Sunday, 29 July 2012

Straits Settlements

The Straits Settlements were a group of British territories located in Southeast Asia.

Originally established in 1826 as part of the territories controlled by the British East India Company, the Straits Settlements came under direct British control as a crown colony on 1 April 1867. The colony was dissolved in 1946 as part of the British reorganisation of its South-East Asian dependencies following the end of the Second World War.

The Straits Settlements consisted of the four individual settlements of Malacca, Dinding, Penang (also known as Prince of Wales Island), Singapore (with Christmas Island and the Cocos Islands). The island of Labuan, off the coast of Borneo, was also incorporated into the colony with effect from 1 January 1907, becoming a separate settlement within it in 1912. With the exception of Singapore, Christmas Island, and the Cocos Islands, these territories now form part of Malaysia. Read more on Wikipedia

Lowry visited the territories on his 1927 voyage to the Far East. Lowry refers to the territories in his short story 'On Board The West Hardaway': "The West Hardaway reached the Straits Settlements and unloaded some of her cargo in Penang, leaning with quiet gratitude against the wharf, sea-weary after her long journey." (Pg. 29). Lowry also refers to a stamp from territory in his short story 'Lunar Caustic'; "Here he bought a packet of stamps with little reproductions of tigers on them from the Straits Settlements" (Pg 304). Later, Lowry referred twice to the territory in his short story 'Elephant and Colosseum';  "and in Ark of Singapore he has reached back to this early experience, in 1927, on a sailing ship, with a deck cargo of lions, tigers, and elephants from the Straits Settlements bound for the Dublin Zoo." (Pg. 166); .......only several ports later homebound, had loaded that freight as mentioned of heterogeneous wild animals at a Straits Settlements port, that is to say, it was not Malaya at all but Siam..." (Pg. 219)

Thursday, 26 July 2012


Paraguay is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the country from north to south. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América, or the Heart of America.

Lowry refers to the country in his novel Ultramarine; Popplereuter says "This time we made a trip to Sudamerika - Santos and Paraguay, San Francisco, Florianpolis - Port Allegre. We have been rolling around the world." (P.86).

The port which Popplereuter most likely visited was Asunción - because the Paraguay River runs right next to Asunción the city is served by a river terminal in the downtown area. This port is strategically located inside a bay and it is where most freight enters and leaves the country.

São Francisco do Sul, Brazil

São Francisco do Sul is a municipality in the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina. It was founded as a village by the Portuguese in 1658. It is situated on the northern end of the island of São Francisco do Sul at the entrance to the Bay of Babitonga. The city has a major port facility.

Lowry refers to the port in his novel Ultramarine; Popplereuter says "This time we made a trip to Sudamerika - Santos and Paraguay, San Francisco, Florianpolis - Port Allegre. We have been rolling around the world." (P.86). Note Lowry spells the port incorrectly.

Florianópolis, Brazil

Florianópolis is the capital city and second largest city of Santa Catarina state in the Southern region of Brazil. It is composed of one main island, the Island of Santa Catarina (Ilha de Santa Catarina), a continental part and the surrounding small islands. The name Florianópolis was meant to be a tribute to Marshal Floriano Peixoto, the second President (1891–1894) of the Republic of the United States of Brazil and from Greek term πόλις (polis, meaning "city"). Until 1893, the city was called Nossa Senhora do Desterro (Our Lady of Banishment) or simply "Desterro".

Lowry refers to the port in his novel Ultramarine; Popplereuter says "This time we made a trip to Sudamerika - Santos and Paraguay, San Francisco, Florianpolis - Port Allegre. We have been rolling around the world." (P.86).

Porto Alegre, Brazil

Porto Alegre is the capital and largest city in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. Porto Alegre was founded in 1772 by immigrants from the Azores, Portugal. In the late 19th century the city received many immigrants from other parts of the world, particularly Germany, Italy, and Poland. The vast majority of the population is of European descent. The city lies on the eastern bank of the Rio Guaiba (Guaiba Lake), where five rivers converge to form the Lagoa dos Patos (Lagoon of the Ducks), a giant freshwater lagoon navigable by even the largest of ships. This five-river junction has become an important alluvial port as well as a chief industrial and commercial centre of Brazil.

Lowry refers to the port in his novel Ultramarine; Popplereuter says "This time we made a trip to Sudamerika - Santos and Paraguay, San Francisco, Florianpolis - Port Allegre (Lowry's spelling). We have been rolling around the world." (P.86). 

