Basil Lubbock

jock paul
16th July 2007, 19:23
Still hugging myself over what I think was a bargain. Last week I bought 8 of this authors sailing ship histories ( 1st. editions) for the equivalent of the princely sum of 2,70 each.

The Blackwall Clippers
The Opium Clippers
The Western Ocean Packets
The Colonial Clippers
The China Clippers
The Down Easters
The Nitrate Clippers
The Last of the Windjammers (vol 2)

How lucky can you get?

16th July 2007, 20:14
At least!!! 20/volume at a reputable bookseller especially if First Editions.

I have all his publications and I would not sell for less than 30/volume as whole set.
Let me know if any more going

17th July 2007, 00:04
very nice.........:)

well done

18th July 2007, 03:47
Frankly I have never been very impressed with Lubbock; a man who refers to knots per hour and discusses commercial sailing ship voyages as if they were yacht races is not my notion of an expert.

18th July 2007, 19:27
Remember the time of his writing, it was common place to term "Knots per hour",many great authors including Condrad, Cutler quoted similar.

I have researched many vessels incuded in Lubbock's books and found very few mistakes, he knew his ships.

21st July 2007, 07:58
Here's a biography:
Here's the books you're still missing Jock Paul:,_AB.html
As for the quality of his books: in a way that's a moot case as he's what we've got, there's no other with a comprehensive history of deepwater commercial sail. (As for natural additions there's Alex A. Hurst's "Square Riggers, The Final Epoch, 1920-1958" 540 pages, Sussex 1972) Regards, Stein.

jock paul
21st July 2007, 09:33
I have to agree with Baileysan. Whatever his shortcomings as a writer, he probably did more to raise awareness of commercial sail than anyone else. Without his books our knowledge of these ships would be much the poorer.Yes, he was a man of his time and class, his attitudes reveal this. However I still remember being enthralled as a child by his autobiographical book "Round the Horn before the Mast." regards Jock.

Pete Legg
21st July 2007, 11:08
You were very lucky there Jock, and gained a great bargain. I firkle around Maritime bookshops a lot, and seldom see good condition Lubbock books going for less than 20. Glad these have gone to a good home.



23rd August 2007, 13:33
Lubbock should certainly not be dismissed because he spoke of "knots per hour." If you read any number of sailing ship logs from the 1890s, it seemed that was the common way of expressing it then. I suppose it was common use because when they took the speed of the ship, they actually saw the knoted line running out astern.

23rd August 2007, 13:51
Here is a photograph of them running the log aboard the barque GARTHSNAID.
Although a bit indistinct, you can just about make out the chap with the sand-glass timing the knots running out from the reel.

23rd August 2007, 15:04
He did have a rather patronising style of writing though, rather like Eric Newby and Alan Villiers, who both wrote as if they were somehow above the "commercial" aspect of what they were involved in. Villiers in particular seemed to think that being at sea was somehow a calling, beyond the rather vulgar necessities of making a living.

23rd August 2007, 16:14
I suppose so, but I really like the writings of all three. Most of this sort of writing probably reads better than it actually was, but doesn't necessarily make it less absorbing to read. I suppose I am guilty of the same thing because after leaving the sea, I took up writing with a decided "streak of nostalgia." During my time at sea, I always sailed in ships that I liked the best & never went for the higher paid positions at all. I managed to sail in a varied number of ship types, iron ore, bulk, collier, container, pulp, log, general cargo, cruise, passenger. The longest I ever served in one ship was the old ST. HELENA (3,150 grt, 76 passengers) from 1979 to late 1990. On UK to South Africa run. She was 16 years old when I joined & 27 old when I was forced out because we all had to transfer to the new ship of the same name that still runs today. The old ship became AVALON, cruising out of Durban for a while, but the venture failed & she went to scrap in the late 1990s.
I made my literary contribution with RMS ST. HELENA & THE SOUTH ATLANTIC ISLANDS, published last year, but it was an uphill struggle to find a publisher - but now selling well.

23rd August 2007, 19:02
God! I'd forgotten all about these! I read these over fifty years ago when I was at sea school. I still remember the "Nitrate Clippers" and the woolship "Grace Harwar" - she holds the record for the longest passage from Aussie to the UK; she took almost 40 days to beat up the channel!

jock paul
24th August 2007, 14:42
Hi, i have to agree with Chouan's remarks re. Allan Villiers. The first of his books to put me off was 'The Cruise of the Conrad'. His apparent distaste for those who didn't share his point of view was a little off -putting. Later he appeared to set himself up as the world expert on square rigged ships. However I have to disagree with his opinion of Eric Newby, it is many years since I read his book 'The Last Grain Race' but if my memory is correct he never set himself up as an expert on anything, he simply described life before the mast in a four masted barque (with great humour). regards Jock

