Friday, 5 October 2012

Charles Dibdin’s Grieving’s a Folly

Sketch by G Cruikshank in Songs of the Late Charles Dibdin

Throughout Lowry's novel Ultramarine, when the crew gather below decks, they sing songs to while away the time. Whether this is an accurate reflection of Lowry’s experience on board Pyrrhus is perhaps doubtful given the difficult time he reportedly had on the journey.  The singing of ‘wild songs’ owes more to the idea of the forecastle that Lowry created from his reading of sea literature, including Herman Melville’s White Jacket. The most significant chapter in White Jacket for this idea of male bonding through the singing of ‘wild songs’ is ‘The World in a Man-of-War’. Melville refers to the singing of songs written by Charles Dibdin on board British and American ships, saying that Dibdin’s songs ‘breathe the very poetry of the ocean’. In Chapter 6 of Ultramarine, the crew gather below decks and tell stories of past voyages, argue and break into song from time to time. One of the crew breaks into one of Dibdin’s songs, ‘Grieving’s a Folly’:

‘And Jack went aloft for hand the top-ga’t sail.
A spray washed him off and we ne’er saw him no more.
But grieving’s a folly,
Come, let us be jolly,
If we’ve troubles at sea, boys, we’ve pleasures ashore.’ (Pg. 163)

Refrains from this song recur throughout Chapter 6, acting as an aural backdrop to the idle banter of the crew passing time between watches. (See Pgs. 163, 164 and 167)

Spanking Jack was so comely, so pleasant, so jolly,
Though winds blew great guns, still he'd whistle and sing,
For Jack loved his friend, and was true to his Molly,
And, if honor gives greatness, was great as a king.
One night as we drove with two reefs in the mainsail,
And the scud came on low'ring upon a lee shore,
Jack went up aloft for to hand the topg'ant sail --,
A spray washed him off, and we ne' er saw him more:
But grieving's a folly,
Come let us be jolly;
If we've troubles on sea, boys, we've pleasures on shore.

Whiffling Tom, still of mischief or fun in the middle,
Through life in all weathers at random would jog;
He'd dance, and he'd sing, and he'd play on the fiddle,
And swig with an air his allowance of grog:
'Longside of a Don, in the " Terrible" frigate,
As yardarm and yardarm we layoff the shore,
In and out whiffling Tom did so caper and jig it,
That his head was shot off, and we ne'er saw him more:
But grieving's a folly,
Come let us be jolly;
If we've troubles on sea, boys, we've pleasures on shore.

Bonny Ben was to each jolly messmate a brother,
He was manly and honest, good-natured and free;
If ever one tar was more true than another
To his friend and his duty, that sailor was he:
One day with the davit to weigh the kedge anchor,
Ben went in the boat on a bold craggy shore
He overboard tipped, when a shark and a spanker
Soon nipped him in two, and we ne'er saw him more:
But grieving's a folly,
Come let us be jolly;
If we've troubles on sea, boys, we've pleasures on shore.

But what of it all, lads? shall we be downhearted
Because that mayhap we now take our last sup?
Life's cable must one day or other be parted,
And Death in safe moorings will bring us all up.
But 'tis always the way on't -- one scarce finds a brother
Fond as pitch, honest, hearty, and true to the core,
But by battle, or storm, or some damned thing or other,
He's popped off the hooks, and we ne'er see him more!
But grieving's a folly,
Come let us be jolly;
If we've troubles on sea, boys, we've pleasures on shore.

If The River Was Whiskey

‘And if the river were whisky
And ah was a duck,
Ah’d go down to the BOTTERN
An ah’d never come up. No sir,
Ah’d never come up.’

The above refrain is sung by one of the crew of Oedipus Tyrannus in Chapter 6 of Ultramarine (Pg. 176). The refrain is from a song variously known as ‘Hesitation Blues’, ‘Hesitating Blues’, ‘If The River Was Whiskey’ or ‘Divin’ Duck Blues’.

The exact origins of this song are lost in the mists of time. The traditional tune was arranged by W. C. Handy and published in 1915 as ‘Hesitating Blues’. The lyrics were entirely different from those of ‘Hesitation Blues’, and seldom used. In his Blues Anthology Handy stated that the tune was from an old spiritual.

‘Hesitation Blues’ was written/adapted by Billy Smythe and Scott Middleton. One of the first popular recordings of this song was an instrumental version by the Victor Military Band, with authorship attributed solely to Billy Smythe. It was recorded in 1915 at the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, New Jersey. Later, a dispute over the credits was resolved by adding Art Gillham to the credits. Gillham, who was probably responsible for the lyrics, Gillham performed the song on radio and on 25 February 1925 recorded it for Columbia Records. The song was re-published in 1926 giving credit to the three writers. The 1926 publication was a different arrangement from the 1915 publication and featured different lyrics. Because the tune is traditional, many artists have recorded ‘Hesitation Blues’ crediting themselves as writer, though the lyrics of the 1926 publication are frequently used.

Charlie Poole and His North Carolina Ramblers
Versions of the lyrics vary widely, though the refrain is usually mostly consistent with the original. So which version did Lowry hear? The nearest version of the song I can find with the lyrics is ‘If The River Was Whiskey’ by Charlie Poole, which sounds like a speeded-up version of Jelly Roll Morton’s ‘Hesitation Blues’, but Morton’s version lacks the phrase ‘If the river was whiskey’. Charlie Poole was an American old-time banjo player and country musician and the leader of the North Carolina Ramblers, an American old-time string band that recorded many popular songs between 1925 and 1930. The band recorded ‘If The River Was Whiskey’ in 1930 for Columbia, which means that either Lowry heard this while writing Ultramarine or he is referring to an as yet unidentified version. One can see the attraction of the lyrics for a budding alcoholic like Lowry! The song has parallels with the story of George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, who is reputed to have been drowned in a vat of Malmsey wine in 1478. The tradition may have originated in a joke, based on his reputation as a heavy drinker. Lowry, of course, would adopt the Plantagenet name for his alter ego in the novella Lunar Caustic.

In Ultramarine, the refrain from ‘Hesitating Blues’ comes while the crew are talking about black sailors. These discussions may not be based on notes made by Lowry on the voyage to the East but may have more to do with his first voyage to America via the Caribbean in 1928 to visit Conrad Aiken. One of the crew talks about hearing black bands in the Milk Market area of Bridgetown, Barbados, which Lowry visited on the voyage to America. This was probably Lowry’s first exposure to African American and Caribbean American music. Up to this point, all the documented jazz and blues that he had heard would have been white American interpretations of the idioms.