Santos, Brazil

Santos is a municipality in the São Paulo state of Brazil, founded in 1546 by the Portuguese nobleman Brás Cubas. It is partially located on the island of São Vicente, which harbors both the city of Santos and the city of São Vicente, and partially on the mainland. Santos has the biggest seaport in Latin America. Coffee exports from the Port of Santos gave rise to the city and mostly accounted for the wealth of the city at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.

Lowry refers to the port in his novel Ultramarine; Popplereuter says "This time we made a trip to Sudamerika - Santos and Paraguay, San Francisco, Florianpolis - Port Allegre. We have been rolling around the world." (P.86).

26 Thirlmere Street

The home of Lowry's youthful love Tess Evans (Janet Travena in Ultramarine) in Liscard, Wirral. Renamed Thirlmere Road in 1962/63. Tess lived their with her father Will and mother Eleanor and possibly two siblings. She must have moved out of the house before she was old enough to appear on the electoral roll. Her mother lived there until at least 1949. She sent 2 letters from this address to Lowry circa 1927/28 (Huntington Library Conrad Aiken Archive AIK 2585/2586). 

There are three specific references to the house in Lowry's first novel Ultramarine; Janet's letter to Dana is addressed 26 Dornberg Road, New Brighton, Cheshire, England. (Pg 168); the address is repeated again and (Pg. 169) and "Oh Dana, the sun is shining ever so brightly and the grass in the cricket field looks wonderful after the rain..." (Pg.169) - the rear of 26 Thirlmere Road looks over New Brighton Cricket Club which she would have seen if her bedroom was at the rear of the house. Lowry may have thought that the road was in New Brighton - it is near the boundary between Liscard and New Brighton. Since 1974, the area is in the Wirral Metropolitan Borough and not in the county of Cheshire. The change of name to Dornberg may have been suggested by a road close to where Lowry stayed during his time in Blackheath in 1928.

Note: 26 Thirlmere Street is the pebble dashed house in the above photos.


This was the was the original name of the ship used by Lowry in an early draft of his first novel Ultramarine and the first edition of the novel. Lowry sometime in the 1950's changed the name from Nawab to Oedipus Tyrannus in penciled revisions made to his first edition. This alteration features in all the later editions beginning with the 1962 American Edition. Lowry made the change as part of his revision of Ultramarine, which was never fully realised, in order for the novel to become the first volume of the proposed The Voyage That Never Ends. The change of name would link Ultramarine to Under The Volcano.

The name may have been suggested by the S.S. Nawab owned by Asiatic Steam Navigation Company Liverpool. Built by Charles Connell & Company Scotstoun,Yard No 363; engines by Dunsmuir & Jackson Propulsion: T. 3-cyl. Launched: Wednesday, 30/12/1914 Built: 1915 Ship Type: Cargo Vessel Tonnage: 5430 grt., Length: 404.4 feet, Breadth: 52.8 feet, Draught: 25ft. Broken up at Bombay in February 1950.

Red Cow, Cambridge

A pub at 1 Corn Exchange Street, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire. In 1851 and earlier, the address was given as Butcher Row. At 5 Guildhall Street in the 1871 & 1881 census. At Guildhall Street & 1 Corn Exchange Street at different times. Arthur Jn. Quick was the landlord during Lowry's time at Cambridge University. In 2002 the pub was renamed to just the Cow.

Lowry refers to the pub in Chapter 4 of his novel Ultramarine when Dana Hilliot is recalling his time in Cambridge; "- and later the two undergraduates fighting outside 'The Red Cow'." (Pg. 130).

Cape Dopp

Brandy has a long history in South Africa, with the first distillation being recorded in 1672. The Dutch, inventors of brandewijn, naturally brought their stills with them, although the resulting brandy was pretty rough. For two centuries the Dutch produced only a particularly fierce form of marc known variously as dop (short for dopbrandewyn, or husk brandy), Cape smoke, or witblits (an Afrikaans word meaning white lightning).  

Lowry refers to the drink in his short story 'Seductio ad Absurdum'; "And it wasn't wine at all but Cape Dopp, wot we call Cape Dopp— raw spirit gawd blimey. Why, do you know, we all went mad, mad, and they had to tie Deaffy up to the bullock post." (Pg. 9) and "Fellers used to keep em as pets and make em drunk on Cape Dopp." (Pg. 9); these lines are repeated in his first novel Ultramarine (Pgs.127-128) 

Lowry's possible source for knowledge of the drink is most likely The Dop Doctor by Richard Dehan (1910)," being the native name for the cheapest and most villainous of Cape brandies, has come to signify alcoholic drinks in general to men of many nations dwelling under the subtropical South African sun. Thus, apple-brandy, and peach liqueur, "Old Squareface," in the squat, four-sided bottles beloved no less by Dutchman and Afrikander, American and Briton, Paddy from Cork, and Heinrich from the German Fatherland, than by John Chinkey—in default of arrack—and the swart and woolly-headed descendant of Ham, may be signified under the all-embracing designation." (Pg. 99). Lowry also uses the phrase 'Old Squareface' in Ultramarine when the quartermaster on board Oedipus Tyrannus asks Dana to his cabin for a drink; "Come along to my room and have a slice of old squareface." (Pg. 37).

