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Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Henry Clarence Harridge, 1930s artist.

© Stephen Bigger.
I possess a small collection of the artwork of Henry Clarence Harridge..There is no biography anywhere, and little on the web, so I would be pleased for any information.  I bought a few pieces in nearby Highworth near where he then lived: his etchings were being sold in a local art shop, where I bought The Prospect of Whitby, and The Ouse Near Kings Lynn. He had been emptying his garage prior to moving away. Since then I have found and purchased a few more, including an original pencil and wash drawing of the Thames from Bankside, and a related etching. Harridge’s favoured medium was etching, learned at  Hornsea School of Art under John Moody and Norman James in the early 1930s. A few oils and pencil drawings have also appeared in auction.  His grandfather was also Henry Clarence H-, his father Frederick William H- (1881-1954), and mother May (Osborn, b. 1884). Our Henry Clarence was born in Edmonton, London on 23 Feb 1908, and married Hilda (Weir) in December 1935: Hilda died in 2005. HC lived in Swindon till 2005, then Melksham  and I understand that he now lives in Stoke Newington, the oldest living English artist. I have not come across any post 1940 work, so his active period was only four or five years.
A postcard etching  indicates on the back that this was self-published from 9 George Street, Hastings, in all likelihood the artist’s flat above the commercial premises below (now a restaurant). The card is undated, the signature in small block capitals is the same as on an original drawing by him I possess dated 1938.
His etching prints are ‘limited edition’ signed with a flowing pencil autograph from a later date, giving the date of the original etching. I presume they were printed later from the old plates since the prints are crisp and fresh. Of the first pair I bought, the Ouse near Denver, looked towards Kings Lynn (1936, 150 x 100 mm) sketched whilst the artist was on honeymoon (detail pencilled on the back).
My second purchase was the Prospect of Whitby public house from the Thames (200x150mm).  The front of the pub is on Wapping Wall, (a street in Wapping, London). I have a much larger impressed etching of the Thames from Bankside (410x325mm, dated 1937), showing the river, boats and Wapping warehouses opposite, drawn in great detail. Using artist’s licence, he has placed St Paul’s dome as the background. In the original pencil and water-colour I possess, this is replaced by Puddle Dock
 If you have any further information, please leave a comment.
© Stephen Bigger.  With thanks to Keith Taylor.

Friday, 18 October 2013

David T. Lindsay wrote 1936-1941

Borrowing with thanks from I am asking now for information about the writer David T Lindsay who wrote aviation books for boys as well as adult novels. These cover similar ground to other writers I am studying. Any information about the author will be thankfully received. I have just read Inspector Jackson Goes North, an improbable police sleuthing story based in Scotland (Fife) where the author may have come from (see the link above). Ace books on flying are fetching a high price at the moment. Also have just read Wings Over Africa, a rather unpleasant story of support for Heile Selassie's Ethiopia in the Italian campaign in which too many natives are machine gunned or bombed to death. Features a plane with a silent engine. A parallel story to the much better Flying For Ethiopia by E Malcolm Shard, aka Dorothy Eileen (Marsh) Heming/Dorothy Carter /Guy Dempster, on which see the discussion in an earlier post..

A full chronological list of David T. Lindsay’s books is given below, with brief notes on series and recurring characters. All titles were published by John Hamilton of London.

The Ninth Plague  [March 1936]
            Part of The Sundial Mystery and Adventure Library. Richard Monroe.

The Two Red Capsules [May 1936] 
            Richard Monroe; Inspector Jackson

Wings over Africa [July 1936]  Ace Series

Inspector Jackson Investigates [September 1936] 
            Inspector Jackson

Air Bandits [February 1937]  Ace Series

Masked Judgment [March 1937]  Ace Series

The Black Fetish [May 1937]

The Flying Crusader [May 1937]  Ace Series

The Green Ray  [July 1937]  Ace Series 

Wings over the Amazon [November 1937]  Ace Series 

Another Case for Inspector Jackson [January 1938]   
            Inspector Jackson

The Flying Armada [April 1938]  Ace Series

The Temple of the Flaming God [May 1938]  Ace Series 

The Man Nobody Knew [September 1938]
            Inspector Jackson

Inspector Jackson Goes North [February 1939] 
            Inspector Jackson

Vengeance Rides North [May 1939]

Stranglehold [September 1939]  Ace Series

Mystery of the Tumbling V  [January 1940]