Lowry refers to the song Shenandoah in his novel Ultramarine;

‘Come on, Paddy, boy, give us a song.’
‘Yes, Paddy – good old Paddy – ’
‘Paddy – give us Paddy McGulligan’s daughter, Mary Ann.’ […]
‘Seraphina’s got no drawers, I been down and seen her, Ser-a-phina!’
‘No, that’s no good as a song; we want one of them old sea shanties, one of the real old timers.’
‘Shenandoah.’ (Pg 64)

‘Oh Shenandoah’ (also called simply ‘Shenandoah’, or ‘Across the Wide Missouri’) is a traditional American folk song, dating from at least the early nineteenth century. The lyrics may tell the story of a roving trader in love with the daughter of an Indian chief. Other interpretations tell of a pioneer’s nostalgia for the Shenandoah river, and a young woman who is its daughter; or of a Union soldier in the American Civil War, dreaming of his country home to the west of the Missouri river. The song is also associated with escaped slaves, who sang it in gratitude because the river allowed their tracks to be lost.

‘Shenandoah’ was first printed as part of William L. Alden’s ‘Sailor Songs’, in the July 1882 issue of Harper’s New Monthly Magazine. The song had become popular as a sea shanty with British sailors by the 1880s.  The lyrics were printed in Sea Songs and Shanties, collected by W. B. Whall, Master Mariner (1910). A Mr J. E. Laidlaw of San Francisco reported hearing a version sung by a black Barbadian sailor aboard the Glasgow ship Harland in 1894, which went:

Oh, Shenandoah! I hear you calling!
Away, you rolling river!
Yes, far away I hear you calling,
Ha, Ha! I’m bound away across the wide Missouri.
My girl, she’s gone far from the river,
Away, you rolling river!
An’ I ain’t goin’ to see her never.
Ha, Ha! I’m bound away,’ &c

The above lyrics may be near to what Lowry knew or heard on board Pyrrhus.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Mick McGilligan’s Daughter, Mary Anne

Lowry refers to the song Mick McGilligan’s Daughter, Mary Anne in his novel Ultramarine; "Paddy - give us Paddy McGulligan's daughter, Mary Ann." (Pg. 64).

Mick McGilligan’s Daughter, Mary Anne is an anonymous Irish bawdy song, which only exists in print in Louis Tierney’s cleaned-up version:

I’m a gallant Irishman
I’ve a daughter Mary Anne
She’s the sweetest, neatest, colleen in the Isle
Though she can’t now purchase satin
She’s a wonder at bog latin
In a fluent, fascinatin’ sort of style
When she’s sellin’ fruit or fish
Sure, it is her fondest wish
For to capture with her charm some handsome man
Ah! no matter where she goes
Sure, everybody knows
That she’s Mick McGilligan’s daughter Mary Anne

She’s a darlin’, she’s a daisy
And she’s set the city crazy
Though in build, and talk, and manner, like a man
When me precious love draws near
You can hear the people cheer
For Mick McGilligan’s daughter Mary Anne

Alternative chorus:
She’s me darlin’, she’s me daisy
She damn near drives me crazy
She’s got hairs upon her chest like any man
And you know she’s on the rocks
When she’s wearin’ cotton socks
Mick McGilligan’s daughter, Mary Anne

There are eight more verses, which elaborate on the masculine qualities of Mary Anne. This has resonance in Ultramarine, for the underlying theme is that Dana is a ‘nancy’, i.e. effeminate and not a ‘real man’. James Joyce also alludes to this song in Ulysses; this may be a coincidence, but Lowry includes further allusions to Ulysses in Ultramarine, so it seems that he certainly was aware of Joyce’s reference to the song. Another possible influence is Conrad Aiken’s Blue Voyage, Chapter 3, when the gambler sings about a girl who ‘can’t keep her petticoat down’.

This song is not to be confused with another song The Great Big Wheel with another Mary Annwhich Lowry refers to in an untitled poem (Collected Poetry 265.1) and in his film script for Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night (Pg. 223). Lowry stated that he heard The Great Big Wheel from a neighbour; "The song about Mary Ann and the Ferris Wheel was sung for us, out of the blue, on New year's Eve, by one of our neighbours, a Guernsey fisherman of 75, who had come to visit us while we were revising the scene. He did not know what we were writing about. The song was probably written about 1890, is English, forgotten, if ever remembered, and even if ever published, which is doubtful, can be no longer copyright." (Notes on a Screenplay for F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tender Is The Night Pg. 72). This song is a different one to the one written by E. W. Rogers in June 1895, and sung by Arthur Lennard (1867-1954).

Blow the Man Down

Lowry refers to a refrain from the sea shanty ‘Blow the Man Down’ being sung in his novel Ultramarine while Dana is in the red light district of Dairen; ‘As I was a-walking down Paradise Street’ (Pg. 113).

The lyric ‘Blow the man down’ refers to the act of knocking a man to the ground in a fight. A traditional explanation of its origins is that the Black Ballers were fast packet ships of the American Black Ball Line that sailed between New York and Liverpool towards the end of the nineteenth century. Lowry may have known the shanty from his time on Pyrrhus as the shanty was popular on Merseyside due to the local references in the lyrics. Lowry has introduced the refrain to draw attention to the similarities which he is creating between the ‘sailortown’ of Dairen and the ‘sailortown’ of Liverpool, whose epicentre was around Paradise Street, referred to in the shanty. Lowry was drawing here upon a mythology of Paradise Street, which was both imagined and real. The imagined temptations of drink and prostitutes were alluded to by Melville in his novel Redburn, which – narrating as it does the first voyage of an ‘innocent abroad’ – has many resonances with Ultramarine. Lowry knew Paradise Street as a youth, having visited the pubs in the area as well as the notorious Anatomy Museum, excerpts from whose catalogue he ‘borrowed’ for Ultramarine.


Oh, blow the man down, bullies, blow the man down
Way aye blow the man down
Oh, blow the man down, bullies, blow him away
Give me some time to blow the man down!

As I was a-walking down Paradise Street
Way aye blow the man dow
A pretty young damsel I chanced for to meet.
Give me some time to blow the man down!


She was round in the counter and bluff in the bow,
Way aye blow the man down
So I took in all sail and cried, ‘Way enough now’.
Give me some time to blow the man down!


So I tailed her my flipper and took her in tow
Way aye blow the man down
And yardarm to yardarm away we did go.
Give me some time to blow the man down!


But as we were going she said unto me
Way aye blow the man down
There’s a spanking full-rigger just ready for sea.
Give me some time to blow the man down!


But as soon as that packet was clear of the bar
Way aye blow the man down
The mate knocked me down with the end of a spar.
Give me some time to blow the man down!


Its starboard and larboard on deck you will sprawl
Way aye blow the man down
For Kicking Jack Williams commands the Black Ball.
Give me some time to blow the man down!

