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Modern Limehouse is mainly a quiet residential area, however in the 19th century it was a bustling throng of businesses, ship builders and associated workers. Within this maelstrom of activity was Dunbar Wharf under the auspices of Duncan Dunbar. His fascinating story is told in a new book by Michael Rhodes. The book entitled Lion Rampant: Duncan Dunbar and the Age of Sail charts the rise of Dunbar from his birth at Dunbar Wharf to his death when he was one of the richest men in Britain.
Duncan Dunbar junior was not a self made man but built upon the considerable fortune left by his father Duncan Dunbar senior who arrived at Dunbar Wharf in 1779 after a short time working on Robert Milligan’s sugar plantation in Jamaica. His friendship with Robert Milligan and James Hibbert would be very beneficial for Dunbar when they became the leading lights behind the creation of the West India Docks.
Photograph – Isle of Dogs Life
Dunbar Senior used these contacts when he began his export business which began at Ropemakers Fields in Limehouse as a brandy, wine and beer merchant. Dunbar had noticed a gap in the market providing alcoholic drinks to the various outposts of the British and used his contacts with Milligan, the East India Company and various suppliers to build up a lucrative trade. An interesting by-product of this trade was that traditional British dark beers were not suitable for long journeys, so India Pale Ale was developed by a number of brewers, notably Hodgsons in Bow. The book throws some light onto the ongoing debate about IPA, part of the confusion is that Dunbar IPA was popular throughout the empire but it was often brewed at the Barley Mow brewery owned by Taylor Walkers and exported under the Dunbar label.
Photograph – Isle of Dogs Life
The success of these enterprises allowed Dunbar senior to expand his business along the Thames waterfront and Ropemaker Fields. He took over full control of his business and gradually included his sons John and Duncan as partners. After Duncan Senior died in 1825, the sons were left the business and property at Dunbar Wharf. Although Duncan was only 22 and John 17, they had worked in the business for many years and had a wide network of family and acquaintances.
The main part of the book charts the rise of Duncan Dunbar junior from Dunbar Wharf in Limehouse to shipbuilder and owner of the largest fleet of sail ever assembled. He also founded two insurance companies and two banks and dominated trade routes to Australia, New Zealand, India, and Asia. It is estimated that his ships brought to Australia and New Zealand one-third of all arrivals and supplied transport for the Burmese War, the Crimean, Second Opium War and Indian Rebellion.
However for all his success, Dunbar remains quite an enigmatic figure and a pioneer who has been largely forgotten by history. Over the years this has always been the source of some mystery to myself who has long been fascinated by Dunbar Wharf and its long and varied history.
This book does provide some clues to his personality with a section that delves into his personal life. Duncan Dunbar junior was actually born in a small room at Dunbar Wharf and grew up in Limehouse before being sent to Forres Grammar school in Scotland. Duncan Dunbar senior was a great believer in Scottish education and Forres contained a number of the wider Dunbar family. At the age of 15, Duncan Dunbar junior worked full time at Dunbar Wharf learning the family trade.
Even in his early 20s, Duncan Dunbar junior was a large imposing man and had a reputation as an engaging and enquiring personality. He had followed his father’s footsteps by becoming a member of Blackheath Golf Club, he developed into quite a competent golfer winning the Summer medal more than once. Blackheath Golf Club was much more than just a sporting outlet, many of the members were wealthy and held prominent positions in the business and political world.
However as his business grew, Dunbar had less time for golf and was in demand to sit on Business and commerce organisations like the City of London club, Lloyds Registry, he became a director of the West India Dock Company. He remained unmarried but was surrounded by family at his home in Howrah House in Poplar. Despite his rise in society, it seems that Dunbar was generally liked for his approachable demeanor and good humour, he also seemed to have something of ‘the common touch’ being popular with the Dunbar ship captains and crew.