Sea Road, Port Sunlight

A fictional road created by Lowry in his first novel Ultramarine; "Where do you live?" "Sea Road, Port Sunlight." (Pg. 15)

See post Port Sunlight for explanation of use of village.

Port Sunlight, Wirral

Port Sunlight is a model village, suburb and electoral ward in the Metropolitan Borough of Wirral, Merseyside, England. Built by Lever Brothers to accomodate workers in its soap factory (now part of Unilever), work commenced in 1888. The name is derived from Lever Brothers most popular brand of cleaning agent, Sunlight.

Lowry's first novel Ultramarine opens with a scene where Dana Hilliot the main character signs onto Oedipus Tyrannus the ship which takes him on a voyage to the Far East. The story is based on Lowry's own similar voyage which he made as a mess boy on the Blue Funnel ship Pyrrhus.

This opening scene immediately sets the tension between Dana (Lowry) and his other shipmates. Though Dana, Andersen the cook and Norman the galley boy all have Norwegian roots, they are set apart by their home addresses. Andersen and Norman live in Great Homer Street in Everton which was a poor working class area of Liverpool in the 1920's; "Where do you live?" "Sea Road, Port Sunlight." (Pg. 15); "And he thought of that time when their families, for ten years neighbours in Port Sunlight, had met in Christiania when he was a boy, and how their love for each other had never changed." (Pg. 19); later Dana asks for jokes "Third return Port Sunlight" at the South Station in Tsjang Tsjang (Dairen) - "I insisted, because I was not going to be beaten tonight." (Pg. 101) Dana's joke is in competition with Norman asking for "Third return to Birkenhead Central." - a more working class area of the Wirral. Dana's joke underlines the class tensions in the novel; "Well here's to Port Sunlight!" (Pg. 113) and "No, here's a Port Sunlight man wants his fortune told." (Pg. 114).

For some reason Lowry doesn't place his Dana in Caldy where Lowry lived at the time of his sea voyage in 1927. However, Lowry's choice of Sea Road Port Sunlight is significant. There is no such road in Port Sunlight but Lowry places Dana in a road named after the sea which was so important to Lowry. Port Sunlight was a model village for workers built by Lord Leverhulme ,which can bear comparison to the upper class idyllic community created in the village of Caldy built by David Benno Rappart, in that both were visions of alternatives to the slums and deprivation of Liverpool.

The tension Lowry creates in that scene is that Dana is different from the rest of the crew. The Wirral is seen as an alternative to Liverpool which is a theme Lowry continued to develop in other works.The Wirral was Lowry's first Eridanus, the name he gave to his later Dollarton home, and Liverpool which Lowry called "that terrible city whose main street is the ocean".

Read Port Sunlight on Malcolm Lowry @ 19th Hole

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Board of Trade Mercantile Marine Office

The Board of Trade is a committee of the Privy Council of the United Kingdom, originating as a committee of inquiry in the 17th century and evolving gradually into a government department with a diverse range of functions. In the 19th century the board had an advisory function on economic activity in the UK and its empire including merchant shipping.

In 1927 when Lowry sailed to the Far East, Board of Trade Mercantile Marine Office had several offices on Merseyside due to the size of the port and the Port of Garston had a separate office. The main office was in Canning Place in the Custom House Building in Liverpool. The Chief Superintendent and Registrar RNR was Commander P.O. Griffiths; Superintendent, Paymaster Commander E.A. Taffs and Assistant Superintendent   and Cashier H.F.W. Reynolds. There was an office in Birkenhead Docks with W. Lewis Owen as Superintendent and a further office in Garston Docks with F.F. Revell.

The duties of the office are set out in the Merchant Shipping Act 1894:

to afford facilities for engaging seamen by keeping registries of their names and characters :
to superintend and facilitate the engagement and discharge of seamen in manner in this Act provided:
to provide means for securing the presence on board at the proper times of the seamen who are so engaged:
to facilitate the making of apprenticeships to the sea service: and
to perform such other duties relating to seamen, apprentices, and merchant ships as are by or in pursuance of this Act, or any Act relating to merchant shipping, committed to them.

