|Description: A silver lidded urn. The urn body (a.) is engraved with the following inscription," This piece of Plate is humbly inscribed to LIEUTENANT JOHN SKYNNER late Commanding His Majesty's Brig of War HIRONDELLE by the Merchants and Others residing in the Island of Malta as a token of respect for his very meritorious conduct and unremitted attention to the numerous Convoys under his charge while in the MEDITERRANEAN". It has two handles which are in the shape of two naturalistic entwined snakes. The rim is decorated with medallions of the English rose, Scottish thistle and the Irish shamrock. The main bottom under the inscription is decorated with 8 vertical acanthus leaves. The base is fluted and is decorated with an acanthus leaf pattern at the bottom and the lamb's tongue pattern on the top of the neck. The lid (b.) is decorated with a sculpted silver figurine of Hibernia clutching an albatross in one arm, a laurel wreath extended from the other hand, and surrounded by various nautical paraphernalia including a ship's rudder, cannon balls and a compass. The figurine is a separate piece that is bolted on the inside of the lid.
History:The hallmarks on the silver urn date it to 1808, at which point it appears that Skynner was on half-pay. The urn was made by the small silversmith firm of James Ede and Alexander Hewat of London. This partnership was registered in the silversmith guild on December 10, 1808 and only lasted until 1810.
John Skynner (1762-1846) was born in England in 1762. His family had a strong connection with the Royal Navy with both his father and grandfather serving as high ranking officers. John would follow in this tradition with a distinguished naval career. Little is known of Skynner outside of his naval accomplishments. From "O’Byrne’s Naval Biographical Dictionary, 1849" we have a clear record of his rise through the Royal Navy. The dictionary states that Skynner joined the Navy in 1795 as an Able Bodied Seaman. He quickly moved through the ranks serving as a Midshipman and Master’s Mate in the Mediterranean.During the time he served in the Mediterranean, he was present for the evacuation of Corsica (1796) and saw action near Cape St. Vincent (1797). He continued to serve on the Ville De Paris and Isis and then became the Acting Lieutenant on the Nemesis. He became a full Lieutenant on March 8th, 1802 for the Amazon. While in command of the Amazon, he brought the Duke of Kent to England from Gibraltar and then returned to the Mediterranean. His daughter recalls him telling stories of the Duke walking with him on deck during this voyage. The Duke of Kent was the father of Queen Victoria. Skynner also held command of the gun-bring Hirondelle from June 19th, 1804 until December 14th, 1807.Lieutenant John Skynner was presented with a piece of plate (silver cup) given by the Merchants and others residing in the Island of Malta as a token of respect for his very meritorious conduct and unremitted attention to the numerous convoys under his charge while in the Mediterranean. He was listed as a retired Commander on April 10th, 1838.
Details of his personal life are few. He married a woman named Joanna who was 22 years younger then himself. They had six children, four boys and two girls. The oldest child, John, was born in 1816 when John was 54 years old. It can be assumed that John must have started his family some time after 1807 when details of his active Navy career end. Perhaps he returned to England and felt he was secure enough to support a wife and family. After his retirement in 1838 at the age of 76, he emigrated to Upper Canada. His reasons for emigrating so late in life are not clear although it was not uncommon for retired officers to resettle in the colonies where there were lots of opportunities and readily available land. The family lived at The Anchorage which originality was located at the foot of the present Southdown Road on the shores of Lake Ontario.