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Lawrence R Bourne books

© Stephen Bigger.
Red-haired Coppernob Buckland (1925) is a doughty Boys Own Paper style story. Walter Buckland is in boarding school, about to go up to Oxbridge on a scholarship. After a false accusation, he is expelled and runs away to sea. I am not telling the blow-by-blow story, but in brief he does well as a first tripper, sails an abandoned boat single handed back to Southampton (has he drowned the captain should have been arrested for criminal negligence and manslaughter), finds a link to his bank manager father, gets involved with alcohol running into prohibition USA, is captured by pirates and finally solves the mystery so that a thief from his father's bank is arrested. Not bad for a teenager. By the end, he is no longer accused, has his scholarship, but decides on a sea career. A few points of interest in a story that is able to name and describe ports and sea journeys with apparent accuracy. It curiously starts at Lydney, a tiny port for carrying timber and coal up the Severn from the Forest of Dean, showing local knowledge. Despite accurate naming of destinations, his ship picks up barrels of whisky from an unnamed port on the Mull of Kintyre (actually, Campbelltown, and not a bad whisky). He clearly did not know the port's name in this case. The first three Coppernob books appeared as a Coppernob Omnibus in 1933 to accompany the fourth in the series. One later story was rejected by the publisher but still exists in manuscript.

A few examples of Bourne covers and dustjackets

Stamped boards: the gold stamp will be a library stamp

This title had at least one other board decoration (see previous post)
© Stephen Bigger.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Lawrence R Bourne, again

© Stephen Bigger.
I asked in April for information about this writer active in the 1920s and 1930s. 
Thanks to his grand-daughter Kathy for much of the information below. His real name was Lawrence Harbourn, born 10.10.1879 (from his passport) and died in 1941. The family possess this obituary:
Mr L H A Harbourn passed away on Nov 16th [1941] after a brief illness   He was born in London where his father was Minister of the Regent's Park Congregational Church and a contemporary of Dr Parker of the City Temple who was a frequent visitor to their home. Mr Harbourn's grandfather had been a missionary and his father subsequently took up the same work.  As a youth Mr Harbourn was active in Christian work in London, preaching in mission Halls, speaking in the open air and assisting the Salvation Army in the slums.  He took a keen interest in the Boy Scout Movement in its early days and was the Leader of a Troup.
He came to Newport in 1915 and was introduced by Mr Holbrook to the Mission at Penylan.  He became the organist there and conducted the services on many occasions and by his zeal enthusiasm and his experiences was able to forward considerably the work of the Mission.  It was fitting therefore that the last service he conducted before his illness should have been at Penylan, and that his funeral should have been held there.
Through all the years he continued to serve with the Lay Preacher's Association, and his delight was to visit the country churches throughout the county.  They will miss his genial presence and his homely words.  Mr Harbourn was a gifted musician and artist and his work in the literary world was widely recognised.  He wrote under the pen-name of Lawrence R Bourn upward of a score of books - some of them text-books of the sea, upon which he was an authority - but most of them were boys sea stories and were deservedly very popular.  He was on the staff of a London Newspaper for a period of 43 years, and the tributes paid to him by his colleagues reveal the high esteem in which he was held.
To Mrs Harbourn and the four children we extend our loving sympathy in their great loss.

A Lawrence Harbourn attended Brigg Grammar School as a boarder from 1889: boarding school was a common experience for the children of missionaries.  See

He lived in Chesterfield Road, St Andrews,  Bristol  in February 1910, was discharged as unfit from the Army in 1917, and moved to Clevedon Road Newport in August 1918, where he lived until his death.

Published works (Oxford University Press unless stated)
Seamanship (Handicraft Books for Scouts, with numerous diagrams 
by the author and R.H. Penton, paper card covers, ca. 1923)
The Channel Pirate - A West Country Sea Story (1923)
The Treasure of the Hebrides (1924)
Coppernob Buckland (1925)
The Radium Casket (1926)
Coppernob - Second Mate (1927)
Well Tackled - A Story of a Shipyard (1928)
Captain Coppernob - The Story of a Sailing Voyage (1929)
The Adventures of John Carfax - A Story of the Press Gang (1930)
Copppernob - Ship Owner (1931)
Copperknob and the Cryptogram (rejected but manuscript exists, 1932)
Eastward Bound - A Story of Modern Smuggling (1933)
The Fourth Engineer (1934)
Stark Naked (published by Frederick Muller, London, 1934) reviewed 
favourably  by Dorothy Sayers in The Times 6.1.34 
The Chronicles of Jerry (1935)
Radium Island (1936)
Mixed Cargoes (short stories, 1938),
Saving His Ticket (1939)

 There is a French translation of Coppernob Buckland, Les aventures de Buckland "boule de cuivre"!  Also, The Voyage of the Lulworth: A Story of the Great Days of Sail, Oxford UP (info on back cover of Saving His Ticket). It also notes that Radium Island was sequel to The Radium Casket. There was a Lawrence R Bourne Omnibus (of Coppernob stories) in 1933, and a 1936 omnibus of The channel pirate, The treasure of the Hebrides and The adventures of John Carfax.

