I aim to write something about the extraordinary weekend I’ve just had, helping to organise and taking part in Moby Dick on the Mersey, and about all the wonderful people who turned up and read. But before that, here’s a piece I wrote for the BBC website which came out while we were busy reading Moby-Dick. It’s about the brief, but quite significant role Liverpool played in Arctic whaling in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries:
The Kathleen and May is a wooden three-masted schooner built in 1900 and restored to her current immaculate condition in 2000 by owner Steve Clarke. She is currently moored in the Canning Half-Tide Dock in Liverpool where she is used for school visits to the Merseyside Maritime Museum, corporate events, and, next weekend, as the setting for some of the reading for the Moby-Dick marathon, and events in the Moby Dick on the Mersey festival. If you go on board, please leave a donation for her upkeep.
During her working life Kathleen and May was one of many similar ships that sailed around the coasts of Britain carrying cargoes such as coal and grain. It is surprising to learn that sail was still in use on commercial cargo vessels into the 1950s, and that ships like the Kathleen and May were not finally replaced until the 1960s. The parallel with the end of steam on the railways is an obvious one, but somehow commercial sail seems even more distant. Kathleen and May is the last remaining example of her type.
Last week I wandered around the deck taking pictures and was lucky enough to be allowed to climb into the rigging to take some pictures from above. In the next few months I’m hoping to set up some events on board through my job in Continuing Education at the University of Liverpool.
I’ve set up a Flickr group for pictures of the Kathleen and May. Feel free to add to it.
One of the things I’ve liked most about working on Moby Dick on the Mersey is the way that everyone has rallied round to help out. Both major partners–Continuing Education at the University of Liverpool and National Museums Liverpool–have been very supportive, while our still-growing band of volunteers is turning out to be a brilliant bunch of people. We’ve tried as much as possible to do this using existing budgets and of course that has meant a great deal of unpaid work and generosity with time from a lot of people. But for some things we need outside help. Most recently I asked Oxford World’s Classics whether they could help out with some copies of Moby-Dick to use as ‘reading copies’ during the marathon, and they came through with an almost immediate “Yes”. This means that if you’re attending the event you’ll find copies of the novel available to follow along with the reading, while the timekeepers and helpers will have copies they can use to manage the event–it will be a big help. So thank you to Oxford World’s Classics and to everyone else working to make the weekend of May 4th-6th as good as it possibly could be.
Thanks to everyone who came along to my public lecture about William Scoresby Jr., Liverpool whaling and Arctic exploration yesterday. That was the first public airing for my Scoresby project other than the Letters to Elizabeth blog and it was good to put it out in front of an audience [Update June 5th, 2013: the talk and slideshow are available online here]. It makes the project feel quite a lot more developed than I thought it was, and has reminded me that I need to get on and start writing properly now.
The lecture was the first in a series of six being held on Wednesdays at the Merseyside Maritime Museum as part of the Moby Dick on the Mersey festival, arranged by Dr. Claire Jones. A further two free public lectures, one on scrimshaw, by Dr Janet West, of the Scott Polar research Institute, and another on Herman Melville and Liverpool, by Katie McGettigan of Keele University, are taking place over the weekend of May 4th-6th as part of the Moby-Dick marathon reading itself. The full lecture series programme can be found here. The complete programme of events for adults and children over the marathon weekend can be found here.