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General Robert Donkin


General Robert Donkin (1727 -1821) the father of General Sir Rufane Shaw Donkin was born in Morpath, Northumberland the son of Aynsley Donkin a respectable family in Northumbria.


Bookplate of General Robert Donkin

Bookplate of General Robert Donkin

The family are said to have originated from Scotland and to have been named Duncan. The arms adopted in the bookplate; Gules a chevron between two cinquefoils in chief and a hunting horn in base Or, three buckles Azure, are consistent with Duncan. A further illustration in the ELJ¹ also includes the fragmented letters M and T and are said to be the part remains of the motto.

There is no listing for the above arms in Burke’s General Armoury but Pont’s Manuscripts 1624 mention a ‘Duncan of Mott’  Arms; Gules on a chevron Or three buckles Azure between two Cinquefoils in chief and hunting horn in base of the second. And it is my suggestion that the arms of Robert Donkin are indeed descended from Duncan of Mott in the south west of Scotland.

Robert Donkin entered the army as an ensign in Colonel Thomas Fowke’s 2nd regiment of foot July 1747 and was promoted to


Lieutenant 4th September 1745. He is said to have served at the siege of Belleisle in 1761 and then in Flanders as aide-de-camp to General Fowke. His early regimental commission are vague; he dose not, for example appear in the 1765 Army list. He served as Captain we are told in the Seven Years War, including the West Indies and was aide-de-camp and secretary to General Rufane. Later he was aide-de-camp to the 23rd regiment of foot (Royal Welsh Fusiliers) on the 25th December 1770. He held the rank of Major in the army from 23rd July 1772. His regiment was in New York by mid 1773. In 1777 Donkin moved as major to the 44th foot, another regiment involved in the North American campaigns.


In 1779 Donkin was given the command, as Lieutenant Colonel, of the Royal Garrison Battalion, a post he held until the reduction of the regiment in 1783. He continued as a general officer for the remainder of his career (almost 80 years) being promoted to Colonel 1790, Major General 1794, Lieutenant-General 1801 and General in 1809. He died in Bristol in March 1821.

A quote from The Gentleman’s Magazine of 1822; 

“General Donkin passed a long life of the most unsullied honour and with the greatest respectability , without sickness and apparently without uneasiness of any sort and although he has served in a great verity of climates and had been engaged in nine actions and in seven sieges, he was never absent from his duty either from illness or wounds”

Captain Robert Donkin

Captain Robert Donkin


He was the author of "Military Collections and Remarks" (New York, 1777, "published for the benefit of the children and widows of the valiant soldiers inhumanly and wantonly butchered when peacefully marching to and from Concord, April 19, 1775, by the rebels. 

Ref: Burke’s Manuscripts army lists PRO WO64/9 and WO 64/11;
Pont’s Manuscripts 1624 Lyon Office, Edinburgh.
ELJ¹ Bookplates of Ezekeil Abraham Ezekeil of Exeter Bookplate Journal 191.
Trophy Bookplates pub.2006, pages 135-7  by Paul Latcham, editor of the Bookplate Journal
Obituary or Robert Donkin, Gentleman’s Magazine 1822 (Googles digitised Manuscript)


by John A. Duncan of Sketraw, FSA Scot.


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