24th August 2007, 17:34
Let's note a couple of facts: Lubbock wrote a comprehensive history of commercial sail: absolutely nobody else has. Villiers wrote a comprehensive work on all aspect of life under sail: absolutely nobody else has. Eric Newby wrote one single book about one single trip on a square rigger that is a burlesque comic masterpiece nobody should skip, but it's completely misnomed, instead of "The Last Grainrace", it should be named something along the lines of: An English gentleman leaves a job in an advertising agency to go as a first tripper in a g'damn motorless wind-ship full of utterly crazy Finns! If it dosn't make you laugh often, you're dead. But to make any comparison with Villiers just doesn't make sense. Villiers was a real sailing ship sailor, and loved the sailing ships and their crews, and expressed that as clearly as many here on this site express their love of their ships. That means he excluded nearly everyone alive today from his exhalted seamanship heights. But of course, I say: how could it be otherwise? (A. A. Hurst who followed him was even more excluding, and did get a lot of stick for it in post war Sea Breezes). You just don't love something, - and what it excludes. Villiers was there, he really was, he paid his goddamn dues, and could with a lot of justice call himself "the world expert on sailing ships". There's a lot of old sailors here who nearly every day show great disrespect for the box-boats and the boxy new cruise ships, and since we all know it must be so, and since we know they did their stint, it isn't taken that seriously, even by those still at sea.
The Editor of Sea Brezes had it up to here with A. A. Hurst once and asked something like this: should we all leave house and family to try to attain paradise in battling for our life off Cape Horn? I would answer: no, of course not (I'm not crazy!), but we must expect those who have fought the Horn to claim that those who did were the real sailors and their experiences highly valuable. Villiers was not a great writer, he wasn't much of a writer at all in pure literary terms, but absolutely nobody combined his experience with his output of quite factual books, movies and photographs. Without his work very much less would remain of the memory of what sea life was like; I thank him. Regards, Stein.

24th August 2007, 19:25
I have just dug out LAST OF THE WINDJAMMERS (I) & have started reading it again. It is giving me as much pleasure as it did when I first read it in 1963! Recently completed GHOST ON THE SEALINE by Alec Hurst. Found that a great read. Only critiscism is that he didn't name the ships he described although some of them were recognisable. Never read Villier's CRUISE OF THE CONRAD, but recently read THE SET OF THE SAILS & enjoyed that as well. As far as modern ships are concerned, I am indifferent, but no doubt they, in their turn will pass into the realms of nostalgia. The most luxurious ships I sailed in have not actually left me with the best cherished memories! Each century & generation to its own!
Why not simply read & enjoy the books described above & leave it at that?

25th April 2010, 19:27
I've just picked up The Last of the Windjammers Vols 1 & 11 for 20! ( 1969 edition) I am chuffed to bits. I just started on Vol 1 and it is utterly brilliant.

25th April 2010, 21:02
Would agree that unquestionably Basil Lubbock knew his subject but I too have in the past found aspects and details, especially The China Clippers, a bit puzzling. For example, could not understand why he gave so little coverage to one of the finest seamen of that era, Tiree man Captain Donald Mac Kinnon of the famous Taeping, who won the greatest of the Tea Races (1866), and yet appeared to favour Captain Keay of the equally famous Ariel, another of Steele's greyhounds.

Anyway, back to the subject matter - what a fantastic bargain, Jock, well done !

Andrew Craig-Bennett
26th April 2010, 11:45
The explanation may lie simply in the materials that he had to hand when writing.

Before the Internet age, any maritime historian had to make do with what he knew himself and what materials he was able to collect. If he had abundant materials about one man or one ship rather than another he would write more about the ship or man that he had more information on.

Certainly Lubbock can seem dated but where would we be without him?

Hugh Ferguson
27th April 2010, 15:37
I seem to recall, reading somewhere, that Lubbock found a whole load of ships' logbooks dumped in a warehouse someplace. He just felt compelled to create a lasting record to prevent a priceless archive being lost forever: or am I confusing this author with Alan Villiers?

Andrew Craig-Bennett
27th April 2010, 16:59
Thanks for that, Hugh - it sounds very likely.

27th April 2010, 17:51
That was Viliers, the warehouse was a hangar at Hayes, Middlesex and the resultant book was "The War with Cape Horn." Here's a (short) Lubbock biography:

Hugh Ferguson
27th April 2010, 18:06
Thanks, Stein: my goodness, you're a positive mine of information!

1st May 2010, 09:15
The BBC overseas service at one time had Alan Villiers reading out the shipping news on the MN programme. He had a rather unpleasant sneering voice, not unlike Lord Haw Haw, which we detested. One time after returning to the programme after his jaunt in command of Mayflower II in 1957, he seemed to spend half the air time venting his personal spite against the mate of the vessel which we considered totally out of order. I understood he held a Mate's ticket HT.

7th June 2010, 19:35
Lubbock's "Round the Horn Before the Mast" is a really fun read. He signed aboard a British ship Ross-shire in San Francisco bound for Queensland for orders as an apprentice in 1899. His writing is particularly vivid in capturing both the hardships and the beauty of the wild weather encountered rounding Cape Horn.

Most of his books are now available on-line for free ( in most e-reader formats. I read "Round the Horn Before the Mast" on my Kindle.

Old Salt Blog (

11th June 2010, 01:47
Kate Lance wrote quite a sympathetic biography of Villiers published in 2009. A copy is available on Amazon. As many SNbloggers will know there was a real market for his sort of book particularly in the 1930s when the square riggers were on their last legs commercially. I probably have over a hundred on the subject driven I suppose by a fascination with the fact that people were still working in such an industrially primitive way in the 'modern age' and taking such risks - no health and safety then! Villiers took advantage of the market - the fact that he took so many photos was an added bonus. Any book written in this era inevitably has a slightly different feel to stuff published today. Sometime soon I will leave a few alternative author suggestions on the site if anyone wants to pursue this interest further. As regards Lubbock, whatever his style, he did document the last sailing ships, details of which would largely be lost in archives otherwise. Good for a browse is how I view his books. I enjoyed Newby's 'The Last Grain Race' but he is a travel writer essentially - 'Around Ireland in Low Gear' (cycling round Ireland) is good fun. His photo album 'The Grain Race' (I think) is more valuable from a historical perspective.