I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way.
It is now over 50 years since the late Admiral Jerauld Wright USN had the idea of forming a museum in the cottage where the US Naval hero was born. In 1953 a bronze plaque - the gift of the Naval Historical Foundation and the Army/Navy Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution - was unveiled by the Honourable Winthrop Aldrich then US Ambassador in London in the presence of the Minister of State for Scotland - the Rt Hon The Earl of Home - and of course Admiral Wright who had organised the event.
On his retirement Admiral Wright continued his efforts to raise money to restore the cottage to the conditions of 1747. He was fortunate in having a great friend in the area - a retired Admiral of the Royal Navy, the late Admiral Sir Nigel Henderson - who brought his influence on the local authorities and in 1990 the plan was put into motion. In 1993 the museum was officially opened by Vice Admiral Edward Clexton Jnr USN who was serving in Britain at the time.
Curiously it is not the first time that the American Navy has come to the rescue of Jones’ home. In 1832 a Lieutenant Pinckham USN visited Scotland with the specific intention of seeking out the great man’s birthplace. The editor of the local paper takes up the story. When Mr Pinckham visited Arbigland, the cottage in which his adopted countryman was born, it was roofless and a ruin - a spectacle which affected him even to tears. Having made a drawing of it, he withdrew slowly, and not without casting a wistful look behind, until at length some undefinable feeling shaped itself into a determination to repair, if permitted, at his own expense, a ruin so interesting. Accordingly he deposited with the writer twenty-five sovereigns to be employed in the repairing the cot in which Paul Jones was born, so as to render it habitable.
The site of the cottage is a glade in a thriving wood on the shores of the Solway, with a green in front, fancifully railed in, and tastefully ornamented with evergreens, flowers, and flowering shrubs. Inside and out it is a trim cottage which may well vie with similar buildings in England, and as the walls are whitened annually with the finest lime, it is become a sort of landmark to nearly every sail that enters the Solway. The widow of a fisherman who died under highly distressing circumstances, and who owes much to the humanity of Mr Craik, the landowner, tenants it rent-free, and will probably close her eyes under its honoured roof; and as this fact is generally known, almost every tar in passing the spot, doffs his bonnet in a token of gratitude, and says "God bless the kind Lieutenant Pinckham.
The two-roomed Cottage, furnished in the style of the 1700s, is a fitting memorial to the swashbuckling hero. With audio headsets, visitors can hear the story of his action-filled life in the authentic setting of his birthplace, built for his father in 1740.
In the room to the back, built in 1831 by Lieutenant Pinckham USN, in order to ensure the continued survival of the building, there is a dramatic audio-visual presentation of the sights and sounds of Jones’ most famous naval engagement in 1779 at Flamborough Head, off the Yorkshire coast, and a reconstruction of the great cabin of his man o’ war ‘Bonhomme Richard’.
In a nearby building there is an exhibition gallery with an inviting museum shop. There is also an attractive rural picnic area offering marvellous views of the Solway and the Lake District. The Cottage and museum have a modest admission charge.
All of this is contained in a small area of land which the Trust owns within the grounds of Arbigland Estate.
The premises are open from April to September for six days a week and for seven days a week in July and August
The Museum Trust
1997 250th Anniversary of the Birth of John Paul Jones
Last revised: 19th April 2005