Short stories published in the Boys Own Annuals
Straight Sea Stories
Haunted in Mid-Atlantic
Adrift in the Atlantic
Paying a debt
The Race Home
On the Overdue List

Scouting Stories
Strange Affair at Porthlesky
Broken Glass
The Black Beacons
A Knife and a Piece of String

Brazendial Stories
Under the Cromlech
The Mammoths's Leg
Smuggled Goods

Captain Black Yarns
The Yarn of the Waggoner
In Tow
In Dock on an Iceberg
Black Cat for Luck
Story of the Pageant ?title

Old Bosun Yarns
The Yarn of the Bullfrog
Captain Ashore
A Motor Trip

Ship Aground

Manuscripts existing
Ghosts Ridiculous  (Professor Brazendial short story 1930)
Memory (Nagna Sansrcit short story 1933)
Copperknob and the Cryptogram
The Tie Alma Mater
Murder at the Altar (short story)

The Troubles (Chronicles) of Jerry (1935)
Captain Copperknob (1929)
Copperknob Buckland (draft)

I have just finished Well Tackled! - A Story of a Shipyard (blue boards, 1930, price 1/6d), illustrations (dust jacket and frontispiece) by Victor Cooley. It has a BOP feel of daring do. Benson Wilsthorpe, a young man about to go to university, finds himself owner of a small Birkenhead shipyard at Ellersley after his uncle's death. After settling in, he wins respect and has a chance meeting with an old friend Paget who has invented a new fuel (a mix of petroleum and TNT explosive!) and a new steel which is tough enough to withstand the power of internal combustion. Together this means ships can be built, even battleships, that can go at 100 knots. After refusing to be cheated, he and Benson amicably agree to develop the new boat. The Admiralty take the development under their wing. A mysterious organisation wants to steal the secrets and take them to Russia. Paget is kidnapped apparently to be taken to Russia, but rescued by the new speedy craft.  A cross-Atlantic new ship is taken over by pirates, and is given a new course for Russian waters... Anything else will be a spoiler, but rest assured all is well in the end. 
Note these blue boards are beautifully embossed (Oxford University Press).

© Stephen Bigger.

The Pirate Island by D E Heming, 1938.

A chance find in the local Oxfam Bookshop. I shall review it gradually, so this is a brief stub to get started. My copy has blue boards, no dust-jacket - if anyone can supply photo, please do via comments.Size 81/4 by 6 inches, 13/4 thick, 248 pages. There is an embossed four-armed propeller. The title page attributes authorship to D.E. Heming.  In saying "author of The Phantom Wing" by way of advertisement, D E Heming is identified with "Guy Dempster", the author's name given in that book in this series, a popular Heming 'brand' when writing gory war stories for boys. The name "Dempster Heming" was used for the popular Peter Clayton books. The name D E Heming was also used for The Girls Book of Heroines and The Boys Book of Heroes, two books best forgotten.

A further advertisement lists "other books in the Air Adventure Series - three by husband Jack (Heming) and three others by Eileen  as Dorothy Carter (Flying Dawn), James Cahill (Flying with the Mounties) and Guy Dempster (The Phantom Wing). The other books are by other writers John Grant (a story of India), M.E. Miles and Michael Cronin. The latter's son-in-law Peter Nethercot writes (for which I am very grateful):  Michael Brendon Leo Cronin 1907-1987 was my father in law. He also wrote under the names of David Miles and M.E. Miles (his wife's maiden name). He was educated at Queens College, Dublin and after graduating joined the Royal Air Force as a school teacher. On the outbreak of the second world war he transferred into the provost branch, and from there to special branch. Most of his writing took place after the war which is well documented.

Monday, 23 September 2013

E Malcolm Shard, alias Eileen (Marsh) Heming.

