Windjammers and Sea Tramps
by Walter Runciman
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"I went in at the hawse-hole and came out at the cabin window." It was thus that a certain North Country shipowner once summarised his career while addressing his fellow-townsmen on some public occasion now long past, and the sentence, giving forth the exact truth with all a sailor's delight in hyperbole, may well be taken to describe the earlier life-stages gone through by the author of this book. The experiences acquired in a field of operations, that includes all the seas and continents where commerce may move, live, and have its being, have enhanced in value and completed what came to him in his forecastle and quarter-deck times. He learned in his youth, from the lips of a race now extinct, what the nature and traditions of seamanship were before he and his contemporaries lived. He has seen that nature and those traditions change and die, whilst he and his generation came gradually under a new order of things, whose practical working he and they have tested in actual practice both on sea and land.
It is on this ground of experience that the author ventures to ask attention to his views in respect of the likeliest means to raise a desirable set of seamen in the English merchant navy. But he also ventures to hope that the historic incidents and characteristics of a class to which he is proud to belong, as set forth in this book, may cause it to be read with interest and charitable criticism. He claims no literary merit for it: indeed, he feels there may be found many defects in style and description that could be improved by a more skilful penman. But then it must be remembered that a sailor is here writing of sailors, and hence he gives the book to the public as it is, and hopes he has succeeded in making it interesting.
"The average seaman of the middle of the nineteenth century, like his predecessor, was in many respects a cruel animal. To appearance he was void of every human feeling, and yet behind all the rugged savagery there was a big and generous heart. The fact is, this apparent or real callousness was the result of a system, pernicious in its influence, that caused the successive generations of seafaring men to swell with vanity if they could but acquire the reputation of being desperadoes; and this ambition was not an exclusive possession of those whose education had been deplorably neglected. It was proudly shared by some of the best educated men in the service. I do not wish it to be supposed, however, that many of them had more than a very ordinary elementary education; but be that as it may, they got along uncommonly well with the little they had. Mr. Forster's Educational Bill of 1870, together with Wesleyan Methodism, have done much to nullify that cultivation of ignorance, once the peculiar province of the squire and the parson. Amongst other influences, Board Schools have revolutionised (especially in the villages and seaport towns) a condition that was bordering on heathenism, and no class of workmen has benefited more than seamen by the propaganda which was established by that good Quaker who spent his best years in hard effort to make it possible that every English child, no matter how poor, should have an education."
CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTORY
CHAPTER II. PECULIAR AND UNEDUCATED
CHAPTER III. A CABIN-BOY'S START AT SEA
CHAPTER IV. THE SEAMAN'S SUPERSTITIONS
CHAPTER V. THE SEAMAN'S RELIGION
CHAPTER VI. SAFETY AND COMFORT AT SEA
CHAPTER VII. WAGES AND WIVES
CHAPTER VIII. LIFE AMONG THE PACKET RATS
CHAPTER IX. BRUTALITY AT SEA
CHAPTER X. BRAVERY
CHAPTER XI. CHANTIES
CHAPTER XII. JACK IN RATCLIFF HIGHWAY
CHAPTER XIII. THE MATTER-OF-FACT SAILOR
CHAPTER XIV. RESOURCEFULNESS AND SHIPWRECK
CHAPTER XV. MANNING THE SERVICE