Lowry would have been required to register with the Board of Trade Mercantile Marine Office. He mostly likely registered in Birkenhead as he sailed from there on S.S. Pyrrhus in May 1927. He refers to registering in his novel Ultramarine "....but he could not get a clearer vision of anyone..than of the clerk in the Board of Trade Office, and of the desk at which the signing on had taken place." (Pg.18) and "When we signed on it was at the Board of Trade Office in Birkenhead, the fellow behind the counter says, 'Do you wish to make an allotment?' ...I was just in front of him. 'An allotment?' he says, surprised like. 'Why,oh, I see this must be your first voyage.'" (Pg. 64); " Do you know what the Board of Trade  man said  - wouldn't go across the dock in her." (Pg. 142); "Ah, God might cunt all his children, but he didn't count firemen, he left that to the Board of Trade." (Pg.159). In Under The Volcano, Lowry has Hugh signing on in Garston; "and when that day he had presented himself at the Marine Superintendent's office in Garston - Garston because Hugh's aunt moved from London north to Oswaldtwistle in the spring - to sign on board the S.S. Philocetes..." (Pg 161)


Penang is a state in Malaysia and the name of its constituent island, located on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia by the Strait of Malacca. It is bordered by Kedah in the north and east, and Perak in the south. Penang is the second smallest Malaysian state in area after Perlis.

Lowry visited the island on his 1927 voyage to the Far East. Lowry arrived on board the Blue Funnel ship Pyrrhus on 9th June 1927 and departed the next day for Port Swettenham. Lowry returned on the homeward leg of his voyage from Port Swettenham arriving 25th August and leaving for Colombo on the 26th August 1927.

In the short story 'On Board West Hardaway', Lowry set scenes in the port centred around the death of the pigeon adopted by Norman, a crew member; "The West Hardaway reached the Straits Settlements and unloaded some of her cargo in Penang, leaning with a quiet gratitude against the wharf, sea-weary after her long journey." (Pg. 29).

Lowry refers to the island in his first novel Ultramarine based on the voyage; "I am on a ship, I am going to Japan - or aren't I?" then he lists all the places he is due to visit including Penang.(Pg. 18); "And I went ashore with Joe in Penang."(Pg. 58), "Why! I went ashore in Penang."(Pg. 58); "I played billiards in Penang with Joe Ward, in the Chinese quarter. (Pg. 58) and "I went ashore with Joe in Penang." (Pg. 73).

Penang Road Penang
Lowry also referred to the port in his later fiction including Chapter 6 of Under The Volcano'A curly-headed boy stood on the fo'c'sle head of the Philoctetes as she docked in Penang strumming his latest composition on the ukelele.' (Pg.167); and in the short story 'Elephant and Colosseum'; "Since but for his duty to Rosemary he would have transferred in those days to a sister ship at Penang."  (Pg. 170).

Campbell Street Penang
Stan Hugill describes the port of Penang as follows:

Not far from Singapore lies Penang, a port known to eastern traders since the days of the tea clipper. In modern times sailors ashore would visit the Fun and Frolic, a rather popular amusement park, after the style of the New World in Singapore. Here were Chinese theatres, bars, gambling and dance-halls with Eurasian and Chineses hostesses, and Malay 'ronggeng' sections - where a member of the crowd would endeavour to out-dance a Malay girl, usually a hopeless task. Prostitutes frequented these Malayan amusement parks in large numbers, but in Penang also there was a regular quarter in Campbell Street containing several Chinese bordels. One sailor-frequented pub was the Can-do, and others were the Prince of Wales Bar, the Hong Kong Bar, and Penang Bar. Sailortown Pg. 325

Port Swettenham

A town and the main gateway by sea into Malaysia. Colonially known as Port Swettenham now Port Klang, it is also the location of the largest and busiest port in the country. It is located about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) southwest of the town of Klang, and 38 kilometres (24 mi) southwest of Kuala Lumpur.

Lowry visited the port on the outward bound voyage of Pyrrhus arriving June 11th 1927 and leaving the next day. Lowry returned to the port on the inward bound voyage arriving and leaving on August 24th 1927.

Lowry used the name of the port for the title of a short story published in Experiment 5 February 1930. Lowry set scenes in the port centred around the death of the pigeon adopted by Norman, a crew member. He later changed the port in the short story 'On Board West Hardaway' to Penang and later again to Tsjang Tsjang (Dairen) in his novel Ultramarine. In the 1940 version of Under The Volcano, the story reverts back to Port Swettenham (Pg. 54-55).

