Olla July 2013


O L L A – P O D R I D A

~ Quarterly News & Views for fans of Julian Stockwin’s historical fiction ~

++ always sent in plain text: guarantees no virus/malware on your computer ++


July 19, 2013

[Olla-podrida: an affectionate 18th-century term for a colourful medley of items]
A personal message from Julian:

“The Bosun has decided to retire after bringing this wonderful newsletter to you for over ten years. I’m sure you will join me in thanking him for all his efforts and wish him the best for the future.

Nighthawk News


Broadly Boats News

Broadly Guns News

Firetrench Directory

But rest assured, this will not leave you bereft of news. I have just signed off on a brand new Julian Stockwin interactive website <http://www.julianstockwin.com>, and also started a regular blog there called BigJules. I do hope you enjoy visiting my new website where you can sign up to the blog, which I will post twice a week. As well as my musings on various topics, contests and book reviews, you’ll have the chance to put me on the spot with a regular Ask BigJules.

And there’ll be a draw of all those who sign up to ‘follow’ my blog – a special Stockwin Giveaway chock-a-block with books, a Kydd Cap and a few mystery items! We’ll have the draw at the end of August.”



CARIBBEE, the fourteenth title in the Thomas Kydd series, is launched in hardback in October in the UK, the US, Canada, Australia/NZ and South Africa. It will also be available in ebook format.

+ CARIBBEE Collectors Set
Just a very small number remaining, so don’t delay if you want to secure your Set!
The Set includes a signed, numbered and embossed First Edition, an exclusive Julian Stockwin leather bookmark and a signed cover postcard.

+ Out and About
Julian has been invited to join an open panel discussion, “The best Port of Trade in Britain: Bristol’s Maritime History” on 26 October, 2-4 pm at the Studios, M Shed, Princes Wharf, Wapping Road, Bristol BS1 4RN.

The event, organised in partnership with Bristol’s M Shed, is part of the Historical Novel Society’s new initiative, “Meet the Historians”, which aims to bring together members of the public and experts such as historians, archaeologists, genealogists, librarians, archivists – and fiction and non-fiction writers.
Contact: <gerardboyce@blueyonder.co.uk> to reserve a place

+ Reflections on writing
Julian’s guest blogs on writing historical fiction will continue all year, one each month.

First, here’s a taster of the book…

Chapter one, excerpt

S-sir! Mr Curzon’s compliments, an’ we’ve raised Barbados!’came the wide-eyed report.

The frigate “L’Aurore” had been at sea for long weeks, beating up the coast of South America in frantic haste on a mission that might well see the catastrophic situation of the British in Buenos Aires reversed. It had been a voyage of daring speed and increasing privation as provisions and water ran low under the pressing need for hurry. Reduced to short allowance, the griping of hunger was constantly with them.

Captain Thomas Kydd looked up from his desk. ‘Thank you, Mr Searle.’ The ship’s youngest midshipman hesitated, unsure whether to wait for a response for the second lieutenant.

Kydd laid down his pen. ‘Tell Mr Curzon I’ll be on deck presently.’ Apprehension stole over Kydd as he contemplated his task: to persuade a senior commander-in-chief to detach part of his fleet to go south in rescue of an unauthorised expedition that had sought to liberate South America from the Spanish…

Over a glass of claret, Julian talked about the genesis of CARIBBEE:

“The Caribbean produced a river – a torrent – of treasure into Britain in the early 1800s. Thanks to the Navy, sugar convoys made the regular crossing of the Atlantic to sweeten the palate of not only the British but most of the continent as well, for the French ships were virtually driven from the seas. All this wealth increase not only sustained a beleaguered Britain but enabled Prime Minister Pitt to heavily subsidise any nation who showed resistance to Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and was therefore probably the most significant element of why we’re not all speaking French today.