Duncan Dunbar by Camille Silvy, 18 January 1862, © National Portrait Gallery, London
As he grew older, he developed an interest in art and moved to Porchester Terrace in Bayswater. This move from East to West London was significant on many levels suggesting he was ready to enjoy the fruits of his labours and would leave the day to day running of the business to trusted members of staff. A photograph in the book shows Duncan Dunbar in 1861, the photograph reflects his position as one of the moving forces of the Empire.
However, the stress and strains on his constitution would eventually come to the fore and suddenly in 1862, Duncan Dunbar junior collapsed and died in his Bayswater home. He was only 58 and his death rocked the Stock Market and the business community.
This book comprehensively charts Dunbar’s rise and provides evidence about how quickly Dunbar’s business empire was carved up between family members and the executors of the considerable 1.6 million pound estate. It was the demise of the Dunbar business that probably explains why Duncan Dunbar’s name disappears from history and his legacy is little understood.
Hopefully, this book will change people’s perceptions of Duncan Dunbar, the author has travelled the world accumulating information from a variety of sources to create the most definitive biography of Duncan Dunbar to date. This fascinating biography places Dunbar and Limehouse at the centre of global trade that provided the template for the modern world. Products and labour from around the world became interlinked in a way that had never been seen before. The effects of that trade changed the world forever and this book is a timely and important reminder of the process and people behind that trade.
If anyone wants to buy a copy of the book, find a link here
Regular readers will know that I am always out for books that feature the Isle of Dogs in some way. Recently I was contacted by David Jones who has been a resident of the United States for over 50 years but whose beginnings were on the Island and South London. David has written a book about his early life and it is an entertaining journey into the past and gives some real insights into a child growing up in the 1930s and 1940s.
The book entitled “Smith of Lambeth,” tells the story of how his family, paternal grandfather, Richard Jones, and his parents, brothers and sisters, left their home in Wales in the 1880s and settled on the Island. His grandfather Richard Jones, and two of his brothers, William and Edward soon showed their sporting prowess playing for Millwall Football Club who were then based on the Island. Richard later gained international honors for Wales. One poignant story in the book is about William Jones who after playing for Millwall and Sheppey United, signed for Ryde on the Isle of Wight. In 1899, 25 year old William was playing for Ryde in the Isle of Wight Senior Cup final when in scoring the winning goal, he collided with the goalkeeper and died from the injuries sustained.
David’s father’s family kept a green grocery shop on Glengall Road in which his paternal grandmother, née Skeels, worked. His mother’s family, née Draper, lived on Glengall Road. There were 11 children and their father was an itinerant dock worker. David’s parents, aunts and uncles, on both sides of my family, were born on the Island as was David in 1934. Not long afterwards, David’s immediate family moved to New Cross in South London but the Jones family maintained a large presence on the Island.
David was only 5 years old, when the threat of war led to his evacuation to the South Coast with his brother. Like many evacuees, they quickly had to adjust to a new life often moving from place to place. David was fortunate to have a couple of positive experiences in Brighton and Hove, however in 1940, the government decided that billeting thousands of children on the South Coast may not be a great idea with the German army setting up bases across the Channel.
David and his brother were sent to the more rural outpost of Swinford in Leicestershire, the book provides an illustration how children often enjoyed life in the country in contrast to the city where the threat of attack was ever present. David returned to London for a short while and found out that his home in New Cross had been bombed out and a new home nearby had been found.
After the war, some of David’s relatives decided to emigrate first to South Africa and then Australia but David and his family settled down to family life in South London.
After failing his 11 plus, David was placed in Colls Road Secondary School in Peckham, where he developed his sporting prowess in boxing and swimming. The book features a couple of entertaining stories about his swimming exploits and a description of his fight with the legendary ‘Smith of Lambeth’.
David left school in 1950 and found a job as an errand boy for a Civil Engineering firm in Central London, this was to lead to a career in Civil Engineering and travel around the world. Whilst working as an errand boy, David describes King George VI’s coffin being taken to Westminster Abbey and selling programmes at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
In the book, David looks back in fondness to Greenwich Park and the Peckham Health Centre before charting his remarkable career which included working in Africa in the 1960s and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and moving to the United States where as well as working as a Civil Engineer, he developed a second career in show business where acted and sung professionally. One of his singing jobs was in a London Pearly Kings and Queens show in New York.
