FIVE GREAT BOOKS ABOUT THE SEA
When Chris Grayling awarded the multi-million pound ferry contract for a possible no-deal Brexit to a company that had no ships and had never sailed so much as a paper boat on a pond before, the weakest, most incompetent government we’ve ever had was almost officially giving up our status as a great maritime nation. Here are five books to restore your faith in Britain’s nautical heritage.
HENRY BLOGG OF CROMER: THE GREATEST OF THE LIFEBOATMEN
Cyril Jolly (Poppyland Publishing, £11.95)
The volunteers who crew the RNLI lifeboats around the coasts of Britain and Ireland are all extraordinary people but in the long history of the service Henry Blogg stands out as arguably the greatest of them all. A member of the Cromer lifeboat crew in Norfolk from 1894 until his retirement in 1947, Blogg was responsible for saving 873 lives. Cyril Jolly’s biography of this extraordinary man was first published in 1958 but remains a timelessly brilliant account of an extraordinary life.
SEASHAKEN HOUSES: A LIGHTHOUSE HISTORY FROM EDDYSTONE TO FASTNET
Tom Nancollas (Particular Books, £16.99)
In these days of GPS and radar it’s hard to imagine just how crucial lighthouses have been to mariners around our coasts over the centuries. Here Tom Nancollas tells the stories of eight of the more remote beacons around these islands, using them to impart the wider tale of the people who designed, built and inhabited them in one of man’s few tangible triumphs against the worst of nature.
DEEP SEA AND FOREIGN GOING
Rose George (Portobello Books, £9.99) The American edition of George’s brilliant and original travel narrative is
only actual border the Leavers seeking to take back control really needed to worry about on a practical level but the one whose existence seemed to come as a complete surprise to most of them, notably those holding relevant ministerial posts. You’d think they’d have at least a basic idea of what the border is, especially given that it was Britain which put it there in the first place, but the levels of ignorance and pompous bluster displayed so far are no less galling for being entirely expected.
Whatever side of the Brexit divide you occupy Diarmaid Ferriter’s The Border: The Legacy of a Century of Anglo-irish Politics, published in February by Profile, looks like essential reading. While I fear it may be too late to educate some of Westminster’s dimmer bulbs, it promises called Ninety Percent Of Everything, in recognition of the fact that nearly all of what we wear, eat and work with or on arrives here by sea. The book recounts the author’s fiveweek voyage from Felixstowe to Singapore on board a giant Maersk container ship and is packed with startling facts and terrific anecdotes. A valuable reminder of the importance of our ports, our ships and the people that staff and crew them.
NELSON: THE SWORD OF ALBION John Sugden (Bodley Head, £25) This is the second part of Sugden’s exhaustive biography of Horatio Nelson and covers the famous, now almost mythical victories at the Nile, Copenhagen and finally Trafalgar. For all the glorious reputation of the Admiral, Sugden doesn’t shy away from his flaws and frailties to provide what will surely endure as the definitive biography of one of this country’s most important figures. You don’t have to have read the first volume A Dream Of Glory but it might help.
EREBUS: THE STORY OF A SHIP Michael Palin (Random House, £20) Scott’s doomed mission to the Antarctic has led to Britain’s polar history being dominated by the South Pole but turning the focus northward reveals a legion of incredible stories, not least Sir John Franklin’s doomed 1845 journey to find the fabled North-west
Passage. In Erebus,
Sir Michael Palin tells the story through the prism of Franklin’s ship in a thrilling, moving and never less than erudite account of a flawed but ambitious expedition.
to be an erudite and enlightening read from one of these islands’ leading popular historians and clearest voices on the border issue. Ferriter has been writing impassioned pieces in the press pleading with British politicians to understand the complexities and circumstances peculiar to this particular international division and the book, which tells the story of the border from partition in the 1920s to the Brexit negotiations, promises to be a valuable addition to the debate, albeit one infused with a hint of pyrrhic melancholy.
Whether we’re seeking light in the darkness of the current months or seeking to throw light on the darkness of the coming months, the shelves of our bookshops are probably the best place to start. Happy hunting, happy reading.