French In Name Only

A Genealogical Blog about the French and Grace Families

Father Dies at Battle of Trafalgar – An Orphans Life in Cape Breton


(Note – Dennis Maloney, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, is my 5th G-Grandfather on my father’s side. His son George (4thGG), ended up living/working for a general store owner in Mabou, Nova Scotia (William McKeen). On a trip to Mabou in 2013, I was informed that in 1831 George is noted in the general store ledger “as having left Mabou with an account owing.”  George, at 18, was obviously itching to get out of town and make his way in the rugged northern region of Cape Breton.  Below is a story written by Jim St. Clair, a Connecticut Yankee, former teacher and noted historian, who has long resided in Mabou, Cape Breton. In addition, there are two supporting pieces.)

Then and Now – The Heritage of Inverness County
The Inverness Oran
by Jim St. Clair

Dent de Lion en Francais – taking its name from the similarity of the shape of the leaf to the appearance of the teeth of a lion – everywhere around our countryside as the first crop turns into the second crop as seeds blow in the wind. Welcomed by those who enjoy the young first leaves, perhaps with butter and vinegar as a side dish to lobster! Resented by those who wish to grow pristine lawns free of weeds!Read on to discover the Maloney connection!

The dandelion indeed is omnipresent and once established rejoices in its offspring from year to year – as some delight in their dandelion wine. But it has not always been in North America. It came across the Atlantic as seed at some time not known. With its origins in the area where Asia and Europe join, the yellow weed has spread around the world. Each flower head indeed may have as many as two hundred seeds.

Just as the seeds of plants and trees go where the wind carries them and germinate where conditions are suitable, so too do “rumors of wars” travel – by immigrants bringing news of conflicts in their old countries; by sailors on merchant ships who learn much in waterfront taverns in seaports or along wharves in faraway places. Even in the days before telegraphy or radio or e-mail, the reports of “wars and rumors of wars” traveled rapidly from place to place. Two hundred years ago as dandelions bloomed in the meadows of England and the fields of Ireland and the dent de lion raised yellow heads in cultivated grain lands of France, so too did the new initiatives of Napoleon find their way through the rumor mill and the print publications to remote parts of Scotland and Ireland and to Nova Scotia as well. Proclaimed and crowned as Emperor of France in December of 1804 and as King of Italy in May of 1805, Bonaparte was putting together in the early summer of 1805 a grand plan to defeat the British navy and invade England. His alliances with Italy and Spain would provide him with a suitable fleet, or so he thought.

The accounts of wars and the rumors of new battles were in the mouths of people everywhere. On the western coast of Scotland, young men were encouraged or in some cases forced to enter the British navy. Among these was young Donald MacKenzie of Kintail area. Today in 2005, two hundred years later, he lies buried in the quiet cemetery along the shores of the Bras d’Or Lakes in Malagawatch. A veteran of the Battle of the Nile in 1798 when he was in his teens, MacKenzie in 1805 was also going to be present at the Battle of Trafalgar where Nelson lost his life, but on the victory which established Great Britain as the ruler of the seas in one of history’s major naval battles.

In Nova Scotia as well, the threats posed by the build-up of Napoleon’s fleet were the talk of the waterfront communities. A recent immigrant from the North of Ireland, Dennis Maloney, lived not far from Halifax with his wife, Sarah Ransome, and their two sons, James and George.

As a member of the British Navy, Maloney was also at the October 1805 Battle of Trafalgar, a cape on the southwestern tip of Spain, not far from Gibraltar. Unlike Donald MacKenzie, however, Maloney drowned during the battle and did not live to return to Nova Scotia. Soon after the Battle of Trafalgar was in the news and the victory (and death) of Horatio Nelson reported in local papers, Sarah Ransome died. The two boys were thus left as orphans. Young George Maloney, a young victim of a war across the Atlantic, lived for a time in Musquodoboit but came to Inverness County to work for William McKeen at his store at the Mouth of Mabou Harbour.

As a young man living and working in those pioneering days of the second and third decades of the 1800s, he participated in the development of a community as mills were put up, stores and ships built, and land cleared. His name appears on the 1821 letter sent to the Presbytery of Pictou as people of the area sought to have the Rev. William Millar, newly arrived from Scotland, settled in the Mabou-Port Hood area as a Presbyterian minister. It would seem as though this young man had found a place to settle.

