The White Ship disaster


Until recently I had not heard of the White Ship Disaster. I was not aware that the White Ship was considered to be the Titanic of the 12th century.

William of Malmesbury, who was considered to be the foremost English historical of the 12th century said “No ship ever brought so much misery to England.” It is further said that the sinking of the White Ship had a colossal impact on English history and was a decisive point in the legacy of the Norman Kings.

How it happened

On 25 November 1120, King Henry I, the youngest son of William the Conqueror, and his heir, Prince William, were in Normandy. They had gone to France for the purpose of ensuring peace in the duchy of Normandy and, with this achieved, were ready to go home.

Image result for white ship disaster

On their arrival at the port of Barfleur, a sailor, Thomas FitzStephen, captain of the White Ship, approached Henry and offered him his captaincy and the use of his ship. FitzStephen claimed to be the son of the captain who had been employed by William the Conqueror and taken him to England for the invasion of 1066. Henry had already made his own transport arrangements, so he accepted the offer for his son, William.

Henry set sail late in the afternoon, but William decided to stay on shore drinking and feasting with his friends. When he finally boarded the White Ship, he ordered that three barrels of red wine be given to the sailors so that they could drink his health. It is also said that when the priests came to bless the ship, as was the custom of the time, the Prince and his friends laughed and them and the sailors chased them away. Among the 300 people on the ship were many nobles of the Court as well as some of Henry’s illegitimate children, Richard and Matilda (called Marie).

The ship departed for England in the evening, with the oarsmen rowing full tilt. Barfleur port was notorious for rocks just beneath the surface of the water. The ship struck a submerged rock and capsized. It rapidly started to sink.

The Prince was nearly saved by the actions of his bodyguard who managed to secure a lifeboat and bundle the young man into it. It is said that Prince William heard the cries for help of his half sister Marie and asked the bodyguard to return for her. The lifeboat was swamped with people trying to save themselves and both the Prince and the bodyguard drowned.

Only one passenger from the ship survived, a butcher from Rouen called Berold. Berold got hold of a piece of floating debris and managed to hold onto it in the icy water for ten hours until he was rescued.

What happened next?

King Henry did not sire another legitimate son. He planned for his daughter, Empress Matilda, to be his heir. Upon the King’s death in 1135, however, the Norman’s decided that they did not want a woman on the throne and they offered it to the former King’s nephew, Stephen of Blois. The anger of some people at this action resulted in a period of time known as the Anarchy which initiated 14 years of civil war. The civil war only ended when the Treaty of Wallingford was signed in 1153. This document, signed by the de facto King Stephen, resulted in his relinquishing his own son as the heir to the throne in favour of the Empress Matilda’s son, Henry Plantaganet.







#Bookreview – North of the Killing Hand by Joni M Fisher

What Amazon says

Years after witnessing the murder of her parents, Nefi Jenkins pursues a career in law enforcement, but later must choose between the rule of law and the temptation of revenge.

My review

North of the Killing Hands gets off to an exciting start with three young men in the Amazon jungle looking for the missing niece of a U.S. Senator. Her parents have both been murdered by a gangster and Nefi is a witness to the murders. The three men have great difficulty in tracking down the girl and are starting to think she may be dead when Blake has the bright idea of singing a hymn to attract her to them and let her know they are not dangerous.

Blake’s idea works and the men are able to make contact with Nefi and get her to trust them sufficiently to accompany them back to the closest Brazilian town and then on to the U.S. to meet up with her Uncle and Aunt.  Nefi is fascinated by the very handsome, Vincent, whom she quickly develops a crush on although she is only 14 years old, unsophisticated and naive. He seems to develop a liking for her too despite the fact he is seven years her senior. Their meeting has far reaching consequences for both of them who hope to meet up again. Neither are able to develop a deep relationship with someone else during the seven year period before they meet up again.

I thought the beginning and end of this book were exciting and interesting but the middle dragged a bit for me with its focus on Nefi’s romantic fixation on Vincent. I found the romantic element between Vincent and Nefi to be unrealistic and both of their reactions to, and interactions with, each other to be a bit frustrating. I would have preferred if their relationship had been one of trusted friends.

I rated this book 3.5 stars out of 5 on Amazon.

Purchase North of the Killing Hand

#Writephoto – Stark

She sat in her favourite pub near Paddington Station burning with indignation. Her jewelry was gone. All of it, even her engagement and wedding rings. The stark nakedness of her fingers surprised her every time she looked down. She didn’t wear her rings often so it was a psychological awareness that something was missing rather than a physical feeling of bareness.