Bollocky Bill

Lowry refers to Bollocky Bill in his novel Ultramarine; "Bollocky Bill, aspiring writer, drawn magically from the groves of the Muses by Poseidon." (Pg. 92).

The mythical Bollocky Bill – reputed to have been most generously testicled – was commemorated in the bawdy ballad ‘Bollocky Bill the Sailor’, a traditional folk song originally titled ‘Abraham Brown’. ‘Bollocky’ is pronounced and occasionally spelt ‘bollicky’, and may also be a reference to being left-handed or clumsy.

There are several versions of the bawdy song in the Gordon ‘Inferno’ Collection in the US Library of Congress. The first printed version of the song is in the public domain book Immortalia (1927). Later versions feature the eponymous ‘Barnacle Bill’, a fictional character very loosely based on a nineteenth-century San Francisco sailor and Gold Rush miner, William Bernard. There are also known versions in England and Scotland from the early twentieth century.

Again it is impossible to determine when Lowry first heard the song. The earliest known recording is an expurgated adaptation written by Frank Luther and Carson Robison, performed and recorded on 21 May 1930 by one of Lowry’s heroes, Bix Beiderbecke, featuring the vocal of Hoagy Carmichael, with another Lowry jazz hero Joe Venuti on the session. This recording, made during the writing of Ultramarine, may have prompted Lowry to adapt the persona of the mythical seaman.

One version of ‘Barnacle Bill’ refers to an exchange between Bill and a ‘fair young maiden’. Each verse opens with inquiries by the maiden, sung by women, or by men in falsetto, and continues with Bill’s profane responses, sung by men:

‘Who’s that knocking at my door? Who’s that knocking at my door?
Who’s that knocking at my door?’ said the fair Young Maiden…
‘It’s me and my crew and we’ve come for a screw!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
‘It’s me and my crew and we’ve come for a screw!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

Alternative responses:
‘It’s only me from over the sea’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
‘It’s only me from over the sea’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

‘Open the door, you pox-ridden whore!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
‘Open the door, you pox-ridden whore!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

‘Open the door, you dirty whore!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.
‘Open the door, you dirty whore!’ said Barnacle Bill the Sailor.

This version of the song would suit the character of Dana at the point in Ultramarine at which he prepares to lose his virginity in the brothels of Dairen. Dana’s obsession, besides his guilt at the prospect of being unfaithful to his love Janet, is that he will catch syphilis from a prostitute. Another dimension to the introduction of the Bollocky Bill persona is that Lowry considered himself to be clumsy. Lowry endows Dana with the same clumsiness, which is constantly being reinforced by the crew of the ship.

Der Hauptmann von Köpenick 1931

Lowry refers to the film in a letter to Clemens ten Holder dated 31/10/1951; "I think I have seen nearly all the great German films.....and other late masterpieces like the Kapitan von Kopernick..." (Collected Letters Vol 2 Pg. 445). Sherrill Grace's annotation in the Collected Letters states that Lowry was referring to the play of the same name. However, Lowry is referring to the 1931 film version which we must assume he saw at the time of release.

The Captain from Köpenick (German: Der Hauptmann von Köpenick) is a 1931 German comedy film directed by Richard Oswald and produced by Gabriel Pascal. It is one of several films based on the 1931 play by the same name written by Carl Zuckmayer. The story centers around the Hauptmann von Köpenick affair in 1906.

Der Hauptmann von Köpenick is based on a true story that took place in Germany in 1906. A poor cobbler named Wilhelm Voigt purchased the second-hand uniform of a Prussian infantry captain. Wearing this, he travelled to the borough of Köpenick and ordered a troop of guardsmen to place themselves under his command. He then declared the town hall to be under military law, ordering the arrest of the mayor and treasurer and confiscating all the funds in the exchequer. In this film version it's a considerable sum of 4,000 reichsmarks. Voigt's orders were obeyed without question and he temporarily got away with the caper, although he was eventually caught. Wikipedia

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The Campbells Are Coming

Lowry refers to the song in his novel Ultramarine; "the Campbells are coming, yo ho, yo ho: the Campbells are coming along the grey familiar fields to happy go." (Pg. 44).

A song written by Robbie Burns. The original song for, The Campbells are comin dates back to the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. In the 1715 rebellion the 2nd Duke of Argyll, John Campbell, led the government forces against the Jacobite forces. However, in this song, Burns alludes to the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots in Lochleven Castle in 1567. In this instance, ‘Great Argyle’, is the 5th Earl of Argyll, who made an effort to rescue her.

The Campbells are comin, Oho, Oho!
The Campbells are comin, Oho, Oho!
The Campbells are comin to bonie Lochleven,
The Campbells are comin Oho, Oho!

Upon the Lomonds I lay, I lay,
Upon the Lomonds I lay, I lay,
I looked down to bonie Lochleven,
And saw three bonie perches play.

Great Argyle he goes before,
He maks his cannons and guns to roar,
Wi' sound o' trumpet, pipe and drum
The Campbells are comin Oho, Oho!

The Campbells they are a' in arms
Their loyal faith and truth to show,
Wi' banners rattling in the wind
The Campbells are comin Oho, Oho!

The Campbells are comin, Oho, Oho!
The Campbells are comin, Oho, Oho!
The Campbells are comin to bonie Lochleven,
The Campbells are comin Oho, Oho!

The song is connected with the siege of Lucknow in the Indian rebellion, 1857. Nana Sahib had massacred women and children, and while the survivors were expecting instant death, a Scotch woman lying ill on the ground heard the pibroch, and exclaimed, “Dinna ye hear it? Dinna ye hear it? The pipes o’ Havelock sound.” And soon afterwards the rescue was accomplished. E. Cobham Brewer 1810–1897. Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.

Kings Lynn, Norfolk

King's Lynn, also known as Lynn, is a sea port and market town standing on the river Ouse in the county of Norfolk in the East of England. It is situated 97 miles (156 km) north of London and 44 miles (71 km) west of Norwich.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the town's main export was grain. The town was no longer a major international port, although some iron and timber were still imported. Like other East Coast ports, King's Lynn suffered from the discovery of the Americas, which benefited ports on the West Coast of England. It was also affected by the growth of London which attracted the town's trade.

The port of Kings Lynn continued to thrive in the 19th century. Alexandra Dock was built in 1869. Bentinck Dock was built in 1883.

Lowry refers to the port in his novel Ultramarine; "The quartermaster had one green eye, and one brown one and Hilliot knew he came from King's Lynn, the decaying port in the wilds of Norfolk." (Pg. 38)

Richard Dehan The Dop Doctor

The Dop Doctor is a novel written by Clotilde Graves in 1911 under the pen name of Richard Dehan, although she was already known as a writer (chiefly for the theatre) under her own name.

