August 11th 1918

After a considerable period of time, we have heard from Capt. Jack Smyth (Sikhs, Indian Army) with his news:

21.7.18 “I’ve been travelling about a good deal lately; I left my regiment last Christmas up in Pershawar and went down to the Central Provinces to the Staff School, where I remained for three months. It was most awfully hard work, but all very interesting, and we had long days riding all over the country doing schemes…

Shortly after the course was over, I was appointed Brigade Major, Bombay, which was about the best job I could have got, and I went there in April.

I was then transferred as Brigade Major, 43rd Brigade, Lahore. Of course this place, being in the Punjab, is fiendishly hot in the hot weather (it has been 118° in the shade by day and 97° in a room with electric fans by night), but the work is interesting and there are heaps of troops here.

One thing I did love about Bombay was the sea; the yachting season was just over, but I did a good deal of bathing.

In the Yacht Club all men bowed down to me on account of my being one of the crew of the ‘Blue Dragon.’ You have no idea how the fame of the ‘Blue Dragon’ has spread in Bombay. I was always introduced as ‘Capt. Smyth, one of the crew of the ‘Blue Dragon’ you know,’ whereupon I was looked upon with awe, the choicest wines were produced, I was asked innumerable questions by people who knew the Log off by heart, my opinion was asked on different rigs which I knew nothing about, and I received numerous offers to go as ‘crew’ on some of the best yachts for next season.

So, if ever Skipper chances to go to the Yacht Club, Bombay, they will receive him with open arms…”

What an enticing thought, but I suspect Jack was diverting attention away from talk of his VC exploits.

July 30th 1918

Today is the second anniversary of the death of Eric Leggett, who was struck down by the scarlet fever whilst on active service in France.

I have the fondest of memories of Eric, who was the first young Dragon to fulfil the role of cabin boy (KB) on my boat the ‘Blue Dragon’ in 1892. He wrote the Log of 1894, when he sailed with us from Portree on Skye to Eigg, Tobermoray, Oban, Fort William, round Mull to Iona and Staffa, and on to Plockton.

Eric joined the Royal Artillery in 1899, after which his military career took him to foreign parts, which explains the references to India and Mandalay in the poem below. It was written by Frank Sidgwick, when ‘The Log of the Blue Dragon’ was published in 1907.

To E.L.

Will you read this little rhyme,
Our K.B. of olden time,
There in India's sunny clime?
                   (Exiled, alas)
Still we sail the old B.D.,
Still we bend the old burgee,
Though we ship a new K.B.
                   (Who is an ass.)
While the hathi's piling teak,
While the dreary punkahs creak,
Can you hear your shipmates speak?
                   (Isn't this rot?)
Can you hear your shipmates say,
"Come you back from Mandalay,
Come you back to Oban Bay"?
                   (Probably not.)

 

 

(A ‘burgee’ is a flag bearing the colours or emblem of a sailing club, typically triangular;  ‘hathi’ – an elephant in Hindi; ‘punkah – a large cloth fan on a frame suspended from the ceiling, moved backwards and forwards by pulling on a cord by a ‘punkah-wallah.’)

 

April 28th 1917

The holidays are a time to enjoy some light reading and I am delighted to say that Sidgwick & Jackson have just published a collection of songs and poems from the previously published ‘Logs of the Blue Dragon.’ It is now on sale for the princely sum of one shilling!

Both Frank and Hugh Sidgwick have contributed to this volume and here, by way of example, is one of Hugh’s contributions:

Nimium ne Crede Experto                               

“This narrow strait,” (the Sailing Directions said)
   “Is full of rocks and difficult to enter;
Whirlpools are common here at every tide;
There are uncharted reefs on every side
   And currents (twenty knots) along the centre.”
“Come,” said the Skipper, “we will go in there.”
            (We went in there.)

“There is no sand” (the Sailing Directions said),
   “The anchorage is thoroughly unsafe.
There is no shelter from the frequent squalls,
Save on the west, among the overfalls.
   Boats should go on to Loch MacInchmaquaif.”
“Come,” said the Skipper, “We will anchor here.”
            (We anchored here.)

                                  Hugh Sidgwick

In my humble opinion, this rather overrates my nautical abilities!

Mr SPB Mais, who came to teach at the OPS for the Summer Term of 1909 (on the recommendation of his tutor at Christ Church, our own Charles Fisher), has written enthusiastically about our new book. He is now at Sherborne School and he describes the arrival of the book there through the post as giving rise to high excitement in the Mais household:

“I forgot my bath, my shaving water, even my breakfast. I was late for chapel and nearly turned my lecture on Range-Finding into a reading on Voyages of a five and a twelve ton yawl. I managed to restrain myself until the English hour for Army candidates. Then for three-quarters of an hour I gave myself up to delirious pleasure…

It is enough to say that no past or present Dragon will feel satisfied until he has learnt by heart all the cheerful, witty, honest poetry which is here presented all for his delight.”

 

 

 

 

May 10th 1915

RWPP Oxford3

Ronnie Poulton

Rupert Brooke

Rupert Brooke

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, a service was held at Rugby School in memory of the lives of two of their old boys, Ronnie Poulton and Rupert Brooke (who died on April 23rd on his way to Gallipoli).

Rupert Brooke played alongside Ronnie in the Rugby School 1st XV in  1905, when Ronnie was aged sixteen.

Of Ronnie the Headmaster said, “We have given of our best. If we were asked to describe what highest kind of manhood Rugby helps to make, I think we should have him in mind as we spoke of it.

God had endowed him with a rare combination of graces and given him an influence among men such as very few in one generation can possess. What had we not hoped would come of it!”

* * * * * * *

Rupert Brooke’s poem ‘The Soldier,’ which was quoted in the Times Literary Supplement in March and also used in the Easter Day service at St Paul’s, is due to be published shortly by our own Frank Sidgwick, under the title of ‘1914 and Other Poems.’

In 1911 Brooke wrote to Frank, who had four years previously set up his company Sidgwick & Jackson, asking him to publish his first volume, ‘Poems of 1911’, which he duly did. The agreement was signed at Brooke’s home, The Old Vicarage at Granchester, witnessed by a guest, Virginia Stephen.

Frank’s good taste and judgement regarding authors are not to be doubted, given that he has also published ‘The Log of the Blue Dragon II in Orkney & Shetland’ (1909-1910) and more recently, ‘To Norway & The North Cape in Blue Dragon II’ for me.

I remember these cruises with great affection, and all the more so at present as many of my old boys now corresponding with me from the various fronts of the war, joined ‘The Blue Dragon’ as crew on these great adventures.

Blue Dragon

The Blue Dragon