Cornic, pirate and admiral with legendary feats
A pirate from Morlaix
On Cornic square, we have a chest statue... do you know who’s that man? Pirate Charles Cornic, nicknamed Duchene! A local star... he was born in 1731 from a ship owner from Bréhat island.
He was a cabin boy at the age of 8 in his father’s boats: he was Breton, so he was fond of adventures and sea journeys! Aaah, he saw banks of Ireland, Newfoundland, Portugal...
He was a teen, but he was very brave: in 1751, when he was 20, he became supernumerary’s pilot in the Royal Navy. But he wasn’t a noble man, he had no rank. He was of common birth, and in the Army at that time, you had to be noble...
Then, the 7 Years War began: he supplied Brest city and chased enemies boats! As a reward, he became frigate captain in 1757!
An epic battle!
Near Ouessant, we found him on the Felicité’s board, in June 1758, fighting against the English. What a struggle! An epic one! Cornic fought against three boats at the same time!
The Félicité, a frigate with 30 cannons and 220 sailors, had to cruise offshore to spy on the enemy movements.
There, Cornic came across 3 boats: the Rumbler, the Thames and the Alcide. Damned, the English! His Breton blood was just boiling. Cornic couldn’t run away. He didn’t want to!! He had to face the situation, and attack them.
At midnight, everything began: the Thames shot a muskets salvo. So did the Alcide! A cannon ball broke the Félicité’s main mast. And yet, Cornic succeeded in sinking the Rumbler.
The Alcide helped it, only the Thames left. Cornic struggled as he could. And the Alcide went back onto the offensive! The battle was pretty Dantesque. Furious. Thunderclaps shook the sea.
When enemies gave up the battle, people couldn’t believe it! Cornic came back in Brest harbour... a delirious crowd awaited for him: Cornic was only 26 years old but they cheered him as a great captain!
Fortunes and misfortunes
Cornic finally married Mrs. de Kater in 1764, a beautiful Dutchwoman... Did he find happiness? Oh, no... she died 10 days after the wedding! Poor Cornic...
Ravaged by sadness, he left Brittany for a mission in Cayenne, to reraise the harbour. Then he rebuilt Bayonne’s harbour and all Northern Brittany’s fortifications! After the beginning of America’s Independence war, Cornic wanted to be promoted.
But authorities refused: jealous noblemen didn’t want to see a simple little commoner promoted!
Frustrated, embittered, he wanted to quit the Navy. Cornic died in Morlaix in 1809. Next to his beloved sea...
The statue made by sculptor Ludovic Durand was inaugurated on September 1897.
Originally, it was a bronze chest on a marble pedestal. But German army, during World War II, decided to melt that chest.
In 1943, sculptor Jean Fréour made a brand new statue made of stone. The inauguration took place in 1947: the plaque says the statue was given by Breton people from Paris!