250th Anniversary of John Paul Jones Birth

250th Anniversary of John Paul Jones Birth

6th July 1997 commemorated the 250th anniversary of the birth of this famous figure in American history.

A special day for the US Navy and Dumfries and Galloway

The Secretary of the United States Navy, the Honourable John Dalton, visited John Paul Jones birthplace on the 6th July, together with other distinguished guests. He was welcomed with the following remarks by Alf Hannay, Chairman of the small Trust which runs the cottage and museum.

Secretary Dalton, Ambassador Crowe, Lord Lieutenant, distinguished and honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Arbigland.

It is an especial honour for me to address you as Chairman of the John Paul Jones Birthplace Museum Trust on this historic anniversary and amid such distinguished company and with so many supporters and friends of the Trust.

It is right that we are here today to celebrate the genius of John Paul, our humble gardener’s son who, through his own efforts, became one of the legendary heroes of the American Revolution.

A legend indeed he is, with over thirty biographies about him, no figure in American naval history rivals the attention paid to him and none excite the interest and continued fascination about his exploits. We witnessed that in Dumfries last night.

Yet his qualities are there for all to see, his fine seamanship, his discipline, his integrity, his respect for hard work, his courage in the face of adversity, exemplified by his famous phrase “I have not yet begun to fight”, his repeated concern for the oppressed, his humanity and hatred of slavery, all of these things were instilled in him on these very shores.

Jones said “without a respectable navy, alas America” and he was a vigorous promoter and prophet of a strong United States Navy. Today he would be proud of that organisation, recognised as one of the great peacekeepers of the world, which has played such a part in securing our freedoms. With fierce battles such as Midway and Iwo Jima to its name it has proved Jones right in his assessment.

Lieutenant Pinckham, United States Navy, added the extension and re-roofed this Cottage at his own expense in 1831, saving the building by his actions and making this the first tribute to John Paul Jones. But even so it took America over 100 years after his death to honour Jones formally and perhaps understandably it has taken Scotland rather longer to do the same. And it is now that we must give credit to the efforts of Admiral Jerauld Wright, United States Navy, Admiral Sir Nigel Henderson, Royal Navy and our Local Authorities to create the Museum Trust we have today. The plaque to my left unveiled in 1953 by the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Naval Historical Foundation began the process and the tree planted by Ambassador William Middendorf in 1977 aided progress.

What we have here today is a modest but I hope you will think, worthy tribute to that sea warrior of great renown. With the opening of the museum we have honoured his memory and now we must make it endure. It is now our intention to improve the displays by reconstructing the loft of the cottage to show life for the seven members of the gifted Paul family in their tiny home.

We also intend to extend the museum building to my left to enhance the experience to the visitor and most importantly of all, today we launch an appeal to create an endowment fund to allow visitors to enjoy the evocative atmosphere of the Cottage for many years to come and to ensure the long term survival of this historic piece of America’s and Scotland’s past. For those of you who would like to know more a special prospectus has been prepared.

But for the present take a look at our newly commissioned model of the Bonhomme Richard which is nearing completion. Mr Martin Harrop, the model shipwright, is here today and is delighted to explain its construction to you. When in our gallery please take a few moments to gaze upon the handsome features of the bronze bust of John Paul himself, kindly gifted to us by the United States Navy. Executed by Louis XVIth’s greatest court sculptor and worked from life using exact proportions and dimensions the features are a speaking likeness of Jones. Decide for yourself as to the manner of the man by studying this noble portrait of him. See the complexities of his character, his temper, his vanity, his quest for perfection, but above all see his crystal spirit. This shines through and it is this that makes him an inspiration to us all, and makes his life a common bond for our two peoples.

John Paul Jones was born 250 years ago, on this very day, and in this very place, and alpha to omega, today we honour him in life as Annapolis honours him in death.

We thank you for being here today to share this unique occasion.

Before planting a commemorative tree and dedicating the new garden, the Honourable John Dalton replied.