This is a fascinating and entertaining book on many levels, like many others, David’s family came to the ‘Island’ for work and became an integral part of the ‘Island’ community. However, the first part of the 20th century was to tear apart that community culminating in the devastation of the Second World War. This book shows some of the human costs with children being separated from their family for long periods of time. As David notes in the book, many of the evacuees had good experiences but a large number found the separation from family and friends painful and suffered considerably.
After the war, the devastation on the Island and lack of housing led to many ‘Islanders’ leaving the Island for pastures new and some members of David’s family followed this trend.
For all problems or perhaps because of them, David and many of his generation showed remarkable resilience and were willing to try anything to build a new life. Although David has had a rich and varied life, like many others that I have featured on Isle of Dogs Life, he has not forgotten his roots and this book is a humorous and well written exploration of life in London in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.
If you would like a copy of the book, visit Amazon here
Regular readers will know that I often feature books by best-selling author Carol Rivers who has written a series of books about the Isle of Dogs. Carol’s gritty and heartwarming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and have appeared regularly in many bestseller charts and have a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.
Recently, I was delighted to receive her latest book entitled Christmas Child which is based in Victorian London and follows the exploits of Ettie O’Reilly, who grows up in an orphanage in Poplar.
The book begins on Christmas Day 1880 in Poplar when a sick unmarried mother leaves her new born baby at the Sisters of Clemency Convent, next we move forward thirteen years and that baby is now thirteen year old Ettie O’Reilly whose protected life in the orphanage is coming to an abrupt end with the closing of the institution. The nuns had been her only family and she had enjoyed helping the nuns and helping the younger orphans helping them with their reading and writing.
When Michael, an East End street urchin arrived, Ettie tries to help him with his reading and writing, but he is difficult and has spent his whole life looking out for himself. Eventually, Michael and Ettie become good friends, and when Michael declares Ettie to be his girl, she is not unhappy.
When the Roman Catholic church decides to close the orphanage, Ettie is found a place as a maid to Lucas and Clara Benjamin, who own a smoking lounge in Soho. Michael decides to go back to life on the streets and Ettie starts her new life as a maid to the Benjamin’s.
Ettie finds that that life outside the orphanage is a challenge in more ways than one and good fortune is often followed by bad fortune. The twists and turns of Ettie’s life during next few years are fraught with danger, poverty and near death, but she is blessed in finding some true friends who seek to protect her from her mother’s fate. After being exposed to the dark side of the city, will she ever find Michael and have true happiness?
What sets Carol’s books apart from many others of the type is that she creates believable characters who represent some of the best and worst of human qualities. Carol’s books pays tribute to strong characters, often women like Ettie who will not be defeated by life’s injustices and hardships. Carol also manages to realistically portray a complex Victorian London full of great wealth and terrible poverty.
Although this fascinating and enjoyable book represents a move away from the East End family dramas, it still has a strong sense of humanity which Carol suggests can be found even in the worst environments.
I am sure that Christmas Child will be just as successful as Carol’s other books and If you would like to read buy a copy of the book, it is available here.
Carol lives in Dorset but still follows closely events on the Island and is a long time supporter of Isle of Dogs Life. If you would like to find out more about the book or other books written by Carol Rivers. Please visit her website here
Regular readers will know that I often try to find books that feature the Isle of Dogs, it is often surprising just how many have featured the Island. Much rarer is writers who locate a series of books on the Island, one writer that does is best-selling author Carol Rivers and I was delighted recently to receive a copy of her latest book, Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm.
Carol’s gritty and heartwarming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and have appeared regularly in many bestseller charts and have a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.
Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm is the third of the series of Lizzie Flowers dramas, the first in the series was Lizzie of Langley Street which took place in the period of the First World War followed by The Fight for Lizzie Flowers which is set in the early 1930’s. Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm begins in 1934 and finds Lizzie seeking some peace, after some traumatic experiences, not least overcoming the intentions of East End villain Leonard Savage. At last things appear to be going well for Lizzie, Now not only does she still run the shop of Ebondale Street, she has also built up a successful bakery store with the help of Jenny her manageress.
However, on a personal level, things are not running smoothly, Lizzie’s one true love, Danny, had asked her to move away from the Isle of Dogs to his fancy new showroom in the West End, but Lizzie determined to ensure her family and friends survive refuses, so Danny and his adopted son Tom, move away, leaving Lizzie heart-broken.
To add to her worries, Lizzie spots a woman holding a baby outside the bakery one morning, she cannot believe that this downtrodden woman is her friend Ethel carrying a baby. Ethel collapses into Lizzie’s arms and beseeches Lizzie to help her.
Despite opposition from all around her, Lizzie is determined to take over the lease of the Mill Wall, a pub renowned for its ladies of the night and rivalry. Lizzie gives her husband Frank the opportunity to redeem himself by running the pub and ensuring that its clientele remain ‘clean’ and free from the ladies of the night frequenting it. Will Frank be able to maintain his sobriety to show Lizzie and his family that he has turned over a new leaf.
Lizzie continues to do what she does best, nurturing her family and friends so they have a good life on the Island, however, with the Mill Wall Pub, the bakery and the shop, has Lizzie bit off more than she can handle ? A new villain on the block, “the Prince” certainly thinks so, and is threatening both her family and her livelihood. When there is a fire at the bakery resulting in the death of the cook Madge and severe burns to Jenny, Lizzie is worried she will lose everything.
What sets Carol’s books apart from many others of the type is that she creates believable characters who inhabit an Island that is still reliant on the docks and where family is still of great importance. Whilst the extended families were a great source of support, sometimes loyalties were divided that often led to conflict. This is another characteristic of Carol’s books, she honestly portrays characters who have gone off the rails and how families have to deal with a series of setbacks.
Carol’s books pays tribute to the strong characters, often women who kept families together through adversity. Lizzie Flowers is one such character who is full of true East End grit who will not be defeated by life’s injustices and hardships.
I am sure that Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm will be just as successful as Carol’s other books and will generate plenty of interest in the Island’s fascinating past. If you would like to read Lizzie Flowers and the Family Firm, it is available here.
Recently, I was delighted to receive the latest book from Alfred Gardner who is best known for his two books, East End Story and Watch Your Fingers.
The new book is called In Dickens’ Path and is a series of short stories. The first story called ‘In Dickens’ Path’ features a fictional meeting between Charles Dickens and a twelve-year-old Limehouse errand boy called Gideon Woolfe.
Alf had drawn on his own family tree for the character of Gideon Woolfe, Gideon was actually Alf’s mother’s grandfather and was born on the border of Limehouse and Ratcliffe in 1839.
To put the story in context, Alf provides some background of both the area and Dickens connection with Wapping, Shadwell, Ratcliffe and Limehouse. As a young boy, Dickens would visit Limehouse to see his godfather, Charles Huffman who was a Limehouse sail maker, rigger and ships chandler. Even when Dickens was a celebrated writer, he was known to travel around the area looking for ideas for his stories and articles.
In Dickens’ Path finds the great writer relying on Gideon’s knowledge of the area and quick wittedness to help him with his enquiries.
The next story, An Indelible Impression carries on the theme of being rewarded for kindness but with a modern twist.
A Surprise Encounter brings together an Army sergeant who used to bully his recruits and one of his victims.
It Tugs at the Heartstrings reflects Alf’s love of opera and A Cottage to Let illustrates a life in the country is not always idyllic.
Bogus Callers is about a couple of nasty confidence tricksters and A Canine Tale follows the adventures of an enterprising Dachshund.
