‘the Meaning of our Work’: contributions of note

In our day-by-day replaying of ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ we’ve reached October 6, and we enter a stage in the book when not a lot happens storywise:

“Nothing happened during the next ten days to disturb us at our work. During every hour of daylight and many of darkness, sailing or anchored, aground or afloat, in rain and shine, wind and calm, we studied the bed of the estuaries, and practised ourselves in threading the network of channels; holding no communication with the land and rarely approaching it. It was a life of toil, exposure, and peril; a struggle against odds, too”

We’re taking this break in the action to do a little surveying of our own, taking a look back at all the fabulous contributions that Club Members have sent in, and highlighting a few that we think many of you may have missed. 

Some material has come to us via email, so hasn’t been shareable ‘til now. A lot of what you’ll read here is hidden away in a comment somewhere on the blog, or attached to a ‘tweet’ or a Facebook post.

So this is an attempt to make all the fabulous material that is coming our way more accessible to all. Meanwhile, keep your contributions coming in, and have a good root around the blog to find out more. There’s a lot of great stuff in here!

Tony on how Davies got to Flensburg in the first place

Tony is one of our most frequent contributors and talks from first-hand experience of sailing pretty much the entire route described in the book. In this PDF, he’s written a brilliant summary of the route Davies would probably have taken to get to Flensburg from England before the story-proper starts. It highlights how much the waters and routes have changed in the last 110 years: Daviess-trip-to-Flensburg

Look out too for Tony’s masterful comment on the ‘centreboards vs leeboards’ debate at the bottom of this post: http://www.riddleofthesands.net/wordpress/2015/05/06/the-riddle-of-the-sands-adventure-club-podcast-6-books-handbooks-punch/

Jerry on Childers’s original sailing trip in 1897

Jerry went to the trouble of scanning in the pages from an old book he’s acquired that contains Childers’s own account of sailing to the Baltic in a small boat in 1897. We’ve now uploaded them to the Club’s Facebook page:


This cruise is very obviously the direct inspiration for ‘The Riddle of the Sands’. Childers, for example, really does meet a German boatsman called Bartels!

Liz’s trip to the sands

On a trip to Holland, Liz very kindly took a few snaps of landscapes, boats and even a stove that give some idea of how Carruthers and Davies are living in the book. You can find them on our Facebook page.

Club member Liz’s snaphot of the sands.

Thanks to Liz for taking the time to take a few snaps on a trip that took her quite near the Frisians. She managed o…

Posted by Riddle of the Sands Adventure Club on Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Jeff’s reading list

Jeff is a walking encyclopaedia when it comes to other books that relate to ‘The Riddle of the Sands’. Here’s a link to just one small selection of the stuff he’s been sending our way. (Jeff, if we weren’t meant to share this link, let us know and we’ll take it down): https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=0B26Xql6aTRgAfjNUbXNpcmxUQmdLTzRHMWtOTkpqNnVkdXRDbmxUR3RsYl9FWllSMTJDZUU&usp=sharing

One big highlight was this email:

I was recently able to read a wonderful article on the Fresian Islands that I highly recommend. Edwin Morrisby wrote it for the magazine Quadrant in 1990. Morrisby was quite a character and wrote about many of the off-the-beaten-path places he visited in a book called “Unpackaged Tours.” 

In the Quadrant article he describes several different trips he took to the Islands over the years. Among things he mentions are Mata Hari’s history with the Freisians, the history of the region, its languages and the fact that the area is known for having nude sunbathing on its beaches. No offense, but I’ll probably skip the Periscope if you decide to take part in that last item on your trip. Reading his article it becomes obvious that Childers really did a good job of capturing a sense of the place. 

The article is really, really good and highly recommend reading it. I uploaded a scanned copy to my google drive and you can find it here –https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B26Xql6aTRgAfjNUbXNpcmxUQmdLTzRHMWtOTkpqNnVkdXRDbmxUR3RsYl9FWllSMTJDZUU&authuser=0  – it’s titled “Unpackaged Tours”

Kevin on Inselbahns, steamers, sweaters – and clothes in general

Kevin is up there with Jeff and Tony as one of our most frequent contributors of ROTS-related gems. He was the first person to alert Lloyd (notDavies) to the island railways on the Frisians – and also supplied links to fantastic old photos of steamers in Flensburg harbour:


You may have seen these: the link should take you to a picture of Flensburg Steamboat Pavillion in about 1890 – 1900. http://www.old-picture.com/europe/Jurgensbij-pavillion-Steamboat-Flensburg.htm

There is also a 1901 postcard to be seen at http://www.delcampe.net/page/item/id,233445591,var,ALTE-POSTKARTE-FLENSBURG-HAFENBILD-Hafen-Kai-Harbour-Port-Havre-Segelschiff-Schiff-Sailing-ship-bateau-a-voiles-boat-cpa,language,G.html


Probably Kevin’s most valuable contribution (apart from identifying exactly where the Kaiser was on October 1898) has been on the subject of clothes. He referred us to a great book about fishermens sweaters of the period, and also sent a long email listing a whole range of outfits we might need to consider for our adventure:

Due to my wife’s interest in clothing history we do have a mini library on clothing through the ages, mostly female, and if male mostly formal, but there are several things of interest about men’s clothing of the period. One frequent comment was that men’s fashion changed slowly, so i have gone back as far as 1880’s to try & get a feel for things.
Iris Brookes “The History of English Costume” has a brief section…”New interests in sports, such as tennis and bicycling, tended to make the men’s clothes even more informal than previously, and during the 80’s we even see the knitted ‘pull-over’, and knee-breeches frequently adopted in preference to trousers. The trousers had been the only shape of nether garment worn by men for 80 years. but now (after 1889) for all sporting events the Norfolk jacket and knee breeches take the board. The Norfolk jacket was in every way an entirely new idea, no belted coats having been worn since the time of William and Mary. And the increasing use of tweeds for men’s clothes became an established medium about the same date, when previously it had been looked upon in rather the light of an eccentricity than a rule.” 
“The Evolution of Fashion” by Margot Hamilton Hill & Peter A  Bucknell, in an overview of 1892 says”…Frock coat and top hat for formal occasions, lounge suit for ordinary wear. Trousers are looser in cut (young men wear permanent turn-ups)……Country wear – Norfolk jacket, knickerbockers, deerstalker hat, woollen stockings, high buttoned boots and mid calf gaiters.” by 1900….” an increasing variety of more informal clothes – dinner jackets(informal??), blazers etc…homburg hats for informal wear… “ and on a grooming note “….in 1890 hair was parted either in the middle or at the side, or   brushed straight back and walrus moustaches and clipped side whiskers grown to link up.By 1900 the younger man favours a smooth shaven face, innocent of moustache and side whiskers.” 
As all members of the ROTS Adventure Club will know the Cunningtons are behemoths in the costume world, and in “A dictionary of English Costume” by C Williet Cunnington, Phillis Cunnington & Charles Beard, there are various entries of interest:
-Alpine Hat -1890’s- a soft felt hat with low round crown slightly depressed circularly
Alpine Jacket -1876 – an ‘improved’ form of Norfolk jacket…double breasted with pleat down the centre of the back….worn fastened up to the neck
-Aquatic Shirt – 1830’ onwards – early form of “sports” shirt for boating; also for country and seaside wear. Of cotton in coloured stripes or checks or in whole colours(red, blue, green). decorated with sporting designs popular with the class known as ‘the Gent’. it developed into the coloured shirt and by 1894 had become ‘perfectly good form even with frock coats’ provided the collar was white’ solid colours are barred; neat stripes in pink and blue are favourites’.
-Bendigo -19th century – a rough fur cap worn by the working classes (wrong class i know, but seems the most practical all the bits of headgear around at the time for being out off the coast of norther europe in October)
-Blazer – -1890- originally scarlet jacket worn with cricketing or boating costume
-Box Bottoms – 19th century- the close-fitting extensions of breeches fastened below the knees and there stiffened with lining
-Cake Hat -1890’s – a soft felt hat with a low round crown slightly depressed circularly; similar to the Alpine hat
-Calcarapedes – 1860’s “self-adjusting galoshes”(says Our Social Bees) – made of rubber
-Cambridge  Coat – 1870 onwards” a lounge cout, single or double breasted, usually a “Three Seamer”(??)…  by 1880 identical with the single breasted reefer
-Breeches – 14th century onwards-  initially the term represented  the upper part of the long hoe which then combined combined stockings and breeches in th form of tights. by the end of the 16th century they had become an outer covering for the legs ending just above, or more usually just below the knee. So effectively a type of knickerbocker – or vice versa
-Cap– from middle ages onwards- …when in the 19th century the gentleman began to wear it in the country or for outdoor sports, he made it a rule never to wear it “in Town”. The cap with a stiff vizor was an improvement of the 1880’s; the ‘hook down’ cap in which the front of the crown hooked on to the top of the vizor appeared in the 1890’2 especially favoured for tennis or golf
-Cardigan – early 1890’s- short, close fitted knitted jacket of Berlin wool or English worsted
-Chemise – early middle ages to end of 19th century – the undermost garment, usually of linen, homespun or cotton, ……in the 1890’s it was being replaced by combinations (patented in 1862 being a vest and drawers in one, of woollen material)….also evolved into the shirt
