The real-life Sunderland captain's tale of romance and drink on the high seas - which was 150 years in the making

A book which has been 150 years in the making has been brought to life in Sunderland – and it’s a tale of love and life at sea.

Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 12:45 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th August 2019, 7:39 pm
The cover of the new book.
The cover of the new book.

Historian Sharon Vincent has used the newspaper articles which were originally written by Captain Edward Robinson in 1865 and prepared them for a new audience.

And now the publication called Recollections of the Coal Trade is on sale.

It tells the story of life on board a collier ship in the 19th century.

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Some of Norman Kirtlan's drawings which accompany the new book.

Sharon’s book, illustrated by Norman Kirtlan is set in the 1820s and was first written by Captain Robinson through his first-hand experience as a mariner. His characters and anecdotes are taken from real life.

The story revolves around the crew and how they handle the little sailing ship through storms and calm water. Robinson introduces us to the firm but fair Master, the curmudgeonly cook who likes a drink, the cabin boy who is always in trouble, the ship’s dog Dash and a few other characters along the way.

But it isn’t all about life at sea. He mentions Jimmey Stringer’s tavern at Shell-Hill in the old East End, which sold ‘treacle-beer’ to the cabin boys when they came ashore; a mariner who has to buy a hat for his wife after a voyage away; and a love story involving Mary the cook at Rock Lodge in Roker.

Sharon said: “Dialogue between the characters is written in the Sunderland dialect and Mackems will have no trouble understanding it. The book also has a glossary of local words and phrases that have vanished from our vocabulary, words such as lumpers, jannee fluckers and bowdy-kyte, or ‘dockworkers, flounders and pot-bellied’ as we would say today.”

The original author Edward Robinson was born in Monkwearmouth and became a sailor just like his father. He was interested in drama from a young age and was an accomplished stage performer as well as a master mariner. He was well-known in Victorian Sunderland for his singing ability and in later life for his charitable work for Sunderland Orphan Asylum.

He wrote Recollections in 1865 when he decided to retire and it was published as a series in the Sunderland Weekly Echo. It proved very popular with readers and was re-published again in 1883 with a further request in 1914, but other events that year took over and the tale wasn’t printed a third time.

It only appeared in newspapers and was never published as a book until now. Robinson wrote with so much warmth and humour about his beloved Sunderland and Sharon has collected the articles together to bring it to a new audience.

The book costs £10 plus £3 postage from Sharon at [email protected]