"ATour of Inspection"




Notes on the text





Notes by Alastair Wilson and John McGivering, also drawing on the ORG
the story
introduction


[June 19th 2011]



Decapod Latin, from the Greek for ten-legged. In "Steam Tactics", one of the motor cars (probably also a Lanchester) is given the name "Octopod” – for no valid reason so far as we know at this distance of time – here Kipling is indicating that he has moved on to a more powerful car.

E.R.A. stands for Engine-Room Artificer.

Agg the carrier , a cousin of Hinchcliffe; he appears with him in "Steam Tactics” (Traffics and Discoveries).

steam-pinnace a 40 to 56-foot steamboat used for communication with the shore – see ORG Volume 4, p. 1866 for warships’ boats) (not yet republished in the NRG). This refers to the steam car in "Steam Tactics".

Mafeesh from the Arabic mafish – finished – over etc.

Navy-coloured naval vessels were beginning to be painted grey instead of having black hulls with a red water-line, white upper-works and buff funnels. The former H.M.S. President, moored at Blackfriars in London is one of the last survivors of this colour-scheme: HMS Warrior in the Historic Dockyard at Portsmouth is also so painted. The point is that the car’s body is “lead-painted”, or grey, as the modern ships were.

beef-boat any vessel (often somewhat nondescript) used for delivering stores to H.M. Ships.

turtle-back the curved deck over the forecastles of some vessels; see "Their Lawful Occasions" (Traffics and Discoveries).

lugshury luxury

That's only a body that the makers have sent down in the days when each car was individually produced, it was quite usual for the car to be road-tested with a plain, and pretty Spartan, body fitted, before the owner’s own, coach-built, body was installed.

One of Dornford Yates' stories, "Beggar on Horseback", collected in Period Stuff, Ward, Lock, London, 1942, features a hero who is down on his luck, and takes a job as a car tester for a car manufacturer: the description of the job is rather overlaid by the romance, but it does describe the requirements and procedures pretty well.

For expensive cars, this practice continued until the late 1930s, and for the occasional commercial vehicle, the bare chassis was often delivered, by road, to the purchaser, with the delivery driver perched up in the open, until the late 1950s.

a captain’s galley a graceful pulling- and sailing-boat beautifully fitted and painted, then used by commanding officers of H.M. Ships. See A Fleet in Being, page 80.

running trials tests of vessels to ascertain fuel consumption, handling, ratio of revolutions to speed etc. In this case, it is the car that is being tried out.

tonneau the body of an early motor-car – usually open to the elements.

Leggatt (the spelling varies) the chauffeur. He also figures in "Steam Tactics" and other motoring stories.

ratcatcher wearing somewhat disreputable garments (cf. also “dog-robbers”). In the hunting world, “ratcatcher” meant tweed coat, breeches, boots or gaiters (usually brown) and a bowler hat, instead of ‘hunting pink'. See "A Flight of Fact" (‘Land and Sea Tales, page 106 line 13).

dust-coat, gaiters and cap a light cloth coat and other equipment designed to protect the early motorist from the clouds of dust which arose from the un-tarred roads in dry weather.

regulations naval ratings were then obliged to wear uniform on leave

pilot in his context a seaman with special local knowledge who takes vessels in and out of harbours. See "An Unqualified Pilot" (Land and Sea Tales).

Decency forbids an echo of Mr Chucks the Bo’sun in Peter Simple (1834) by Captain Fredrick Marryat (1792-1848) occasionally quoted in Stalky & Co.

coalin’-rig more disreputable garments worn for a very dirty job - see A Fleet in Being page 10.

lighters the barges that bring the coal, vessels with no means of propulsion.

destroyer a recently-introduced small and fast warship – see ‘Their Lawful Occasions’ (Traffics and Discoveries).

acetylene a gas produced by the action of water on calcium carbide used as an illuminant.

periscope an optical device enabling a submariner to observe events on the surface. In early photographs of submarines running on the surface, the officer of the watch stands on the conning tower (which was little more than a shallow dustbin tacked on to the top of the pressure hull), clutching the periscope. Pyecroft is likening himself to the officer of the watch in these conditions.

Portsmouth submarines the first submarine in the Navy was launched on November 2nd 1902 They were based at Portsmouth, and Kipling had visited one, as a guest of Admiral Fisher, the year before.

the days before the numbering of the cars The Motor Car Act 1903, which came into force on 1 January 1904, required all motor vehicles to be entered in the Government's vehicle register, and to carry number plates.

the fairest of counties Evidently Sussex though the tour clearly extended into Kent.