-Coat Shirt – 1890’s- a shirt opening all down th front and closed by buttons; a device to avoid having to put the shirt over the head…anAmerican novelty
-Covert Coat/Cover Coat -1880s onwards- a short fly-fronted overcoat….popular ‘with horsey young gentleman’ and first designed for riding but soon adopted for general wear
-Deer Stalker – 1860’s onwards- tweed cap with ear flaps worn tied together over the crown. For country wear.
-Duck Hunter – a striped linen jacket (often worn by waiters)
-Flannels – 2nd half 19th century – Cricketing or boating costume “Beautifully dressed in white flannels” (1895 EF Benson The Baba, BA)
-Football Shirt – 1895- a cotton shirt with attached shakespeare collar, superseding the earlier knotted football jersey
-Glengarry / Glengarry Bonnet – 1860’s onward – a Scotch bonnet higher in front than at th back, in `England decorated with a small feather
-Henley Boater – 1894 onwards- a blue or drab felt hat in the shape of a straw boater
-Homburg Hat -1889 onwards- made famous by the Prince of Wales who frequented Homburg, a stiff felt hat with a dent running front to back
Hunting Stock – 1890’s- a large scarf of cellular cloth folded and tied twice round th neck, concealing the absence of a collar – “But few there are who can wear a hunting-stock and still look like a gentleman” (The Tailor & Cutter 1898)
-Jacket —15th centuury onward- … throughout the 18th century was worn by labourers, apprentices, seafarers, postillions & sportsmen; thus becoming a symbol of social inferiority; in the 18th century the gentleman used it only when powdering. in the 19th century it began to be acceptable, & by 1840 as part of a gentleman’s suit, replacing the coat for informal occasions. In the 19th century also worn as an upper garment, mainly for sports wear.
-Jack Tar Trousers – 1880’s- the legs cut without a side seam, close fitting above, expanding below to 22” round the ankles. made with whole falls, and worn for yachting.
-Jeans – 1810 onwards- trousers made of jean (this fromWikipedia:Research on the trade of jean fabric shows that it emerged in the cities of GenoaItaly, and Nimes, France. Gênes, the French word for Genoa, may be the origin of the word “jeans”. In Nimes, weavers tried to reproduce jean but instead developed a similar twill fabric that became known as denim, from de Nimes, meaning “from Nimes”. Genoa’s jean was a fustian textile of “medium quality and of reasonable cost”, very similar to cotton corduroy for which Genoa was famous, and was “used for work clothes in general”. Nimes’s “denim” was coarser, considered higher quality and was used “for over garments such as smocks or overalls”.[2] Nearly all Indigo, needed for dying, came from indigo bush plantations in India till the late 19th century. It was replaced by indigo synthesis method developed in Germany
-Jersey – 1860’s onwards – a knitted sleeved body garment generally made with horizontal stripes; worn of football in the 1870’s onwards
-Knickerbockers – 1860 onwards- a loose firm of breeches introduced at first for the Volunteers (?, and used by civilians for country wear “cut 3’ wider in the leg & 2” longer than ordinary breeches” (The Tailor & Cutter)
-Norfolk Jacket -1880 onwards- a modification of the Norfolk Shirt… lounge jacket of mid thigh length… large bellows pockets on the hips… a belt of self material(?), in1894 a yoke was often added… commonly made of Harris tweeds & homespuns
-Norfolk Shirt -1866 to 1880- short lounge jacket… always worn buttoned up…. of rough tweeds for country wear
-Patrol Jacket – 1878 – a close fitting hip length jacket; Prussian collar, … of military cut… worn with tight breeches for bicycling ‘on the high’penny farthing’ machine”
-Pyjamas – 1880’s onwards- a sleeping suit originating from India “The doom of the sleeping shirt is written(those possessed of any.. ought to preserve them.. to show succeeding generations the wonderfully and fearfully made garments their forefathers slept in..) the pyjama sleeping suit is to take its place” (Tailor & Cutter 1897)
Reefer / Pilot coat / Pea Jacket / Yachting Jacket – a very short double breasted jacket with 3 or 4 pairs of buttons, low collar annd short lapels….  unfashionable unless worn as an overcoat – made of pilot cloth (A thick blue cloth used to make overcoats and coats for sailors etc) or mohair 
-Sweater – 1890 onwards- a loosley knitted jersey reaching vbwlow the hips and worn outside the top of the knickerbockers. At first with a stand-up neck; for golf a polo collar was added in 1894. Cyclists continued to wear the earlier form but “no man can wear it as it stands without looking like a bounder” (Tailor & Cutter – 1990)
-Ulster – 1869 onwards- an overcoat with a waist belt either complete or as a strap across the back. At first it had a detachable hood but in the  1870’s a detachable cape was more usual, single or double breasted.
-Duffel/Duffle a material – 18th century a coarse woollen – 19th century a stout milled flannel, often frieze, later a cloth with a shaggy nap, used for overcoats; hence the nautical ‘duffle coat’
-Dolman(!!) actually a woman’s garment, but couldn’t leave it out 1870’s -1880’s-  a mantle with a sleeve cut all in one with the side piece hanging loose; sometimes in the form of a sling. In the bustle period the front had hanging mantlet ends and the back a full basque tied to form a puff over the bustle. (frankly i’m none the wiser).

