A Christmas present for Yachtsmen and women
You don’t have to have an interest in Dorset to find ‘Dorset Pioneers’ an enjoyable read.
Shipbuilder Launches Hospital
While walking London he chanced upon the body of a baby lying discarded in a filthy street. Prosperous shipping merchant and tough man-of-the-World though he was, Thomas Coram was sickened by the plight of this tiny waif and vowed to set up a refuge for illegitimate children.
It was a time of financial crisis and he was unable to find a titled aristocrat or churchman willing to support his cause. In his usual blunt manner, he said he may as well have asked them “to putt down their Breeches and present their Backsides to the King and Queen in a full Drawing room” as find financial support for his cause.
However, he discovered that powerful men listened to their wife's and with petticoat pressure, raised the funding for the hospital.
On 25 March 1741 the first 20 children and by May 60 children had been saved from the streets. No questions were asked about their origins, but they had to pass two severe restrictions: they must not be over 2 months old or suffering from an infectious disease. Selection was made by picking coloured balls from a bag - black meant the child was excluded, hence the common expression “blackballed”.
The Lyme Regis captain whose own beginnings were obscure had given life to a London institution which was the first of its kind in Britain and the Coram charity remains a very active organisation in the support of children and young people.
The site of the original hospital was made into a children’s playground, the rule of entry - adults must be accompanied by a child.
In Quest of Eldorado is a chapter about Sir Walter Raleigh’s ill-fated voyage to discover a fabled city with shining roofs of gold in a South American jungle.
The Hero of Jamestown
Sir George Somers was in command of nine ships carrying desperately needed supplies to Walters Raleigh’s troubled colony in Virginia when a violent storm scattered the fleet in mid-Atlantic. His flagship Sea Venture was in trouble, taking in water and at risk of sinking unless the desperate efforts of the men manning the pumps could keep her afloat long enough to reach dry land, but the North American coast was hundreds of miles and many sailing days away. Then Somers recalled a nearer group of islands he had noted while returning from one of his buccaneering forays in the Caribbean, and a new course was set.
By the heroic efforts of his crew the Sea Venture survived the Atlantic storm that dispersed the fleet and limped to safety in the chain of uninhabited islands vast distances from anywhere. They proved to be extremely fertile with an agreeable climate and a plentiful supply of food from the tropical fruit, fish, wild hog, and birds and eggs.
By accident, he was the founder of a British colony, Somers Islands, renamed Bermuda.
His adventure is said to have inspired Shakespeare’s The Tempest, in which Prospero’s island appears as the Bermoothes.
‘Dorset Pioneers’ is available from the publisher at www.thehistorypress.co.uk, Amazon, good independent bookshops and many places of interest in Dorset.
An absorbing and beautifully written book