Country Life a magazine established in 1898. Right from the beginning, it featured a land-owner’s country-house as a main article in the centre of the magazine: it was, and is, also noted for a portrait of a pretty girl “in twin-set and pearls” as a frontispiece.

Times have changed; in the early 1900s the girl was a debutante, photographed in Court dress, prior to her Presentation, now it is more usually a case of Miss So-and-so, daughter of Colonel Such-and-Such of Dotheboys Hall and Mrs. Somebody else of Somewhere else, who runs her own boutique in Kensington.

the new naval reforms this is a remarkably prescient comment. The Royal Navy was about to undergo a most remarkable shaking-up by Kipling’s acquaintance, Sir John Fisher. At the time of the tale’s composition, Fisher was Commander-in-Chief Portsmouth, having previously been Second Sea Lord for fifteen months, 1902-03. In that time, he had introduced a new scheme of entry and training for officers, and had started to initiate reforms to the conditions of service for the lower deck.

His appointment as First Sea Lord was announced during the time the tale was in gestation, and he took office on 21 October 1904. His changes were far-reaching. In organisation he brought home from foreign stations many ships “that could neither fight nor run away”, and used their crews to man the new dreadnoughts which were going to be the winners of the war with Germany which he was sure would come. In technology he introduced the ‘dreadnought’m the all-big-gun battleship. In personnel, in addition to officer training, he greatly improved the living conditions of sailors.

And one of Pyecroft’s wishes, “a free gangway from the lower deck to the admiral's stern walk" —the career open to the talents, did indeed come about as a result of Fisher’s work, though it was his protegé, Winston Churchill, who, in 1912, introduced a proper scheme whereby men of talent on the lower deck could become commissioned officers, with the path to flag rank open to them.

a free gangway from the lower deck to the admiral’s stern-walk promotion from the ranks where possible. 'Free gangway' is a reference to sailors going on leave (leaf). Normally, when libertymen were going ashore, they were fallen in at a specific time, inspected as to their appearance, and sent back if the inspecting petty officer thought it wasn’t up to standard.

However, if there was a free gangway, they could come and go without inspection, and at any time they wished (within the overall limits of leave granted). So, Pyecroft is inferring that, in promoting men from the lower deck, there should be the minimum amount of obstacles.

The second half of the sentence refers to an exterior walkway outside the admiral’s day-cabin round the stern of the ship. In the 18th century, ships designed as flagships had a gallery across the stern, so that the admiral could take the air without being exposed to the eyes of lesser mortals on the quarter-deck. They had been a feature of wooden sailing line-of-battleships up to 1800: HMS Victory was built with pne in the 1760s with open galleries on two decks for her admiral and her captain, but these were enclosed in 1802-4. However, open stern-walks were re-introduced at the end of the 19th century, and both Kipling and Pyecroft would have been familiar with them.

to this complexion will it come... a garbled version of the epitaph on James Quinn by David Garrick (1717-1779) ' To this complexion thou must come at last' , with, perhaps, an echo of ‘let her paint an inch thick, to this favour she must come.’ from Shakespeare's "Hamlet" (Act v Sc.1).

Three weeks after war breaks out ... the Admirals will have collapsed Kipling is putting what might have been his own views into Pyecroft’s mouth. Kipling had no great opinion of the current crop of Victorian admirals – he inferred criticism of Sir Henry Stephenson who had been C-in-C of the Channel Squadron when Kipling had gone to sea in the Pelorus in 1897 and 1898 (See our note on "Their Lawful Occasions", Part I, Page 107, line 20-22, citing a Kipling letter recorded in Pinney's Letters of Rudyard Kipling).

Nonetheless, there were changes in the Naval high command at the outbreak of war in 1914, though not under the circumstances which Kipling is here suggesting. And it is interesting to speculate on what Fisher might have said to Kipling when they met in Portsmouth in July and August 1904 (See Thomas Pinney (Ed.) p. 157, footnote 5; also Charles Carrington’s notes on Carrie’s diaries).

