Mal Cockburn's Website
Sir George

"Our family" started in Australia when a 19 year old lad from Coldinghame in Berwickshire in Scotland, Alexander Cockburn, stepped ashore in Melbourne off the ship "Royal Charter" in 1856, and made his way to the Victorian goldfields.   He later travelled north to the Gympie goldfields in Queensland, where my grandfather Robert Alexander Cockburn was born in 1876. 

The motto of the Cockburn clan is accendit cantu.    There are two translations:  he animates by crowing and he rouses us with song.   I think I prefer the latter.

I'm sorry to say I can't claim Sir George Cockburn as a forebear (he had only one child - a daughter), but I'd like to claim him as a distant cousin.   I'm sure a number of his exploits were the inspiration for some of C.S. Forester's adventures of Horatio Hornblower R.N..   Click on "Sir George Cockburn" to the right to learn more.

Pictured below is Sir George Cockburn, with Washington D.C. burning in the background (during the War of 1812). 

After setting fire to the President's Residence (it was later called the "White House" when the remnants of the southern sandstone wall were painted white to hide the fire damage), Admiral Cockburn was heading back down Pennsylvania Avenue to find the offices of the National Intelligencer.  The editor, Joseph Gales, Jr., whom he liked to call "Dear Josey", had been very tough on him, and now there was a score to settle.    Cockburn now ordered the building burned, but at this point he was confronted by two ladies who lived in the block.  They begged him to hold off, or their houses would go, too.  The Admiral listened carefully, and finally agreed not to burn the place down.  Instead, he would wreck it in the morning.  “Be tranquil, ladies,” he added cheerfully, “you shall be as safely protected under my administration as under that of Mr. Madison.”  He then bade everybody a polite good-night and headed back to Capitol Hill.

A single sentry was left on guard at the newspaper offices. This lone soldier was the total British occupation force in central Washington that night.  The rest of the men of the 3rd Brigade bivouacked on Capitol Hill, while the 2,300 of the 1st and 2nd brigades remained at the edge of the city, watching the flames from the heights just inside the tollgate.

For the capital’s scattered population it was a night of sheer terror.  The fire dominated everything.  It glowed brightly at Baltimore forty miles away, where the citizens gazed in alarm from the rooftops. 

The next morning, Cockburn himself was on hand to make sure that the National Intelligencer building was destroyed.  He even helped carry out Gales’s reference library, which was burned in back of the building.  Then he watched with approval as Major Timothy Jones’s men smashed the presses and hurled the type out the windows.  “Be sure that all the c’s are destroyed,” the Admiral joked, “so the rascals can’t abuse my name any more.

As he happily supervised the destruction of the newspaper office he asked a wide-eyed young lady standing at her door, “Were you not prepared to see a savage, a ferocious creature, such as Josey represented me?  But you see I am quite harmless; don’t be afraid, I will take better care of you than Jemmy (President James Madison) did !”

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Sir George Cockburn
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