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Adventurer Kane was able to reform and revolutionise.

Byline: John Sadler

SOME years ago, in the oft-pulverised ruins of Fort San Felipe on Menorca, archaeologists uncovered the lead coffin of a robust man who had died in his 70s.

These were presumed to be the remains of Brigadier-General Richard Kane who expired there in 1736 and was known to have been interred within the fort's chapel.

Kane, born O'Cahan at Duneane, County Antrim in December 1662, was a swashbuckling early Georgian adventurer who, in a long and eventful career, effectively created the island of Menorca as we know it and achieved almost deified status on the island.

Yet he's overlooked at home and has no definitive biography. His writings: A Narrative of all the campaigns of King William and the Duke of Marlborough, together with A New System of Military Discipline for Foot on Action were highly regarded at the time and the latter was adopted by the Army as its 'bible' for infantry tactics.

He was 26 when he volunteered at Carrickfergus to serve Dutch Billy as a lieutenant in the Antrim Volunteers; a loyalist militia and as such he participated in the legendary Siege of Derry.

Next, he moved to the Royal Irish Regiment and fought at both the battle of the Boyne and Siege of Limerick in 1690.

Five years later and he was still serving William III but now in Flanders during the Nine Years War, being both wounded and commended at the Siege of Namur. He then fought under Marlborough and was again injured at Blenheim.

As recognition of his outstanding service, Queen Anne in 1710 awarded him the colonelcy of his own regiment.

A year later and he was part of the failed expedition to take Quebec in Canada, and in 1712 he led an assault on Dunkirk which though initially successful was plagued by disease which killed far more men than the enemy.

That summer, the Queen appointed the Duke of Argyll, a highly successful soldier in his own right and future nemesis of the 1715 Jacobite rising, as governor of Menorca which we'd grabbed in 1708.

Even after peace was negotiated, this valuable prize remained in British hands. Richard Kane arrived as deputy governor in November 1712 and never left.

Even though he was never formally appointed governor until 20 years after, the island was his.

He reformed defence; he created Mahon as a strategic deep water naval and commercial anchorage.

He dragged the island and its people out of fearful, post medieval trauma; he created a new constitution and legal system, dealt with the conservative backlash from the Catholic Church and hugely improved agriculture, revolutionising lives.

He moved the capital from the ancient citadel of Ciudadela to Mahon and linked the two with a new grand highway. His agricultural reforms included the introduction of new cereal crops, new breeds of cattle with drought resistant clover as a reliable source of fodder.

In 1720 and 1721, and again four years after, he was diverted to Gibraltar when the Spanish threatened. George I rewarded him with the colonelcy of the 9th Foot. In 1733, he was at last formally elevated to governorship of Menorca, dying three years later. His burial site was lost when San Felipe was bombarded into near oblivion during subsequent sieges.

He's remembered in the west aisle of Westminster Abbey's North Transept with an impressive multi-coloured marble bust by J.M. Raysback and a lengthy inscription in Latin lauding his many achievements: 'He who under four sovereigns had borne arms with the greatest shrewdness, courage and dignity, who had served God with all his heart and played the role not less of a Christian than of a good soldier, of pure faith and old-fashioned courtesy, dear to his friends, amiable to his associates, kind and generous to all and in all things concerned more for the public good than for his own ' He never married and left no known descendants.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 14, 2019
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