Some three years later, Fisher correctly forecast the month in which World War 1 would break out, and by the time his appointment as First Sea Lord ended in 1910, he had earmarked Rear-Admiral (as he was then) Jellicoe as the potential commander of the Grand Fleet. Despite two further changes of First Sea Lord after Fisher’s departure, when war came Sir George Callaghan (who in any case would have stepped down three months later) was relieved by Jellicoe within 12 hours of the declaration of war. And following public pressure, the then First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Battenberg, was forced to resign, to be replaced by Fisher.

Although there is nothing to suggest it in Fisher’s published correspondence, it is not impossible that ten years before the war, Fisher already had some generalised idea about the Naval command structure for the war which he saw coming, and that he might have discussed it with Kipling during their meetings – Fisher used anyone he thought might be influential to disseminate his ideas.

At the same time, Pyecroft’s words are a not untypical reflection of what the lower deck may think about their superiors – and this, in turn, was the later opinion of Winston Churchill, who was First Lord (the political head of the Admiralty, as opposed to the First Sea Lord) at the outbreak of World War 1, who later wrote that we could produce captains of ships, but not captains of war.

similar petty and warrant officers Kipling never quite grasped the relative ranks and ratings – the gunner and the boatswain were indeed 'similar warrant officers', but petty officers were a junior rate altogether.

Kipling also puts into Pyecroft’s mouth a rather strange idea of how the war would be fought: clearly both envisaged one enormous battle along the lines of Trafalgar taking place in the North Sea, but with more destructive weapons, and with all the officers exposing themselves to danger, to be mown down by enemy fire, leaving the finally victorious ships to be brought back by the senior ratings.

To be fair to both, this idea that any coming war be ended swiftly by a second Trafalgar was widely held in 1914. So, as has been remarked above, and with our twenty-twenty hindsight, Kipling was remarkably prescient expressing ideas which were not generally accepted until much closer to the time of war – even though they did not, in fact, come to pass. But then, very few foresaw the grinding, mud-spattered war of attrition on the Western Front, either.

seriatim (Latin) one by one, in regular succession.

Setteris partibus Pyecroft’s version of ceteris paribus – Latin – 'other things being equal'.

Where poor Tom Bowling’s body was an echo of the song by Charles Dibdin (1745-1814):

Here, a sheer hulk, lies poor Tom Bowling,
The darling of our crew;
No more he'll hear the tempest howling,
For death has broach'd him to.
His form was of the manliest beauty,
His heart was kind and soft;
Faithful below, he did his duty,
And now he's gone aloft...
and so on for two more verses. Kipling’s reference here is to the last line but one – 'Faithful below, he did his duty'.

two warrants and one carpenter still survivin’ perhaps not entitled to take charge of a ship, but might do so in emergency, depending on their branch

Channel the English Channel.

A map-like stretch of marsh … canals This is clearly Romney Marsh, if for no other reason than there is a reference shortly to Lydd, the only town of any size actually on the Marsh. Kipling knew the Marsh well, and relished the strangeness of its landscape. See "Dymchurch Flit" in Rewards and Fairies.

From "Steam Tactics", we know that Agg’s cottage was somewhere in West Sussex, and they have been travelling for “an easy hour”, and no mention has been made of crossing into any other county.

Therefore they must be in Kipling’s home country, East Sussex, close to the Sussex/Kent border. 90% or so of Romney Marsh lies in Kent, so Kipling has placed them in his mind’s eye on the road that runs along a ridge through Icklesham, three miles west of Rye. The western end of the Royal Military Canal, dug 1804-09 as a defensive line against a possible Napoleonic invasion, would have been almost immediately below it.

Wapshare probably a conflation of the Sussex towns of Winchelsea and Rye. Winchelsea is an ancient town some 7 miles (11 •3 km.) from Hastings, formerly one of the cinque ports, but now one of “our ports of stranded pride” (see "Sussex", verse 9). Rye is a beautiful old town in East Sussex – some three miles further east of Winchelsea. Further clues suggest that Kipling had Rye firmly in mind

martello-towers fortifications built during the Napoleonic wars. Kipling had a mind to rent one as a summer residence; see KJ 056/21 and 148/20.

Lydd a town on Romney Marsh in Kent. Lydd was, at one time, a garrison and important artillery practice camp. Experiments with high explosives carried out on the shingle wastes of Dungeness, in around 1888, led to the invention of the explosive Lyddite.

mirage an optical phenomenon caused by the refraction and reflection of light when air is extremely hot or cold. It could result in a target appearing to be elsewhere than its true position, and so result in inaccurate gunfire.