Thank you, Councilor Hannay… Convenor… Lady Henderson… General Arthur… Admiral Tolhurst… Admiral Oswald… Admiral Bill… distinguished guests and citizens of Scotland… Happy 250th Birthday, John Paul Jones!

I would also like to give a special welcome to the children and teachers of the Kirkbean Primary School, who created the beautiful garden we dedicate today.

It is a tremendous honor for me to be here, at this beautiful site, in this beautiful land. I represent, for the United States, our Navy and Marine Corps, which, in many ways, began right here, in this humble cottage at Arbigland.

The man who was born here can be fairly described as less than humble… a fact, I think, fortuitous for the future of the young American Navy… for the audacity of John Paul Jones, in the face of his enemies, was what led him to greatness – and led him to be proclaimed as the Father of the U.S. Navy.

Our Continental Navy, and the young Navy of the Stars and Stripes, the flag for which was hoisted on Jones’ ship, RANGER, for the first time, was outnumbered and outgunned on the high seas. America was desperate for victory, and for a hero to secure it, to prove the American commitment to liberty.

Off the North Irish coast at Carrickfergus, in 1778, Captain Jones was able to do just that… he captured the more powerful British Sloop of War, HMS DRAKE, securing America’s first victory against a shocked British fleet. And against the HMS SERAPIS, in 1779, Jones was losing the battle and was challenged by his foe to surrender his ship, the BONNE HOMME RICHARD… to which he gave his now infamous reply… “I have not yet begun to fight!” and passed on to victory.

John Paul Jones fighting spirit remains on the high seas today… aboard the USS JOHN PAUL JONES. That great ship, one of America’s finest destroyers, is on patrol as I speak, protecting our collective interests in the Arabian Gulf.

The remains of John Paul Jones were brought to the U.S. Naval Academy, from his original resting site in France, and interred there in a crypt, below the Chapel, in 1906.

When President Theodore Roosevelt spoke before the casket at Annapolis, in 1906, he said… “Every officer… should feel in each fiber of his being, an eager desire to emulate the energy, the professional capacity, the indomitable determination and dauntless scorn of death which marked John Paul Jones above all his fellows.”

Those are big words for a single man. But I can assure you, as I was once a young Midshipman at Annapolis, John Paul Jones’ almost physical presence could be felt, challenging us to greatness.

But it is not just John Paul Jones’ individual greatness which inspired Teddy Roosevelt – and so many others – to proclaim his accomplishments… The largesse of our praise for Jones and his accomplishments is a reflection of the pride we have for our greater naval traditions… those traditions exemplify so much of what we esteem as a Nation. And they embody the collective pride in the maritime heritage we cherish as a common people… the heritage between America and the United Kingdom.

Our common maritime heritage is a pillar that upholds our love of peace, freedom and democracy. The maintenance of those principles are our best hope for lasting peace – not just in our time, but for future generations.

That is why, today, we do not only celebrate the past; we also plant the seeds of our shared ideals for the future. And that is why the presence of these young people here today is so significant. They are the ambassadors of our own future legacy.

The students of the Kirkbean Primary School have created a wonderful garden here at Arbigland, adding to its lasting beauty. The Sea Scouts here represent the future maritime knowledge and love of the sea that mark our peoples. And we will plant a tree in the garden, to show the lasting fertility of the land to which all great mariners return.

These Sea Scouts all represent the youth which will provide the future strength of our maritime power… Let us hope and pray, that all those who visit this humble cottage are reborn in the spirit of John Paul Jones and the great maritime past we cherish.

So today, we wish John Paul Jones, Happy Birthday. We can safely say there will be many happy returns, thanks to the efforts here, to proudly remember our past.

Thank you for joining us here, today. Thank you for protecting our shared naval history, and for the warm friendship and hospitality you have shown.

God bless our naval service and the brave young men and women who serve in the spirit of John Paul Jones on the high seas today… They bravely go, as Jones’ reminded us “…in harm’s way,” and we are far better for their sacrifice. God bless America… and God bless Scotland.