Publishers’ Preface to Fishermen of the Banks, by James B. Connolly
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[ 497 Publishers’ Preface to Fishermen of the Banks, by James B. Connolly London: Faber & Gwyer, 1928. Pp. xi + 274; Preface, vii-viii.1 The town of Gloucester, Massachusetts, lies about forty miles north-east of Boston.2 As, in the old days, New Bedford to the south of Cape Cod was the centre of the whaling industry, and Salem, between Boston and Glou­ cester, was the centre for the fast clipper ships which traded with China, so Gloucester has always been the port for the deep-sea fishing of the North Atlantic.3 It has the most beautiful harbor for small ships on the whole of that coast. In the summer, the Gloucester fishing schooner, laden with its seines and dories, can reach the south Banks or “Georges”; in the winter the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, where the codfish abound; it may even buy and sell in the harbour of Reykyavik, Iceland.4 All the year round, and on every day of the week except Friday and Sunday, which are unlucky,5 schooners are setting out for their cruises of several weeks. There is no harder life, no more uncertain livelihood, and few more dangerous occupations . Since the introduction of the “knockabout rig” – the schooner with a long bow and no bowsprit6 – there are fewer losses at sea; but Gloucester has many widows, and no trip is without anxiety for those at home.7 On the long rows of drying racks that lie behind the wharves, the salt fish is dried in the sun; the unedible parts of the fish are used in glue factories round about; the products of these two industries go to the whole of America. Anyone who has ever read Mr. Kipling’s Captains Courageous should be thrilled by these true stories of the adventures of Gloucester fishermen or “bankers,” written by one who (with all respect) knows the subject much better than Mr. Kipling.8 Mr. Connolly has himself shipped many times with the fishermen “out o’ Gloucester” and knows their life and their ways intimately.9 He is the author of several volumes of short stories of this life – stories which are brilliant pieces of fiction, but which also have received the exacting approval of the Gloucestermen themselves. But for a reader who is unfamiliar with that life, the tales in the present volume will serve as the best introduction. They are true narratives: most of them can – or could a few years ago – be learnt by word of mouth from the men between trips, as 1928 498 ] they lounged at the corner of Main Street and Duncan Street in Glou­ cester.10 The heroes of these narratives are not imaginary heroes, but actual men. Notes 1. The first English edition, published 4 Oct 1928, of The Book of the Gloucester Fishermen (New York: John Day, 1927). TSE’s preface is unique to the English edition. James B. Connolly (1868-1957), American writer, Olympic athlete, sports journalist, and sailor, wrote several books about the fishermen of the North Atlantic fishing grounds, or “banks,” as well as about Gloucester’s trade with Iceland. 2. The Eliots had strong New England family connections and built a summer home above Niles Beach at Eastern Point, Gloucester, in 1896, overlooking the outer harbor. From an early age,TSEsummeredwithhisfamilyatGloucester,wherehelearnedtosailandwherehepurchased the notebook in which he inscribed his first poems, posthumously collected as Inventions of the March Hare. In “The Influence of Landscape upon the Poet,” his address to the American Academy on 21 Oct 1959, he remarked that “my country landscape” is “that of New England, of coastal New England, and New England from June to October.” 3. For TSE on the New England Atlantic sea trade and sailors, see “Gentlemen and Seamen” (1909) (1.21). TSE remarked in a letter of 14 Oct 1938 to Ian Cox that “my great-grandfather was an owner of whaling ships in New Bedford, and his business was ruined by the British fleet in 1812.” 4. schooner (OED): “A small sea-going fore-and-aft rigged vessel, originally with only two masts, but now often with three or four masts and carrying one or more topsails”; seine: “A fishing net designed to hang vertically in the water, the ends being drawn together to enclose the fish”; dory: “A small boat; esp. a small flat-bottomed boat used in sea-fisheries, in which to go out from a larger vessel to catch fish.” The Georges Bank, between Cape Cod and Cape Sable Island, Nova...


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