Three points on the port bow The use of 'points' was a method then employed to indicate objects in sight by reference to the ship’s head – a (compass) point is 11¼º: so, in this case, about 34 ° to the left.

the wavering beach it shimmers in the mirage

Some big Admiralty works probably Dover Harbour. From 1894-1909, Dover’s harbour was being improved by the construction of a major harbour of refuge, in the form which it is today. Inside the harbour was the Admiralty Pier.

Dover was a naval base of considerable importance in both world wars. The shingle from Dungeness would have made good concrete, and Rye was the nearest convenient port to bring in quantities of cement for the blocks. One of our members, Frank Noah, has been able to confirm for us that there was indeed a concrete works at Rye harbour at this time, and that they did make concrete blocks for the Dover harbour works. Today’s large-scale OS map still shows a number of 'works' along the road from Rye to Rye Harbour, exactly as Kipling described..

leaf in this context how the sailor often pronounces leave.

a doubtful-minded tidal river Rye stands on the coast at the confluence of two rivers, the Rother and the Brede – see also "Sussex", verse 9:
And east till doubling Rother crawls
To meet the fickle tide.
a Poole schooner a coastal trading-vessel from Poole, a seaport in Dorset some 120 miles (192 km.) to the westward.

the local potteries Rye pottery is still well-known.

Let's go down the river. There's a sort of road on one side. This again points to Rye as Kipling’s fictional setting – Rye Harbour now lies about a mile-and-a-half from the town, at the seaward end of the Rother’s channel where it debouches into Rye Bay through shallow mudflats, and there is indeed such a road along the west side of the river.

a smart and life-like manner a parody on the orders to sailors to conduct themselves in 'a smart and seamanlike manner'.

come quicker off the tongue an echo of Hamlet’s exhortation to the players: 'Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue', ["Hamlet", Act III, scene 2.]

a bosky beano in the slang of the period, a drunken spree. (Kipling used the expression later, in "The Janeites" in Debits and Credits: there the words used are 'bosko absoluto', meaning drunk, but beyond ordinary drunkenness: see "The Janeites" (page 149, line 14).)

unshackled normally used for anchor-chains etc. Pyecroft has his watch on a chain (often known as an ‘Albert’).

prima facie (Latin) at first sight.

Admiralty dynamite for the works, used for breaking up rocks etc.

fuses used to detonate the dynamite.

cells confinement in cells was a punishment used in the Navy. For petty misdemeanours, 'absent from place of duty', etc., extra work or drill was the standard punishment: cell punishment was reserved for drunkenness (particularly if on board), or disobedience, and for repetition of offences. At this time, offenders were locked in their cell for 23 hours out of the 24, and had to ‘pick oakum’ – taking old rope apart, fibre by fibre.

blue lotus of the Nile Nymphaea caerulea; very free-growing.

"..,you'd exceed the legal limit—" Kipling and his motoring friends found the police to be officious, and on occasion, less than accurate or less than 100% honest, in the matter of speeding. Kipling’s following remark: “That isn’t necessary, is it?” implies the latter; while the policeman’s reply indicates that he recognises Kipling’s complaint, but that he “has a conscience”.

See also our notes on "Steam Tactics" (Traffics and Discoveries), and ‘The Village that Voted the Earth was Flat’ (A Diversity of Creatures).

What’s it like at “The Fuggle Hop” an enquiry as to the quality of the beer at a public house named after the hop (Humulus Lupulus) once an essential ingredient in giving English beer its bitter flavour, grown in Kent and Sussex. However,European regulations have virtually killed off the growing of hops in Britain. (See "The Wish House" (Debits and Credits p. 127) for lively times during the hop-picking.)

‘Astings Smack (Hastings smack) another) public house, named after a type of local fishing-boat.

Johnty (usually jaunty) a corruption of the French gendarme, used for the Master-at-Arms, the senior rating in an H.M. Ship and chief of the Regulating Branch – the ship’s chief of police.

It’s the boots traditionally worn by policemen and give the game away when they are in plain clothes.

zebras and kangaroos see “Steam Tactics”.

Beef when you are hungry an old Irish toast:

Here’s to beefsteak when you’re hungry,
Whiskey when you’re dry,
All the women you’ll ever want,
And heaven when you die.
ORG believed it was an American ballad – Irish emigrants may well have taken it with them to the United States.

hogsheads casks containing 54 gallons of beer. (245.5 litres).