The story hinges around a drunken and disgraced medic who eventually makes his way to South Africa where he redeems his honour at the Siege of Mafeking. Albert Gérard, in his European-language writing in Sub Saharan Africa, regards the book's description of the siege of Mafeking "as a heroic justification of British Imperial strategy and the vindication of a belief in the righteousness and superiority of the British cause. The Dop Doctor contains pro-Jingo arguments of the type which offers the stereotypical portrait of the Boer as backward and despicably primitive, and the black man as a shadow figure behind the civilizing foreground, an appendage of an argument over what to do with his labour". The incidentials of the novel, however, should not distract from its pimary objective of tracing a story of redemption through expiatory suffering and kenosis, a subject much explored by writers, in several European languages, connected with the literary renouveau catholique movement. It was made into a film in 1915 by Fred Paul. The film gave considerable offence in South Africa due to the harsh portrayal of English and Dutch characters. It was eventually banned under the Defence of the Realm Act. Wikipedia

We must assume that Lowry read the book as he makes reference to a drink and comments about the drink only found in this book to date:

"Dop," being the native name for the cheapest and most villainous of Cape brandies, has come to signify alcoholic drinks in general to men of many nations dwelling under the subtropical South African sun. Thus, apple-brandy, and peach liqueur, "Old Squareface," in the squat, four-sided bottles beloved no less by Dutchman and Afrikander, American and Briton, Paddy from Cork, and Heinrich from the German Fatherland, than by John Chinkey—in default of arrack—and the swart and woolly-headed descendant of Ham, may be signified under the all-embracing designation." (The Dop Doctor Pg. 99).

Lowry refers to Cape Dopp in his short story 'Seductio ad Absurdum'; "And it wasn't wine at all but Cape Dopp, wot we call Cape Dopp— raw spirit gawd blimey. Why, do you know, we all went mad, mad, and they had to tie Deaffy up to the bullock post." (Pg. 9) and "Fellers used to keep em as pets and make em drunk on Cape Dopp." (Pg. 9); these lines are repeated in his first novel Ultramarine (Pgs.127-128).  Lowry also uses the phrase 'Old Squareface' in Ultramarine when the quartermaster on board Oedipus Tyrannus asks Dana to his cabin for a drink; "Come along to my room and have a slice of old squareface."  Pg. 37

Songs of Second Childhood

Lowry refers to a collection of fictional sonnets in Dana's inner dialogue in Chapter 2 of Ultramarine when he is thinking of his Norwegian father; "..without a country. Like myself, like Herman Bang, like the ship, like my excellent father, the only surviving son, who is now in a home eating the buttons off the chair at clairaudient intervals, and composing a sonnet sequence, Songs of Second Childhood.... (Pg. 68).

Lowry would appear to be making a humorous allusion to William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience or John Donne's Songs and Sonnets. Lowry's reference to Second Childhood relates to a later reference in Ultramarine when he quotes from the Descriptive Catalogue of the Liverpool Museum of Anatomy, which he utilised for the detail of the anatomy museum in Tsjang Tsjang (Dairen); ...The face of  an old BACHELOR, he became IDIOTIC and rapidly sank into second CHILDHOOD; what a fearful account he will have to give of himself at the JUDGEMENT DAY.... (Pg. 103). This quote relates to exhibit number 261 in the former Liverpool Museum of Anatomy, which Lowry visited sometime in the 1920's. (Gordon Bowker Pursued By Furies Pg. 40). Lowry has expunged from his quote the reference to masturbation as the full description begins as follows; " 261. - Face of an old bachelor; a confirmed onanist." (Descriptive Catalogue of the Liverpool Museum of Anatomy Pg. 33). Lowry is also alluding to the kind of Wesleyan books he probably read as a child informing of the dangers of masturbation; "The ..books on top of my brother's wardrobe .. already assured me, if they were true, that I had acquired certain habits and should have gone mad. So I had long got used to having no normal prospects. I looked for death at any moment." (Notes on manuscript to draft of 'Enter One In Sumptuous Armour').

Lowry also made reference to the description from the catalogue in a letter to Conrad Aiken dated 14/9/1952 concerning the publication of Ushant:

What a fearful account he will have to give 
of himself at the judgement day!

the reference being to the sinister inscription upon the glass case containing a bepoxed Liverpudlian waxwork in the old Museum of Anatomy in Paradise (Street) outside which it also said: Man know thyself! (Collected Letters Vol 2 Pg. 597)

The above throws light on the possibility that Lowry noted down the inscriptions rather than using the catalogue. We should also note that Lowry indicates to Aiken that the inscription is about syphilis and not masturbation which is a mistake on Lowry's part - deliberate or forgetfulness is open to question.

Lowry's reference to Herman Bang relates to the writer's death during a lecture tour of the United States when he was taken ill on the train and died in Ogden, Utah - dying "without a country" in effect a self-imposed exile. A theme later taken up by Lowry himself but also by Herman Bang in his novel Denied A Country. However, Lowry may also be alluding to Bang's novel Ida Brandt, in which the character Ida works in a hospital for the mentally ill, looking after a patient in room "A" who writes all day. Bang's family also had a history of madness and disease.

Lowry's use of the 'clairaudient' - The power or faculty of hearing something not present to the ear but regarded as having objective reality - probably relates to his exposure to clairvoyance through his sister-in-law Margot (Gordon Bowker Pursued By Furies Pg. 39). This may have included theosophy - "As a very young child I was evidently somewhat clairaudient — so many children are.." NFT Theosophical Quarterly Magazine, 1929 to 1930 - (Pg.166). There are several references to the system of esoteric philosophy in his work.

Lowry also adapted the phrase used in Ultramarine to name the fourth section of his long poem The Lighthouse Invites The Storm' - 'Songs for Second Childhood'.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Chances Peak, Montserrat

Chances Peak is the culminant point of the active complex stratovolcano named Soufrière Hills at 915 m. It is the highest point in Montserrat, a British overseas territory located in the Caribbean Sea. The last eruption was in January 2009.

Lowry refers to the peak in his novel Ultramarine; " 'Yes, and there's a mountain there, a ruddy great mountain, and I climbed it and I had a guide who went up in bare feet, eh. It was the hell of a climb, like climbing up a tree all the way - ink trees and wild cabbages they were - and kept stopping and his nigger guide'd say, "Catch yo' breeze, man! catch yo' breeze!" ......"Wild cabbage, yis! There was, growing at the top. And all the niggers go and throw pennies in the pond up there on Easter morning -" (Pg. 175).

Whether Lowry actually made the climb described in Ultramarine is certainly open to speculation though he may have spent a short time in Monsterrat on his 1929 voyage to USA to visit Conrad Aiken. (Gordon Bowker Pursued By Furies Pg. 83 ). Lowry also refers to this climb in his short story 'Through The Panama'; " Montserrat not far away to starboard where I altered geography books by climbing Chance's Mountain in 1929, in company with two Roman Catholics : Lindsey, a Negro, and Gomez, a Portugese." (Pg. 72).

