Mudcat Café message #1585629 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #57206   Message #1585629
Posted By: Charley Noble
18-Oct-05 - 05:09 PM
Thread Name: Origins: Yangtse River Shanty
Subject: RE: Origins: Yangtse River Shanty
Here is an update of my notes on Hamish Maclaren, including some corrections to what I've posted above:

We don't know a lot about Hamish MacLaren, the composer of this song. He was born around 1900. His parents in northern Scotland sent him at the age of twelve to the Osborne and Dartmouth Naval Training College where he trained to become a "Naval Officer and a Gentleman," and received his hands-on sailing experience aboard a black cutter called the Wideon. He graduated in 1917, in time to serve as a gunnery officer aboard a destroyer, which had a skirmish with German armoured cruisers.

After the war MacLaren returned to Scotland, wandered around England for a while, and then rejoined the Royal Navy. He was sent out to the Mediterranean and later the China Station, where he mustered out in Shanghai during the late 1920's to follow a life of personal adventure beginning with an affair with a White Russian dancer. Upon his return to England he supported himself by writing articles and stories for various magazines; his articles and poems appeared in magazines such as The Spectator, The Blue Peter, and The Cornhill Magazine.

During this period he also began his major literary work. His first published novel was THE PRIVATE OPINIONS OF A BRITISH BLUEJACKET in 1929; be warned that this book is written in lower deck dialect with no punctuation. His sailor's folk opera SAILOR WITH BANJO followed soon after in 1930. His semi-autobiographic book COCKALORUM, a collection of personal sketches and short stories, was published in 1936. He did not resume his literary career.

According to a young cousin who was named after him, MacLaren rejoined the Royal Navy again in World War II, saw action as a lieutenant commander. He died in 1987. There is a surviving daughter, Lucillia Maclaren Spillane, who is based in Malta and is currently doing her master's thesis on her father's literary works.

Charley Noble