Number One the naval equivalent – the First Lieutenant – the second in command of a small ship.

barratry in this context, fraudulent practices by the master or crew of a ship to the prejudice of the owner.

Baptist Baptists belong to a non-conforming Christian church, the members of which are baptised by immersion in water as a public display of their faith. Consequently, most adherents reject infant baptism.

The Welsh ‘appened at the change of watch a curious and quite unfounded observation. Kipling is putting all an Anglo-Saxon’s anti-Welsh prejudice into the mouth of the mariner – who, it appears, is the Master of the Esther Grant.

Kipling makes reference to 'the change of watch' in the uncollected story "The Benefactors", where he implies that untoward things may happen then. The story opens thus:

It was change of the morning watch in Hades—the hour when, despite all precaution, fires die down, pressures drop, and the merciless dynamos that have been torturing poor souls all night slack a few revolutions, ere they picked up again for the long day's load.
stern-first talkin’ probably a variation of the slang “talking out of the back of his neck”, ie talking nonsense.

I paid five pounds for him ... compound assault or fracture he was fined five pounds for assault and battery or a similar charge.

Falmouth a port in Cornwall with one of the largest natural harbours in the world.

moist in this context, only slightly drunk.

Plain as a pikestaff obvious – a sixteenth-century saying referring to either the pike, a long spear-like weapon, or a packstaff on which a pedlar used to carry his pack

baker’s dozen thirteen – it became the custom for bakers to sell thirteen loaves as a dozen to avoid being accused of delivering short weight.

passive-resistin’ nonconformist parts of the Education Act 1902 so enraged members of some sects that they withheld their local taxes and passively resisted attempts by bailiffs to distrain (confiscate) their goods.

a non-commercial language Welsh: again, a prejudiced remark, although, as a matter of practical business, the Welsh language is limited in its usefulness, because only a quarter or so of the Welsh people speak it.

frock-coat a very smart coat, double-breasted, and cut square at the bottom, which was just below the knee. It was formal wear in the late morning and afternoon for a gentleman: see "In the Same Boat" A Diversity of Creatures page 75 line 28.

The skipper of the Brixham trawler Agatha (see "Their Lawful Occasions") wears one at sea. This was presumably somebody else’s hand-me-down – but see the mate of "The Lowestoft Boat"; he was ' ... skipper of a Chapel in Wales, so he always fights in topper and tails'..

gardenia a member of the genus Rubiaceae, a beautiful sub-tropical flower with a delightful perfume: in this case, worn as a button-hole . It is often associated with weddings (see the 1946 musical show "Annie Get your Gun" (Irving Berlin) and its song "The Girl that I Marry": 'and in her hair, she’ll wear a gardenia, and I’ll be there.'

Leggatt wound her up cars of the period - and indeed as late as 1940 - were started by turning a handle, and provision for hand starting remained until the 1960s at least.

Babes in the Wood the innocent victims of wickedness described in a ballad by Thomas Millington in Norwich in 1595, the tale has been reworked in many forms, including pantomime.

both funnels smoking gently coal-burning ships produce a lot of smoke. . See A Fleet in Being, page 71. Pyecroft is implying that they have gone out innocently, for a pleasant motoring 'cruise', to enjoy the countryside ('smoking gently' implies that they are not forcing their boilers – but not to be taken literally: the decapod is a normal internal combustion motor, so Leggatt has been driving at a moderate pace).

our bearin's are red ‘ot hot bearings caused by a lack of lubrication and running at high speed for too long.

ju-ju a West African charm – sometimes malignant.

landmarks ... opened, closed and stepped aside the apparent movement of objects as a ship or vehicle moves along. a nearing lens now known as a telephoto lens.

the road was badly loosed by traffic The surface has been badly cut up, and would be full of pot-holes.

fusee a long-burning match than can be used in wind.

Johannes … Kruger Properly Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger (1825-1904), better known as Paul Kruger and affectionately known in southern Africa as Oom Paul (Afrikaans: "Uncle Paul"). He was State President of the South African Republic (Transvaal) and leader of Boer resistance against the British during the second South African war of 1899-1902. See "The Comprehension of Private Copper" Headnote and page 161 line 21, (Traffics and Discoveries>.