It has always puzzled me that given the titanic importance of the Caribbean to Britain and its war effort, Bonaparte did not do more to destroy it. It’s probably down to his notorious ‘sea-blindness’ that marred the grand strategies of this great military genius. He sent Villeneuve across on a voyage of rampage with a huge battle-fleet, the very one that would kill Nelson in the months following, but achieved nothing at all, the admiral fatally delaying while he threw his great fleet at the cheeky rock at the entrance to Fort Royal, Martinique, manned by the Royal Navy. When he heard that Horatio Nelson was coming up fast behind, Villeneuve panicked. With resources enough to invade half a dozen Jamaicas he abandoned the whole Caribbean venture and raced back to France.

The French did try other things, of course. One scheme was to get America into the loop. The letter of the law said that as neutrals it was fine to do business with both sides, providing you’re not doing their job for them of taking colonial produce home. That is, you could trade with French or British islands as took your fancy, but the goods had to be destined for America. You couldn’t load a cargo of French sugar in Martinique and take it to France for them under a neutral flag. Until they were caught out, the Yankee traders in Charleston and other ports had an arrangement. They would take up their Martinique cargo and sail to Charleston under immaculate documents, then on arrival, without even touching the consignment, would acquire papers that ‘proved’ it was American sugar. This enabled them to sail out on the next tide bound for France, which they were perfectly entitled to trade with. The British were unamused by all this and thereafter demanded proof that it was a ‘broken voyage’ i.e. evidence that duty had been paid on goods landed.

This put an end to a very lucrative earner for Cousin Jonathan and is the point where I start my story.

To give him his due, Bonaparte did come up with a brilliant stroke against British Caribbean trade, which is the substance of my plot – but in the end it was his downfall. He never really ‘got it’ about the sea…”

3 Picks from the Past

A selection of some of the items from past issues of Olla-Podrida that you’ve most commented on.

There aren’t many letters from eighteenth-century seamen in existence – mainly because most Jack Tars were illiterate, but also because letters of ordinary people were not often saved for posterity.

But the ones that have survived often offer special insights into those times. Here are excerpts from three:

This one is from a pressed man in “Tiger”, writing home to his wife after the capture of Porto Bello. (For ease of reading, archaic spelling has been changed to modern English!)

“My dear Life
When I left you, heaven knows it was with an aching heart to be hauled from you by a gang of ruffians but however I soon overcame that when I found that we were about to go in earnest to right my native country and found a parcel of impudent Spaniards…and God knows, my heart, I have longed for this for years to cut off some of their ears, and was in hopes I should have sent you one for a sample now. But our good Admiral, God bless him, was too merciful. We have taken Porto Bello with such courage and bravery that I never saw before – for my own part, my heart was raised to the clouds and I would have scaled the Moon had a Spaniard been there to come at him … My dear, I am well, getting money, Wages secure, and all Revenge on my Enemies, fighting for my King and Country…”

The next one is from a young man who visited a friend in his ship who had joined the Navy previously:

“I spent the evening with him very pleasantly, and the sailors of his mess, as their manner is in men-of-war, procured us plenty of wine and everything that could be got to make a stranger comfortable; when morning came and I should go ashore, I felt reluctant to part with my friend, and instead of doing so I volunteered to serve His Majesty…”

And finally, a letter from an eleven-year-old powder monkey to his mother:

“Indeed we live on beef which has been ten or eleven years in corn and on biscuit which makes your throat cold in eating it owing to the maggots which are very cold when you eat them, like blancmange being very fat indeed…I do like this life very much, but I cannot help laughing heartily when I think of sculling about the old cyder-tub in the pond and Mary-Anne capsizing into the pond just by the mulberry bush…I hope I shall not learn to swear, and by God’s assistance I hope I shall not…”

Today, if we say a person is at loggerheads with someone else, we mean he is in a state of permanent and serious disagreement, a sort of metaphysical butting of heads!

The origins of this phrase are definitely salty. A Loggerhead was an instrument with a hollow iron sphere at the end of a shaft. This was heated in a fire and then plunged into a bucket of tar in order to melt pitch for caulking the seams in the ship’s timbers.

A hot loggerhead was definitely a thing to keep away from!

Shipmates will remember the poignant scene with a ship’s cat during Tom Kydd’s first night aboard. (You can see Julian’s own cats <http://pinterest.com/jstockwin/> )

From early times, cats were thought to bring sailors good luck, a belief that crossed cultures. Japanese sailors carried tortoiseshell cats aboard to protect them from ghosts and give warning of storms.

