Ahoy there, dear Readers!
Some stories are simply unforgettable. When I first heard about this one, my reaction was: ‘If you cloak this in a novel, nobody will think it plausible.’ But the story of The Skipper’s Daughter is not a novel, it is the most incredible – true – family story. Truth stranger than fiction, as they say.
The beloved broadcaster and journalist Nancy Richards has been weaving together the various strands of this family story over the past three decades, interviewing her mother – the heroine of the tale – searching family archives and correspondences, speaking to family and friends, travelling, and writing down everything that she could remember herself. The lockdown last year finally gave her an opportunity to put it all together. The result is this stunning book – part her mother’s diaries and recollections, part letters and newspaper articles chronicling the main events of the story, and part Nancy’s own commentary and annotations, all beautifully illustrated with photographs and images of memorabilia collected over many years – that will transport readers in time and place and make you wonder about the extraordinary events as they unfolded after Nancy Richards Senior, at the age of sixteen, decided to go to sea with her father. And this, in 1938 …
On the long stretch down to Australia, I really became quite the proficient sailor. I had to steer the ship at some stage during the day. The first time I was taken to see the white wavy wake following the ship at the initial attempt, but eventually I became adept at keeping a straight course. My father was somewhat appalled at my mathematics though. He taught me the rudiments of trigonometry and how to use a sextant. Each noon, I had to ‘take the sights’ of the sun and work out the ship’s position.
Nancy Brooks was sixteen when she went to sea with her father. Despite a gypsy fortune-teller’s warning to her mother, on 2 July 1938, she signed up as Captain’s Clerk for a shilling a week on the SS Nailsea Manor. Leaving from Birkenhead in Liverpool, the ship was to circumnavigate the world. The log Nancy Fancy Pants, as she became known, types during the voyage tells tales of exotic ports, fascinating people and places, and the rope-and-grease routine of a sailor. On board, she masters navigation, the Morse code as well as all the sea knots, and she flies high on the swing the crew rig up for her. On land, she learns even more, but when a squall takes its toll one stormy night in Australia, she is unprepared for the lessons death brings. Between the neatly typed lines of her extraordinary record, she captures her own journey, of self-discovery, and love. The Skipper’s Daughter interweaves the log with Nancy’s recollections and is lovingly shared with us by her daughter, Nancy Richards.
Publication date: July 2021
A percentage of the proceeds from sales of this book will be donated to the National Sea Rescue Institute.
The book was designed by Monique Cleghorn. Working on it with these two fabulous women (and Lulu assisting) has been one of the greatest literary joys of the past year and I cannot thank Nancy enough for sailing this wonderful project into the Karavan Press harbour and Monique for making the book look so beautiful.