April 17th, 2012

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Four Years Before the Titanic - there was the St Cuthbert

I seem to be in a transcribing family papers mood, and what with all the talk of the Titanic, it's about time I turned to to my grandfather's account of the destruction in February 1908 of the St Cuthbert, on which he served as Fourth Officer. As far as I know, no other account of this disaster has ever been published, beyond the newspaper reports at the time.

My mother's father was no man of letters, and this account is written in a fairly plain style, but the events it relates are more than dramatic enough to compensate. He wrote it in the 1930s, some twenty plus years after the event, at a time when he was bankrupt and thought that the story might be saleable, but seems never to have found a publisher. Then, in the 1970s my mother revived the publication idea, and the young Steepholm typed out the manuscript for her (by far my grandest typing accomplishment at that date). But she didn't pursue it either, and in those days there was no Lulu.com to make self-publishing a viable option.

So, here it is - "The Destruction of the St Cuthbert". I'll do it in four parts, to save my fingers, over the coming days. The really dramatic action doesn't start till part 3, but I think the first two parts are interesting too, at least if you want to know about life on an Atlantic cargo ship in the early years of the last century. It's about as far from the gleaming Titanic as you can get.

By the way, between my grandfather's not-entirely-legible handwriting and my own poor teenage typing, I'm sure there are some mistakes here (and in the parts to come), especially when it comes to proper names and nautical jargon. Any suggested corrections are welcome. For example, I can't find any mention of the Cape de Neige Islands through Google...

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