The Terceira Blockade: Captain McDonald was certainly an adventurer in his exploits at sea. His death notice makes reference to his having participated in the blockade of Terceira (Azores) involving British forces during the so called ‘Liberal Wars’ of the Portugese Civil War of 1828 to 1836.   WMcD Death Notice

The obituary reference appears to be the only record of his involvement, that exploit having apparently been lost in the lore of our Wilson family. A little research has dug out the pertinent facts of this conflict and the part the British played in it, and by implication the presence of Captain McDonald and we may reasonably conclude his merchant schooner ‘Good Intent’.

Perhaps, as history shows was often the case in these sorts of circumstances, William made excellent profits on this dangerous venture – sufficient maybe to grade up from his much smaller schooner of 92 tons, to the full size sailing ship Britomart of 242 tons, immediately prior to sailing to Australia in 1833.

By way of background this record from Wikipedia tells us what the conflict was about. The link following is an excerpt from a historical source document ‘Tales of the Wars’. We have highlighted certain of its contents to illustrate the British involvement – they were not belligerents, rather they were there in order to protect British commercial interests. We might reasonably conclude that Captain McDonald was there to advance his own commercial interests. The story makes interesting reading of the plots and subplots of all the parties, neutrals and belligerents, who participated.      The Blockade of Terceira by Dom Miguel 


The Good Intent & the Captain’s ‘Other Wife’: Cousin Glenden Andrews during a trip to Europe in research on our famous Captain of Gold Handled Sword fame discovered some very interesting new facts about him and his maritime experiences.

In her visit to Falmouth to view our sword, Glenden secured the support of the Falmouth Maritime museum staff to search out information about William’s connection with the ship Good Intent, on board which in 1831 in Antwerp harbour his ‘daughter’ Agnes Eliza McDonald Smith was born.

Now quoting from Glenden’s report on her discovery –

“I also got the Maritime Museum in Falmouth to do some research for me and re the ‘Good Intent’ – she was a 92 ton schooner** owned by Capt. William McDonald and others. After Nov 1815 my researcher found no other references to Capt. McDonald in the museum library and assumed he left the Packet service about that time. However, he mentioned that a search of the records at Truro may find some references to him. (Has anyone already been to Truro and searched these records? There’s quite a big gap between 1815 and 1831.”)
There certainly is a very big gap between those yearsand it will be most interesting for us to see in due course just where and what Captain McDonald was up to over that time.And who were the others who shared ownership of the Good Intent: we know his father was also a sea Captain – so whether it was a family owned ship at that time is just one of many questions that might be posed. Glenden also did some checking on the lady believed to be Capt. McDonald’s (one and only) legitimate wife, Mary Rowe, previously identified by our cousin Jenny Gould. Glenden’s comments follow:-
“Regarding the christening entry for Agnes Eliza McDonald Smith in 1832 at St Mary Major, Exeter. Firstly I suppose we can be reasonably sure that Capt. William McDonald married Mary Rowe. It is probably also fairly certain that they were never divorced, since divorce was very expensive in those days and I believe had to be an act of parliament. So when he met Agnes Smith, he could not marry her. And since in his Will he referred to Agnes as a spinster, she had not been previously married.
Now, getting to the point – the christening at Exeter. At that time in the UK, if the parents were not married, an illegitimate child legally took its mother’s surname. This is why the name of the father is not mentioned. (So this is not a valid reason for supposing that William was not the child’s father.”
Whilst agreeing with Glenden’s logic in this regard, we suggest it seems equally clear that just as Captain McDonald’s last Will & Testament makes it clear that he and Agnes were never married, it also makes it clear that Agnes Eliza was not his biological daughter. The Will with the relevant wordage highlighted is attached. Otherwise we wonder why would he not explicitly acknowledge Agnes Eliza as his and Agnes Smith’s natural daughter.                                                      Capt.-Wm.-McDonald-Will

Britomart – the Captain’s final Ship: Hereunder is a compendium of notes taken from the two publications – Shipping Arrivals & Departures, Tasmania, Volume 1, 1803-1833, and Volume 2, 1834-1842. These summarise Captain McDonald’s known involvement with his ship the Britomart.

Official reports about the Britomart’s loss at sea with all hands are set out in papers under the Stories 2 mainpagestory – Captain William McDonald, Mariner/Adventurer.

Notes on Capt. McDonald and the Britomart
We know from the same sources (also same  ref. but 1834-1842) that Capt. McDonald arrived in Hobart from London with freight and passengers on the Britomart with his family in December 1834 and he is listed as the Captain. Britomart was an ex RN Brig/Sloop, 242 tons, built at Deptford, England 1808 and sold in Feb 1819, presumably not to William McDonald as we know he is still on his ship Good Intent in December 1831 in Antwerp. The Britomart carried the same name as it did when an RN ship – there were prior and subsequent RN ships of that name too.