"The "Mary Gloster""

Notes on the text
the poem



[May 23 2003]


[Line 7] the Line. The Red Ox (Shipping)Line, see line 30. The Foundry. See line 42 - a foundry is a factory or workshop for casting metals and, by extension, for performing all forms of metalworking and machining. The Yards. Shipyards - places where ships are built or repaired; see lines 45ff. the village. Perhaps a model village built to house Sir Anthony's workforce.

[Line 9] Master.Short for master-mariner, the correct term for the officer in charge of a ship in the British mercantile marine. Such an officer is not, strictly speaking, entitled to be called "captain", as this is a title reserved for the Royal Navy.

[Line 10] freighters. Cargo-ships. A ship that regularly carries passengers is a liner.

[Line 12] baronite. A vulgar pronunciation of "baronet", a hereditary dignity between a knight and a baron.

[Line 13] his Royal 'Ighness.Presumably the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII (1841-1910).

[Line 15] askings. Asking a lot of questions.

[Line 18] opened the bilge-cocks. The effect of opening the bilge-cocks of a ship is to let water into the hold. If they are left open, the ship will fill with water and sink. Dishonest shipowners, finding that a ship belonging to them is too obsolete to be profitable or in such bad repair as to be not worth repairing,, sometimes tell her master to sink the ship at sea so that they can collect the insurance money. A master who commits this crime must of course be well rewarded, since he risks his own life and that of the crew, as well as risking prosecution if the fraud is discovered.

[Line 19] bind. To make a person constipated.

[Line 25] behind. Beyond the present.

[Line 31] clippers. Properly speaking, a clipper-built ship is a sailing-ship built for speed, with bows raking forward and masts sloping backwards. At the time when sail was still competing with steam for the mastery of the sea, clipper-built sailing-ships carried cargoes (e.g. tea from China and wool from Australia) whose owners sought to get their goods onto the market as speedily as possible. The freights earned by these ships were greater than those of slower vessels. Some of the clippers made remarkably fast voyages. In 1843 the Rainbow sailed from London to Canton in 92 days and returned in 88. In 1860 the Dreadnought ran from Sandy Hook across the Atlantic to Queenstown in 9 days and 17 hours-her praises are literally sung in chapter IV of Captains Courageous. The Lightning established a world record by sailing 436 miles in 24 hours, which would be a good day's steaming for a modern P. & O. boat. The average modern tramp-steamer travels about 200 miles in 24 hours. Here however the "clippers" referred to are fast cargo-steamers, known as clippers because of their speed. Even the fastest sailing-ships could not be relied upon to make such exceptional runs as are mentioned above, and the more reliable fast cargo-steamers gradually took over their trade.

[Line 32] Macassar Straits. Between Borneo and Sulawesi in Indonesia,

[Line 34] pricked it off. Marked it on the chart.

[Line 37] a spree. A bout of unrestrained drinking.

[Line 44] a steam-lathe. This refers to some form of mechanical drive for the lathes in the Foundry, though whether this was ever called a “steam-lathe” is doubtful, since the steam engine providing the drive would not have been coupled directly to the lathe, but would have driven it through a system of belts.

[Line 46] the Clyde. Clydeside, in Scotland, developed into the principal site for shipbuilding in Britain.

[Line 47] the Lines were all beginning. The Cunard, the P.&O. and the Pacific Steam Navigation Company started in 1840. There was no further important development till 1850, when the Inman Line began. The Leyland started in 1851; the Allan, the African Steamship Company and the Ocean Company in 1852; the Union Steamship Company in 1853; and the British India in 1855.

[Line 48] staying the boilers square. Fixing them in proper alignment by means of stays; but “boilers square” may indicate the use of box-boilers, where the pressure vessel is a cube or cuboid rather than a cylinder. These were cheaper to construct, but were very limited in the pressure they could withstand. In other words, the competing Lines were installing the cheapest thing that would do the job efficiently and return the maximum profit.

[Line 50] and a Social Hall. "…the ladies grouped in what ought to have been the ladies' saloon, but, according to American custom, was labelled 'Social Hall'"(From Sea to Sea, vol. I, p.460). Neither a Saloon nor a Smoking Room, this was, so to speak, the ancestor of all "lounges" and the like in modern liners.

[Line 53] when we bid on the Byfleet's keel. Put in a tender for building that ship.