Didn’t you see ‘oo the joker was ? Pyecroft suspects that it is Llewellyn with the missing clay-barge flying the red flags from the dynamite-barge.

take soundings normally to ascertain the depth of water – here meaning to ‘spy out the land’.

as the bottom checks the roaring anchor-chain When an anchor is let go, the noise of iron on iron as it rushes out of the hawsepipe is considerable, but as soon as the anchor hits the bottom, the chain will cease to run out in an uncontrolled fashion, and the noise will cease.

dotterel a small wader in the plover family of birds.

I'll disrate you punish by reduction in rating.

‘ooked it hooked it, slang for ran away.

Mabon name used by William Abraham M.P (1842-1922) when taking part in an eisteddfod, a festival of music dance and poetry in Wales, of ancient lineage. See the note below (I‘Stifford).

antitheseses antitheses, contrasts - with an extra syllable.

A few more years shall roll hymn by the Rev.Horatius Bonar, D.D. (1808-1889) number 288 in some editions of Hymns Ancient and Modern and in a Methodist hymn-book.

I‘Stifford eisteddfod, a congress of Welsh bards and musicians, dating from ancient times.

Bethesda town on the River Ogwen on the edge of Snowdonia, in Gwynedd, north-west Wales.

shipwrecked mariners in the illustration not identified firmly, information will be appreciated. It is probably “The Raft of the Medusa” by Théodore Géricault.

Hark the tramp of Saxon foeman from "The March of the Men of Harlech", a rousing Welsh anthem commemorating several sieges of Harlech Castle in the fifteeenth century. Its opening lines sound a ringing note of patriotism:

Men of Harlech, march to glory,
Victory is hov'ring o'er ye,
Bright-eyed freedom stands before ye,
Hear ye not her call?
ostrich eggs laid in hot sand to incubate.

Not if you want it to go off Dynamite was invented by Alfred Bernard Nobel (1833-1896) and was the first safely manageable explosive stronger than black powder (gun powder).

It is used in the mining, quarrying, and construction industries and has been used in warfare, but its unstable nature, especially if subjected to freezing, makes it unsuitable for military use. Nobel became extremely wealthy, and established several Prizes, including one for Literature which as awarded to Kipling in 1907. (see Charles Carrington, page 399.) And, on a lighter note, see the last verse of "Et dona ferentes";

Build on the flanks of Etna where the sullen smoke-puffs float -
Or bathe in tropic waters where the lean fin dogs the boat -
Cock the gun that is not loaded, cook the frozen dynamite -
But oh, beware my Country, when my Country grows polite!
‘ung at Lewes the county town of East Sussex with a gaol where executions took place

I thanked fortune that my little plan…. the Narrator realises that Llewellyn would probably have been lynched had the crowd known that the barge was harmless.

someone has blundered an echo of Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” verse 2.
Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
See also Kiplings verses The Last of the Light Brigade".

The charge of the Light Brigade, at the battle of Balaclava in the Crimea, in 1854, took place because Captain Nolan, the staff officer who delivered Lord Raglan’s orders to Lord Cardigan, commanding the Light Brigade, transmitted an unclear order. Cardigan, schooled not to question orders, took it at face value, and launched the Light Brigade at the wrong target – hence “Someone had blundered”. The Light Brigade advanced, heroically but disastrously, straight towards the Russian guns.

the horrors delirium tremens – commonly known as the 'blue devils' – caused by acute alcoholism – with hallucinations, trembling and homicidal or suicidal tendencies [Black's Medical Dictionary]. See “The Dog Hervey” (A Diversity of Creatures, page 149 line 24.)

the four-point-seven hat not clear. 4•7 inches (11•9 cm.) is the calibre of a gun then used in the Navy but would be the diameter of rather a small head !

Mr Voss had a top hat, not normal wear in the country, but then, nor would a frock-coat have been: however he was dressed for his wedding, and had his tall hat. It seems likely that Kipling has invented a 'Pyecroft-ism' – a Scot might have called such a hat 'a lum hat' – meaning like a chimney – and Kipling is making Pyecroft liken the hat to a gun barrel.

Casablanca Pyecroft means "Casabianca" from the poem by Felicia Dorothea Hemans (1793-1835), which opens with the widely quoted lines:

The boy stood on the burning deck
Whence all but he had fled…
The poem recounted the true(ish) tale of the teen-age son of the French Commodore on board Admiral Bruey’s flagship L’Orient at the battle of the Nile (1798), who stayed at his post, and was killed when her magazine exploded.

he’ll pay fifteen pounds for you see the note above – I paid five pounds for him at Falmouth.

