Saturday 26 November was a busy day in the life of the exhibition Admiral Cochrane, The Real Master and Commander, and for its lead curator. In the afternoon our Saturday Showcase ‘Cochrane: Fact and Fiction’ event saw myself and Cochrane biographer Dr David Cordingly offering some observations on the career of Lord Cochrane, and its depiction in historical and fictional writing. I somehow knew reading all these Aubrey-Maturin and Hornblower books would come in useful one day.
This well-attended event was immediately followed up by an official visit to the exhibition by the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy of Chile, Admiral Edmundo Gonzalez. Lord Cochrane’s extraordinary victories in the Pacific are far from forgotten in Chile, and it was a pleasure to welcome Admiral Gonzalez and his colleagues to see an exhibition which the Chilean Navy has so strongly supported.
In order to represent Cochrane’s honoured place in the Chilean Navy of the present day, the Museo Naval y Maritimo at Valparaíso kindly lent to us, through the Chilean Embassy in London, the ensign from the Almirante Cochrane, one of a sequence of Chilean naval vessels that have borne the Scottish admiral’s name. The ensign hangs at the entrance to the exhibition.
The Almirante Cochrane currently in service is a Type 23 frigate originally launched for the Royal Navy in the Clyde. The ensign was flown from its predecessor, a County class destroyer, also Clyde built, which was in service with the Navy of Chile from 1984 until 2006.
Ships of the Chilean navy are only one of the many ways in which Lord Cochrane’s contribution to national independence is remembered in Chile. Visitors to that marvellous country will find streets named in his honour, statues at Valparaíso and at Valdivia, scene of his greatest victory, displays at the naval and maritime museum, and his house at Valparaíso preserved on the hill overlooking the harbour. Further south, in the Aisén region, there is a town and a great lake named after him, and even an amateur football team called ‘Lord Cochrane’.
Cochrane-spotters in Valparaíso should not overlook La Sebastiana, former home of the Chilean 20thcentury poet Pablo Neruda. Neruda’s admiration for Cochrane’s achievements led him to compose his 1967 poem ‘Lord Cochrane de Chile’, an excerpt from which can be heard in our exhibition. A portrait of the Admiral is one of the many interesting Neruda possessions which may be seen at La Sebastiana.