Just one book of Eileen Heming's (née Marsh) output (see elsewhere in this blog via labels) used the pseudonym E Malcolm Shard. This is Flying For Ethiopia,1936. My copy has green boards, 216 pages and four plates drawn by the ace aeroplane illustrator Howard Leigh (1910-1942) who also worked on Biggles books and the magazine Popular Flying. Its publisher imprint was The Popular Library, a book club, an original and not a reprint. Size 71/2 by 5 inches, thickness 13/4 inches owing to its thick card paper. Green boards were certainly a first impression (the book carries no dates but this is indicated by 1936 prize bookplates in one green copy for sale); there is also an impression with orange boards, maybe later or maybe contemporaneous.The title page says 'by the author of The Secret Aeroplane and The Rajah of Gungra, both by D E Marsh and also dating from 1936, published by Harrap, suggesting a Harrap involvement with this book club. "E M Shard" (without the Malcolm) is an anagram of D E Marsh. Eileen Marsh/Heming had no experience of flying herself, apart from a couple of lessons after this book was published. These were more than she could afford as each book paid her a pittance. She undoubtedly scoured publications like Popular Flying to get ideas, such as the planes in this book. Anyone with copies of this magazine please let me know! They are too expensive to buy.

An appraisal is offered by Eric Bates, Among Her Own People, pages 128f. Bates dates the book as 1937, but one for sale was awarded as a school prize in 1936. The (2nd) Italo-Ephiopian war, which saw Haile Selassie exiled to London, was from October 1935 to May 1936. The Claytons, heroes of the book, set off by amphibian to Addis Ababa via Malta around February, father and son Pip, to rescue Pip's uncle Bob.. The gung-ho tone of the book, which offers the Italians a very bloody nose and points out the dignity of the Ethiopian defence, was almost certainly written at that point, before the Italian 'victory'. The Claytons were well off and well connected, knowing Haile Selassie personally, one brother being Consul in Ethiopia, and having an airfield attached to their mansion home. On arrival in Ethiopia, Pip spots a 'Supermarine Fighter', a prototype, which he dubs The Fighting Ethiopian as he joins the Ethiopian air force in his father's absence. He joins a group of four aeroplanes who  massacre squadrons of Italian bombers, even stealing two during a daring rescue. I won't summarise the whole plot, just say that superboy Pip is not only a superb fighter pilot, but speaks both Amharic and two Ethiopian dialects, thanks to his uncles tuition, deaf and dumb sign language, and is a natural born killer.

On matters of detail, the Saro Cloud was a sizable amphibian/ seaplane with two engines on top of the wings, retractable wheels at the side for dry landings, and wing floats for sea landings. Introduced 1930, it was used for training purposes in RAF Calshot near Southampton. It is accurately described. It is an expensive plane to be in private ownership, although four were privately operated!

The 'Supermarine Fighter' is not the Spitfire and is depicted in a plate (left, initialled by Howard Leigh) as having cantilevered "gull" wings.It is the Supermarine Type 224, designed by R J Mitchell of Spitfire fame, with cantilevered wings (picture below), ceiling 38,800 feet, maximum speed 228 mph powered by a single RR Goshawk II liquid-cooled engine, and armed with 4 Vickers machine guns. Only one flew from 1934, and was found to be disappointing losing out in 1936 to the Gloster Gladiator for RAF orders. It  ended life in 1937 as a target on a firing range. However lessons learned from its design and performance led to the development of the Spitfire in the late 1930s. Another connection: Supermarine was established by Noel Pemberton Billing in 1913: one of the pilots in this book is called 'Billings'. 

The representation of Ethiopians is curious. The 'native' is described as feckless, unreliable and without work discipline. 'Native'women (who had actually done an outstanding job and showed great common sense and fortitude, are described as of slow intelligence. However the royal family, including a boy of Pip's age, Makonnen, is depicted with great respect. In one official, Rastofarind, we can see the name Rastafari being drawn on, i.e. a follower of Haile Selassie. For the Italians, no respect is shown whatever.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Dorothy Carter, Comrades of the Air, 1942.

Dorothy Carter is a pen-name of Eileen Heming nee Marsh, died 1948. See my earlier description of her work. Comrades of the Air from 1942 is one of her Marise stories. It is very difficult to obtain since it only had its initial print run, and some of that was bombed in store.  It is a pair with Sword of the Air which is similarly hard to find. Sword was an escapade in Nazi Germany; Comrades takes the story to Russia at the time of the Nazi invasion of Moscow. The dust-jacket illustrator (the same as the frontispiece picture of Katya and Marise) is by Newton Whittaker, an illustrator who worked on a range of books for your people such as by Pamela Brown and Nancy Breary. Any  reader with personal knowledge of this illustrator please leave a comment. Comrades measures 7 1/8 by 5 inches with 204 pages published by Collins (London and Glasgow). The rear of the dj advertises the contemporary  Holiday Books of Jane Shaw, the pre-war Farm School Books of Josephine Elder, and the New Abbey Series of Elsie Oxenham.