Many sailing ships of the British Navy carried a variety of pet animals to sea, and both officers and crew found a respite from the hard life in the companionship and affection of these animals.

All manner of creatures found their way aboard – birds, dogs, cats, guinea pigs – even tame monkeys.

Some captains, including Nelson, would not tolerate pets in their ships, believing they fouled the deck and were bad for discipline.

Animals for food were often kept on board, especially on long voyages and sometimes seamen made a special pet of one of the barnyard animals. In the brig “Onyx” in the late 1820s the crew grew attached to a young pig that had travelled with them from Portsmouth to the West Indies. When they learned it was to be butchered a group of seamen took the brave step of sending a deputation to the captain begging for its life. “You see, sir,” they pleaded, “he is just like one of us; he knows us all and takes his grog daily like any Christian.” Their captain relented.

A parrot aboard the “Hind” in 1793 had learned to imitate the calls of the boatswain’s whistle. Sometimes the bird would pipe an order so correctly as to throw the ship into momentary confusion. One day when a party of ladies was being hoisted on deck the parrot piped: “Let go” – with disastrous results.

Dogs were popular pets. There were an amazing number of dog-fanciers in “Salisbury”, flagship of Vice Admiral John Campbell on the Newfoundland station in 1783-1785. When Salisbury received orders to return to England the admiral gave permission for any person that so desired could take home a dog, seventy-five canines were embarked!

Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, one of the great heroes of the age, was respected for his seamanship and courage, but was a somewhat cool and aloof leader. His warmth and humour were reserved for his family at home in England, and for Bounce, his canine companion at sea. Collingwood was deeply saddened when he died.

On March 28 1996, Rear Admiral David Campbell, unveiled a bronze statue to Captain Matthew Flinder’s cat Trim. It stands in the window of the Mitchell Library on Macquarie Street, Sydney.

Flinders called Trim “the best and most illustrious of his race”. For four years Trim was an affectionate and intelligent companion to his master. Sadly, Trim was killed at the Ile de France in 1804. On his way back to England Flinders was detained there by the French for seven years. It was during this period that Flinders wrote a biographical tribute to Trim – the brave seafaring cat who circumnavigated the globe with him.

Three recommendations for salty summer reads…

The Voyages of the Discovery
by Ann Savours
published by Seaforth
“Discovery” was built for Captain Scott’s first Antarctic expedition of 1901-04. She played her part in the heroic years of polar exploration, was witness to two world wars – and undertook valuable scientific research that laid the basis for the understanding of the food chain in the South Atlantic and Southern Oceans and for the conservation of the great whales. She eventually returned to Scotland in 1986, where she lies afloat today.

Sea Killers in Disguise
by Tony Bridgland
published by Pen & Sword
Known by the British as “Q” ships and by the Germans as “decoy raiders” these vessels were masters of secrecy and deception and were used by both sides in the First World War. The author has pieced together a compelling narrative, and one can only admire the cast-iron discipline and cool courage of their crews as they lured the enemy within point-blank range of their hidden guns.

Prince of Denmark
by David R Collin
published by Whittles
The unusually long career of a small Scottish schooner, and her voyages in the South Seas makes fascinating reading. Of particular interest to Julian was an appendix with the log of a voyage from Hobart Town to Launceston, 1837. Having spent a number of years in Tasmania, he knows the ports well!

We have a special Olla-Podrida Farewell Prize from the Bosun – a full-size copper and brass Admiralty Pattern bosun’s call and chain, plus a Kydd paperback of the winner’s choice, signed by Julian and the Bosun!

Here’s the question: Name the first ship in which Kydd served.

The contest closes at the end of July. First correct entry out of the hat wins! Please send entries to <admin@julianstockwin.com> and include your full postal address.

And the Bosun has the last word: “It’s been a great pleasure publishing these newsletters since 2001. I shall certainly be Following the BigJules blog on Julian’s new site – and I commend it to you. Hope to see you there. Thank you for your wonderful feedback over the years – and I drink your health in a bumper!”

Browse Julian’s website at <http://www.julianstockwin.com/>

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