Kirkbean's most famous son, John Paul Jones, was not the only young man from there to have a successful career in the navy. This is John Campbell's story as told in the Dictionary of National Biography.

John Campbell, Kirbean's other "Admiral of the Fleet"

John Campbell (1720?-1790), vice-admiral, the son of John Campbell (d. 1733), minister of Kirkbean in Kirkcudbrightshire, was born in that parish about, but probably before, the year 1720. At an early age he was bound apprentice to the master of a coasting vessel, and is said to have entered the navy by offering himself in exchange for the mate of this vessel, who had been pressed.

After serving three years in the Blenheim, Torbay, and Russell, he was, in 1740, appointed to the Centurion, and sailed in her round the world with Commodore Anson, as midshipman, master's mate, and master. On his return home be passed the examination for lieutenant, and his certificate, dated 8 Jan. 1744-5, says that he 'appears to be more than twenty-four years of age.' Through Anson's interest he was very shortly afterwards made a lieutenant, then commander, and was advanced to post rank on 28 Nov. 1747, and appointed to the Bellona frigate, which he commanded with some success till the peace. He afterwards commanded the Mermaid, in 1755 the Prince of 90 guns, and in 1757 the Essex of 64 guns, in the fleet in the Bay of Biscay, under Sir Edward Hawke. In the following year he was second captain of the Royal George, when Lord Anson took command of the fleet off Brest, Sir Peircy Brett, his old shipmate in the Centurion, being first captain. He afterwards returned to the Essex, which he commanded in the long blockade of Brest by Sir Edward Hawke, through the summer and autumn of 1759; but when, in November, Hawke moved his flag into the Royal George, Campbell was appointed his flag-captain, and served in that capacity in the decisive battle of Quiberon Bay, 20 Nov. 1759. Campbell was sent home with the despatches, and was taken by Anson to be presented to the king. According to the received story, Anson told him on the way that the king would knight him if he wished. 'Troth, my lord,' answered Campbell, 'I ken nae use that will be to me.’ ‘But,' said Anson, 'your lady may like it.' 'Aweel,' replied Campbell, 'his majesty may knight her if he pleases.' He was in fact not knighted.

In 1760 he was appointed to the Dorsetshire of 70 guns, which he commanded, on the home station or in the Mediterranean, till the peace. He was then appointed to the Mary yacht, and moved in 1770 to the Royal Charlotte, in which he remained till promoted to his flag, 23 Jan. 1778. In the following spring he was chosen by Admiral Keppel as first captain of the Victory, or what is now known as Captain of the Fleet. He held that office through the rest of the year, and had thus a very important share in the conduct of the fleet on 27 July, as well as on the previous days. [Keppel was court-martialled following the Battle of Ushant but was acquitted and became a national hero.] His loyalty to Keppel, and the rancour which the subsequent courts-martial excited, effectually prevented his having any further employment as long as Lord Sandwich was in office, though he attained, in course of seniority, the rank of vice-admiral on 19 March 1779. In April 1782, when his friend Keppel was installed as first lord of the admiralty, Campbell was appointed governor of Newfoundland and commander-in-chief on that station. He held this office for four years, and ended his service in 1786. He died in London on 16 Dec. 1790.

The writer of the notice in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine,’ who seems to have been familiarly acquainted with him, has given us the following portraiture: ‘He preserved his original simplicity of manners till his death, notwithstanding he lived among, and mixed with, the first people of the kingdom; but he had withal a dry sarcastic mode of expression as well as manner, which approached so near to that in which Mr. Macklin played the character of Sir Archy McSarcasm, that I have often thought that excellent actor must have seen and copied him’.

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