The Duchess and the captain's wife by Ulla-Lena Lundberg

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A beautiful hardback book with historical black and white photographs of the Herzogin Cecilie a sailing ship more familiarly known as the Duchess, this is the story of a ship at the turn of an era just before the second world war; but even more than that, it is the story of a truly intrepid young woman, who defied her aristocratic family and set sail with the captain who won her heart, and stayed with him as the ship finally sank off the coast from Plymouth, England.

The Herzogin Cecilie won the 1936 ‘grain race’ sailing from Port Lincoln, South Australia, to Cornwall, England, but then floundered in bad weather at Starehole Bay. Newspaper headlines declared ‘Honeymoon ship ashore’ and ‘Bride refuses to quit ship on rocks’.

The book is a treasured historical record of the ship and the people who sailed on it and includes the original photographs by Pamela Eriksson, the young woman who set out on her adventures aboard it. Most poignant is the inclusion of the letters of Pamela’s mother, desperately unhappy, warning her daughter against uniting with the foreign captain. But photographs of Pamela show a determined and confident young woman, completely in her element, pitching in with the sailors at sea.

Lundberg’s book is a different way of telling a very romantic story, the historical record is presented along with the photographs, the book provides the evidence, and we are left to imagine.

Themes: Non-fiction, Ships, Women, Photography.

Helen Eddy