TAYLOUR, JOSEPH, commodore of the Newfoundland convoy, 1709; b. c. 1662; d. 1734.
Taylour went to sea in the merchant service at the age of ten, and on 26 March 1690 entered the Royal Navy. He took command of the Charles, a frigate of 32 guns, in 1703 and soon began to show the skill and audacity in taking numerous prizes that were to earn him a place in naval annals. During 1708 Taylour did valuable service in Spain, and the following year was appointed commodore of the Newfoundland convoy.
Along with his commission as commander-in-chief went the usual instructions, or Heads of Enquiry, dated 9 June 1709. Taylour made little systematic attempt to answer these questions as his arrival in Newfoundland on 16 Aug. 1709 found him plunged in troubles of a more serious nature. The attack by Saint-Ovide de Brouillan [Monbeton*] in the winter of 1708–9 had devastated not only the fortifications, but the town as well. All that had not been ransomed had been burned or destroyed. The garrison commander, Thomas Lloyd, had been shipped as a prisoner to Placentia (Plaisance). Taylour had several meetings with the despondent inhabitants and persuaded them not to abandon the colony. He then proceeded to repair the fortifications, employing the crews of the Litchfield and of the Rye. It was already late in the season and materials were almost unobtainable. He drew naval stores to help him with the work, and remarked that Her Majesty had not been put to much expense. The new Fort William was 180 feet square, and included four streets of houses inside the perimeter. There were even “trunks” or chutes to send shells which fell on the ramparts down into the ditch where they would burst harmlessly. “In the opinion of all that had seen it before it was destroy’d by the enemie,” said Taylour, “[it] is now much more defenceable.” Captain John Moody, viewing it the following year, bore witness to “the diligence of Commodore Taylour.” Probably the value of the new fort was largely psychological. It gave the inhabitants somewhere to rebuild their huts with at least the illusion of safety, and it must have discouraged the French to see St John’s being rebuilt so soon after its wholesale destruction.
On the recommendation of the inhabitants, Taylour appointed John Collins as governor, and when he left Newfoundland he recommended that any of the inhabitants who would flout the governor’s authority once the commodore was out of the way, should be kept in check. Taylour returned to the routine duties of a naval captain for the duration of the War of the Spanish Succession.
Joseph Taylour died on 23 May 1734. Despite Taylour’s recommendations, his son, Thomas, did not achieve his father’s success in the navy. To his contemporaries, as to naval historians, Joseph Taylour was an extremely successful exponent of the petite guerre-the single ship action; but for Canadians his importance lies in his re-establishment of St John’s.