[Line 54] I'd given my orders for steel. The construction of steel ships began between 1870 and 1875. Between 1875 and 1880 362 iron steamers were built in the United Kingdom, but only 26 steel ones. In 1906, 660 steel steamers were built in Great Britain, but only one iron one. In 1907 not a single iron steamer was built.

[Line 55] the first expansions. In a steam-engine, economy of steam is achieved by allowing the piston to be propelled in part by the increase in bulk (expansion) of the steam in a partly filled cylinder after the communication with the boiler is cut off by means of the valve-gear. The earliest steam engines were simple expansion engines (‘simples’), in which the steam did its work in pushing the piston one way, and was then exhausted, often without giving up all its heat in the form of work. So the compound engine was introduced in the 1860s, in which the steam having entered the high pressure cylinder at, say 60 lbs/sq.in, was exhausted into a low-pressure cylinder at, say 20 lbs/sq.in. To equalize the work done in each cylinder, and so equalize the stresses in the remainder of the machinery, the low-pressure cylinder was much larger in diameter. In the 1880s came the triple-expansion engine, with three cylinders, the second and third progressively larger than the first. The archetypal British tramp-steamer had a single triple-expansion engine, and these lasted until the 1960s.

[Line 58] "You keep your light…" See Matt. 5,16: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works…"

[Line 66] rollers. For rolling steel into sheets.

[Line 69] favour. Resemble.

[Line 71] Harrer an' Trinity College. Kipling's cousin, Stanley Baldwin, was educated at Harrow and Trinity College, Cambridge. In a letter from Lahore to his aunt, Edith Macdonald, Kipling once wrote: "I'd give something to be in the Sixth at Harrow as (Stanley) is with a University Education to follow."Letters, ed. Pinney, vol. 1, p.80.)

[Line 75] you muddled with. You busied yourself "in a confused, unmethodical and ineffective manner" with. (O.E.D.)

[Line 83] beggars. A polite substitute for "buggers" - cf. the poem "The Absent-minded Beggar".

[Line 85] a collier's whelp. A coal-transporting ship's dog.

[Line 86] galley. Ship's kitchen.

[Line 87] three 'undred thousand, in trust and the interest paid. A life interest in the capital, entitling him to receive only the interest on it.

[Line 102] without its hurting the will. Without diminishing the sum settled by the will.

[Line 109] soldered. In a lead inner coffin.

[Line 111] and people might... Call him cracked and insist on burying him in a costly mausoleum.

[Line 112] that Wokin' vault. Sir Anthony had evidently purchased a family vault in the London Necropolis at Woking, which opened in 1854 and was then the largest cemetery in the world.

[Line 127] ['Tiny she looked…] The square brackets indicate that this is an unspoken thought.

[Line 128] 'Hundred and Eighteen East…and South just three. This point is in the Macassar Straits, in the channel between the Little Paternosters and Celebes, a little south-east of the former.

[Line 130] McAndrew, he's chief of the Maori Line. In line 78 of "McAndrew's Hymn" McAndrew says that he was once third engineer on the "Mary Gloster".

[Line 141] in ballast. Without cargo - cf. stanza 4 of "Anchor Song". Steamers are ballasted with water in tanks.

[Line 141] a lively ship. A ship that rolls and pitches a good deal.

[Line 145] our 'ouse-flag. The flag of Sir Anthony's shipping line, presumably bearing the device of a Red Ox.

[Line 174] But I wouldn't trust 'em at Wokin'. He doubts whether, after death, he will be able to rejoin his wife if he is buried so far away from the sea.

[Line 175] For the heart it shall go with the treasure. "for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." Matt. 6,21.

[Line 175] go down to the sea in ships. See Ps. 107,23.

[Line 179] standin'-bed A high bedstead, as distinguished from a truckle bed (OED)-the latter being a low bed on castors that can be pushed under another.

[Line 180] she trims best by the head. To trim a ship is to adjust her ballast so that she floats upright. The meaning is that the Mary Gloster balances best when ballasted so that her bow is slightly lower in the water than her stern.

[Line 185] That was the after-bulkhead. The bulk-heads are the partitions that divide the interior of a ship into watertight compartments. As a ship sinks, these burst one after another from the pressure of water and imprisoned air.


[G. E.]