Direct references to the port include; "Damn all Janes in Swettenham. It's only Norman's Mickey-" 'On Board West Hardaway' (Pg. 32) and  Lowry refers 3 times to the port in his first novel Ultramarine; "I am on a ship, I am going to Japan - or aren't I?" then he lists all the places Dana is due to visit including Port Swettenham (Ultramarine Pg. 18); "Why,! I went a shore at Penang. And in Singapore and Kowloon and in Port Swettenham too!" (Pg. 58) and "Yes, and Swettenham was a hell of a place for mozzies too." (Pg. 177).


Manchuria is a historical name given to a large geographic region in northeast Asia. Depending on the definition of its extent, Manchuria usually falls entirely within the People's Republic of China, or is sometimes divided between China and Russia. The region is commonly referred to as Northeast China. This region is the traditional homeland of the Xianbei, Khitan, and Jurchen peoples, who built several dynasties in northern China. The region is also the home of the Manchus, after whom Manchuria is named. Japan replaced Russian influence in the southern half of Inner Manchuria as a result of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904–1905. Most of the southern branch of the Chinese Eastern Railway was transferred from Russia to Japan, and became the South Manchurian Railway. Japanese influence extended into Outer Manchuria in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917, but Outer Manchuria had reverted to Soviet control by 1925. Manchuria was an important region for its rich mineral and coal reserves, and its soil is perfect for soy and barley production. For pre–World War II Japan, Manchuria was an essential source of raw materials.

Lowry visited at least one port in Manchuria during his 1927 Voyage to the Far east - Dairen. Lowry refers to the area in his novel Ultramarine as his ship approaches Dairen; "Once he saw him level his binoculars at the coast of Manchuria, a mile or so to port." (Pg.23).

Cheapside, Liverpool

A street in Liverpool between Dale and Tithebarn Streets. Formerly one of the oldest lanes in Liverpool - Dig Lane. Re-named Cheapside in 1725 after an area of London that derived from the old English word for market;

Lowry refers to the street in his novel Ultramarine; "and old Matt the riveter, who lived in Cheapside.." (Pg. 22) and "I lived in Cheapside then -" (Pg. 178)

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Southern Cross

Crux is the smallest of the 88 modern constellations, but is one of the most distinctive. Its name is Latin for cross, and it is dominated by a cross-shaped asterism that is commonly known as the Southern Cross. Read more on Wikipedia

Lowry refers to the asterism in a letter to John Davenport dated 27th October 1930; "The crew sleep the deep sea sleep while the ship somnambulates under the Southern Cross" (Collected Letters Volume 1 Pg. 74);  the image of the asterism emerges in the La Mordida; Sigbjorn and Primrose rise in the morning; "thye still couldn't find the Southern Cross" (Pg. 86); "still crashing into the seas at 4 a.m.: the Southern Cross appeared tilted in the sky, as if an invisible priest were holding it to ward off evil:" (Pg. 124);  "see ship is still crashing into the seas, see the Southern Cross — the other had (UBC 13:23, 207} been merely The False Cross — the Southern Cross appeared tilted in the sky as if an invisible priest were holding it to ward off evil." (Pg. 155); "Sigbjorn hunts for the Southern Cross - he has an idea if he can find it he will go back and get Primrose out of bed and this will make her happy." (Pg. 171); "He puts on his bathing trunks goes up to try and find the Southern Cross." (Pg. 205); and "it should be pointed out that Primrose is disappointed that she never saw the Southern Cross." (Pg. 319). The asterism also appears in the poem 'The Ship'; "Crucified, beneath the wild Southern Cross.(Collected Poetry Pg. 212). The asterism occurs in Dark as the Grave wherein my friend is laid; "And soon we'll see the Southern Cross (Pg. 20); but his thoughts now passed tenderly to Primrose, so disappointed because she had not yet seen the Southern Cross." (Pg. 261).

Sherrill Grace has identified the cross as a major symbol in Lowry's work ( The Voyage That Never Ends Pg. 72. The Southern Cross is a heavenly manifestation of that symbol. Grace notes in Collected Letters Volume 1 that "Lowry's listing of constellations and stars is characteristic of Eberhart's A Bravery of Earth, but Lowry has deliberately exaggerated the effect". ((Pg. 76) - though it must be noted that Eberhart only specifically refers to the South Cross constellation in his poem;

The south-west wet monsoon blows
Off the coast of Africa
All day: and the nights are still.
Night birds, like whippoorwills,
Or owls, flutter about the deck
In the uncertain light before dawn,
And the coming sun slowly tinges
The slate-coloured sky. And they grope
From the limbs of the Southern Cross
To perch on the gloomy ship......