Lowry's reference to the coins being thrown into the "pond" cannot be verified. However, there is certainly a legend associated with the Mermaid's Hole on the peak which may relate back to Irish mythology:

Finally, Montserrat is also a land of legend. A mermaid reportedly lives at a pond on Chances Peak in the now famous or infamous Soufriere Hills, with a treasure chest at the bottom of the pond. The mermaid has somehow revealed that anyone who takes her golden comb on Easter Monday and runs to the sea and wash it will possess the treasure. There is a catch however. The seekers must outrun a diamond snake that will try to touch them. If the snake succeeds, they will lose the treasure and must pass the comb back to another person. Montserrat & Monserratians: Photo Exploration: Commemorating Ten Years ... By Igor Kravtchenko, Howard A. Fergus

Or this account:

It is Easter Sunday and in Montserrat there is a legend that there is a white mermaid who appears at the top of Chances Pond every Easter at midnight. Hundreds of Islanders would climb Chances Mountain which is 3002ft using torches. They said that one must arrive before dawn take the mermaids comb from her and ran to the sea before they could be caught they would be rich for life. They never said exactly what you should do with the comb once you arrived at the seashore. Acacia

God’s Agwine Ter Move All De Troubles Away

Lowry may have been exposed to African American spirituals for the first time in America through his contact with Conrad Aiken, who is known to have had some knowledge of spirituals. Lowry worked on a draft of Ultramarine while in America in 1929 and may have noted the refrain below, which he incorporated into the finished novel:

(And Samson tol’ her cut off-a ma hair
If yo’ shave ma hade
Jes as clean as yo’hair
Ma strength-a will become-a like a natch-erl man,
For Gawd’s agwine t’move all the troubles away,
For Gawd’s agwine t’move all the troubles away….) (Pg. 143)

Natalie Curtis-Burlin
The above verses are from a spiritual entitled ‘God’s Agwine Ter Move All De Troubles Away’. Natalie Curtis-Burlin first transcribed the song in 1918 in her Hampton Series.  She states that the song was recorded by a quartet in Hampton consisting of Charles H. Tynes ("Lead"), Freeman W. Crawley (Tenor), Samuel E. Phillips (Baritone) and John H. Wainright (Bass). The origins of the song are lost but it was popular in Virginia and St Helena Island off the coast of South Carolina.

CHORUS [sung twice after each verse]
[For] God’s agwine ter move all de troubles away,
God’s agwine ter move all de troubles away,
For God’s agwine ter move all de troubles away,
See ’m no more till de comin’ day.  

Genesis you understan’,
Methusaleh was de oldes’ man;
His age was nine hundred an’ sixty nine,
He died an went to Heav’n in due time.

Dare was a man of de Pharisee,
His name was Nicodemus an’ he wouldn’t believe;
De same he came to Christ by night,
wanta be taught out o’ human sight.
Nicodemus was a man who wanted to know,
Can a man be born a whena he is ol’?
Christ tol’ Nicodemus as a frien’,
a-Man, you must be born again.”

Aread about Samson from his birth,
De stronges’ man ever walked on earth;
a-Read way back in de ancient times,
He slew ten thousan’ Philistines.
A-Samson he went a-walkin’ about,
a-Samson’s strengtha  was never found out
Twell his wife set down upon his knee an’
a “Tell me whar yo’ strengthalies, ef you please.”
ASamson’s wife she done talk so fair,
a-Samson tol’ her, “Cut offa ma hair,
Ef you shave my head jes’ es clean as yo’ han’,
Ma strengtha will becomea like a natcherl man.”

Aiken spent his childhood in Savannah, where he had at least two black nurses who may have taught or sung the song to him, or indeed he may have heard it from his mother.  Aiken himself was interested in spirituals and may have had a recording of the song. Another possible connection is that Aiken may have known Curtis-Burlin or her book, as she wrote for Poetry magazine, to which he contributed. There is also an article on spirituals by Gilbert Seldes, "An End and a Beginning" Rev. of twos book of Negro spirituals, Dial 83.1 (July 1927) Pgs.70-2  alongside a piece by Aiken. Therefore, Lowry could possibly have read about spirituals in the magazines prior to his visit, been exposed to them through Aiken, or picked up on them from an unidentified source in America on his first visit.

Lowry’s dalliance with African American culture continued during his time in New York in 1934 and 1935 with trips to Harlem to listen to jazz, though details are sparse. He also included the black character Battle in his novella Lunar Caustic, which allowed him the opportunity to include further references to African American speech idioms, slang, jazz music, stories and prototype rapping.

Lovis Corinth The Blinded Samson 1912
Lowry's use of the refrain comes in Chapter 4 is perhaps chosen to reflect on the story of Samson - a man who must abstain from alcohol and not cut his hair otherwise God would abandon him and he would only have the strength of a natural man; who is betrayed by his wife and who commits suicides - themes contained in Ultramarine.

Derby Castle Theatre, Isle of Man

Derby Castle Theatre once stood at the North end of Douglas Bay. The original buildings were 2 houses masquerading as one larger one. Originally built for Major Pollock by J. Skillicorn of Onchan probably to a design of John Robinson.

The buildings were acquired in 1877 by Douglas advocate Mr. A.N.Laughton who built a dance hall in its grounds. The dancehall, designed by W.J. Rennison was some 194 feet by 71 ft and capable of accommodating 2000 dancers. Laughton financed the project by forming the Derby Castle Company in 1878 with initially £15,000 in shares (by 1889 £20,000) subscribed to by six Douglas businessmen, including J.A. Brown of the IoM Times who was soon to start his own rival Palace complex and who ultimately became the controlling power behind the Palace and Derby Castle Company.

By the 1960's the complex was outdated and run down - it was bought by Douglas corporation in the late 1960's, demolished and the ill-fated Summerland complex built on the site. Read more

Lowry refers to theatre in his novel Ultramarine; "My missus’s tightly bound, she’s all tightly bound. Harry Weldon in 1925 singing that at the Derby Castle, Douglas, his audience bringing him back for his curtain over and over again." (Pg. 116). This reference probably relates to a Lowry family holiday made in 1923 to the island.

Harry Weldon

Lowry refers to Harry Weldon in his novel Ultramarine; "My missus’s tightly bound, she’s all tightly bound. Harry Weldon in 1925 singing that at the Derby Castle, Douglas, his audience bringing him back for his curtain over and over again." (Pg. 116).

The above song is an unidentified one performed by Harry Weldon at the Derby Castle theatre in Douglas on the Isle of Man. This reference probably relates to a Lowry family holiday made in 1923 to the island.

