Sir John Meldrum, d.1645

Veteran Scottish professional who fought for Parliament throughout the English Civil War but was killed at the siege of Scarborough in 1645.

Portrait of Sir John MeldrumJ ohn Meldrum was born in Scotland, but nothing is known of his parentage or early life. He became a professional soldier and served in Ulster from 1610-3 and in the Netherlands from 1613-22. He was granted lands in County Fermanagh as a result of his Irish service and was knighted by King James I in 1622. He also profited from a controversial monopoly on several lighthouses that entitled him to levy a penny per ton of cargo carried by ships that passed them. In 1627, he took part in the Duke of Buckingham's ill-fated expedition to La Rochelle then spent several years as a colonel in the Swedish army under Gustavus Aldolphus.

On the outbreak of the English Civil War, Meldrum took service with Parliament. He wrote an open letter explaining that he was abandoning King Charles despite thirty-six years service to him and his father because of the misguided policies of the King's advisers. He also complained that his loyal service had left him with debts amounting to £3,000.

In one of the earliest military actions of the civil war, Meldrum secured the port of Hull for Parliament and drove away the besieging Royalist army. He then joined Sir William Waller at the siege of Portsmouth which surrendered in September 1642. Having secured two vital seaports for Parliament, Meldrum commanded an infantry brigade on the Parliamentarian right wing at the battle of Edgehill in October 1642.

In June 1643, Parliament sent Meldrum to Nottingham to arrest Captain Hotham for treachery. The following month, he marched with troops from Nottingham to support Colonel Cromwell's cavalry in Lincolnshire, then took command at the operations around Gainsborough. Meldrum returned to Hull in October 1643, where he was in overall command of the attack that drove away the Royalist besiegers a second time. In March 1644, Meldrum and Lord Willoughby besieged the great Royalist stronghold of Newark, only to be surprised and defeated by Prince Rupert's relief force in one of the Prince's most brilliant campaigns.

Although chastened by his defeat at Newark, Meldrum remained active for the Parliamentarian cause in northern England and Wales. He assisted the Fairfaxes at the capture of Selby in April 1644 and took overall command at the battle of Montgomery in September, at which Lord Byron and the Welsh Royalists were decisively defeated. Meldrum directed the siege of Liverpool, which surrendered to Parliament in November 1644, and spared the lives of captured soldiers who had come over from Ireland, despite Parliament's order that all such troops were to be executed without mercy.

In February 1645, Meldrum took command at the siege of Scarborough Castle. He survived a fall down a 200-foot cliff when his cloak acted as a parachute, but was later mortally wounded leading an assault on the castle on 11 May 1645.


Charles Carlton, Sir John Meldrum, Oxford DNB, 2004.