Mount Sinai, Egypt

Digital Image Copyright (c) 2010. Frank H. McClung Museum, The University of Tennessee.

Mount Sinai is a 2,285-metre (7,497 ft) high mountain near Saint Catherine in the Sinai region. It is next to Mount St. Catherine (at 2,629 m/8,625 ft, the highest peak in Egypt). It is surrounded on all sides by higher peaks of the mountain range.

Lowry refers to the mountain in his novel Under The Volcano when Hugh recalls; "So that going through the Suez he was not conscious of sphinxes, Ismailia, nor Mt Sinai.." (Pg. 166).

Ismaïlia, Egypt

Ismaïlia is a city in north-east Egypt. Known in Egypt as "The City of Beauty and Enchantment" Ismaïlia is situated on the west bank of the Suez Canal, it is the capital of the Ismailia Governorate. It is located approximately half way between Port Said to the north and Suez to the south. The Canal widens at that point to include Lake Timsah, one of the Bitter Lakes linked by the Canal.

Lowry sailed past the city twice on his journey through the canal on his 1927 voyage to the Far East and back. Lowry refers to the city in his novel Under The Volcano when Hugh recalls; "So that going through the Suez he was not conscious of sphinxes, Ismailia, nor Mt Sinai.." (Pg. 166).

Red Sea

The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez (leading to the Suez Canal).

Lowry passed in both directions through the sea on his voyage to the Far East in 1927. Lowry refers to the sea in his novel Ultramarine; "Ginger, the pantry boy, who had confessed to Hilliot on night in the Read Sea that his ambition was to become a butcher on a mail boat." (Pg. 35); "He kept me under winches right through the Red Sea..." (Pg. 38); "He remembered that time in the Red Sea, when Nikolai had rushed up the iron steps, and collapsed on deck, blood pouring out of his mouth." (Pg.159); "..the Red Sea and all of the seventy-seven seas, and more than seas, lie between us." (Pg. 133); " 'Going through the Red Sea, you should have been there..'Going through the Red Sea..(Pg.172); " Perim in the Red Sea, they have red-headed n...... I don't know if any of you fellers ever been ashore there. There's one pub, the Red Lion.. And its as flat as a flipper and bloody hot. We took a chap out there once to be a signalman”. (Pg 175.) and again in Under The Volcano;" So that going through the Suez he was not conscious of sphinxes, Ismailia, nor Mt Sinai; nor through the Red Sea, of Hejaz, Asir, Yemen. (Pg.166)

Sabang, Indonesia

Sabang is a city consisting of an island (Weh Island) and several smaller islands off the northern tiup of Sumatra. The islands form a regency within Aceh Special Region, Indonesia.

Lowry refers to the city in his short story 'Goya The Obscure' and in a letter to John Davenport dated 27th October 1930; "The third - (Richard Ghormley Ebehart!), unamazed in meditation looked up from Persia - more likely sailing down the coast by Iloilo, Zamboanga, Sabang, anywhere, Eberhart Icarus at this time". (Collected Letters Vol 1 Pg. 73-74).

The letter is influenced by Lowry's reading of Richard Eberhart's poem A Bravery of Earth published in 1930. Eberhart's poem reflected his experiences at Cambridge University and his time as a ship's hand in the Far East which would have had obvious appeal to Lowry.

There is no documentary evidence to suggest that Lowry visited the city as part of his 1927 voyage to the Far East. It would appear that Lowry's mention of the peninsular is also part of a youthful obsession with the "exotic East" which, manifested itself in the composing of the song 'I've Said Goodbye to Shanghai' with his Cambridge musical partner Ronald Hill. Lowry may have also known that the port was often visited by Blue Funnel Line ships.

Black Sea

The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean Seas and various straits. The Bosphorus Strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the Strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean Sea region of the Mediterranean. These waters separate eastern Europe and western Asia. The Black Sea is also connected to the Sea of Azov by the Strait of Kerch.

Lowry did not enter Black Sea on his 1927 voyage to the Far East which he amusingly recalls in his novel Under The Volcano; "Hugh's aunt had said to him at the end, with a truly noble romantic acceptance: "You know, Hugh, I don't expect you to drink only coffee going through the Black Sea." She was right. Hugh did not go near the Black Sea."


