James FORREST (c1740-Unknown)

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Captain James FORREST was born sometime between 1740 and 1760, the son of farmer James FORREST. Much of what is known about him is contained in the following family story told by his great granddaughter Margaret Peggy FORREST in the early 1900s:

"My great, great grandfather James Forrest was a farmer near Bathgate. My great grandfather was brought up by his uncle the minister of Inverkeithing (Dr. Johnstone's great grandfather). As his father had such a bad temper his mother on her death bed told him he was not to strike him, so he used to throw his stick at him. The stick is a very fine Malacca cane, we have it, but there is no James Forrest to get it. Then my great grandfather became a sailor and was taken prisoner by the French on the Gold Coast. He came home with gold which was made into a watch which my aunts have. It does not go very well, the works being done. He was married twice, the first family have all disappeared. He married a Liverpool lady, a Miss Hutton who was a great beauty and who came to live in Stirling. They went to Alloa to get a ship for James his eldest son who was a sailor. He fell from the mast and hurt himself and died young. They then went to Stirling and bought Whinfield."


James appears to have settled on a career as a mariner early in life. He sailed out of Liverpool, Lanarkshire and later out of Alloa, Clackmannanshire.

There is a very good possibility that James was the master of a Liverpool slaver and privateer: most ships sailing out of Liverpool in the late 1700s were slavers. His name appears in a list of slavers operating 1789-1791, in the House of Commons Sessional Papes of the Eighteenth Century: "Liverpool:...Ralph Fisher & John Kewley & Patrick Kewley (plus James Forrest, William Jackson, John Hewan); ..."

and in the book, History of the Liverpool Privateers, Gomer Williams, 1966, a Liverpool newspaper story of the time is given: "…1793, May-Nov…The Robust, Captain Forrest, recaptured the Little Joe, Capt. Jones, and the Echo, Captain Kelly (the latter with 120 negroes on board), two Liverpool Slavers, which had been taken on the windward coast of Africa by the Liberty of Bordeaux, which also took the Union, Capt. Farrington, the Mercury, Capt. Hewitt, the Hazard, Capt. Rigby, the Prosperity, Capt. Kelsall, all engaged in the man traffic. The Mercury was retaken by the Seaflower cutter...The Prosperity was also retaken by the Andromache frigate, and carried into Barbadoes. The Robust had the good fortune to capture a French ship, with about 200 slaves, at Cape Mount, and in Nov. 1793 we read that she took, on the coast, a large French ship, called Le Patriote Soldat, with 260 slaves and a cargo of goods, and carried the prize to Dominica."

Captain Forrest's ship, 'The Robust', was perhaps identical with a French ship, 'La Robuste', engaged in the same slaving/privateering trade. Both Britain and France authorized slavers to act as privateers in the war, and it was not uncommon for ships to be captured, refitted and renamed, and then go into service for the opposite side. It also was not unusual to capture a prize, only to have the prize recaptured before it could make port.

Prize ships were valuable, and the ship's captain received a good share of the prize money. This could explain how it was possible for Capt. James Forrest to retire with his Liverpool wife and family to live in Alloa, and then in Stirling, where he died some time between 1810 and 1820. His wealth also provided for his three unmarried daughters to live out their lives together in their own house.


On 6th January 1787, at Our Lady and St. Nicholas Church, Liverpool, James FORREST, mariner of Liverpool, married Margaret HUTTON, of Liverpool [1]. The preceding and following entries in the parish record also describe the groom as a mariner. Known as the 'sailors' church,' Our Lady and St Nicholas has been a presence in the city since its establishment as a chapel in the 14th century. Following a plague in the town, it was consecrated in 1362. In 1940 fire following an air raid gutted the church, leaving only the tower, vestries and offices. The rebuilt church was consecrated in 1952.

Together James and Margaret had issue:

i. James FORREST, born on 8th October 1787[2] and baptised 14th October 1787 at Paradice Street Presbyterian Chapel, Liverpool, Lancashire[3].
ii. Eleanor Anne FORREST, born August 1789[4].
iii. Child FORREST, born 1790, died 11th December 1790 in Stirling, Scotland [5].
iv. William Hutton FORREST, baptised 13th July 1795 in Stirling, Scotland [6]but died before 1799[7].
v. Jean Wear FORREST, baptised 14th March 1797 in Stirling, Scotland[8], died around 1832[9].
vi. Dr William Hutton FORREST, born on the 19th February 1799 and baptised 25th March 1799 in Stirling, Scotland[10].
vii. Margaret FORREST, born on 20th April 1802 and baptised 27th May 1802 in Stirling, Scotland[11].


  1. Liverpool Parish Records (LDS Microfilm) "James Forrest, of the Parish of Liverpool, Mariner, and Margaret Hutton, of the same place, Spinster, were married in this Chapel by Licence, this sixth Day of January, in the Year One Thoufand Seven Hundred and eighty-seven, By me George Hutton Berton."
  2. Family Letter to "Dear Eleanor," 30th Jan 1810, signed "your affectionate brother, James Forrest". On edge of letter in a different hand: "James Forrest Born Oct 8th 17__ Died March 19 1810"
  3. LDS British Isles Parish Records "James Forrest, christened 14 Oct 1787, Benns Garden or Renshaw St. Presbyterian or Unitarian, Liverpool , father James Forrest, mother Peggy."
  4. LDS British Isles Parish Records
  5. Old Parochial Register, Deaths, Stirling, OPR Ref. 490/00 0304
  6. Old Parochial Register, Births, Stirling, OPR Ref. 490/0030 0239
  7. Given that another William Hutton is born of the same parents in 1799, it is assumed this William Hutton died before that date.
  8. Old Parochial Register, Births, Stirling, OPR Ref. 490/0030 0248
  9. From papers pertaining to promissory note Jean Wear Forrest signed with her sisters and brother, she died about 1832.
  10. Old Parochial Register, Births, Stirling, OPR Ref. 490/0030 0264
  11. Old Parochial Register, Births, Stirling, OPR Ref. 490/0030 0304