From the Book of Eminent Burgesses of Dundee 1513 to 1885.

Captain Basil Hall, RN - 5th February 1826

 

CAPTAIN BASIL HALL OF THE ROYAL NAVY WAS ADMITTED BURGESS OF DUNDEE, AND THAT AS A MARK OF THE RESPECT WHICH THE COUNCIL ENTERTAIN FOR HIS EMINENT TALENTS AND ENTERPRISE, AND OF THEIR SENSE OF THE OBLIGATIONS THE SAID BURGH AND THE SURROUNDING DISTRICT ARE UNDER TO HIM FOR HIS ADMIRABLE ACCOUNT OF THE FERRIES ON THE TAY, AND HIS EXERTIONS FOR THE IMPROVEMENT OF THE PUBLIC FERRIES.

CAPTAIN BASIL HALL, was the second son of SIR JOHN HALL of Dunglass, Bart., and of LADY HELEN DOUGLAS, daughter of the fourth EARL OF SELKIRK. He was born at Edinburgh in 1788, was educated at the High School there, and entered the Navy as a midshipman in 1802. Six years afterwards he was advanced to the rank of Lieutenant, became Commander in 1814, and Post Captain in 1817. He accompanied LORD AMHERST to China on a diplomatic mission in 1816, having then the command of the small gun brig Lyra, and whilst waiting for the return of the ambassador from his inland journey to Pekin, HALL employed his leisure examining the coast of Corea, which was then hardly known in this country. The results of this exploration were published by him in 1817 on his return to England, and attracted very much attention at the time. Having been afterwards sent to the Pacific seaboard of America, he wrote an account of his travels under the title "Extracts from a Journal written on the Coast of Chili, Peru, and Mexico, in the years 1820, 1821, and 1822," which also was very well received. In 1825 he left the Royal Navy, and occupied his time in examining the Ferries of the Forth and Tay, suggesting many improvements in the method of conducting them, and describing in a monograph on the Tay Ferries the marine Steam engine which had been constructed for the traffic at Dundee by JAMES CARMICHAEL (Vide page 260).

For this service he was enrolled as a Burgess on 5th February, 1826. He married MARGARET, daughter of SIR JAMES HUNTER, Consul General in Spain, in 1825, and two years afterwards he set out with his wife and child on a tour through the United States, traversing by land and water nearly nine thousand miles in little more than twelve months. The account which he wrote of the state of society there gave great offence to those whom he criticised, and his work called "Travels in North America" was severely assailed by the Transatlantic press, but became extremely popular in this country. His records of travels in Italy and Styria at a later date were also very well received in Great Britain; and his last book, called "Patchwork," published in 1841, and consisting of recollections of travels in various parts of the world, was one of the most successful works of the time. The severe experiences he had undergone had injured his constitution, and his excessive literary labours ultimately caused premature mental decay. His mind gave way, and having been placed in confinement at Portsmouth Royal Hospital, he died there on 11th September, 1844, in his fifty sixth year.

Iain D. McIntosh, Friends of Dundee City Archives