The Infamous Captain Patrick                                

Patrick Heron 1690-c1752

Ann Vining 1692-1733                                          

Paternal ancestors of Valdis Muriel Skidmore

Discipline required

Patrick Heron came from an ancient and wealthy landowning family in Kirkcudbrightshire, Galloway, the border country of Scotland. His father was Andrew Heron of Bargaly and his mother was Mary Grahame of Floriston. Patrick was born at the Mains (the home farm) at Larg – one of the family properties, and on May 15th 1691 when Patrick was only about a year old, the family moved to their nearby property Bargaly. Here his father, a keen botanist, commenced the large scale planting of trees in the Bargaly Valley on the estate and completed the building of Bargaly House.

Patrick’s mother died in 1705 when Patrick was about 16 years old. After that he was sent to London to be under the guidance of his older brother William and to learn about commerce. William however encouraged Patrick to take two voyages 'by way of frolic' on a ‘guineaman' (i.e. a slave trading ship) to the West Coast of Africa. The father disapproved strongly and in order to bring some discipline and order into his son’s life, he purchased in 1709, a commission for him as Ensign in Lord Mark Kerr’s Regiment of the English Army.

Penny Street Portsmouth 

Ann Vining was born in 1692, the second daughter of wealthy merchants John and Elizabeth Vining of Portsmouth, Hampshire. She grew up at no. 22 Penny Street Portsmouth (the original building now gone), located a short distance from St. Thomas’ Church (Portsmouth Cathedral) and in what is now known as Old Portsmouth. Her father was several times Mayor of Portsmouth and owned many properties, and Ann would have grown up with many material advantages.

penny street002

22 Penny Street Portsmouth, the home of the Vinings in Portsmouth, now gone.      Source: A History of Our Family - The Rogers of West Meon Julian Rogers 1902

Clandestine marriage

In 1710, the year after her mother’s death, Ann clandestinely married her lover Captain Patrick Heron. According to a memoir written in 1793 by his granddaughter from his second marriage, a Mrs. Coghlan, the couple eloped to Galloway where Patrick’s father lived. Ann’s father did not approve of Patrick and had tried very hard to prevent the marriage. She wrote to her father asking forgivenness, and after much convincing John Vining asked them to return to Portsmouth after which he would give them her inheritance which included a 'handsome fortune' as well as 'Vicar’s Hill, a delightful seat in the New Forest near Lymington'

On April 20th 1711, early in the marriage, Patrick’s father obtained a second commission for his son as a captain in Brigadier Munden’s Regiment. In the same year he received another captain’s commission in Lord Lovelace’s Regiment. The couple settled at Vicar’s Hill. Here all their children were born: Jane (1711), John (1713), Andrew (1714), Ann 1st (b&d 1715), Ann 2nd (1716), Elizabeth 1st (b&d 1717), Elizabeth 2nd (1719), Patrick (1720), Benjamin (1722), Charles (1724), and Mary (1728). All the boys were baptised at Lymington, but none of the girls.


Vicar’s Hill, Lymington. One of the Vining properties and the home of Patrick and Ann Heron. Source: St. Barbe Museum, Lymington                                                                                                           

Avoiding debts

Little is known about the young couple’s married life except that there must have been a certain amount of tension in the household when difficulties concerning a debt of Patrick’s father’s that had been passed on to Patrick, was due to be paid. Patrick had no intention of honouring this debt (which was owed to his cousin, Patrick Heron of Kirroughtree in Galloway) and went to great lengths to avoid paying it. To add to his problems, army records show that in 1713 Patrick was placed on half pay, the reason is unknown.

Ann died in 1733 at the age of about 41 years, the cause of death is unknown. She is buried at St. Thomas’ Church, Portsmouth.

Escape from England

There are two versions I have found referring to Patrick Heron leaving England. The first is from Julian Roger’s book* of 1902. He records that shortly after Ann’s death Patrick left England under very dubious circumstances that also bring his character into question. Apparently he allowed a neighbour to store some contraband goods in the cellar at Vicar’s Hill. When customs officers turned up with a party of soldiers to inspect, Patrick went into a rage, claiming he knew nothing of the nature of the goods. He subsequently struck the commanding officer and took off, never to be seen in England again.

The other version comes from Mrs. Coghlan’s Memoir of 1793. She writes that a desperate man named Boyes approached Patrick in a coffee-house and asked if he could store some cider (or brandy) in his cellar for the night. Patrick agreed but when the exciseman came to inspect the cellar, Patrick’s servants beat him up. Embarrassed, Patrick hurried to his father-in-law John Vining seeking advice. Mayor Vining told him to hide until he could get help. However when he found that a reward of £20,000 had been issued for Patrick’s arrest, Mayor Vining told Patrick he must join the 40th Regiment at Annapolis Royal across the Atlantic. Patrick promptly followed this advice, leaving his wife and children behind, Ann dying six months later from a broken heart.

