Winners And Losers
Dundee’s vanquished son is inextricably linked with one of its heroes
TO the victor belong the spoils” relates to comments on Andrew Jackson’s 1828 US presidential victory. It’s mirrored by a classical phrase Vae Victis meaning “woe to the vanquished” from Rome’s sacking in 390BC. Thus it’s been throughout history, that victors are recorded and celebrated while the defeated ignored and punished – and Scotland has been no different.
I’m minded of that in Dundee where there lies a landmark named after a war hero, who’s dutifully recorded and was highly celebrated. It’s a major public attraction and his exploits renowned and lauded.
Yet, from the same city there came a man on the losing side in the same conflict but who is almost unknown and whose exploits have been entirely ignored. To the victor the spoils and woe to the vanquished is epitomised in the story of Admiral Duncan of Camperdown and George Mealmaker.
On the edge of the city lies Camperdown Park, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. It’s made up of the grounds of the former Camperdown House which still stands today. The land was originally known as Lundie but was acquired by the Duncan family in the late 17th century. They were prosperous merchants and several would serve as the city’s lord provost over the years. In 1731 Adam Duncan was born and it was his exploits that would be recorded in history and result in the change of name to Camperdown.
Educated in Dundee, Duncan joined the
Royal Navy in 1746, obtaining his own command in 1759. He served during the Seven Years’ War but his claim to fame came later in wars with the Dutch Republic, by which time he had been promoted to the rank of Admiral and made Commander In Chief for the North Sea.
As Europe became involved in the maelstrom following the French Revolution, the Netherlands was overrun and the Batavian Republic was formed. Duncan led the Royal Navy against the Dutch fleet in 1797. Before even entering combat, he faced challenges in