Harry Weldon was a big star in music hall and variety, and first appeared in London in 1900, coining the catchphrase ‘S’No Use!’ and creating a popular song from it. Weldon initially rose to fame as a member of Fred Karno’s company when he played opposite Charlie Chaplin in the sketch ‘The Football Match’. Weldon then used the character of Stiffy, the goalkeeper, as the mainstay of his solo act, and developed other characters, including his boxing skit ‘The White Hope’ Apparently he cut a very strange figure with his centre-parted wig, eccentric clothes, eyes that always seemed to be shut and a voice of whistling sibilance. He had a unique style, and frequently used the conductor of the orchestra as an extra part in his performance. Harry Weldon’s conversational style and his use of the absurd may have appealed to the young Lowry. He worked until he died in 1930 aged 49. Read more

Lowry’s early letters have several references to music hall stars such as Stanley Lupino and Milton Hayes. We can only presume from the detail of the letters that Lowry was aware of these stars because he had seen them either on trips to local theatres or when he was on holiday on the Isle of Man or in Devon. He mentions in his works several local theatres with music hall traditions, including the Argyle and Hippodrome theatres in Birkenhead and the Olympia in Liverpool.

The use of these popular musical references demonstrates Lowry’s awareness of the music hall tradition. He uses them to underpin the authenticity of the ‘working-class’ roots of the sailors’ language in the Ultramarine, though they are often based on his own experiences. Commentators on Lowry have often overstated his middle-class origins, forgetting that his parents’ and brothers’ tastes were ‘lowbrow’, an indication of the family’s working-class roots on Merseyside. Lowry may have been an ‘outsider’ on board the Pyrrhus, undergoing an awkward transition from public schoolboy to university student. However, on his nights out with Janet to the cinema and the theatre he had enjoyed the same forms of popular entertainment familiar to the rest of the crew.

Gerald de Nerval Aurélia

Lithograph by Pearl Binder for Aurélia  1932
Gerard de Nerval's Aurélia is a fantasy-ridden interior autobiography— "Our dreams are a second life," he wrote — which influenced the Surrealists. Lowry makes no direct reference to Richard Aldington's 1932 translation of Gerald de Nerval's Aurélia. However, Lowry uses a line in his novel Ultramarine taken from Aldington's introduction to the translation. Compare:

"When I was fourteen I was under the delusion for a year I was Thomas Chatterton.....mad? No ...not even that. But a kind of semi-madman, pernicious and irritating and apathetic in the extreme, for whom in madness, as in death to the impotent, exists the only dignified escape." (Ultramarine Pg. 95).

"Literature, especially of the Romantic and Pre-Romantic period contains numerous semi-madmen who, upon the whole, are rather pernicious and irritating." (Introduction to Aurelia Pg. xvii)

Lowry's work contains other references to Aldington's work whom he may have known through Conrad Aiken. If they didn't actually meet then Lowry appears to have been familiar with Aldington's work.

Nerval's Aurélia may have appealed to Lowry for several reasons. The fantasy-ridden interior autobiography Aurelia can be compared to parts of Ultramarine especially in the more dream like sequences. Lowry was also drawn to references to suicide following Paul Fitte's suicide - Nerval hung himself. Nerval travelled to the Far East documenting it in his work Voyage to the Orient -  published during 1851, resulting from his voyage of 1842 to Cairo and Beirut. In addition to a travel account it retells Oriental tales, like Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, in terms of the artist and the act of creation. Lowry's construction of Ultramarine is in part a complex montage of a voyage to the East, in which the artist plays with forms to create a novel, using a variety of techniques including allusion and plagarism. Nerval added a series of appendices to Voyage to the Orient, the majority of the material taken directly from Lane's Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians - a technique not unlike Lowry's later use of travel brochures in La Mordida. Lowry also appears to have been drawn to writers who are accused of plagarism or manipulate other's work such as Herman Melville, Thomas Chatterton etc. The linking of Nerval and Chatterton may also have to do with both committing suicide and also the possibility that venereal disease may have been the reason for both writer's "madness" which was a fear for Lowry reflected in Dana's fears in Ultramarine.

Lowry's nickname was 'Lobs' and he may have known about the story of the lobster and Nerval. Nerval is quoted as having said "Why should a lobster be any more ridiculous than a dog? ...or a cat, or a gazelle, or a lion, or any other animal that one chooses to take for a walk? I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures. They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gnaw upon one's monadic privacy like dogs do. And Goethe had an aversion to dogs, and he wasn't mad." (Gautier, Théophile. Portraits et Souvenirs Littéraires (Paris: Charpentier, 1875), Richard Holmes trans.).

Nerval's suicide by Gustave Doré.
In the same paragraph from which Lowry took the words "a kind of semi-madman, pernicious and irritating";  he could have easily have seen the rest of  the paragraph pertaining to the kind of creation he may have wanted to aspire to and which he later achieved in Under The Volcano:

Nerval was a real madman, and so far as I know he is one madman who has recovered and attempted to give some account of his sensations and experience while lost in the dreadful gulf of insanity. I confess I cannot read Aurélia without a shudder. Its incoherences, its repetitions, its formlessness, its deformation of reality, its wanderings among old memories, its pitiful attempts at sincerity and still more pitiful attempt at concealment or justification, produce a more genuine feeling of horror than the most horrific tale of Poe. (Introduction to Aurélia Pg. xvii)

Monday, 17 September 2012

James Johnston Abraham The Surgeon's Log

Lowry refers to James Johnston Abraham's The Surgeon's Log in his short story 'Enter One In Sumptuous Armour'; "Closing the dictionary I jammed it back next to The Surgeon's Log."

We must assume because of Lowry's mention of The Surgeon's Log that he had read the book. The Surgeon's Log was published in 1911 and ran to 31 editions with photographs.

Ship's surgeon and his first book

For an impecunious young man this was bad news as he could not afford to take the time off. He had agreed, after graduation, that he would not be a financial burden on his father who could well have afforded to help him out. Indeed, he had offered to buy him a practice had he not pursued the surgical route. The pathologist roommate came up with the idea of a sea voyage and he enlisted for a six month spell as a ship's surgeon on a 10,000 ton cargo ship which carried no passengers, sailing from Birkenhead. 

He had such a splendid time that he became somewhat of a bore about it upon his return and his pathologist friend persuaded him to write a book about his experiences. He did, and hawked it around nine publishers; they all turned it down. One day, when having afternoon tea in the Staff Room of St Peter's Hospital, Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, he looked out of the window. Across the road he saw the offices of Chapman & Hall, Dickens' publishers. He sent them the manuscript and the Managing Director, Arthur Waugh (Evelyn's father) accepted it. He had originally called it The Voyage of the Clytemestra, the name of his ship, but Waugh changed the title to The Surgeon's Log' and it became a bestseller on both sides of the Atlantic and was still selling steadily in the late 1950s, particularly in its Penguin form. It is a beautifully written descriptive travelogue, not dissimilar in style to that of Eric Newby.

