Capt. Arthur David LINKLATER

Captain Arthur David LINKLATER 1879 - 1955

His Life Afloat and Ashore: Apprenticeship Aboard ‘British Princess’ (i)

For always roaming with a hungry heart

One can imagine the arguments and recriminations between father and son over his truancy. If my genes tell me anything, Dum will not have been able to forebear pointing out to his father that if a career at sea was good enough for him, James, why should not he, Arthur have the same opportunity. And the inevitable response of "very well; so be it." Whether his mother, Amelia, interceded with James not to be too hard on wee Arthur has to remain in some doubt. Amelia does not get good press from her niece Evelyn Roxburgh.

AMELIA ... was a pretty but incredibly stupid woman. Mother said that Amelia was in love with Johnnie Crawford* but both grandmother and Aunt Alicia put their feet down on that. There were six children of Amelia's marriage, the younger ones quite small when Uncle James died in his early forties, of Bright's disease. He failed in his business and ... found financial worry and ill health too much for him. Naena and I knew Aunt Amelia very well but Uncle James died when I was a baby and his youngest son, James, only 3 years old. Aunt Amelia died of cancer in 1917.

* BETSY, the eldest FLINT, ran off with and married a Mr Crawford who was a painter in oils - not very successful. I think he must have done some-thing else or had private means, for I am sure he cannot have sold many pictures. Aunt Betsy was very pretty - we have a photograph - and a very great lady in manner. I don't think she and her husband had much money. She used to say about her husband's pictures - "a dear, would never have his work hung in the Academy - on principle!" Why, I can't think, except that he probably never had the chance! They had one son, Johnnie, and apparently a regular rogue. I think he had some sort of attraction, but like so many of the male members of the Flint family he doesn't seem ever to have done any work. My mother had various stories about him.

Of course, packing one's son off to sea willy-nilly was one thing for those lacking aspirations for their sons and heirs. They could be put aboard ship and sail "before the mast" as a fo'c'sle* hand free, gratis and for nothing - and indeed were even paid! Fo'c'sle hands would embark as ‘ordinary’ seamen and, if lucky, they would disembark a few pounds richer after months or even years at sea as able seamen or A.Bs. ‘Able’ meant not able bodied, although that was to be hoped, but able to hand, reef and steer. The apprentices paid in the region of fifty guineas for the privilege, as recorded in the image of Dum's indentures below. They occupied the ‘half-deck’ and were discouraged from associating too much with low fo'c'sle hands. An apprentice, having successfully served his time, became anything from A.B. to Admiral. Fo'c'sle hands were a very mixed bunch but could, and sometimes did, make the transition from fo'c'sle to poop. Such men were known as hawspipe officers.

indenture.jpg * The forecastle was the front part of the vessel where hoi polloi shipped. The poop was at the opposite end of the vessel, literally and socially, and was the realm of officers. The ‘fore castle’ was a throwback to old naval ships having an elevated front portion, the ‘forward castle’ which conferred an advantage of height in close fighting. ‘Forecastle’, as in much nautical terminology, is usually foreshortened when written and always when said; there are any number of spellings and apostrophisations but according to the ‘Shorter O.E.D’ and the ‘Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea’ it should, illogically, be written fo'c'sle and is always pronounced as in ‘folk’, never ‘fox’.

Captain Coombs was a friend of Arthur's from their time working together on the Hooghly. In ‘The Nation's Key-Men’ [1925] he wrote; While the calling of the sea is one of the finest and most satisfactory for men in the world, the career and prospects offered make the Merchant Service one of the most undesirable to which a father can send his son. Not being prescient Arthur's father, James Stevens Linklater followed what was then the prudent approach and had his son duly and properly bound apprentice to Messrs Gracie, Beazley & Co., for a term of four years for the sum of fifty guineas - or £52:10:0 as it appears on the agreement. In spite of the fact that the original document was produced on ‘water proof’ paper, it is somewhat the worse for wear. At the end of such an apprenticeship, given due diligence and sufficient nous, the individual would emerge as an officer, albeit of a very lowly sort, but at least there was a greasy pole in the offing. The first hurdle to overcome, assuming greasy poles have hurdles, was to pass the Board of Trade exam for Second Mate.

britishprincess.jpg James would have known all the players in the game; who the decent skippers, and which the sound, well-spoken ships. James owned a fleet of fishing and trading vessels and must have known how many beans made nine. Notwithstanding Evelyn's remarks above, James must have been quite successful; for a while as he owned Herm Island in the Channels Islands which he used as a base to dry fish. He also traded with the Baltic. Many must have foreseen in the 1890s that whatever way the wind blew the future lay in steam. While Arthur was indentured to and served his apprenticeship in a square-rigged sailing ship, it was the only time he served under sail; all his other ‘sailing’ was in steam ships.

For a detailed account of what Dum got up to aboard British Princess from Tuesday 10th December 1895 till Tuesday 13th March 1900 see the JOURNAL. For those too busy to tackle the whole thing, Dum had the foresight to prepare a synopsis when writing a résumé in 1923,
"I was four years in sail"
which more-or less sums it up. The master of British Princess for the whole of Dum's apprenticeship was Captain Robert Crawford Scott, one of three seafaring sons of a seafaring father about whom more can be found HERE including a narrow escape from total loss of the Glenui while skippered by Dum's erstwhile task-master off New Zealand in May 1907, and his brother's brush with the Imperial Germnan Navy in the guise of SMS Dresden which sent Conway Castle, on which James Harrison Scott was 1st Mate, to the bottom of the Southern Atlantic in February 1915. I don't know who took the photograph of British Princess above but it is dated 17th August 1897 and was taken in San Francisco Bay. The Journal ends with his discharge from British Princess on 13 March 1900. Many consecutive days have an entry but there are significant gaps. Presumably some gaps, notably those during sea passages, will have been either because nothing happened or through lapses on Dum's part. Days on which nothing happened or no work was done are often described as "farming" days or Dum and his shipmates as "farmers" - a notoriously feckless and idle breed of men given to doing as little as possible while complaining about it greatly. Other days might have gone unreported for other reasons.

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