I will have him preached of in chapel in some non-conformist chapels it was not uncommon for moral backsliders in the congregation to be 'named and shamed'. Llewellyn is threatening to have this done for Captain Dudeney.

a Welsh fireman Pyecroft would know him as a stoker – 'fireman' is used in the merchant navy

Sycophant an imaginary warship.

Boaz Island formerly known as Gate's or Yates Island, one of the six main islands of Bermuda, part of a chain of islands in the west of the country including Ireland Island and Somerset Island. It was part of the Naval Base, which included HM Dockyard on Ireland Island. See ‘A Naval Mutiny’ (Limits and Renewals), "A Sea Dog" (Collected Dog Stories) and “The Coiner.”.

the port bow in this context the left-hand side of a vessel, looking forward.

towin’ piece an unfamiliar name for what is probably better known as a towing-bollard, strong-back or samson-post, a stout timber firmly incorporated in the fabric of the vessel for securing a tow-line.

bollards stout metal posts firmly fixed to deck or wharf for securing mooring-lines, etc.

fifty-seven revolutions an order to the engine-room for a certain speed – see "Their Lawful Occasions", Part I’ (Traffics and Discoveries, page 123, lines 21 to 24])

I have the honour to report the opening of an official letter to a superior authority in the Navy

The rate of knots Kipling means ‘quite a speed’, but his use of the expression is not quite correct: 'a rate of knots' is the correct usage.

"Port !" or "Starboard !" Left or Right respectively; see the note on 'port' above.

relievin’ column a party of soldiers who march to relieve a beleaguered garrison as happened so many times in the Boer War.

Beachy Head he exaggerates: this is a tall chalk cliff near Eastbourne, East Sussex, rising 530 ft (162 m). above sea level, which marks the eastern end of the South Downs in England..

twelve twelve knots, about 13.812 statute miles per hour (22.224 km/h)

P. and O. speeds The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, dating from 1822, is mentioned many times in the Indian stories. The passage between India and England usually took a month or so; Kipling refers to the line as “Dear and Slow” but here he probably means 'faster than one would expect of a barge.'

Down! Hard down to put the tiller to leeward (away from the wind) to bring the boat’s head into the wind

brought up with so round a turn usually 'brought up with a round turn', to stop suddenly: it means to put one complete turn of a rope, which is secured to the moving object, to some fixed object – such as a bitt, or towing bollard, etc. This has the effect, if the rope doesn’t break, of stopping the moving object dead.

Man of ‘Arlech see the note above.

Meet ‘er ! meet her put the tiller or wheel over to check the vessel from swinging.

scends various definitions over the years, perhaps the general pitching of a vessel for which there is no remedy except to seek shelter; also the surge of a tide as it enters or leaves a harbour.

sticks in this context, masts

clawing off a verdant lee shore an attempt to tack a sailing-vessel off the leeward beach mentioned in the third verse of "Poseidon’s Law":

Ye shall not clear by Greekly speech, nor cozen from your path
The twinkling shoal, the leeward beach, or Hadria's white-lipped wrath;
It matters not if the beach is verdant (green) or any other colour: it is still a dangerous position to be in.

Let’s navigate , not an expression in general use but probably meaning 'Let’s go!'

oak hanger an oak wood on the side of a hill.

I'll come tomorrow incognito an' 'elp pick up the pieces. One may wonder how Pyecroft would do this – they are on their way home, a good hour’s run across Sussex, and if it is to Agg’s cottage that he is being returned, then on the morrow he would have a long and tedious journey by train, involving at least two changes. But then, Pyecroft was undoubtedly a mariner 'of infinite resource and sagacity', like the sailorman in "How the Whale got his Throat" in the Just So Stories.

To come incognito is to assume a disguise or travel under another name.

new, mirror-like body the car would not be recognised.

French smock ... my own costume, also Parisian the French were, at that time, the leading experts on motor-cars and associated equipment.

a delightful wedding presumably the hapless Mr. Voss’s – we are left to imagine what the bride-to-be said the previous afternoon.

old tower the Ypres tower, a well-known landmark in Rye (right).

a most fascinating man presumably Pyecroft.

Militia part-time soldiers – forerunners of the Territorial Army.

coastguard Pyecroft again – probably in uniform – the Coastguard wore much the same rig.




[A.W./J. H. McG.]

©Alastair Wilson and John McGivering 2009 All rights reserved