Where was Neil?

He said he was coming straight home. What on earth can he be doing? This is an emergency.

Angela hadn’t as yet reported the disappearance of her jewelry to the police. The circumstances were strange. The safe had been locked when she went to it this afternoon to get her rings. The windows were all tightly shut and there were no signs of forced entry into either the spare room or the locked cupboard that held the safe.

She didn’t wear her rings everyday and had no idea how long they had been missing. Her engagement ring was made of white gold and the stone was tanzanite, both of which scratched easily. She had known that when she chose her ring all those years ago but the deep blue stone fascinated her. She decided to get the tanzanite despite the jeweler’s warnings and to only wear it on special occasions.  Today had been such an occasion. She had been invited to her grandson’s awards evening at the  private school he attended in London. She decided to wear her rings and take a taxi to the event. Neil was going to meet her there at 5P.M.

When she discovered her rings were gone she had gone cold with shock. Her engagement ring had sentimental value for her and was valuable too. She was much more concerned about the loss of her rings than the other jewelry she had collected over the years.

She had cancelled the visit to the school feeling to upset and shaky to make the trip. Instead, she had called Neil and asked him to come home from work. He had said he would take the train to Paddington Station and meet her at this pub. They could discuss what to do.

The hands on the clock on the wall moved rhythmically, measuring out the seconds while she waited, hands wrapped around her cold cider. She didn’t usually drink during the week but felt the events of the afternoon warranted an exception.

Neil’s reaction was rather strange. He didn’t seem surprised or upset that my jewelry was missing. It was almost as if he already knew. It didn’t sound like he was at the office either. There was a lot of background noise. It sounded like he was walking along a busy street.

A young couple with two small children came into the pub and sat down at the table across from hers.

The small boy was crying and his mother was trying to console him.

“I want to go home.”

“Soon darling,” the woman said, “the tube is closed. Let’s have a drink and if it hasn’t re-opened by the time we have finished, we’ll get the bus home.”

This statement illicited a fresh flood of tears from the small boy who seemed absolutely exhausted after a long day of touring.

“I’ll just have a look and see what’s going on,” said the father peering at his cell phone.

He looked up at his wife. “It seems we are going to have to take the bus home, love. There’s been an accident on the line and it will be closed for the next few hours. Some chap committed suicide by throwing himself in front of an approaching train.”

Angela’s face drained of all colour and her body went icy cold. She stood up and approached the young father.

“Does it say anything else about the accident?” she asked, leaning towards him.

“Yes, it says the man’s name was Neil Bishop and that he was retrenched from his job six months ago. The authorities reckon that’s why he jumped.”

Retrenched six months ago. How could that be? He had been travelling into London on the train every morning as usual. 

and then,

Had they been living on the money from her jewelry? What else was missing?

The realization of Neil’s deception and her own loss as well as the starkness of her future life without him was to much for Angela. She slumped to the floor in a faint.

This post was written for Sue Vincent’s Thursday Photo Prompt, Stark. You can join in here:

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New on the Shelves – #Poetry – Open a New Door by Kim Blades and Robbie Cheadle

Thank you, Sally Cronin, for featuring Kim Blades and my new African poetry collection on your fabulous blog.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Congratulations to Kim Blades and Robbie Cheadle for their collaborative poetry anthology – Open a New Door

About the collection

Open a New Door is a poetic peep into the lives of the poets, Kim Blades and Robbie Cheadle, both of whom live in South Africa.

The book is divided into four categories: God bless Africa, God bless my family and friends, God bless me and God bless corporates and work. Each part is sub-divided into the good, the bad and the ugly of the two poets’ experiences, presented in rhyming verse, free-style, haiku and tanka, in each of these categories and include colourful depictions of their thoughts and emotions.

The purpose of this book of poetry is encapsulated in the following tanka and haiku poems:

What drives me to write?
To share my innermost thoughts
The answer is clear
It’s my personal attempt
To make some sense of this…

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#SOCS #Poetry – Nation

Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “point.” Open a book on your lap, close your eyes, and put your finger on the page. Whatever you land on, whether it be a word, a phrase, or a sentence, write about it. Enjoy!