I have read many children's books from this period and Comrades is a good one. Some aspects might have seemed to be sheer anti-Nazi propaganda at the time but sadly have turned out to be true - the Nazis shooting POWs and hostages from villages, looting, sinking neutral ships, Gestapo brutality and so on. You only have to read the books of Helen Fry to find real incriminating evidence. Marise is in the ATA (Air Transport Auxiliary) as a aeroplane ferry pilot. The job she hustles for in this book is to ferry a plane to Russia because her best mates (male pilots) are going there. This is not a romantic plot, but rather 'I can do it if you can' feminism. As always I will try not to spoil the plot for new readers, but inevitably there will be very few new readers unless a reprint is arranged. It opens with a noisy party in Aldington, Kent, which is Eileen Marsh/Heming's home village (and appears almost as a signature in many books).

Apart from the usual Spitfires and Hurricanes, she mentions the (Westland) Whirlwind which served from 1940 but was obsolete by 1944. The author's high praise (p.11) was not warranted. Marise had also flown a 'Fortress' - a few Boeing B17 Flying Fortresses were owned by the RAF in 1941 (before America entered the war). But, as Marise said, we are talking too loud. In Russia Marise meets Katya Vanevska and her brother Ivan, also meeting up with her father who has a mysterious secret role in the war. In Sword of the Air, Marise met him in Germany in most unwise circumstances.  Russian women, the story explains, fly in combat - Katya was a gunner. Although excitable and a staunch Soviet and example of 'epic Russian heroism', the blurb says, Katya looked up to Marise on all occasions: Marise was apparently a natural leader. Unfortunately, a Nazi advance cut off their airfield, and a bombing raid seriously injured Marise's father. They needed to get aeroplanes away, and Marise was asked to fly the fourth bomber. An attack by Nazi fighters gave Marise her first 'kill' (two in fact); however her radio and compass were shot out and she lost touch with the other three planes. Looking for an airfield, which they never found, they ended without fuel at the White Sea, landed on the beach, only to discover that they were a short distance from a U-Boat refueling base. A U-Boat arrived, and torpedoed a neutral Swedish steamer - the captain's wife and child floated ashore on a lifeboat, and they became part of the escape party. Having whet your appetite, I won't give away how they escaped, were helped by a woodman who didn't know the Tzar had been overthrown,  were captured by the Nazis, escaped from there home again. Someone might republish the book - it is the best of the Marise titles. The pro-Russian sentiment is interesting, especially depicting the Russian people as suffering. The Nazis are depicted as violent, murderous and oppressive, as indeed they were.
Other old friends: Jim Grant, one-eyed hero of an earlier war and a Hollywood crash stuntman (see Star of the Air), Tony Arcoll and Jim Custance, fighter pilots who were loaned to Russia. Jim Grant said, "Give me my four-cannon Hurricane, thank you" (p.11). Every schoolboy knew that the Hurricane had 8 Browning machine guns, later increased to 12. That made me look up its service record. The Hurricane Mk IIC (introduced June 1941) replaced the machine-gun armament with four 20 mm (.79 in) Hispano Mk II cannons. DC is thus absolutely up to date, although Marise would have said, Hush, not too loud, walls have ears.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

J Lennox Kerr and Cammill Laird Shipbuilders

We know that JLK was contracted to write a history of Cammill Laird. We have the contract. He had earlier written The Unfortunate Ship about the early Laird vessel Birkenhead which sank with considerable  loss of life. Lairds had virtually founded Birkenhead as a port, and produced both merchant and war ships, including the Ark Royal.

But here there is mystery. A typescript exists in the Wirral Record Office (Cammill Laird Archive) of an unpublished JLK manuscript. Was it the only one, or one of several? I have here Builders of Great Ships, declared to be authored by Cammill Laird and with clear signs of marketing department involvement. It says in its Acknowledgements, thanks are due to " J Lennox Kerr for many of the facts which appear in this book". It is not however the book of the typescript. There are several similar books, including The History of Cammill Laird, again "authored" by Cammill Laird. It is clear that Kerr was deeply involved in this project; it is not quite clear who authored what.

Builders of Great Ships was published by Richard Garrett Services Ltd who "prepared the text", whatever this means. It traces the story from the beginning in 1810 through two world wars to the present day (1959). It is a simple text with many photographs - a marketing monograph.

JLK also wrote as Peter Dawlish and Gavin Douglas.

Postscript: We found the typescript, which is now being copied into pdf.
Postscript 2, April 2017. Adam Kerr, who holds the typescript, died August 2016.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Wavy Navy 1950. J Lennox Kerr and David James.

