Saturday, 29 November 2008

Another Nelson..............................




Captain Timothy Edwards (or to give him his nickname in Nelson’s Navy “Old Hammer and Nails“) was the squire of Nanhoron on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales and a hero in the Nelson mould.He was every bit as dashing as was shown in his biography “Hammer and Nails” by David Beaumont Ellison.

Ellison was a friend of mine, a naval historian and former schoolmaster who took a retirement job as a supermarket shelf stacker.  Nothing was known of Captain Edwards until Ellison was asked to identify Edwards’ mourning locket, bought at an auction in Fife.  Fortunately an aunt had left him £20,000 so he was able to devote himself to his search.  By a fluke, he found a volume of historical memoirs in Cambridge Public Library which mentioned Edwards and his Nanhoron home.  He wrote to the house and got a letter back from Bettina, the wife of David Harden, who is one of Edwards’ descendants and also friends of mine.  They invited him to Nanhoron and one of the best books on naval history I know was the result.

In 1745, at the age of 14, Edwards signed on the frigate “Chesterfield“ as captain’s servant.  Eventually he himself became a captain and after a brilliant career died at sea on his way home from the American War of Independence.


He was a midshipman on the sloop “Sphinx”, the flagship of fifteen transports, taking 2,576 passengers, plus horses, cows, sheep and goats, to found a new settlement in Nova Scotia, which in time became the city of Halifax.  After the mandatory six years’ sea-going service, he applied for his commission and in 1775 was posted to the newly refitted 1,689-ton, line-of-battle second rater “Ramillies” as 6th Lieutenant.  Fortunately, because of his knowledge of the waters round Nova Scotia, he was transferred to the 75-gun “Terrible”, which was about to sail for that region.

The “Ramillies” would have been a bad career move.  She was commanded by Admiral Byng, who, aboard her, lost Minorca to the French, was court martialled and shot.


The Captain of the “Terrible”, John Lockhart, was more successful.  He was known as “Lucky” to his men because of the number of ‘prizes’ (enemy ships) he captured.  His total was 14 ships and Edwards’ share in the prize money was £813, the equivalent of ten years’ pay.


Edwards was promoted to captain and sent on spying missions off Toulon.  The many sea fights he fought brought him a fortune in prize money. 

He “swallowed the anchor” to develop his Llyn estate, Nanhoron, still today much the same as when he laid it out.  He was helped by his wife Margaret with whom he exchanged tender love poems. 

He re-mustered when the American War of Independence broke out, joined Rodney’s fleet and fought a great battle off Martinique which is excitingly described in this book.  He died of fever on his journey home, rich with prizes and honours. 

Unknowing, Margaret, his wife, went to Southampton to meet him.  By the custom of the day she did not to take money for her return, relying on her husband for that.  Not only did she learn she was a widow; she was stranded near penniless in Southampton.  The church refused to lend her the return fare but an unknown Independent minister did.




When the doctor called this week and told me I had cancer I thought of a column Damon Runyon wrote when his diagnosis ws made.

It began “ Why me ?”

And ended “ Why not?”

Perversely it has given me a new lease of life., I have been terminally bored since we left Wales. Now I have something to fight and I love a good battle. I have beaten alcoholism and diabetes. You couldn’t put the odds on paper for the Treble

I also remembered that in 1820, the English writer and wit the Rev. Sydney Smith wrote a letter to an unhappy friend, Lady Morpeth, in which he offered her tips for cheering up.  His suggestions are as sound now as they were almost 200 years ago.

“1st. Live as well as you dare.
2nd. Go into the shower-bath with a small quantity of water at a temperature low enough to give you a slight sensation of cold, 75 or 80 degrees.
3rd. Amusing books.
4th. Short views of human life - not further than dinner or tea.
5th. Be as busy as you can.
6th. See as much as you can of those friends who respect and like you.
7th. And of those acquaintances who amuse you.
8th. Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely - they are always worse for dignified concealment.
9th. Attend to the effects tea and coffee produce upon you.
10th. Compare your lot with that of other people.
11th. Don’t expect too much from human life - a sorry business at the best.
12th. Avoid poetry, dramatic representations (except comedy), music, serious novels, melancholy, sentimental people, and everything likely to excite feeling or emotion, not ending in active benevolence.
13th. Do good, and endeavour to please everybody of every degree.
14th Be as much as you can in the open air without fatigue.
15th. Make the room where you commonly sit gay and pleasant.
16th. Struggle by little and little against idleness.
17th. Don’t be too severe upon yourself, or underrate yourself, but do yourself justice.
18th. Keep good blazing fires.

 Another comforting contribution from an old friend and Master Blogger Geoff Mather:


Life begins at 80 by Frank Laubach

" I have good news for you. The first 80 years are the hardest. The
second 80 are a succession of birthday parties. Once you reach 80
everyone wants to carry your baggage and help you up the steps. If you
forget your name or anyone else's name, or an appointment, or your own
telephone number, or promise to be in three places at the same time,
or can't remember how many grandchildren you have, you need only
explain that you are 80.

            Being 80 is a lot better than being 70. At 70, people are
mad at you for everything. At 80, you have a perfect excuse, no matter
what you do. If you act foolishly, it's your second childhood.
Everyone is looking for symptoms of softening of the brain.

            Being 70 is no fun at all. At that age, they expect you to
retire to a house in the country and complain about your arthritis, and
you ask everybody to stop mumbling, because you can't understand them
(actually your hearing is about 50% gone).

            If you survive until you are 80, everybody is surprised
that you are still alive. They treat you with respect for just having
lived so long. Actually they seem surprised that you can walk and talk
sensibly. So, please folks, try to make it to 80. It's the best time
of life. People forgive you for anything.


Hipkin my gardener was in a bit of a hurry this morning. He has to buy an advent calendar for his dog.

Hipkin’s dog is one of the wonders of Fenland. He has four pieces of dog’s chocolate for tea and likes nothing better than sausages for breakfast.

Hipkin says “ Owd dog be fewrrus if’n I fergit the calendar.

“Every morning he sits in front of it and barks, till we oopen the little door.”

He also goes on holiday every year to Skegness and can count.

Hipkin is a constant source of wonder to me and I love him dearly. I am going out now to buy one for Taz