Alf lived in the East End for most of his life until he moved recently to the South coast. His books often exposes the kindness and unkindness of modern life and these short stories provide plenty of interest especially if you are a fan of Charles Dickens and the Limehouse area.
This book of short stories is only available from Alf directly and all profits will go to the Children with Cancer UK charity.
If you would like more information or buy a copy of the book, contact Alf at firstname.lastname@example.org
In a previous post about Alfred Hitchcock, I wrote about his formative years when he moved to Limehouse.
The Hitchcock’s moved from Leytonstone to 175 Salmon Lane in Limehouse and opened a shop selling fresh fish, before Alfred’s father purchased 130 Salmon Lane and opened it as a fish and chip shop.
One of the problems of looking at Hitchcock’s childhood is to separate fact and fiction because later in life Hitchcock would tell stories about his childhood which were often fanciful and exaggerated.
This blurring of fact and fiction about Hitchcock’s life has fascinated many writers, but very few have used Hitchcock’s early life to write fiction. One writer who has decided to write about the young Alfred Hitchcock is Jude Cowan Montague with her soon to be realised Young Hitch series.
Jude has considerable knowledge of the Salmon Lane area after living there in the 1980s. As Jude relates the area was very different in that time.
When I lived nearby in the late 1980s I squatted in an old council block which has now been demolished, so I have my own sentimental connection with times gone by. It was quite run down in those days, but the development of the docks on the Isle of Dogs was already in progress.
Recently Jude revisited the area to get inspiration for the new books and understanding that Limehouse has always been an interesting mix of old and new. Although the Young Hitch series are a work of fiction they do use real-life history, newspapers and first-hand accounts for historical accuracy.
Hitchcock was famous for observing life and trying to found out what made people tick, there is no doubt that Hitchcock would have been have been aware of an East End around him that was in turmoil. Industrial strikes, Women’s suffrage , anarchism and general unrest were commonplace, if this was not enough the start of the First World War saw Zeppelin bombing raids.
Hitchcock was also fascinated with murders, he was fascinated by Jack the Ripper and the cases of Dr Crippen and Adelaide Bartlett. Hitchcock’s formative years were probably vital for developing his famous macabre sense of humour.
Jude taps into Hitchcock’s unique take on the world around him in the Young Hitch books which the following excerpt illustrates
Sitting in the red plush seats of the Picture Palace, Alfred Hitchcock, eleven years old and eager to grow up, shook as a snake of fear rose from his toes, wriggled through his socks and slid up his sweaty legs.
On the wide screen in front the hero squeezed through a hole and made off for the horizon. He looked back and laughing, in what Alf thought was in a rather superior manner. There was a smug and distasteful manner revealed by the close-up.
The bereft villain shook his fist, silhouetted against the sky. His victim had got away.
‘Curses!’ Alf mouthed, twirling an invisible moustache.
Baron von Bingsten was not acting in his best interests by drawing attention with his gyrating gurning gymnastics. But then Alf had never met a real baron. Perhaps all nobs, as his father called them, had over-dramatic movements. But he doubted it. He couldn’t test his theory. Grocers’ sons didn’t have the opportunity to mingle with the nobility. If only his Da had a title. Lord Leytonstone? Could be? It seemed you had to be an aristocrat to have a real adventure, if you went by the stories he read.
If his father really thought about Alf’s needs, and wanted to give him all the best advantages in life, he would get himself a title. But despite the lip-service, parents did not think of their children enough. His Da was always thinking of his business. That was why he had dragged Alf and the Hitchcocks from a perfectly good house in Leytonstone to a crummy place like Limehouse.
Alf felt a tear spring to his eye as he dwelt on this injustice. Through the rosy mists of memory he thought of the beloved house he had left behind. There were roses wreathed around a porch and a mother waiting at the garden gate in a checked apron, greeting him with a warm smile.
Or was that the cottage in ‘The Vicar’s Daughter’, on last week? It didn’t really matter. The point was the same.