Palembang is the capital city of the South Sumatra province in Indonesia. Palembang is one of the oldest cities in Indonesia, and has a history of being a capital of a maritime empire. Located on the Musi River banks on the east coast of southern Sumatra island.

Lowry refers to in his novel Under The Volcano to describe Hugh's trip to the Far East; "Hugh himself, not knowing whether he voyaged east or west.......set sail for Cathay and the brothels of Palambang (Lowry's spelling)." Pg. 163

There is no evidence that Lowry ever visited Palembang on his 1927 voyage to the Far East.


The Fra Mauro map. Part of China. 1459

Cathay is the Anglicized version of "Catai" and an alternative name for China in English. It originates from the word Khitan, the name of a nomadic people who founded the Liao Dynasty which ruled much of Northern China from 907 to 1125, and who had a state of their own (Kara-Khitan Khanate) centered around today's Kyrgyzstan for another century thereafter.

Originally, Catai was the name applied by Central and Western Asians and Europeans to northern China; it obtained wide currency in Europe after the publication of Marco Polo's book (he referred to southern China as Manji). For centuries Cathay and China were believed by Europeans to be distinct nations with distinct cultures. However, by the late 1600s Europeans had mostly become aware that these were in fact the same nation.

Lowry uses the word in his novel Under The Volcano to describe Hugh's trip to the Far East; "Hugh himself, not knowing whether he voyaged east or west.......set sail for Cathay and the brothels of Palambang." Pg. 163

Monday, 23 July 2012

Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire

Oswaldtwistle is a town within the Hyndburn borough of Lancashire, England. It lies on the course of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, 3 miles east-southeast of Blackburn and is contiguous to Accrington.

Lowry refers to the town in his novel Under The Volcano;  "Hugh's aunt moved from London north to Oswaldtwistle in the spring." (Pg.161) and "Will always return Oswaldtwistle, parting words of prodigy" (Pg. 163).

Lowry may have been attracted to the unusual sounding name as there is no record of him visiting the town. The name is derived from "Oswald" and "Twistle". The word "twistle" is an old English word meaning "brooks meet". Legend has it that St.Oswald, King of Northumbria passed through, giving the area its full title of Oswald's Twistle, which in time came to be Oswaldtwistle. However, it is more likely derived from the name of the Anglo-Saxon who farmed the land.

Victoria Railway Station, London

Victoria station also known as London Victoria, is a central London railway terminus and London Underground complex. It is named after nearby Victoria Street. The mainline station's most important longer-distance destinations include Brighton, Hove, Worthing, Eastbourne, Canterbury and Dover. In 1898 the LB&SCR decided to demolish its station and replace it with an enlarged red-brick Renaissance-style building. Since widening of the station was prevented by the existing LCDR station and the Buckingham Palace Road, increased capacity was achieved by lengthening the platforms and building crossovers, to allow two trains to use each platform simultaneously. Work was completed in 1908, and included the rebuilding of The Grosvenor Hotel at the same time. (Read more on Wikipedia)

Jan Gabrial arrived at the station on the 22nd September 1933 from Paris with the intention of meeting Lowry; "Malcolm not only failed to meet the channel ferry but even to return to London." (Jan Gabrial Inside The Volcano Pg. 22) and "Malcolm ..contended, not too convincingly, that we'd managed to miss each Victoria Station." (Pg. 23).

Friday, 20 July 2012

South Hill Park Gardens

South Hill Park Gardens is a street in the Hampstead district of London. It is within the London Borough of Camden, and some of its houses overlook Hampstead Heath

South Hill Park was developed in 1878, when the street was laid out on land belonging to South End Farm owned by the dean and chapter of Westminster. The new Victorian houses were built with their better rooms facing the road rather than looking out over the wild Heath. The road forms a loop at its upper end, and originally the central area was a public garden. Later as the development gained in popularity, this garden was built upon and the new development was called South Hill Park Gardens, leading to the anomaly of a residential street with a different name on each side of the road. During the Second World War a V2 bomb destroyed several of the old Victorian houses. The hole left by the V2 on the west side of the road lay empty and forgotten for many years.

In the Autumn of 1933, Lowry went to live with Hugh Sykes Davies at South Hill Park Gardens . Sykes Davies had been approved by Arthur Lowry to act as a "guardian" so that Lowry could stay in London after his problems in Devon during the Summer of 1933. (Gordon Bowker Pursued By Furies Pg. 165). Sykes Davies was living with Betty May at the time - Sykes Davies told Gordon Bowker; "There was one other person present ...connected rather with me than with him. She had a tendency to drink rather a lot, too - one of Epstein's old models." (Gordon Bowker Malcolm Lowry Remembered Pg. 68). Lowry told Jan Gabrial that he Sykes Davies and Betty May had "enlisted him as caretaker, though who was to care for whom may well have been the matter under discussion in Leicester." (Jan Gabrial Inside The Volcano Pg. 34). Jan's reference is to Lowry's meeting with his father to sanction the "guardianship" of Sykes Davies. 

