While I was researching Scout I came across this book by Eric Newby.
I knew about Eric Newby but I hadn’t read any of his books. What a great book this is. What an adventurous soul. Newby realised that the days of the windjammers were nearly over and he wanted to get on one before it was too late. There were only a handful of ships still in commerical use and the only run that was profitable was to Australia. So, at the age of 18 in 1938 he wrote to the owner of the Finnish ship, the Moshulu. The next thing you know he’s on the deck with his camera in hand to capture the last days of an incredible story. His previous job had been in an advertising agency. How can things like that happen?
There are photos in this book that are like memories in my mind. Of young people, now dead, having the time of their lives. Weird, isn’t it? The passing of time. All these young people smiling at the camera so long ago. There is one photo of sailors on the deck of the ship laughing with some Irish girls before they sailed. It is such a great photo. They are so young, so full of life, so happy to be together. Desperately in love, surely? Then, they set off with two dead dogs in the ballast and two pigs on the deck. From there on it’s high seas, storms, fist-fights and yards of canvas.
Having read this book was enough for me to track down Eric Newby’s other books and meet his wife Wanda and their incredible story. I was right in the excitement of discovering Eric Newby when I heard the news that he had passed away on 20 Oct, 2006 at the age of 86. I felt sad but what a life well lived, I thought. What a way to live. Thank you Eric, for the inspiration.
Just at the very last stages of writing Scout, I was after a surname for one of the characters. It was four years since I’d read Learning the Ropes but the name Newby slipped into my head and then I remembered where it’d come from. She’s one of my favourite characters too.