He licked a salty tear away, smiling to himself and settling down for the next picture wishing he had some more peanuts.
He idly wondered if he had enough for an ice-cream, but he did not have to pull out the lining to know his pockets were empty apart from the sticky caramel sweet wrappers. And a dead pigeon’s wing.
He was out of luck and out of pennies. Soon it would be time to go home. Back to the real world.
Update : Jude’s first book in the series ‘Young Hitch in Forbidden Flames’ was published on 3rd January 2017 on the anniversary of the Siege of Sidney Street.
If you would like to find out more about the Young Hitch series of books, visit Jude’s blog here
Regular readers will know that I am always keen to find books with a link to the Island. Very few writers have written about the Island in a series of books, the great exception is bestselling author Carol Rivers who has written a number of books which generally feature characters on the Island.
Carol’s gritty and heart-warming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and appear regularly in many bestseller charts and Carol has a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.
I was delighted to receive a copy of Carol’s latest book, A Promise between Friends which takes place in the early 1950s and follows the adventures of the ambitious, 19-year-old Ruby Payne and her lifelong friend Kath Rigler. Ruby and Kath both suffer from issues that bring unhappy memories but are looking to start an exciting new independent life by moving into a new flat together.
London in the early 1950s was a city in transition, still suffering from shortages and bomb damage whilst trying to forge a new future. In the pursuit of the good things in life, some people were willing to take chances and the book captures the period when shady deals and false promises led many people into trouble. Ruby desperate to rise above her humble beginnings finds out that there is always a price to pay.
What really sets Carol’s book apart from many others of the type is that she creates believable characters who are faced with situations familiar to many of us, in overcoming these problems they often seek help from their extended families who are considered of great importance. However, Carol’s books acknowledge that even though extended families were a great source of support, sometimes those loyalties were tested and could lead to conflict. This is another characteristic of Carol’s books, she often displays some of negative aspects of London life when characters go off the rails.
But for all the pain and conflict, Carol pays tribute to the strong characters, often women who manage to keep going through adversity. Ruby and Kath are two such characters who will not be defeated by life’s injustices and hardships.
A Promise between Friends is the latest book from a writer who still takes a close interest of events on the Island and continues to be inspired by this small piece of East London.
If you would like to find out more about the book or buy a copy, it is available in many formats at Simon and Schuster, you can visit their website here
The ship Milverton in Stewart’s Dry Dock, Manchester Road, Isle of Dogs, ca. 1919 Photo (c) William Whiffin
Regular readers will know that I am always on the look out for stories related to the Isle of Dogs and recently came across a humorous short piece by W. Pett Ridge. William Pett Ridge was born at Chartham in Kent 1859, in the 1890s, he began to write humorous sketches for newspapers and magazines and became well known for his ability to write entertaining portraits of working class life. He went on to write a number of novels with Mord Em’ly published in 1898, the most successful. Pett Ridge’s great popularity as a novelist and writer was in the early part of the 20th century and it was at this time that he wrote The Little Brown Bus which involves a character that is familiar to all of us, namely the person who travels on public transport who will not shut up, in this case it is a sailor who meets a variety of characters on the little brown bus.
The Little Brown Bus by W. Pett Ridge (The Sailor’s Voyage to the Isle of Dogs)
East India Dock road is half inclined to put up its shutters, but reluctant to do this-albeit the hour is late-because foreign sailors, much more at sea here than when on the ocean, are still loafing on the edge of the pavement. The shops have everything a sea-going man may desire, from bars of hard yellow soap and fur caps and scarlet pocket handkerchiefs to chromos of smiling young women in hats of the early eighties; the job lots of literature tied up with a boot lace are calculated to satisfy nearly eve’ry taste. Outside the long red Asiatic Home and on its broad steps a few melancholy Chinamen stand, with queues carefully twisted up and pinned under their blue linen caps; this because the Limehouse boy has a weakness for pulling a pig-tail when he sees one, crying, “Shawp!” and running away. Chinamen up Millwall way are carrying round baskets of vegetables yoked over their shoulders. By the side of the tram terminus, and near the red eyed fire station stands the ‘bus. A little brown ‘bus, with yellow wheels, there for the convenience of those whom circumstances compel to go the Isle of Dogs.
