Capt. Arthur David LINKLATER

Captain Arthur David LINKLATER 1879 - 1955

His Youth Before Going to Sea (ii)

To follow knowledge like a sinking star


daniel-stewarts.jpg ARTHUR was Amelia's eldest child. He was only 12 years older than mother and they were very fond of one another. (In fact Arthur, born in 1879, was 13 years younger than Mary Bell who was born in 1866 and Arthur called her “Auntie May”.) I believe he used to play truant from school (Daniel Stewarts College) and was found at Leith docks with the ships. Uncle James (Dum's father) then sent him to sea, and I think he had a very rough time in sailing ships in those days. (See the Journal.) He became a Captain and ultimately a surveyor of the Hoogli River in India. He married Elsie - whose maiden name I do not remember, (Soundy) nor the name of her first husband. (Jules Leonard Schaumburg, later Harris) She divorced the latter who was a German, by whom she had three children. (Doris, Dudley, and Bruce.)

dhunjibhoy2.jpg Arthur took a job as manager to a Parsee called Dhunjibhoy (Sir Dhunjibhoy Bomanji) - a very rich man. He had a wonderful place at Windsor (The Willows) - race horses and everything - and ultimately Arthur came there as his steward or agent. When D.(Dhunjibhoy) died Arthur had to find something else, and during the war he worked for some sailors' concern in Liverpool. He was singularly handsome and a nice person. He died in, I think, 1955 of cancer. Elsie is still living with her son by Arthur, Nelson Linklater - called Dick, and his wife Peggy. Elsie was an odd person: slim, dark and attractive when she was younger, an excellent cook and a clever woman in all domestic matters. She was born in India and never left it till she and Arthur came to England.

When unavoidable, the school Dum attended was Daniel Stewarts College, Edinburgh. The story of Dum's truancy as I remember it was that he and another friend would leave home for school but head for the docks where they left their school books and so on with the harbour master and spent the day “fooling about”. To account for their absence from school Arthur and his companion hit upon the admirable scheme of forging letters to the head master purporting to be from their parents. 'Dear Headmaster, Wee Arthur has the mumps and will not be in school for the next two months. Yours etc.' Or so I imagine. The success of the scheme was inversely proportionate to the purported health of the miscreants and they steadily worked their way through the full gamut of childhood ailments - until they ran out.

This called for the nuclear solution. 'Dear Headmaster, Wee Arthur is very sick with an unco serious condition which defies the doctor even to name. Arthur will, in consequence, be off school indefinitely. Yours etc.’ must have been the general tenor of the thing although the original is lost to posterity. All might have been well had it not been for a chance encounter between Dum's father, James Stevens Linklater, and the headmaster at some social gathering. It was only to be expected that the headmaster would commiserate over the sad state of ill health of his absent pupil and likewise that James Stevens Linklater would express profound astonishment that anyone could possibly consider his strapping lad poorly.

skuse.jpg All was revealed and both the boys were summarily packed off to sea at about the age of 16. I do not know the identity of the other boy, but another shipmate called Skuse is frequently mentioned in the Journals and I have one photograph of him dated 12 Feb 1912 - some twelve years after Dum had left British Princess, the vessel on which they both embarked on their first voyage in 1895. I assume Skuse is the character in the foreground. Who took the picture and where are not known to me. Whoever Dum's companion in truancy, I was told he ultimately became Harbour Master of Sydney - in those days, as presumably now, pretty much a plum job. How Dum prospered we shall see.

Before going round ‘The Horn’ six times aboard the British Princess with Dum, or Arthur as he must become for a few years, there are a couple of other glimpses into his childhood. The first is a New Year's card made by him when he was about six years old for his father and inscribed on the back

This is for Father from his dear loving son Arthur for a New Year present.
Where will you put it? December/85 Burghfield

This bears an uncanny resemblance to a creation of my own (above right), although I think I have to say Dum's has the edge aesthetically. Does this suggest an inherited talent? or is it rather an indication that generation after generation of primary school teachers are predisposed to setting their charges the same, uninspiring tasks? Whatever the answer, mothers across the ages are clearly programmed to preserve the proof of such intelligent design!

Another glimpse of wee Arthur is in two letters he wrote to “Auntie May” - Naena and Evelyn Roxburgh's mother, and carefully preserved by them in the one, original envelope postmarked “Peebles 18 April 1889” whose address the postie did well to decipher as I cannot. One letter is written in pencil with a drawing that hints at the artistic promise to come in the Journal, the other, is written in ink is dated “25 Feb(splotch)ry 1889” - a technique I used often myself and can recommend to anyone vacillating over precise spellings. The date of the pencilled letter is uncertain; all that is visible is “11 Aprail 188”. The last digit is presumably on the table-cloth at Burghfield. Assuming the chronology of the letters follows the natural progression from pencil to ink, and given that the ink letter is dated 25 Feb 1889, then it seems reasonable to assume that, had the paper on which the pencilled letter been written been one eighth of an inch wider than it is, the date might have been revealed as ‘11 Aprail 1888’. But I'm guessing.

There is possibly one other glimpse of Arthur. If it is of Arthur then I think it is the only photograph I have of him under about 20 years old. It's a boy, because that's the way the jacket buttons up. So the question is; is that Dum on a bike? It could be his brother, Valdemar McLelland Linklater or ‘Uncle Val’ as we knew him and shown on the right. He was maybe ‘prettier’ than Arthur. I am reasonably sure it was one or the other because the photographer was based in Leith. There is nothing written on the back of the bicyclist except “Aged 14” so it was possibly only a couple of years after the photograph that the subject had to abandon his boneshaker for a barque. There is quite an age difference between the subjects. Arthur is on the left in the composite image below and, at a guess, aged about 20; I'd say that Val, on the right in both images, must have been about 6. Whoever is in the middle below is 14 as that is the stated age on the back of the bicyclist photo. The curly hair sort of does it for me ...

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