James Lennox Kerr (see other posts) was an experienced seaman who served in the RNVR (Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve) during WW2. Details of his service are sparse since his autobiographical writings finish in 1937. He edited (with David James) Wavy Navy by some who served in 1950 (Harrap) with a Foreword by the Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Cunningham of Hyndhope. In it he contributed three chapters. He also wrote The R.N.V.R.: A Record of Achievement with Wilfred Granville in 1957.
JLK's three chapters are written in his three writing names. The J Lennox Kerr chapter 'Third Officer Felicia McClusky' is a very amusing piece about a ship who invented a female officer, giving her a dressed up room and referring to her in ways that seemed to make her more real over time. The WRNS took her to heart and in the end, after visiting her, took her away with them. When an officer was married, a joke telegram was received from Felicia expressing her dismay but wishing them well. Under the pen-name Peter Dawlish, he wrote 'Those Charming Old Gentlemen' is an amusing appreciation of the old-timers who, brought out of retirement, worked behind the scenes to set up and inspect the raggle-taggle efforts of seamen in harbours across the land with no navy training or discipline. They are described as having worked miracles, in a job that was intended to marginalise them since they had kicked the hind-ends of My Lords of the Admiralty (as boy trainees) and knew senior officers as scruffy midshipmen. 
they possessed one tremendous quality: they were stiff with Naval tradition and pride in a craft they had never forsaken in their hearts. To these charming old gentlemen theirs was a holy task. They swept aside the rights of property owners like any 'damned socialist' and claimed the fairest vistas in England; they remembered every trick of scrounging orthievery they had learned as magistrates on the Bench; they tricked their bosom friends, lied, bullied and black-guarded; and they raised every sort and shape of hut in every possible material from asbestos sheeting to plywood and named it HMS This or That. A square of concrete became a quarterdeck. A tin hut was a wardroom. Their bridge was a varnished chair, and, I repeat, they built a Navy - our Navy
 They  were "quite the wrong people to be running us amateur sailors". In learning to fool them, they actually got what they wanted : "we had built our little Navy, and it worked.
Under the pen-name Gavin Douglas, 'Tell Us about D-Day' gives an account of a support vessel taking American troups over to Omaha beech on the second wave of D-Day. It sounds autobiographical, but he is using his fiction-writer's persona. He, the captain and supposed writer, is aged about 45 with most of his crew under 20, most of whom had never sailed before their training in Scotland. This is the right age for JLK. His age at the time of writing (1949) he gives as around 50, again right. In my view, he wanted to tell the honest tale of stubborn bravery without seeming to boast.
The boat was an LCT Mark IV in Q squadron. It was to carry 6 Sherman tanks, 2 half-track supply trucks, and a Red Cross jeep, plus 4 officers and 54 GIs. The Americans, well supplied with cigarettes and chewing gum, gave most of this away with obsessive generosity. The paperwork was so dense that it had to be sifted for things of relevance and the rest carefully burnt. The craft were gathered in orderly fashion in Plymouth Sound. The convoy departed at 2am on 4th June, only to be ordered back until next day. The author gives high praise of the efforts of these amateur crews.
The scene off the beach was too astounding for an emotion so inadequate as surprise. One accepted it because the the only way to marvel was to start counting the ships, barges, landing craft, concrete units, battleships, cruisers, sweepers and the hundreds of other types of vessels, and to consider how this multitude had been collected in the ports of England, and had sailed across enemy waters in one night...and none of us was in a mood for counting ships.
They all mustered without collision. The hands had dressed for the occasion in their best uniforms. The landing was difficult as battle raged, the jeep being lost in an invisible hole. But all was landed and some wounded taken off.
I am a seaman of many year's experience, and am a steady old man nearing fifty. I want to say how much praise is due to the young fellows who officered and manned those landing craft. No one, in our own or other navies, could have done the job better. There were no heroics, nothing but an even and high standard of ability as seamen and as men.Any attempt to make the voyage glamorous or exciting would be stupid. A cold description that requires no adorning is the only tribute anyone can pay.
Editors have a number of jobs, one to source material, and another to make the whole readable. JLK produced these three stories to add enjoyment to the mix of material. Another, 'First Trip' by Ronald Hope, is on a subject close to JLK's heart since he wrote two first tripper books. Hope produced an impressive list of seafaring books: any reader with information about his life please get in touch through comments.