Strangers’ Home in the West India Dock Road was also known as the Home for Asiatics, Africans, South Sea Islanders and Others. Date c.1901 ( National Maritime Museum)
THE ‘BUS FOR SINGAPORE
“Right for Singapore, cap’en?” “Jump in,” says the driver from the pavement, making one more attempt to light his pipe. “Change anywheres, cap’en?” “Yes,” replies the driver, curtly; “you’ll have to change a lot ‘fore you get on board your ship.”
“Not ,cross, are you, cap’en?”
“Look here, my lad,” says the driver goaded by this inquiry. “You get into that bloomin’ bus and take your seat and shut your head. That’s all you’ve got to do.”
“I’ve seen your face somewhere before,” says the peak-capped sailor.
“Any relation to old Frank Macey that used to live at Devonport ?”
Sulky reply in the negative. “Then ‘ave a cigar,” says the sailor genially. ” Put your pipe in your hat and have something to smoke. Lor’ bless my soul, I am glad to meet you. How’s the missus?”
Driver, accepting two pale brown cigars from the envelope offered, says that he never had a missus, and expresses a pious hope that, with the help of Providence and his own acuteness, he never may.
A BREEZY ‘BUS FARE
A piano organ starts one of Sousa’s marches, and the sailor, encouraged by the comparative friendliness of the driver, solicits the favor of his hand for a waltz; but the driver draws the line, and with the assistance of a strap cranes himself up into his seat, giving the sailor renewed advice to secure a place inside; which the sailor does, hailing the passengers with a seafaring salutation and lurching into the one vacant seat more by accident than design. The little brown ‘bus turns and goes across the tram lines.
“Well.” says the friendly sailor, “how are we all getting on this voy’ge?” Some of the passengers are sleepy and some are thoughtful; the sailor, closing one eye, selects a quiet, puss-headed Japanese. I’m very’ glad to hear,” he says, laying one hand on the other’s knee, “that me and old Solsbury managed that little affair all right. ‘We’re chums, ain’t we?”
The short Japanese sailor, with N.Y.K. on his collar, smiles and nods. Very well, then!” says the sailor with an injured air, “why not shake hands? Has anybody been telling you anything about me? Because if so–” The Japanese accepts the large hand. “That’s better!” remarks the sailor, restored to good temper. “Now, having gone so fur,
I should like to go a bit further and shake ‘ands with everybody – just to show there’s no ill-feeling.”
A SAILOR’S SONG.
The little ‘bus swerves round between the high walls that border the commencement of West Ferry road.
“There!” Now you can all say you’ve shook hands with a honest seafaring man.”
“I shan’t brag about it,” remarks a stout woman opposite.
“Oh mother! protests the sailor, tearfully. “Don’t be so harsh with your blue-eyed boy.”
‘Blue-eyed nuisance,” amends the stout woman.
“There’s a nice parent for you ! Bring up a mother in the way she should go, and when she grows old.
Anybody got any objection to my singing a song?”
“Yes,” says the other passengers with unanimity, “we have.”
“You ain’t so fond of me as you used to be,” remarks the sailor, regretfully: “Ever since that affair out at Valp’raiso you all seem different somehow. ‘Oh, thou ‘ast changed, my darling,’ ” sings the sailor; ” Thou smilst no more at me, Thou ‘ast no word of fond farewell, As I put out to-Way–ho!’ ”
The little ‘bus rattles across a wooden bridge separating the docks from the river; the passengers find coppers and hand up their pennies through a hole in the roof to the driver.
THE THIN LADY’S MOTTO
Some want change and this makes for conversation. One spare, melancholy woman who has been marketing with a shining black bag, the lock of which has long since refused to perform any of the duties of a lock, deplores the price of bread, and says with determination that she has really made up her mind if it goes much higher ,well (despairingly), she does not know what she shall do.