Jan Gabrial visited and briefly stayed at the flat in South Hill Park Gardens; "Later we had supper with Hugh Sykes Davies and Betty May.... We are invited back for dinner tomorrow together with an ex-lover of hers, Edgell Rickword...." (Jan Gabrial Inside The Volcano Pg. 33); Jan and Lowry stayed at South Hill Park Gardens in early November 1933 while Sykes Davis and Betty May where away; "I had a bath and we finished the third of four bottle, then having borrowed one of Betty's gowns, I crawled into bed beside Malc." (Pg.35);

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Ring O' Bells, West Kirby, Wirral

The Ring O' Bells was a public house in Village Road, West Kirby. The pub was rebuilt in 1810 on the site of an older pub of the same name. The cellars are cut into sandstone and extend underneath Village Road. The rock has been shaped to hold the barrels of ale, with a drainage channel below. The pub once had a bowling green and tennis courts. The pub is now a restaurant.

Situated in the most healthy and picturesque part of West Kirby. Full-sized Bowling Green attached to the home which, from its position and surroundings, may be classed as second to none; and the Pavilion in the Grounds affords accommodation both to Bowlers and Picnic Parties. The shore is also within a few minutes easy walking distance, and a ramble on the celebrated Hills may be commenced from the very..With the Hotel will ever be associated the memory of J.L. Hatton, who wrote here the grand old rollicking song, 'Simon the Cellarer' (Advert Porter's Directory for West Kirby, Hoylake etc 1901) 

This hotel has proved a port of call and pleasant resting place for such national characters as the poets SHELLEY and KEATS, also the artist TURNER when painting his pictures of sunsets on the River Dee. It was the source for that famous song "SIMON THE CELLARER", which was composed here.

This famous Hostel still retains its pleasant and old time atmosphere of fragrance and charm.

We can assure all callers that in Mr W.B. FEATHERSTONE, the present proprietor, we have one well worthy- in our opinion-of carrying on the old tradition. (1936 Advert).

The pub was one of the nearest to where Lowry lived in Inglewood, Caldy. Lowry reminisced about drinking there in a letter to James Stern 13 June 1947; .…a pewter tankard of strong Falstaff & a hunk of Cheshire at the Ring O Bells… (Collected Letters Volume 2 Pg. 63-4 ). Lowry also refers to a Ring o' Bells pub being near to Upton in his short story 'Enter One In Sumptuous Armour'. However, no such pub has existed and he appears to have transposed the pub from West Kirby to Upton.

The claims that Shelley and Keats visited are spurious and are not founded on fact but myth. J.L. Hatton, did not write his song, 'Simon the Cellarer' in the pub but more than likely it was the former Ring O' Bells in Bidston.

Monday, 16 July 2012

RMS Teutonic

In the later part of the 1880’s, White Star Line struck a deal with the British Government to help fund the construction of two new ships. The deal was that the Government would help to fund them in return for in time of war the ships being available to be and designed to be easily converted into armed merchant cruisers. The first of these ships completed was RMS Teutonic, followed by a sister ship RMS Majestic.

Teutonic, shipbuilder’s yard number 208, was launched on 19th January 1889 at Harland and Wolff, Belfast. As well as being the first passenger ship designed to be easily converted in to an armed merchant cruiser, she was also White Star’s first twin screw (two propellers) ship and the first to completely abandon sails. Teutonic departed Liverpool for her maiden voyage to New York on Wednesday 7th August 1889. In May 1911, Teutonic was transferred from the Britain to America, Southampton-New York Service to the Britain to Canada, Liverpool- Montréal service. She made her first voyage on this service on 13th May. Teutonic was laid up at Cowes Roads, Isle of White, UK, and was then broken up for scrap at Emden, Germany in 1921.

Florence Melita Bell - Lowry's nanny - sailed out of Liverpool in April 1912 as a steward aboard the RMS Teutonic en route to Montreal. She appears to have only made one return voyage on the ship as she wrote to Lowry and his brother Russell that the she didn't like the sea. Perhaps the Titanic disaster in April 1912 disturbed her. (Gordon Bowker Pursued By Furies Pg. 10)