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'The "Blue Bird" Among The Norfolk Reeds'

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Posted by Mike Field on April 25, 2021 at 05:14:35 user mikefield.

I've just been browsing a bit on 'All Things Ransome', and in the Literary Pages I came on an absolute gem of an essay by Walter Ledger.

It transpires that AR had known Ledger early on, and that if he had taken up an invitation to sail with Ledger when he'd been first introduced, he would have known about Pin Mill twenty years earlier than he did.

This is both an informative and humorous piece of writing, in which Ledger recounts his experiences during a summer spent aboard his cutter Blue Bird.

Here are a few samples --

There is a small folding cot, of ample size for a boy, but as I never carry that source of trouble and anxiety with me, it serves as sail-locker.

Somerleyton swing bridge must be under a curse, and destined by evil spirits to inflict destruction and damnation on all who try to pass through.
Fouling a pier, but eventually passing through, after breaking every rule of good seamanship, I stopped to take breath and wipe the sweat of labour and the blush of shame from off my brow.

... one evening a suspicious-looking man, or so he seemed in the dark, came alongside in a dinghy to borrow my saucepan his own, he said, having sprung a leak. "It's a very good saucepan," I remarked, as I reluctantly handed it over, "the only one I've got, and I'm a poor man and..." "All right," he said, "you'll get it back," and disappeared in the night. Filled with misgivings, I sang out, "I forgot to say that I'm also an orphan."

Tearing down the New Cut below Reedham, we met a big wherry, in passing which very few inches separated us from quite a pretty smash. I remembered that hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, and of physical weakness in the old, and being neither the one nor the other, and as the least I can recover from my insurance is 7 10s., I went straight at it, as indeed, I went at all the bridges, with success, until we got to that bridge of sighs, Somerleyton.

Outside the churchyard near the gate are the village stocks and a whipping post, with three sizes of iron manacles graduated to fit all scoundrels.
I take number two's.

He mentions a vessel called the Cachalot, which must surely be where AR got the name for the boat in 'The Big Six' from which the D&Gs caught The World's Whopper.

And then he introduces us to some Hullabaloos --

Though there were many small yachts on the Broads manned and lived in by amateurs, the four young men on board the wherry, attired in spotless flannels and sweaters, and heads adorned with knitted caps, were typical of many I saw afloat.
All of them in the prime of youth and strength, garbed as for the most strenuous athletic exertions, they smoked and lolled about on a garden seat on deck, doing absolutely nothing the live-long day. These Lotus-eaters allowed themselves to be sailed about (think of it!) by a skipper and his boy, never associating themselves with the navigation or with any work on board. And every evening, lying beside their nectar
Propt on beds of amaranth and moly,
....(while warm airs lull them, blowing lowly)
With half-dropt eyelids......
they listen to their blatant gramophone.

Read it for yourself. You'll find hyperlinks to it and many other literary sources at the link. And if you don't enjoy it you can call me Gibber's Uncle...

- - - - -

Ledger was clearly an interesting and erudite character. He died in 1931, nine years before 'The Big Six' was published. We don't know much about him, but Oxford University provides two interesting sidelights on him here and again here.

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