Martyn Mackrill’s painting

We were honoured to have Martyn at the pilot Film Club night, when he made the effort to bring his marvellous painting of Dulcibella all the way up from the Isle of Wight. You can find more of his work at: http://www.martynmackrill.co.uk/

A watercolour of ‘Dulcibella’ by Martyn Mackrill

“I am a marine artist currently researching the Dulcibella with the view to producing a major painting of her sailing through the Frisians – as I believe no other painting other exists other than illustrations. I recently did an illustration of her for the Yachting Monthly ‘Book at bunk time’ series (see above), and the original was incidentally bought by Maldwin Drummond at an exhibition I had. I was amazed how this book still fires peoples imagination.”

Kass: sailing with Zest

It’s salutary to note that while we’ve been rolling around with this armchair adventure for the last 4 months, club member Kass has raced to the Azores and back. Now that’s a proper adventure. Well done Kass! See http://sailingwithzest.com/ and http://yb.tl/azab2015#

Childers family contributions

We’re absolutely delighted to have the author’s grandson *and* great grandson commenting on our blog.


Erskine was a member of several clubs over the course of his years in London ( 1895-1919 ). During the height of the book’s success he was invited to the Savile Club, and is listed as a member recurring until WWI.


His cousin, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Hugh Childers…


…was already a long standing member of the Reform Club, and it was through him that Childers became a member. If you visit the club now, there’s a Childers frame on their walls.


The Royal Cruising Club is where he spent his sailing years. The club he spent the most time is certainly the Royal Cruising Club, but from the papers and letters available, he was invited to most of the notable London’s clubs via his wide circle of friends ( Whitehall, Westminster, Royal Navy, and of course the literary world).


The figure on the right with his hands on his hips, back to the camera, is Erskine Childers in Howth, Dublin, July 1914. He’s wearing his storm gear as he has literally stepped off his yacht Asgard, as rifles are being unloaded.


Here is the same moment from Howth, different camera. Erskine in the same storm gear again , furthest right, in profile.


Onboard yacht ‘ Vixen ‘ ( aka Dulcibella ), and all his other yachts afterwards; was his personal library of seafaring books. A bible to him and the Royal Cruising Club which he belonged, was Biddle’s ‘ Corinthian Yachtsman ‘ 1881. His personal copy of it; although battered considerably, is still in family possession. Alongside his copy of EF Knight’s ‘ Falcon In The Baltic ‘.


In the back of the Corinthian book, from Pg. 126 onwards in the PDF version, you will notice adverts of a certain shop at ‘ 136 Minories ‘ that should answer all your questions as to….said shops in the ‘ Minories ‘. It really did exist!

The No Fixed Abode Club

Finally, ahoy to the lovely people at http://www.nofixedabodeclub.com/ who are yet another group of people  interested in travel, adventure and telling stories. Lloyd and I went to the ‘Seaward’ event at Arthur Beale not long after we embarked on this mad project that we’re now wrapped up in.

No Fixed Abode-Seaward from James Devereaux-Ward on Vimeo.

It was heartening to be amongst kindred spirits, and discover there are other people out there putting their energies into podcasting, blogging, gathering together and generally having a social time of it, both in the real world and online.

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