Tag Archives: sailors

The Brightlingsea Tiles: an unusual and touching memorial to lost sailors

The History House website has the story about the remarkable Brightlingsea Tiles. (Images reused under the Creative Commons Licence.)

Malcolm Woods has alerted me to these memorials to local fishermen and sailors who died at sea in All Saints Church, Brightlingsea. They include 213 memorial tiles placed in frieze that runs around the nave.

The local custom of placing the tiles on the church wall was begun by All Saints vicar Reverend Pertwee following a big storm in March 1883 in  which 200 mariners from the counties bordering North Sea were lost, including 19 from Brightingsea.

Pertwee decided that a memorial tile should be made for each of his lost parishioners going back to 1872, when he first became vicar at the church. The first tile is dedicated to William Day and his son, David, who were drowned off Hartlepool.

The tiles were continued in later decades, and later tile memorials are to sailors killed in various storms, the loss of the Titanic and the World Wars.

I’ll make a point of taking a look when I get the chance – last time I was in the area the church was locked, as usual in a town.

Thanks Malcolm!

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A history of madness at sea

Nic Compton’s latest book Off the Deep End looks at madness at sea. Some folks think the only sane thing is to stay ashore and it has to be said they do have a point… Some degree of madness has so often been a feature of the the great voyages, particularly those of the solo sailors. I can’t help being reminded of Joshua Slocum’s nights of being piloted by the pilot of Columbus’s La Pinta, for example.

Nic’s doing a book signing today on at the Southampton Boat Show on stand J052 from 12noon to 4pm.

Here’s what the publisher’s rather vivid blurb says:

‘Confined in a small space for months on end, subject to ship’s discipline and living on limited food supplies, many sailors of old lost their minds – and no wonder. Many still do.

‘The result in some instances was bloodthirsty mutinies, such as the whaleboat Sharon whose captain was butchered and fed to the ship’s pigs in a crazed attack in the Pacific. Or mob violence, such as the 147 survivors on the raft of the Medusa, who slaughtered each other in a two-week orgy of violence. So serious was the problem that the Royal Navy’s own physician claimed sailors were seven times more likely to go mad than the rest of the population.

‘Historic figures such as Christopher Columbus, George Vancouver, Fletcher Christian (leader of the munity of the Bounty) and Robert FitzRoy (founder of the Met Office) have all had their sanity questioned.

‘More recently, sailors in today’s round-the-world races often experience disturbing hallucinations, including seeing elephants floating in the sea and strangers taking the helm, or suffer complete psychological breakdown, like Donald Crowhurst. Others become hypnotised by the sea and jump to their deaths.

‘Off the Deep End looks at the sea’s physical character, how it confuses our senses and makes rational thought difficult. It explores the long history of madness at sea and how that is echoed in many of today’s yacht races. It looks at the often-marginal behaviour of sailors living both figuratively and literally outside society’s usual rules. And it also looks at the sea’s power to heal, as well as cause, madness.’

The manliness of sailors

the-manliness-of-sailors

‘I’ve just finished writing up a paper on images of Jack Tar between 1760 and 1860. I’ve rather fallen in love with Jack Tar. When my analytical brain was idling, I wondered why his figure appealed to me. After all, he’s often thoughtless, drunk, and womanizing.’

For the rest, see:

All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor