Wandering through a Cornish graveyard, as you do, Jeremy Seal comes across an old ship's figurehead. So begins this investigation into the life and death of the Caledonia (out of Arbroath) and her crew. Only one man, a French-speaking Jerseyman survived the wreck in 1842. Mr Seal ivestigates the contemporaneous accounts of the wreck and researches the boat's ocean journeys and the origins and lives of mainly-Scottish crew.
Seal accuses Robert Hawker, the vicar Morwenstow, of complicity in the wreck and shows up some inaccuracies in his written accounts of the post wreck events. It seems that Hawker fictionalised his role and he was not necessarily the wholesome hero he was made out to be. All very interesting and had Jeremy Seal been able to stick to the facts as he told this interesting story I would probably have given it 5 stars.
Unfortunately 150 years on and there are not enough facts to fill a book. On the cover the book is described as a 'Delighful and original .....an exhilarating combination of detective story, travel writing, personal memoir, and creative fiction.' Shame about the need to rely on the creative fiction having accused the late Reverend Hawker of doing the same.
Having said that, it is still worth the read. My own great grandfather was a Master Mariner and schooner-owner in the mid 19th century. His boat was wrecked off the Scottish coast, rundown by a much larger vessel. I know nothing of his sea journeys other then this and it was very interesting therefore to read the historical detail which Mr Seal has researched so thoroughly.
As I said, well worth reading, but shame about the fictional bits.