Saturday, 28 March 2009


John took this wonderful photo last week when on the Ayrshire coast (Scotland). I love the colour of this wooden clinker boat which, on this side, is called Ballantrae. I think the boat name is actually Margaret and Ballantrae, from the BA253 port registration, is her home port (also in Ayrshire, south of Girven).

Ballantrae in Scotland is a very small town but the name for many people is known, and probably only known, because it is the title of one of Robert Louis Stevenson's novels, The Master of Ballantrae. Set in Scotland in 1745, it is a tale of 2 brothers who become caught up in many adventures as they feud over which one of them will be the first to join Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion. It is all about sibling rivalry and greed, and, to me, unreadable!

However, there is one small bit of it that interests me. I found the book on the internet* and there is a most interesting Dedication at the beginning:

"The Dedication

To Sir Percy Florence**[Shelley] and Lady Shelley

Here is a tale which extends over many years and travels into many countries. By a peculiar fitness of circumstances the writer began, continued it, and concluded it among distant and diverse scenes. Above all, he was much upon the sea. The character and fortune of the fraternal enemies, the hall and shrubbery of Durrisdeer, the problem of Mackellar's home-spun and how to shape it for superior flights; these were his company on deck in mnay star-relfecting harbours, ran often in his mind at sea to the tune of slatting canvas and were dismissed (something of the suddenest) on the approach of the squalls. It is my hope that these surroundings of its manufacture may to some degree find favour for my story with seafarers and sealovers like yourselves.

And at least here is a dedication from a great way off: written by the loud shores of a subtropical island near upon ten thousand miles from Boscombe Chine and Manor [P F Shelley's sea-side home on south-west coast of England]; scenes which rise before me as I write, along the faces and voices of my friends.

Well, I am for the sea once more; no doubt Sir Percy also. Let us make the signal B.R.D.!


Waikiki, May 17th, 1889."

Now this is the chap for whom the dedication is intended. This image* is a Vanity Fair cartoon of Sir Percy Florence Shelley in the ‘Men of the Day’ series. Headed ‘The Poet’s son’, part of the caption reads: ‘But he delights above all in yachting and in private theatricals...'.

My question is: what does the signal B.R.D. mean?

In this article from the New York Times, June 4, 1894, the circled sentence above states "...when the Atalanta cleared the point of the [Sandy] Hook the signal-code flags standing for the letter Q S D, indicating the single work "success" were hoisted. This was responded to from the natty craft, and a second signal B R D, meaning "good-bye" was hoisted. The Atalanta also answered this and spec on her course."

It refers to signal flags above. However I notice the following semaphore sequence: B is on the left, D is centre and F is on the right. I'm probably - forgive the pun - way off the beam here!

In fact, I might be better to call this blog Off-the-Beam ... as opposed to Off-at-a-Tangent!

* Book is here.

** Only surviving child of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Shelley - Frankenstein author. P F Shelley died Dec 5, 1889; his wife Jane, 1899.]

*** Source is here.

No comments: