Captain John Macgregor Skinner was born in Perth-Amboy in the Province of New Jersey, North America in about 1760. He entered the British Navy in 1776 and took part in the American War of Independence as an officer on HMS Phoenix. He was unfortunately wounded and lost an arm and later an eye whilst serving in the West Indies.
In 1793 he left the Navy and joined the Post Office service and moved to Holyhead. He served as master on packet ships crossing the Irish Sea. Captain Skinner campaigned vigourously to improve the management of the Post Office service and the condition of their ships.
Unfortunately he lost his life, aged 70, when washed overboard from his ship the Escape in 1832. He was loved and respected by rich and poor alike of the town as a man of endless goodwill and generousity. As a mark of respect an obelisk to his memory was erected by public subscription on a dominating rock overlooking Holyhead Harbour. As well as commemorating a significant character in Holyhead's maritime history it provides a highly visible landmark for mariners approaching the harbour.
The museum has a very special exhibit detailing the life and times of Captain Skinner. There are numerous items of personal memorabilia to view, including a life size model of the Captain in his Post Office uniform, complete with his pet Raven! The pride of place in the exhibit is the original painting of Captain Skinner's House (shown here) by his friend, the Customs Officer, James Sparrow. This painting was recently restored and includes in the foreground many of Captain Skinner's friends and also many of those who benefited from his kindness and charity. Visitors to the museum can view the names of these individuals inscribed on the gilded frame and also learn much more about this unique character.
A book relating the life story of Captain Skinner, written by Peter Scott Roberts, a volunteer at the museum, is available for purchase from the museum shop.