Monday, July 30, 2012

Mr. Glencannon and the Inchcliffe Castle



Years ago, I stumbled across the adventures of Colin Glencannon, a Scotsman and Chief Engineer aboard the tramp steamer the Inchcliffe Castle, described in "Scotch and Water" as follows:

"The Castle--Montevideo to Cardiff--was the tramp moored nearest the Brandenburger, and perhaps the rustiest, most disreputable craft currently South of Cancer.  She was laded with hides and beef-bones which in stifling wafts made mockery of the "Spice-filled" allusion of the tourist company's literature.  The "Tropical moonight" she disposed of with two 500 Watt lamps slung in the mouth of the port poop ventilator--lamps whose blinding rays blanked the puny lunar effort, flooded her deck, and made the surface of the surrounding waters as nastily bright as a sheet of new tin.  Directly in the glare, their oil-soaked carpet slippers cocked at comfortable angles, their pipes distilling noisome juices, and their rugged faces wreathed in smoke and homesick wistfulness, sat seven alcoholized Scotsmen."

In the books, Mr. Glencannon's dialogue is also written phonetically, so if you read it aloud it sounds like you're speaking with a Scottish dialect.  The insults are wonderful, and my favourite is, "Ye pewling Dunvegan gowk!"

The books were very popular during World War II, and one American B29 was even named after the fictional ship:

http://www.444thbg.org/678thsquadron.htm
The author was Guy Gilpatric, and he began writing these stories for the Saturday Evening Post in 1929.  According to his Wikipedia entry, he was born in 1896, became a pilot and, at age 16, set an altitude record (4,665 feet) in 1912, and was an American fighter pilot during World War I.  His life ended tragically.  When his wife was diagnosed with cancer in 1950, they made a murder-suicide pact in which he shot her and then himself.

The books can be found in used-book stores, but are also still available through The Glencannon Press, which also publishes books on maritime and military history.

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