Capt. Arthur David LINKLATER

Captain Arthur David LINKLATER 1879 - 1955

Dum's Letters

On shore, and when thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades vext the dim sea.

Dum was, by his own admission, a sporadic correspondent. His letters are all typed until 30 April 1947. There are two further hand written letters dated 29 December 1948 and 21 July 1949. These various letters are written to every permutation of “Dicko”, “Peggy-Dicko”, three times to “Dicko and Peggo”, “Dick and Peggy”, “Dicko and Peg”, “Dicko and Peggy”, “Peggy and Dicko”, “Peg and Dicko”. If he wrote letters to other relations and friends I don't have any. Had he written much to the Roxburghs I would expect to have them as the Roxburghs were inveterate hoarders and I am pretty sure that it was they, or originally their mother Mary, who carefully preserved the two early letters mentioned at the outset dating from the late 1880s, shown again below; one in pencil and one in ink.

Most of the letters I have that Dum wrote to family members are of little interest to a general reader, concerning family chit-chat that without a context would be meaningless. He wrote well and fluently in all his letters but here is an example written from 20 Burton Avenue, Wallasey dated 6th October 1944 which also throws a little more light on its author. Peg's birthday was 6th October; I wonder if Dum realised? Peg was his recently-acquired [31st July 1944] daughter-in-law and presumably the ‘other’ to whom Dum says “cheerio” at the end of his letter.

My dear Dicko,
Thanks very much for ‘Falmouth for Orders’1 which is quite good and very interesting. It is extraordinary how the Finns could run these heavy ships with almost all first voyagers and all youngsters at that. They seem to have done it very well, and it is more than we could do in British ships in my time. They must have laid themselves out to show the boys the ropes. In our Ships no one showed you any thing, and if you did not know you got a kick in the after end to help you to acquire the sea sense.

Villiers writes of a period much later than my time, but many of the old Britishers sold to the Finns and others I know very well. He speaks of the German ‘Ps’. They were great ships even in my time, and were run with real German thoroughness with double crews, donkey boilers which were never out, and they had to-make the passage from Hamburg to the West coast of South America and back inside six months, and did it, or the master got fired. They could blow as many sails as they liked, and nothing pleased us more on the nitrate coast where in one of the open anchorages (called ports for convenience) there probably would be a dozen British ships rolling their rails almost under in the great Pacific swell with their hard pressed crews heaving 300 lbs bags of nitrate on board by hand winches from day light to dark, and then going below and stowing the darned things afterwards, for you got no shore assistance, and you had to load your own ship for all the Chilanoes did was to bring it off in lighters and at the end of the day your backs were broken, but as soon as a ‘P’ ship arrived we got no more cargo till she was full up, and she worked day and night (with steam winches) and usually got away in ten days. It took us six weeks to two months to load our ships. And all of us Britishers used to sneak a boat whenever we could to go aboard the ‘P’ ship to get a feed, and to bring plenty back with us. When you think of it, it was perfectly disgraceful to the British flag that we should bum food from a foreign flag.

It is very good of you to give me this book as a birthday present, and perhaps for Xmas if you can get ‘First Voyage’ that would be a good idea.2 You speak of the “weighty tome” a history of Cape Horn with the local history of the place! It must be a recent history for in my day the Patagonians were never known to leave you till they had devoured the whole of you. When you had been under water for several weeks off the Horn it was cheering to look at the chart and see in bold type “Do not land”. Then we used to go under water again much happier. We will give “Cape Horn” a wide berth. If the Devil made any part of this world that is it. Your speed-boat journey to the Scilly Isles must have been a fine experience, and good for you not to be sick. That takes some doing I am sure. Cheerio to you both, and again many thanks.

Yours aye.


1. By A.J. Villiers
2. Santa seems to have succeeded in this mission. This is the book by Frank Worsley from which I quoted extensively on the subject of sailing apprenticeships.

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