American Plaque in the British Cemetery, Lisbon.

17 Replies
Sotonian

1424554012

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Recently when visiting the British Anglican Cemetery at St George's Church, Estrela, I noticed a plaque on the wall which looked rather "uncared for"  stating that the first United States Consul, Thomas Barclay, appointed by George Washington, was killed in a duel in Lisbon on 21st January 1793 and buried in the cemetery. Researching in Wikapedia to find out more it says he died of a lung infection and the date is 19th January 1793! I  have emailed the American Embassy in Lisbon but to date have not had an acknowledgement or reply. Maybe one of your readers has some information and I wonder if the Barclay family have ever visited the British Cemetery.  

Replies

daffodil-11 1424687375

Thanks for posting this question, this is fascinating to me and I intend to research it too.  I love visiting the cemetaries of Lisboa, but have yet to visit this one.  Do you recall where exactly the plaque is located?  Is there an attendant there who can answer history questions?  Please follow up here if you learn anything, and I will do the same!

Nicola123 1424693352

How fascinating!  Perhaps we need to call in Sherlock Bones!

Sotonian 1424702423

http://www.lisbonanglicans.org/cemetery.htm


Above   is the website for the British Cemetery with opening times.   There is normally someone on duty at the entrance but unsure as to his knowledge of the history of the graves.   The plaque is on the wall and as uyou enter through the gates, turn left and continue to the end, where the wall curves and it is on the lefthand side.  I am hoping to get a picture of the plaque on my "discussion" and am awaiting help from the administrator of Angloinfo.


I have also contact the Washington Post, who have acknowledged my email.   Hopefully they will have more information for me.

LucyInLisbon 1424721484

Sounds like the American expat community should be made aware of this. Surely some of the members of AmP would spur some action.

daffodil-11 1424760069

American Expat Community right here :-)   I've already sent an email to the publisher of a scholarly biography of Mr. Barclay.  Trying to get contact info for the authors.  Stay tuned...

Sotonian 1424786866

Brilliant - look forward to the response from the author.  It would be great to find the descendants of Thomas Barlcay as well!


 

Sotonian 1424812851

Had a response from the administrator of the British Cemetery, Lisbon who said"


"Yes, it would be very nice to have the Barclay plaque cleaned and restored and if the American embasssy/government would assist it would be wonderful!


 The duel story is most likely apocryphal I fear although it is a very romantic legend!".


Interesting!

daffodil-11 1424848471

Great to hear about the cemetery's response!  I am still waiting to hear from the publisher.  However I have done some online research and found some actual official correspondence in the US archives, a letter of Thomas Jefferson on the date of Mr Barclay's death, stating that he died from natural causes.


Sotonian, I would be very interested in working further on this, gathering the necessary info and possibly getting the govt and/or press involved.  Would you like to collaborate?  Please send me a private message.


 

daffodil-11 1424976156

I have been in touch with the historian/author who is a foremost authority on this topic and the bottom line is that death was by natural causes (written proof exists) and the duel was simply a tale passed through the generations.  The plaque was funded by descendents.  Therefore in my opinion, however incorrect the plaque it is, if that is what they want on their relative's grave, then so be it.


The moral of the story:  Don't believe everything you read, even in a cemetery!


 

Sotonian 1424981480

Brilliant - love your comment or discussion point!   Not sure how to contact you on a personal level but will research tomorrow.


I was in Lisbon today and had intended to pop into the Cemetery to see if anyone had been to "clean it"!   Unfortunately, it was closed.


 


 

Lisbon Live 1425318954

This has been a very enlightening thread and certainly enjoyable to all who've read it.


We've obtained a photo of the plaque and will share a link to its location here: US Consul Thomas Barclay plaque

Sotonian 1425320231

Brilliant, thanks for adding the plaque.


I heard from the American Embassy today and they have informed me that this has been discussed with colleagues at the Embassy and they are looking at how they might be able to improve its appearance and to  honour the memory of Mr Barclay most appropriately.

Sotonian 1425325240

See my latest discussion.

daffodil-11 1425377333

That would be nice if the Embassy would honor Mr. Barclay more appropriately...  meaning not perpetuating the myth!

Sotonian 1426013413

Last Sunday I went to St George's Church for the American Choir from Tenneesee who were singing there at the Sunday Service at 11.30.


I met the (official) Honorary Cemetery Administrator who has been in this post for 24 years and we discussed Thomas Barclay.   He said he will look up his burial register because at that time there was no mention of the exact location in the Cemetery.    The wall where his plaque was placed dates from the early 1950s when the Câmara de Lisboa 'obliged' the Cemetery Committee to sell land to enable the new Double decker buses to reach 'Rato' from the newly opened  Av Infante Santo.   The Cemetery at that time reached the Jardim de Estrela.


We also spoke about the memorial to Fielding which is not believed to be where his tomb was.   He  suspects that Fielding was in fact buried more or less where his 19th century tomb is.   It was just that no one had bothered from 1754 onwards and in fact it was only when the 1st church ( on the present site of the actual 1889 one) was constructed that some regular Sunday visits to the Cemetery must have occurred.


Interestingly, he has ordered on Amazon, "Thomas Barclay, Consul in France, Diplomat in Barbary" and is awaiting for its arrival.


 


 

Sotonian 1427307149

The official Honorary Cemetery Administrator who has been doing this job for 24 years has commented concerning Thomas Barclay and he will look up his burial register.  However, at that time there was no mention of the exact location in the Cemetery.   The wall where the plaque was placed dates from the early 1950s when the Camara de Lisboa 'obliged' the Cemetery Committee to sell land to enable the new double decker buses to reach 'Rato' from the newly opened Av Infante Santo.   The Cemetery at that time reached the Jardim de Estrela.  


He suspects that Fielding was buried more or less where his 19th century tomb is.   It was just that no one had borthered from 1754 onwards, and in fact it was only when the 1st church (on the present site of the actual 1889 one) was constructed that some regular Sunday visits to the Cemetery migth have occured.

Lorraine Bregeras 1427320498

This is almost like a good mystery! Keep us up to date Sotonian - great history and with each page  another unfolds.

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