Hi, I am posting this blog book about the melancholy fate of the barque Charles Eaton. I became fascinated with the story about 27 years ago and have been researching it off and on ever since. Admittedly there have been long periods when the research sat gathering dust in a box, while the original photocopies and print-outs turned yellow with age. Initially it was difficult to find fresh material on the subject, but with the advent of the Internet/Digital age the task has gotten a whole lot easier, largely thanks to our wonderful libraries in Australia. I would particularly like to thank the National Library of Australia and the State Library of Victoria for their superb online catalogue material. The State Library of New South Wales contributed material for some of the earlier research and their resources continue to be invaluable.
I did manage to purchase an antiquarian book/pamphlet by William Wemyss for a bargain price but the offer of an original publication of the John Ireland book was too expensive for my tiny budget. Also useful was a photocopy of the account of the D’Oyly family by William D’Oyly Bayley, which I bought from the American Library of Congress. D’Oyly Bayley had a print run of 100 copies for his doctoral research and I am guessing that the Library of Congress copy is the only one in the public domain if you can afford the photocopy. Fascinating reading.
More recently (February 2019) I managed to buy a painting of the original Sion Hill manor at Kirby Wiske in North Riding, Yorkshire. It has always been assumed that no visual record of the original manor existed, so tracking down the only painting of it was great fun for me, if perhaps tedious for everyone else entitled to think: “Yeah but so what?”. Sometimes you have to indulge the researcher for their moments of sheer triumph and pleasure. Tracking down and buying 15 original watercolour sketches of colonial Calcutta was also a personal pleasure that will have to be indulged I’m afraid. This blog is not a commercially viable project, as I am sure you will agree.
Getting this blog taken up by the National Library of Australia in 2014 for their Pandora Archive, at their instigation, was also a moment of joy for me because it hadn’t occurred to me that anyone apart from myself would actually be interested in it. This blog will die when I do, so it’s nice to know that a blog copy will live on, hopefully in perpetuity, via Pandora. One can dream.
Most of the research material has been acquired from excellent primary and contemporary sources, eye-witness accounts and the like. Where it has been possible to do so, I have aimed for corroboration from other relevant and reliable sources. It was a hard slog in those early days when we had to rely on microfilm, visits to libraries all over Australia and extraordinary persistence — but by golly it was worth it. The journey alone gave me pleasure and satisfaction of the kind that you can’t get to the same degree in the research-friendly Internet age. The fun side of it was mine to enjoy.
The blog runs to about 85,000 words, which is typical for a non-fiction book, so you might want to dip in and out. That’s okay, I do it all the time. Most of the images are part of my own collection, purchased over the aforementioned 27 years. The remainder were acquired from Wikimedia Commons and are in the public arena. Collecting antique lithographs and paintings is a hobby that I inadvertently acquired along the way and that has been a separate joy on its own. One of the side benefits of being a bit of a history enthusiast, I guess.
I have been amazed at the number of international readers that the blog attracted. More than 100 nations are represented on my reader’s list and that’s pretty cool. Clearly maritime history is a genre with no language boundaries, especially when Google does the translating for you.
While researching the material for this blog I stumbled across a number of fascinating stories from Australia’s past that have been either completely forgotten or have been buried for a very long time. I had hoped that one day I would give at least some of them the decent airing they deserve but I know now that is unlikely to happen.
It is never possible to draw a line in the sand where history research is concerned. If you have some additional information or corrections that you think I might like (and I will!) I would love to hear from you via a comment. I used to publish my email address but you end up getting trolls and scammers with nothing better to do with their time.
I have used WordPress.com for my blog but it may not suit everyone. The Internet has no respect for intellectual property or copyright. In that way, WordPress is no different to Facebook. My material and research get used word-for-word at times without acknowledgement and I have become used to that. However, there are some advantages to publishing online. The main one is that it doesn’t cost anything, and there have been, in recent years, a couple of self-published books about the Charles Eaton but I could never afford to go down that path.
The second advantage is that you are free to update as new information comes to light and I especially like doing that if a previous source of information was incorrect. A good example would be that I was unaware that the barque had quarter galleries and a line drawing I made did not show them. A small point, but I corrected that immediately. Anyone who has read my notes to each chapter will have noticed that I almost never reference recently published works because they have no additional information, plus they are almost always either fictionalised or else the few that I read in the past were unreliable. However, with the advent of the National Library of Australia’s TROVE, free Google eBooks and the Internet, as well as all the usual long-standing fantastic library resources, I am assuming that any more recent books would now be better researched. But by golly, I am still dismayed by the amount of errors in various depictions of Australia’s history, mostly on account of laziness on the part of the researcher in the rush to print, radio or television. In today’s digital age, that’s unforgivable.
Now, if you would like to critique MY blog by pointing out what you think are MY errors, I will double and triple check and make any necessary corrections. This I promise. Where appropriate, I will also acknowledge your contribution.