It must have been a wonderful and restful experience which was what he needed. With only the crew to look after he had little medical work to do and was able to relax on deck in the tropics and go ashore in the ports. They sailed non-stop to Port Said, traversed the Suez Canal and then crossed the Indian Ocean to Penang. They sailed down the Malacca Strait to Singapore. From Singapore they sailed to Japan and visited Nagasaki, Moji and then by the Inland Sea to Kobe and on to Yokohama (and Tokyo). From there they sailed to the Dutch East Indies and thence home via Marseilles. J S Bingham A publisher, a bobbin-boy and the Society Presidential address to the Medical Society for the Study of Venereal Diseases, 28 April, 1995 at The Royal College of Physicians of London: Genitourin Med 1995;71:314-322

The appeal of such a book to the young Lowry is not surprising given that his work is littered with references to readings of books about ships and sea voyages. The apparent 'splendid time' had by Abraham may have convinced a young Lowry that he could replicate the experience and write up his own 'log'.

Lowry's 1927 voyage to the Far East followed a very similar route to one made by Abraham. Both Lowry and Abraham sailed on Blue Funnel ships and both disguised the name of the real ship they sailed on. They both had similar mixed attitudes to race and gender apparent in both the Surgeon's Log and Ultramarine which could be argued reflect white/European attitudes of the period though both temper their racism with sympathetic views to peoples they come across.

Abraham informs  the reader that he carefully logged conversations and details for later use which may have tied into ideas Lowry was having in the mid-1920s about being a writer. One major difference is that Abraham's book is an out and out travelogue whereas Lowry's Ultramarine is a far more complex text though Lowry was accused by early reviewers of the novel of adding 'local colour' to the novel.

Lowry's eventual log details a socially different class experience to the one detailed by Abraham who concentrated on the officers as opposed to Lowry's attempts to empathasise with the crew. Though Abraham does explore details of the Chinese crew's experience and life aboard the ship.

One possible major influence of The Surgeon's Log is providing Lowry with the title of his novel Ultramarine as Abraham describes the sea as ultramarine; "gazing dreamily out over a sea of ultramarine." (Pg. 189) and the sky as ultramarine; "smiling under a sky of purest ultramarine shading gradually to a pearly-grey as it touched the horizon." (Pg. 227).

The only similarity in 'plot' between the two books is comparison can be made between Horner's desire to rescue the Japanese woman Ponta from the 'tea-shop' in Kobe and Dana's fantasy of rescuing Olga from the brothel in Tsjang Tsjang (Dairen). There is also the possibility that the references to Moji in Ultramarine stem from Lowry's recollection from The Surgeon's Log, which features a visit to the port where his ship takes on coal (Pgs. 122-144).

James Abraham was born in Coleraine, County Londonderry, and was educated there and at Trinity College Dublin where he studied medicine. He practised in County Clare and was appointed Resident Medical Officer to London Dock Hospital and Rescue Home in 1908. In 1914 he travelled to Serbia, where he administered to the Serbian army and played a major part in bolstering morale. He coped with inadequate supplies, outbreaks of typhoid, scarlet fever, recurrent fever, smallpox and a typhus epidemic. He was the first doctor on location to diagnose typhus, and he and the Serbian Army Medical Corps managed to contain it. He was then called to the Middle East and latterly became a Harley Street specialist. He was created a Knight of St John Consulting Surgeon at the Princess Beatrice Hospital in London. He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, President of the Irish Medical Graduates' Association and in 1949 won the Arnott Medal. He was author of The Night Nurse (1913); Surgeon's Journal, Balkan Log and The Surgeon's Log, which ran to thirty-one editions. He was awarded an honorary Doctorate in 1946. The Dictionary of Ulster Biography 

Read a detailed obituary in Royal College of Surgeons of England Annals

James Wood New World Vistas

James Wood 1889-1975 - Painter, draughtsman, writer and aesthete, born in Southport, Lancashire. From 1908-11 he read history at Cambridge University, then in Paris, after studying etching, pursued painting with Percyval Tudor-Hart before going to Munich. During World War I he was in the army and Royal Flying Corps, later working on battleship camouflage. 

Among Wood's writings after World War I were The Foundations of Aesthetics, written with C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards. He also wrote on colour harmony, a favourite topic, and in 1926 published New World Vistas, an autobiographical work. 

From the 1930s Wood became increasingly fascinated by Persian Art; he learn Persian and subsequently became art adviser to the Persian government. His own paintings were influenced by Kandinsky, and he showed at Leicester and Zwemmer Galleries in solo exhibitions. 

After 1955 he rarely exhibited, but painted several portraits of Cambridge Academics. Wood lived in a remote cottage above Llantony, Monmouthshire, from which he continued to monitor artistic development and where he worked until his death. In 1980 Blond Fine Art held a show of his output. Wood was married to a painter, Elisabeth Robertson, who had previously been the wife of the artist and writer Humphrey Slater. British Abstract Art

Lowry makes no direct reference to James Wood's New World Vistas 1926 but he does use lines from the book in the short story 'Goya The Obscure'. Lowry also utilises the overall atmosphere of Wood's work for the Liverpool scenes in 'Goya The Obscure' as both works include a walk around the Pier Head, Liver Buildings and docks. Compare:

"the wind rushed round him with a cold monstrous final insistency." ('Goya The Obscure' Pg. 277)

"the wind rushed round me with a cold monstrous final insistency." (New World Vistas Pg. 70);

"Tram- lines ran in front of the offices; further away secret tunnels bored through the gloomy buildings and the Overhead Railway and a number of sloping bridges leading to the landing stage spread round in bleak and bare confusion." ('Goya The Obscure' Pg. 277).

"Tram lines ran in front of the offices, dark tunnels branched away between side buildings, the overhead railway and a number of sloping bridges leading to the landing stages spread round in bleak and bare confusion." (New World Vistas Pg. 70).

"Yet the howling wind had blown everything clean as a whistle and the sky was a ferocious blue" (Pg. 277).

"A howling wind had blown the air as clean as a whistle for miles and miles" (New World Vistas Pg. 67).

"Tram bells clanged" ('Goya The Obscure' Pg. 277).

"The tram bells clanged but no one heeded..." (New World Vistas Pg. 69).

"Mothers with warm-smelling furs.." ('Goya The Obscure' Pg. 277).

"..graceful girls smelling of fur.." (New World Vistas Pg. 67).

"But the wind had enveloped and overarched all these masses of iron and concrete......('Goya The Obscure' Pg. 277).