I was skimming through the on-line news site I read this morning when I saw the responses to Linda G. Hill’s weekly prompt start popping into my email. I closed my eyes and jabbed at the screen; the word I touched was nation.

There are many different definitions for nation. The one that interested me the most is from Wikipedia, as follows:

nation is a stable community of people, formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity, or psychological make-up manifested in a common culture.

It made me wonder how relevant this definition is in our modern world where many countries are so diverse and multiculturalism is the new buzz word. The common thread for a nation now is likely to be a common territory and economic ambition as opposed to the historical definition which would include a common language, culture and religion.

If we all embrace a new definition of nation will it help to heal some of the world wide fractures in society that seem to be springing up and which could potential lead to mankind going backwards instead of forwards?

The following poems came into my head while my mind wandered through these thoughts:

The precipice edge

Sheer and unforgiving

Warning a nation


Collecting in pools

A nation’s gushing tears

As people lose hope


Lack of discipline

The cause of modern failures

How can we succeed

in a world where no-one takes

any accountability?

You can join in the challenge here:

Have a great Saturday.


#poetrychallenge – Afraid and Grave

The body of Henry was given to his employer, Mathias Kerrison. He had been missing for several days when it was discovered by Mr James Black, floating face down in the water. It was not easily recognisable as that of the vibrant, ambitious Henry Scarle. The body was bloated with gas and his eyes had popped out. His tongue protruded grossly from his slack mouth.

Mathias Kerrison, poor dead Henry’s hero, saw an opportunity to send a strong message to those intent on fraud and thievery on the Bungay Navigation and Staithe, as well as a way to profit from Henry’s horrific death.

Henry’s body was put on display at the local Inn and the curious public were charged a penny a time to come and view it. Many people were terrified by the grotesque body from which loose flaps of skin peeled away and foam leaked from the dead mouth, but also shocked at the callousness of Mathias’ treatment of the lad. They were relieve when his body was assigned to its earthly tomb.

Errors of judgement

at a government level

can have dire results

for hapless populations

to frightened to make a stand



#Bookreview – IT by Stephen King

What Amazon says

Now a major motion picture
Stephen King’s terrifying, classic #1 New York Times bestseller, “a landmark in American literature” (Chicago Sun-Times)—about seven adults who return to their hometown to confront a nightmare they had first stumbled on as teenagers…an evil without a name: It.

Welcome to Derry, Maine. It’s a small city, a place as hauntingly familiar as your own hometown. Only in Derry the haunting is real.

They were seven teenagers when they first stumbled upon the horror. Now they are grown-up men and women who have gone out into the big world to gain success and happiness. But the promise they made twenty-eight years ago calls them reunite in the same place where, as teenagers, they battled an evil creature that preyed on the city’s children. Now, children are being murdered again and their repressed memories of that terrifying summer return as they prepare to once again battle the monster lurking in Derry’s sewers.

Readers of Stephen King know that Derry, Maine, is a place with a deep, dark hold on the author. It reappears in many of his books, including Bag of BonesHearts in Atlantis, and 11/22/63. But it all starts with It.

“Stephen King’s most mature work” (St. Petersburg Times), “It will overwhelm you… to be read in a well-lit room only” (Los Angeles Times).

My review

I re-read this book for the fourth or fifth time recently.  My mother reminded me of it when she watched the new film version of this book. She didn’t like the movie but I loved the book. It is my fourth favourite of King’s books, right after The Shining, The Stand and Salem’s Lot.

I love the way King tells his tales. He introduces you to each character and gets you totally involved in that individual’s life before moving onto the next important character. This book uses this writing style and also moves between the pre-teen lives of the seven main characters and their lives as older men and one woman.

The book starts with a most horrifying murder and goes on to describe its impact on Bill and his family. This introduction is an enabler for the rest of the story where Bill, ignored and neglected by his traumatised parents, reaches out to other pre-teens and develops relationships with them, thereby, bringing them into the story and providing the link to the murder and the murderer.

I enjoy other writing tools that King utilises such as quoting from newspapers which gives the reader a lot of inside into what is happening in the world outside of the main character group.

Stephen King is able to hold the tension and captivation, despite the length of his novels, right up to the ending which is always satisfying and extraordinary. An extremely talented writer, his ideas are always uniquely presented and you never get the “done before” feeling I often get when reading modern novels.

I rated this book five out of five stars on Amazon. A perfect novel for Halloween. you will never again view a clown in quite the same way.

Purchase IT