Attacked and surrendered

Earlier in 1730 Patrick had received a captain’s commission in Governor Richard Philipp’s Regiment (now the 40th Regiment.). In 1737 he was stationed at Canso (Canseau), Nova Scotia. Here he and another officer (Captain Jephson whose daughter became Patrick’s second wife) were arrested and court-martialled for refusing to repay debts to others of their company. Their trial was held at Annapolis Royal in April 1739, however due to many conflicting witness statements, a second court martial was ordered. Patrick must have been acquitted because in 1744 when war broke out with France, he was given command of 87 men at Canso. This was no easy posting as Governor Phillipps pointed out to the home government:

'that notwithstanding the dangerous situation of that place owing to its proximity to the French settlement of Louisbourg, there were neither fortifications nor forts belonging to it; there were no barracks to lodge the four companies of the regiment nor storehouse to secure their provisions, other than that which had been slightly erected by  the officers commanding there.  For want thereof the soldiers had been reduced to the greatest extremity, and several of them had actually perished. That the low establishment of the companies of the regiment, and even those divided, were scarce enough for common duty in time of peace, but very insufficient for the defence of these places in time of war.  That the four companies at Canso were so entirely separated, that those at Annapolis could scarce hear from them in a twelve- month, there being no vessel whatever allowed for keeping a necessary correspondence with them.'

On May 13th a French force of 350 men from Louisbourg attacked Canso, but soon after the first cannon-shot burst through the thin walls, Captain Patrick, probably sensibly, decided to surrender. He stated:

'That considering the bad state of the place, having but eighty- seven men, whereof one-third was sick or lame, the blockhouse not tenable against great shot, the first shot against us going through it, four barrels of powder damaged for want of proper store-house to keep it, and no good flints...' he thought it advisable to capitulate 'in time to obtain better terms.'  

Imprisoned at Louisbourg

He and his men were then taken to Louisbourg and imprisoned. However, possibly due to some of Patrick’s men defecting to the enemy and serious food shortages at Louisbourg, the French Governor Dequesnel and Captain Patrick Heron entered into a deal. The arrangement was that the English prisoners would be sent to Boston in exchange for French prisoners and must remain neutral for 15 months. This was instead of the usual 12 months imprisonment at French expense.

The restored fortress at Louisbourg, Nova Scotia where Patrick and his men were imprisoned in 1744. Source:                                                                                           

However when Patrick and his troops reached Boston in September 1744 Governor Shirley was furious that Captain Heron had given himself the authority to make these new terms of surrender. He severely reprimanded Patrick and wrote a strong letter of protest to Governor Dequesnel.  Patrick and his men were then sent to Annapolis Royal in 1745 and disarmed until further notice. Perhaps Patrick was able to exonerate himself a little when in Boston as he was able to report on the conditions at Louisbourg and the French troops’ vulnerability to surprise attack. This intelligence encouraged Governor Shirley to launch a successful attack on Louisbourg in 1745.

‘Conduct unbecoming'

Captain Patrick Heron returned to Nova Scotia but in 1750-51 he seems to have been in more trouble. At Fort Lawrence he was again court-martialled, this time for being constantly drunk and exhibiting ‘conduct unbecoming a gentleman'. His name does not appear in the regimental roll for 1752, so he may have been dismissed or may have died. Patrick had also remarried and begun a new family whilst in Nova Scotia. Again Mrs. Coghlan’s Memoir throws light on this:

'He had not been long at Annapolis, when he was appointed governor of that place which situation he held at the time of his decease.** Here he married Miss Margaret Jephson, daughter of Captain Jephson, belonging to the fortieth regiment, by whom he had Margaret my mother.'

Exactly when and where Captain Patrick Heron died in Nova Scotia is unknown, but he did not return to England. He seemed to have cut off all ties with his English children except for one instance of sending some Honduras mahogany, a rare timber at that time, to his daughter Ann Elliot. It was later made into a chest of drawers.

British Vessels at Anchor in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, with a Vice-admiral of the Red Firing a Salute, attributed to Samuel Scott  c1751. Source: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia                                                 

* A History of Our Family (Rogers of Westmeon) 1451-1902 Julian Rogers 1902.

** Factual evidence of Patrick Heron being Governor at Annapolis has not been found.

Click here to continue to Elizabeth Parry and William Roger's story