"The wind alone seemed to surround and over-arch this mass of concrete and iron...." (New World Vistas Pg. 70).

"Brutal buildings strode into the air above Joe Passilique.." ('Goya The Obscure' Pg. 277).

The twin towers capped with dull green lead and the peculiar figures of the Liver bird abutted on the blue sky with an unpleasant brutality."  (New World Vistas Pg. 70).

"A drove of black cattle clattered past, herded by a hooligan with a twisted stick." ('Goya The Obscure' Pg. 278).

"..a herd of black cattle..pursued by a tramp in a ragged blue suit....waving a stick as he rushed after them with the gaunt determination of a maniac.." (New World Vistas Pg. 71).

Lowry utilised the same lines in Chapter 2 of Ultramarine (Pg.s.69-70).

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Huberta the hippopotamus

The journey of Huberta the hippopotamus began in 1927 north of the Black Umfolozi and ended in April 1931 south of the Buffalo river, near East London in South Africa.

Lowry refers to the journey of Huberta the hippopotamus in his novel Ultramarine; " 'Well, I can't rightly say as I've ever been on a ship with animals before but this much I will say, and I ain't tellin' you the word of a lie, that I was on a ship once that was carrying a stuffed hippopotamus, for Christ sake! She was called Huberta or something of that and she'd been shot in Cape Province, you know, King William's Town. This hippo'd been the bloody masterpiece in South Africa, see? They reckoned she'd walked ten thousand miles and the natives thought she was a goddess or something and sacrificed oxen to her. And I ain't telling you the word of a bloody lie but a special law was passed - nobody could shoot her, see? She walked all the way down from Vongolosi and Lake St Lucia to Durban where she walked into a concert just as they were starting Tchaikovsky's 1812 or or something of that and she walked through the main street of sodding Durban too, only in the end four bastards of farmers shot her-' " (Pg. 127).

The probable source of Lowry's account of Huberta's journey in Ultramarine is in an unidentified news paper as news of the hippopotamus's walk received widespread coverage across the world. The story was also told by G. W. R. Le Mare in his The Saga of Huberta: Being the Tale of the Hippo who Walked Back 100 Years published by Robinson & Company and the Central New Agency in 1931.

The hippo's story was initially publicised in 1928. The press originally called the hippo "Billy", later changed to "Hubert". After her death, her name was altered to "Huberta" when it was discovered that hippo was female.

Among the exploits eagerly followed by the public were appearances at Umhlanga Lagoon, in the city of Durban, various South Coast resorts, and a sojourn in the Nahoon River near East London.  She became known as South Africa's "national pet" and "the Union's most famous tourist".  Crowds of curious sightseers dogged her trek along the Kwa-Zulu Natal coast, often hurling stones, bottles and sticks in order to make her emerge from hiding places. 

On 23 April 1931, her carcass was found floating in the Keiskamma River, 30km from King Williams Town. Great public outrage followed the discovery that Huberta had been killed by a hail of bullets. The killing was discussed in parliament and the police were instructed to investigate. Four farmers eventually appeared in court for killing royal game. Each was fined £25. Huberta's bullet-perforated skull formed a gruesome (and somewhat smelly) exhibit in court...........Amathole Museum

Huberta's body was sent to England to be mounted and returned from London on the S.S. City of Hong Kong in 1932, she was displayed at the Durban Museum.

Lowry's account appears to be accurate in most details - see Geo-Coaching though whether the hippo disturbed a concert remains unknown to date.

Lowry's inclusion of the story in Ultramarine is another example of him using something which is outside the 1927 time line of the novel - see further examples - Love' Crucifixion and Liza

Geoffrey Durrant suggests in his article 'Aiken and Lowry'; "What may seem at a first reading to be a loosely organized novel appears on more careful reading to be carefully constructed, with every detail, however much it may at first appear to be merely casual or anecdotal, taking its place in an elaborate pattern of significance. The sailor's yarn about the hippopotamus Huberta, which wanders four thousand miles to find a tragic fate from the guns of farmers is itself an animal Odyssey." (Canadian Literature 64 Spring 1975 Pgs. 24-40).

Saturday, 15 September 2012


September 2nd, 1929 playbill for "SHOW GIRL"

"Liza (All the Clouds'll Roll Away)" is a song composed by George Gershwin with lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Gus Kahn. It was introduced in 1929 by Ruby Keeler (as Dixie Dugan) in Florenz Ziegfeld's musical Show Girl. The stage performances were accompanied by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. On the show's opening night, Keeler's husband and popular singer Al Jolson suddenly stood up from his seat in the third row and sang a chorus of the song, much to the surprise of the audience and Gershwin himself.

Lowry perhaps is referring to the above song in his novel Ultramarine when Dana and Popplereuter on their drunken drift around Dairen sing several songs including God Save The King; "We sang. We sang Drei Segelmann, which I don't know, but I joined in the chorus. We sang Mademoiselle from ArmentièresDeutschland uber Alles, and LisaFor He's A Jolly Good Fellow, and God Save The King; Lisa again, and The Bastard King of England, with which Popplereuter was unfamiliar..." (Pg. 89). However, the song is not contemporaneous to the setting of the novel - 1927 having been introduced in 1929. Lowry did use other material which was not contemporaneous to the setting of the novel e.g. Love's Crucifixion

Sweet Georgia Brown

Lowry alludes to the song in a letter to Carol Brown dated May 1926; "Oh - you Sweet Miss Carolina Brown!" (Collected Letters Vol 1 Pg. 26).

Sweet Georgia Brown is a jazz standard and pop tune written in 1925 by Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard (music) and Kenneth Casey (lyrics). The tune was first recorded on March 19, 1925 by bandleader Ben Bernie, resulting in a five-week No. 1 for Ben Bernie and his Hotel Roosevelt Orchestra. As Bernie's then nationally famous orchestra did much to popularize the number, Pinkard cut Bernie in for a share of the tune's royalties by giving him a co-writer credit to the song. Read more on Wikipedia

The Dungeon, Heswall

Lowry refers to a pond in a letter to Carol Brown dated May 1926; "I think ....also of a certain sordid looking but not unromantic pond. And then I dream of walking there with you, and I dream and dream and kiss you to my heart's content." (Collected Letters Vol 1 Pg. 26). Lowry does not identify the location of the pond but given that the letter contains references to a walk from Caldy to Heswall then we must assume that the pond was in area between Caldy and Heswall.

The most likely location is a pond off a path leading from the Dungeon to the cliffs at the River Dee. The Dungeon is a small wooded ravine quarter of a mile to the north west of Heswall which shows a natural stream section through the Tarporly Siltstone Formation of the Mercia Mudstone Group, of Triassic age. The name is probably from the Old English dunge or denge meaning land next to the marsh.