‘O hear us when we cry to thee, For those in peril on the sea’

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The Storm by William Miller

The Storm engraving by William Miller after Van de Velde, published in 1858.
From the Wikimedia

We’re in the midst of yet another storm here in the UK. I might have enjoyed them as a child, but now they set my mind racing, first to worrying about safety on the roads and to property such as houses and boats, and then I start thinking of those at sea, and finally the lifeboat crews who have to go to sea in a storm that’s already raging when they leave the land. It’s enough to stop me sleeping, but in the scheme of things that’s a minor irritation.

Last night I found myself thinking about grandeur and truth of the hymn For Those in Peril on the Sea.

Here are the lyrics complete with written-out music.

Here they are again with a playable midi sample.

Here The Daily Telegraph newspaper tells the hymn’s story.

For a little history, read a historical discussion of how Scottish fishermen coped with storms before the days of weather forecasts and also about how storms affected the fishing community at Polperro, Cornwall.

Again, here’s a 19th century story of heroism in the North-East of England.

I’ve also been thinking about the terror of going out onto a big sea in a small open without the benefit of a weather forecast. No doubt that spawned a host of superstitions and the slightly neurotic activity described in the song The Candlelight Fisherman. There’s a joke that some allegedly lazy fishermen wouldn’t go if the flame didn’t blow out, on the grounds that there would be no wind to carry them home, and like most jokes I’m sure it had some grain of truth.

Also, see Out on a Shout, the RNLI’s rescue activities as they happen. In case you’re wondering, there have been a lot of launches in the bad weather of this winter.

I started off by saying that we’re thinking about storms here in the UK, but I’d argue the weather is making many of us think of more than just the weather. Stay safe and stay alive, everyone.

PS – If you get a moment, print out the Miller engravings – on some nice paper, they could be just what you need to hang on your wall!

The Shipwreck, engraving by William Miller after J M W Turner

The Shipwreck engraving by William Miller after JMW Turner, published
as part of a series of 120engravings from Turner’s paintings.
From the Wikimedia

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Piracy and slavery – the horror and the pity of The Flying Cloud

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Piracy and slavery - the horror and the pity of The Flying Cloud

Contemporary engraving of a pirate party (from http://anthropik.com/)

I’ve been listening to this hugely powerful song telling a story of slavery and piracy recently, first as sung by my friend Annie Dearman with her band Dearman, Gammon and Harrison, and later by Ewan McColl. Both versions are awesome, but I can’t let you hear an mp3 sample without breaking copyright. However, I can share the lyrics of the ballad with you.

I think it’s pretty clearly a broadside ballad, but unlike many, it’s far from being doggerel. Prepare to be shocked by this story of the cruelty of slaving and of piracy.

The Flying Cloud

My name is Arthur Hollandin, as you may understand
I was born ten miles from Dublin Town, down on the salt-sea strand,
When I was young and comely, sure, good fortune on me shone,
My parents loved me tenderly for I was their only son.

My father he rose up one day and with him I did go,
He bound me as a butcher’s boy to Pearson of Wicklow,
I wore the bloody apron there for three long years and more,
Till I shipped on board of The Ocean Queen belonging to Tramore.

It was on Bermuda’s island that I met with Captain Moore,
The Captain of The Flying Cloud, the pride of Baltimore,
I undertook to ship with him on a slaving voyage to go,
To the burning shores of Africa, where the sugar cane does grow.

It all went well until the day we reached old Africa’s shore,
And five hundred of them poor slaves, me boys, from their native land we bore,
Each man was loaded down with chains as we made them walk below,
Just eighteen inches of space was all that each man had to show. Continue reading “Piracy and slavery – the horror and the pity of The Flying Cloud”

Windward-sailing Barbary pirates


Xebec pirate ship

!!This post now with added singing – see the bottom of this post!!Â

My canoe sailing and building pal Jim van den Bos sent me this link from The Times newspaper yesterday:

Here’s the TS Pelican’s website, which tells the story of her interesting rig; see also this article by Philip Goode, the designer involved in the TS Pelican project: http://www.weatherlysquareriggers.com

The whole thing led me to speculate how Continue reading “Windward-sailing Barbary pirates”