Dr Ronald Hope OBE, after war service, left Oxford University in 1947 to become first Director of the Seafarers Education Service. This became part of the Marine Society (an ancient Navy recruitment charity) in 1976, a year which saw many such amalgamations as the Marine Society refigured itself into an educational support service. Hope was first Director of this new enterprise. He wrote several books on the Merchant Navy, including The Seaman's World: Merchant Seamen's Reminiscences (1982) from which these details come. See also the Wikipedia entry on The Marine Society.

Finally: J L Kerr also edited Touching the Adventures of Merchantmen in the Second World War in 1953. This was a joint enterprise with Dr Ronald Hope, then of the Seafarers Education Service, who did the "tedious clerical work and organization" (Preface) after an appeal for stories in nautical journals. This volume includes a story by "Peter Dawlish", a JLK pseudonym: it is a tale of a navy old-timer returning to serve during the war, finding that the navy had changed, and old skills were difficult to recover. Hostility to him by fellow crew disappeared when he spotted a mine and instinctively steered the ship away from it while everyone else panicked. He had served previously on minesweepers and now won instant respect for this newly needed expertise.
Touching the Adventures of Merchantmen can be regarded as the start of a programme to encourage seaman literacy which has matured today into the educational mission of the Marine Society.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Woman of Glenshiels - Lennox Kerr, 1935

This novel is about the tribulations and aspirations of a working class woman, Mary Bassett, within a system that constantly denies aspiration. The story follows her from adolescence to maturity, ending with the depression years of 1933-4, contemporary with the writing of the novel. The Scots town is no doubt similar to the Paisley were the writer was brought up and lived at the time of writing. It is not a 'socialist' book, but a story of working class struggle that includes scenes which comment on socialism. The heroine, Mary is not  ideological but pragmatic. She has her own views, which she will argue dogmatically: these are not given as the author's views, and although we readers may understand how she has reached them, we also may not agree with them. They show rather a working class woman trying to work things out. Although this struggle is general, the background is Scottish in two main ways, the place of religion in the social fabric, and the use of the Glasgow dialect throughout the dialogue. The readerly ear tunes into this, and it is not a drawback.
Young Mary walks out with Donald, a socialist whose dreams is to line up the bosses and shoot them. His mother was a socialist, his father a pacifist. He believed that the 1914-18 war was no concern of the working man. He didn't believe that private property was morally owned. Mary constantly nibbled away at his socialism and he constantly compromised, without changing deep down. He refused to sign up as soldier and was given a white feather. The story shows the pressure that Mary came under through her peer group, "the Table" [i.e. the women working at the same table].and hence the pressure she brought to bear on Donald. Such women's groups are called "the real parliament" where decisions are made whilst men focus on football, drink and work. Donald signed up and was killed within five days of arriving at the front. Ironically, as he became one of the boys, Mary didn't like what he had become. We see her  gradually justifying her opinions to herself, and telling herself that their relationship would not have worked. The issue did not fully resolve itself to the end of the book.
Mary worked in a cooked meat factory making veal, much as the author had done in his youth. She had a work ethic and a respect for her employer, whom she saw as a fellow worker (his lack of employer's drive led to bankruptcy, as Donald said it would). She was no shirker. Gradually she built up for herself a well-furnished sitting room in her father's house out of her earnings, ensuring its tidiness with dragon-like control even of her father. When she married Dan, this furniture was taken lock stock and barrel to her own house. She remembered times her parents had no furniture, having to tiptoe so neighbours did not realise they had no carpets, and was determined to ensure she could keep up appearances.
By the time she married Dan she was emotionally hard and brittle. They had a girl and a boy. Dan was Labour, not, he said, a communist. She was impressed by his emphasis on the need for collective bargaining and declared a support for Labour politics. However, she believed that the unemployed were at fault for not seeking work, much because Dan had a relatively safe and protected job. However, when his shipyard closed down and he could not find a replacement job, she attempted a doorstep sales business. When he couldn't sell her stock, she took to the road herself and realised both the impossibility of her self-help plan, and that closures were not the worker's fault. She returned to her meat factory, which was already failing as the veal remained unsold. She noticed that processes were inefficient and forced the younger workers to work more efficiently, which resulted in finishing early rather than as before spreading the same work over the day. The factory folded. The owner was too soft hearted and should have raised efficiency and cut staff.
The book reaches a crisis when her daughter failed to thrive and the doctor blamed under-nutrition because she was feeding her inappropriate foods. In this extract, the young doctor had given a passionate speech about social inequity and malnutrition:
Her cold determination shocked the man from his passion. He watched her curiously and saw the firm mouth, the burning eyes and that wide impressive forehead. From her he felt force and strength like an armour, a weapon thrusting. 'You've taught me a lesson, Doctor,' she said vibrantly. 'I was content to be like the others. I took what I got and made the best of it. I forgot for a while....But you've woke me up again. I drapped the fight but I can start again. Ther's money tae be had and I'll get it....If I have to work my flesh away....My bairns'll get what they need.'  He was slightly shocked. He wished he had not let himself go. In this woman was a quality that made him apprehensive. She would stop at nothing, he thought; she is fierce as an animal. God help those who stand in her way. [p.261]
 To provide the children with a more varied diet, Mary took a domestic job whilst Dan was 'on the Parish': this led to a court-case for fraud as this income was not declared. An official had spoken to the small son at the door and been told that his mother was at work. The court-case underlined how the system made it impossible to people to help themselves, and how current policies were leading to major child malnutrition in working class families. If you can't look after your family, Dan was told, they will be taken into care. They were fined £10; to pay Mary had to sell her furniture: she knew she was being swindled, but had no choice. Full circle. There the book ends.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Lawrence R. Bourne

