Words and language and a love of the sea

I have a notebook that used to belong to my grandfather.

It has a leather-bound spine and cloth sides. It is black and heavy.

On the bottom of the spine, in gold letters, is imprinted: J.C.King, London, 42 Goswell Road

There are three labels inside the cover:

The first gives a registered number – 3520, and the price – 4/3 (shillings and pence).

The second, a large one, says: “The “Half-Black” Series of Account Books. For the quality of paper and binding the best value on the market.”

It lists various types of account book and, towards the bottom of the label, it boasts “A stock of over 4000 varieties of Account Books”.

The third, a red label, reads: Please see end of book for full Price List which shows the various rulings and thicknesses of the series all clearly set out.

Doing so shows me that the layout is “Ruled Quadrille, bound half black basil. Cloth sides”

On the fly leaf, he has written:

Alfred Petherick

Edmonton, Alberta

July 29. 1914

He seems to have been studying to be an electrical engineer. There are a number of faded short notes on meters and transformers etc at various intervals through the book. Perhaps this started after the 1914-18 War – he was in the Canadian Forces.

As things turned out, events at home overtook him and he was forced to return to Bude, (North Cornwall, UK) to run the family firm. Letters and telegrams sent at the time show a man and his gentle wife reluctantly torn from friends and a life they loved.

No more engineering studies, and a largely unfilled notebook.

One of the assets of the firm, (agricultural merchant), was a ship – the Ceres, which had been in the family since 1856, and he renewed an obvious love of the sea. The picture below shows him on the right, dozing on a quiet passage.


He kept his notebook and, in later years – (in a feature of ageing that I have now discovered for myself), he must have seen how the world was changing and he began to record in it some of the local (and family) maritime history. The notes are not prolific – they are mainly copies of earlier records, but they tell a lot about the man who made them.

I mention this because I have been copying some of those entries and will place them in this blog in due course.

What strikes me forcibly is that I have just copied an entry of a meeting that he copied from his father, who copied it from the original minutes. I have struggled to decipher some of his handwriting and have fretted over particular words. It seems to me, my grandfather may well have done the same over his father’s writing. We have been doing exactly the same thing, probably with exactly the same interest and pleasure, the only difference being that we are two generations apart. As I said the other day, although the world may change over the years, the people in it are basically the same.

What has happened now, of course, is that I have put it in electronic form and the personality reflected in the handwriting has been lost. On the plus side, the material is available to many more people and I hope it will be picked up by others as a useful resource.

Alfred Petherick

My grandfather was my first and greatest hero. In reading his notebook I have been moved by the immediacy of the contact. Through words and language and an obvious love of the sea, we have been brought closer together. I cannot achieve in the same way he did but, in this small way, I have come to understand him a little better.

This is one of a number of posts on the Ketch “Ceres”. They have been presented in a random order as and when I have found, or been given, new material. They represent steps in a personal quest to find out more about one branch of my family.

If you are interested in maritime history or would like to read more, please use the Search facility at the top right hand side of this page (‘Ceres’). If this is not available on your current screen, then click on ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’ – (or the title of this entry, then ‘Bill’s Boat Blog’), to be taken to the correct page.

One thought on “Words and language and a love of the sea

  1. My great grandfather, David William Stranger served in the Canadian Forces during the first WW and was killed March 29, 1917 less than two weeks before the battle of Vimy Ridge in France.

    Some 10 or 15 years ago, a letter was found in chest that had belonged to his son, my great-uncle that was addressed to my great grandmother from “A. Petherick Lt, 1st CMR”. Through some information from the Library and Archives Canada website, I believe the author of the letter may be Alfred Peterick born Oct 15,1890 at Bude, Cornwall England.

    If this is your grandfather, I would like to share a copy of this letter with you. It is a lovely hand-written letter that has since been framed and hangs on the wall at my parents house, a piece of history that brings my father closer to his grand-father who he and his siblings never had a chance to know.

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