMING, farmer in Killellan, died 2 December 1689, m. Janet Mitchell, and in Killeonan in 1663 *
JAMES FLEMING, his brother, farmer in Achileik..., died December 1674, m.1st Janet Strang, 2nd Agnes Patomo ?
The third brother is uncertain, but may have been JOHN FLEMING, farmer in Chiskan in Laggs, died February 1675, m.
Margaret Langwill"
* The family tree we have shows WILLIAM and Janet's first son as WILLIAM, m. Janet Clark, initially in Garvochie and later in Balivean; their first son is shown as JOHN, tenant in Balivean 1742, m. 1st Jean Kirkland 1736, 2nd Agnes Langwill 1756. Their first son, WILLIAM (1738-?) remained as tenant in Balivean, m. Elizabeth Ferguson - and all of these are shown as my forebears.
Our family tree however shows the second son of JOHN and Jean as being the sailor MATTHEW, who married Jean Porter
and was the father of Captain JOHN FLEMING RN (1773-?).
For the sake of accuracy, I am interested in knowing if my family tree is definitely incorrect, or is there some room for ambiguity in the old source records ? Would appreciate any light you can throw on it.

Anne Wellstead, Sydney Australia email: agwellstead@gmail.com
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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby Shona » Sat Feb 02, 2013 5:08 pm

Hello Anne,

I have a passing interest in the Fleming family as one of my ancestors married a Malcom Fleming in Campbeltown, so I was interested in your post. I wonder if you could tell me what sources are mentioned in the family history that you have? Did they go through the old parish records, for example?

In the meantime, I'll post some of the info that I have about the Flemings in C/T on this thread.

Cheers,

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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby Iain » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:16 pm

bill wrote:
EMDEE wrote:I would say that your memory is correct. :D

Just one of the many houses I delivered to on my message bike about 47 years ago. Good to know the memory is still intact. :D


LOL ! If you're talking about a McArthur/McKay round..., perhaps we used the same bicycle ! :lol:
Ooooh..., how I would like to return to those old days.
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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby Iain » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:27 pm

Shona wrote:Hello Anne,

I have a passing interest in the Fleming family as one of my ancestors married a Malcom Fleming in Campbeltown, so I was interested in your post. I wonder if you could tell me what sources are mentioned in the family history that you have? Did they go through the old parish records, for example?
In the meantime, I'll post some of the info that I have about the Flemings in C/T on this thread.
Cheers,
Shona


PS: Hi Shona ! If I remember rightly, Bill posted that in relation to the URL below.
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=10788&hilit=Flemings+Land

Also..., this was one of many such posts in relation to Flemings Land, High Street and if I remember rightly, there was a reply somewhere from a “local” Fleming.

Have a nice evening..., Iain.
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Re: The Story of Captain John Fleming R.N.

Postby Iain » Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:30 pm

ANNE WELLSTEAD wrote:Bill-
Anne Wellstead, Sydney Australia email: agwellstead@gmail.com


Hi Anne ! Welcome to The Kintyre Forum ! Wow..., thanks for the info ! :wink:
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