Lawrence R. Bourne - books on the sea in the 1920s and 1930s. If anyone knows any personal details about this writer please leave a comment.  Stephen

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Glenshiels - James Lennox Kerr 1932

I surveyed the various works of JLK some years ago (here at and am returning to his adult fiction in the 1930-40 period. He is noted as a Scottish socialist writer, which is vague enough to be not untrue.

Glenshiels (John Lane The Bodley Head, 1932) is an early work and rooted in his memories of childhood in Paisley near Glasgow. It is heralded as an outstanding Scottish novel by such as J B Priestley and Compton Mackenzie. It went into a second impression in 1932. It is now totally forgotten, such is the fickleness of public taste.

It is a story of a working class family in a small Scottish town, alert always to what other people might say about them, and keen to put on a prosperous face. The author ran away to sea just from such a place in 1916. The plot has a circularity, as we shall see, as class attitudes are reproduced across generations.

The dramatis personae are: Hector Mackinley (his first name never again mentioned) who lived with his wife and family in a three roomed tenement. Daughter Winnie was 16, son Sam aged 8. Mackinley was a bombastic bully, without a pleasant thing to say to or about his wife, and threatening to thrash his children, even spanking his daughter's naked bottom in the street. We never learn Mrs Mackinley's first name. The family relationship was based on fear. Mackinley also bullied other men, being particularly hard on 'Socialists' who in his view supported scroungers. His 'besting' of a Socialist supporter in the early pages returns throughout the book as a sort of chorus. 

The opening scene is of the Town going to church, in their best clothes and putting on their best airs and graces. This Sunday is described in ritual terms, the procession to church, the stilted conversations, the behaviour in the service, the thanking of the minister, and the procession home. This was something that is 'done' without any involvement of niceness or ethics. Bullying the socialist is part of the Mackinley Sunday ritual, as Socialists are clearly ungodly.

The after church walk also reveal attitudes and prejudices. One side of the road was considered posher than the other - you could expect very little from the folks 'over there'. Although Mrs M expressed concern about the poor bairns in the streets, Mr M had a very clear view: 
"Mackinley, to whom such poverty only made more conscious of his own worthiness, grunted impatiently, "It's their own fault ...they had as much chance as others. If they spent less in the public houses..."
The story follows Sam into adolescence, meeting Agnes and becoming a street lad. Then part 3 follows Winnie, as a shop assistant (a job she enjoys) walking out with friends and becoming the target for a grotesque lad John, a butcher's apprentice (as JLK had been once). We are not told, but get the impression, that he raped her and she fell pregnant. Although he was not pleasant even when courting, John considered himself trapped (the pregnancy was clearly Winnie's fault, done deliberately to catch him) and most surly. The wedding had to be rushed, the pregnancy never admitted but understood by everyone. Mackinley funded a lavish wedding, not out of affection but for public show. Sam got drunk and spoilt all that - we never hear the consequnces. Winnie had to give up work on marriage. Her husband John was the same bully her father was, and the same stultifying bore, to be scivied for, pampered, but never loved in return.

The story ends with a hard edge, Winnie realising that the housewife's life was very boring, and her mother visiting. Mrs M asked her outright when the baby was due. After she left, Winnie broke down, sobbing:
"The auld bitch!" she cried, despairingly. "The auld bitch... she knew all the time".
Curtain, the book ends with that expression of family tenderness. Nevertheless, Mrs M is presented as the person to be most pitied, with the realisation that her pointless life would be reproduced by her daughter Winnie.