Perhaps he displeased McKeen; perhaps he had an argument with somebody else; or maybe he was just footloose and interested in a new settlement. Whatever the reason, Maloney traveled across Inverness County until he reached the tip of the Island of Cape Breton. He is to be found in the 1830s at Cape North. There, far from Halifax and Cape Trafalgar, he took up residence.

Since he married Mary MacLeod whose family lived for a time at Lake Ainslie before they too moved on to Cape North, it is possible that he left central Inverness County in order to be near his future wife and her family. Several other families from the Lake Ainslie-Broad Cove-Margaree and Mabou areas as well went north to live at the same time. Whether or not young George Maloney, a little boy at the time his father died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, ever got to speak with another Inverness County person, Donald MacKenzie who had been at the same battle, is unknown. But what tales he could have told of the people of that great battle!


United KingdomHMS-Conqueror
National Archives – Battle of Trafalgar

Dennis Maloney – aged 27, born Limerick, Ireland
Ship: HMS Conqueror
Rating/Rank: Ordinary Seaman
Ships Paybook number: SB 369
Catalogue reference: ADM 36/16250
Died: 26 October 1805


HMS Conqueror was a 74-gun 3rd rate ship of the line which fought at Trafalgar under the command of Captain Israel Pellew. Pellew’s captain of marines took the surrender of the overall commander of the French-Spanish fleet.


Mabou Pioneers by K. MacKinnon – Facts on Dennis Maloney and descendents gleaned from Family Notes from the North Highlands Community Museum.

Dennis Maloney was born in Ulster Province, Ireland and married Sarah Ransome of Scotland, both Presbyterian, and lived in Preston, NS. He may already have been an enlisted man as he soon left Nova Scotia to serve in the Napoleonic Wars. He was drowned at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The Maloney’s had two sons, Jim and George. When the mother died shortly after Trafalgar, Jim was taken to live with Lieutenant Green and George was taken to live in Musquodoboit with David Bradley. The last heard from Jim was that he was running a grocery business in London, England.

George left the Bradley’s and came to Mabou where he lived for some time with Hon. William MacKeen, and here he signed the call to Rev. William Millar, the first call signed, in 1821, by any Presbyterian congregation on the Island of Cape Breton. From Mabou he came to Cape North and married Effie MacLeod, the daughter of pioneer Robert and Effie MacPherson, his wife. George was a farmer with one hundred acres of land. In 1871, he had the following possessions: a house and barn, a wagon, plow, one horse, three cows, one ox, twelve sheep and one pig.

In the line of produce, they had 180 lbs. of butter, cut twenty-four cords of wood, forty-five yards of home-made cloth, approximately three thousand lbs. of cod and two barrels of mackerel. He killed two pigs for his own use and caught one seal. James, son of George and Mary, married twice and from the two marriages had twenty-two children. He was a farmer /fisherman. By the year 1871 he owned one hundred acres of land of which fifteen acres were used for pasture.

His holdings included one house, one barn, one wagon, one horse, three cows, one ox, eleven sheep and one pig. He killed two sheep and two pigs for his own use. He also grew barley, oats, one acre of potatoes and one hundred bushels of hay. Along with other holdings, he had one boat, twenty-three fathoms of nets, approximately six thousand lbs. of cod and three barrels of mackerel. James was also a Justice of the Peace and a collector of Customs for many years. He died at the age of eighty-eight years at his old home in Dingwall, once the site of St. Joseph’s convent, but now known as the Inlet Bed and Breakfast.

The first Maloney property has passed trough many hands and is now owned by several families in Dingwall. Gradually through the years, the Maloney name has died out in the area. The daughter of John Shepherd Maloney (a great grandson of Pioneer Dennis) Mrs. Hattie Maloney MacDonald, still lives in the area with her family.

© David R. French and French in Name Only, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David French and French in Name Only with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

1 Comment

  1. I am writing to let you know Dennis Maloney is my fourth time Great grandfather. George is my 3rd and Dennis W Maloney is my second. My Grandfather was William H Maloney, from Aspy Bay cape Breton. He was born 1888 and died 1959. So we must be related somewhere along the line. I really enjoyed the story.

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