From which the conversation goes by a rapid stage to the difficulty that the thin lady has with her youngest boy, who has lately been going to theatres; the other beats this with a deplorable story of her Uncle John, who went in for religion.
“It all goes to show,” says this lady, as she pulls the strap and prepares to alight at Glengall road, “that it’s a mistake to go to either extreme; the ‘appy mejum’s my motto. Good night, all! Don’t be late in the morning.”
The Japanese also descends here to disappear in the meagrely-lighted streets, and on the talkative sailor who has been asleep, discovering this, he weeps, and declares that he has not a friend left in the world; that he is forsaken and alone; for two pins he would –
WANTED A WIFE
If only he had some one to love him! if only some, tidy, respectable woman, with a bit put by in the savings bank, would come to him and say, “Jim Allwright, give up seafaring life and settle down on shore and keep an eye on the shop and entertain your friends with a glass now and then,” why, then he would say, “Done with youz” and give the old ship the chuck without the least hesitation.
“I’m the most reasonable, good tempered man alive,” remarks the sailor contentedly. “Nothing ever upset me. I take everything as it comes. What you all getting out for?”
“Because,” explains one of the descending passengers politely, “because we can’t go any further. That’s why!”
“And a dashed good reason, too,” cries the sailor agreeably. “Goo’ ni’ everybody. Goblessye.”
The spare, thin old woman stands on the edge of the pavement watching him as he goes. The driver of the little brown ‘bus announces his intention of utilising the minutes of waiting before the return journey by going into the tavern in order to get the right time; the bystanders ignore the hint, and he goes alone.
“I used to have a son that was that way inclined,” says the thin woman, rather wistfully, “only, he was never funny with it.
Regular readers will know that I often try to find books that feature the Isle of Dogs, it is often surprising just how many have featured the Island. Much rarer is writers who locate a series of books on the Island, one writer that does is best selling author Carol Rivers and I was delighted last week to receive a copy of her latest book, The Fight for Lizzie Flowers .
Carol’s gritty and heartwarming East End family dramas are greatly influenced by her grandparents who lived in Gavrick Street and then Chapel House Street on the Island. The books are widely praised for their realism and have appeared regularly in many bestseller charts and have a loyal readership in the UK and increasingly in the United States.
The Fight for Lizzie Flowers is second of the series of Lizzie Flowers dramas, the first in the series was Lizzie of Langley Street which took place in the period of the First World War. The Fight for Lizzie Flowers is set in the 1930’s and begins with Lizzie preparing to marry Danny Flowers. It was Danny who had asked Lizzie to leave for a better life in Australia but Lizzie was not willing to make the break from her family and ended up marrying Danny’s brother Frank instead. It was a decision she came to regret but had stayed with him until he met an untimely end when he was drowned and fished out of the Thames at Limehouse.
Since Frank’s death, Lizzie had made a great success of running the Flowers greengrocer’s and Danny had come back to ask her to marry him. For all her hardships of the past, it now seemed her future was bright and full of hope. However an unwelcome guest arrives and Lizzie’s life is turned upside down.
What sets Carol’s book apart from many others of the type is that she creates believable characters who inhabit an Island that is still reliant on the docks and where family is still of great importance. Whilst the extended families were a great source of support, sometimes loyalties were divided that leads to conflict. This is another characteristic of Carol’s book, she often displays some of negative aspects of London life when characters go off the rails.
But for all the conflict, Carol pays tribute to the strong characters, often women who kept families together through adversity. Lizzie Flowers is one such character who is full of true East End grit who will not be defeated by life’s injustices and hardships.
I am sure that The Fight for Lizzie Flowers will be just as successful as Carol’s other books and will generate plenty of interest in the Island’s fascinating past. If you would like to read The Fight for Lizzie Flowers, it is available in many formats at Simon and Schuster, you can visit the page here