The Stowaways

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The Stowaways The story of the boys on the ice

The Stowaways The story of the boys on the ice

by John Donald Adapted by Ardgowan Primary School and Magic Torch Comics

Published as part of the Heritage Inverclyde – A Quest for Learning project, an Inverclyde Council programme funded by Heritage Lottery Fund and delivered by Inverclyde Community Development Trust. Printed by Comic Printing UK First published in January 2017 Adapted from “The Stowaways and Other Sea Sketches” by John Donald (1928) with additional research material from Niall Ptolomey and Christie Laing. Script by Ardgowan Primary School p6/7 (2016) and Magic Torch Comics Artwork / lettering by Mhairi M Robertson Inverclyde Community Development Trust is a company limited by guarantee. Registered in Scptland No. 116334. A Scottish Charity No. SCO007212 VAT no. 809277703 Registered Office : 175 Dalrymple Street, Greenock, PA15 1JZ

Heritage Inverclyde – A Quest For Learning In 2012, Inverclyde Council secured funding from the Coastal Communities fund to create a new heritage trail, featuring new signage and benches, running from Parklea down to Wemyss Bay. The Heritage Inverclyde – A Quest for Learning project, was developed to build on the heritage trail, by creating more opportunities for people to understand and interact with the heritage which was represented on the trail. Inverclyde Council secured funding for the project from Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland, and the programme was delivered by Inverclyde Community Development Trust, who have been developing and running successful heritage projects in Inverclyde for over a decade. The focus for HIQL, was not so much the points of the trail itself, but all the stories and memories which happened in between and around those points, spanning the whole of the Inverclyde community. The project started in 2014 and since then has involved hundreds of local people in exploring and celebrating the heritage of Inverclyde through creative projects – everything from songwriting and dancing to storytelling and stained glass. All of the project outputs will soon be available to read, view or download for free online at The tale of the Arran Stowaways was one of those stories which cropped up and had an immediate emotional impact on everyone. A number of different versions of the tragic tale have been documented, this graphic novel primarily uses the version set down by Greenock writer John Donald in his 1928 book The Stowaways and Other Sea Sketches. However you can also read an in depth exploration of the events in Heritage Tales From The Waters Edge which was published by the HIQL project in 2016. Past projects have shown us that comics can be an ideal way to engage with and explore heritage and history with new and younger audiences - and that is how we chose to retell the story of The Stowaways. During April and May 2016, we worked with a hugely imaginative Primary 6 /7 class in Ardgowan Primary School to rework elements of the story into the start of a comic script, and also worked with the class to create their own stories of being a stowaway. We hope you enjoy the result. Paul Bristow

“In my early days no Greenock boy, in the neighbourhood of the quays at least, who had reached the age of, say, fifteen years, was considered worth his salt unless he had been to sea...” John Donald

“The beauty and mystery of the ships and the magic of the sea ever will have a fascination...especially for those in seaport towns, where descriptions of places and things famous, wonderful and grotesque are often heard, but where also, frequent opportunities occur to take a part in the roving life, and witness for one’s self the marvels of distant lands. ” John Donald

Signatures of the Ardgowan Primary Stowaways Team

Afterword Just before launching the book in January 2017, I thought I would see if we could get a bit of wider interest in the story and the project, and so contacted a journalist at The Scotsman. Alison Campsie did a really nice story previewing the book, but also exploring the tragic history of the stowaways. The Scotsman story, was read by a lady called Nancy Banner, a resident of New Hampshire USA, and the great granddaughter of one of the boys, John Paul. In fact, her own father, was named after John Paul. Nancy contacted us to ask if we could send a copy of the book, and of course, we were delighted to do so. At the book launch for The Stowaways, in January 2017, I told the kids about the amazing connection that had been made by retelling the story, and got them to record a little message for Nancy and her father. Our local paper, the Greenock Telegraph were along on the day, and spoke to all the kids about their work writing the book. The telgraph story, was read by another branch of John Paul’s family, living down in Southhampton where he had eventually settled. They had never met the American part of their family, and so got in contact with Nancy, to explain lots more details of family history, including the fact that poor John Paul had been buried in an unmarked grave. Together, the family resolved to locate the burial plot of John Paul, and hopefully next year, 150 years after the tragic voyage of the boys on the Arran, John Paul will finally receive a gravestone, which celebrates how the survival of one wee boy is remembered generations later by his grateful family. We were then contacted by more descendants of the family, by writer Patrick Collins who had written his own version of the tale and we heard from Don MacInnis, the great grandson of the woman who took the stowaways in from the ice at Newfoundland. Don hopes to have a plaque mounted for the boys next year. All these people, tied together by the strands of one story. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in lots of wonderful history and heritage projects over the years, you can never tell where a project will end up or how it will be received. This one surprised us all. It’s proof, if any were needed, about the wonderful power of stories to connect people. The whole time we worked on this project, I thought we were telling a story, but it turned out, we were in one. Paul Bristow, February 2017

The Old Greenock of John Donald John Donald’s take on the tale of the Arran Stowaways appears in his 1928 book The Stowaways and Other Sea Sketches. It is certainly the most striking and tragic tale within the collection, but he also finds room to talk about Captain Kidd and smuggling on the Clyde. John Donald is perhaps more well known for his books of Old Greenock Characters, two volumes of sketches and memories of Greenock featuring the antics and sad histories of local ne-er-dowells such as Tattie Wullie, Scutcher Dan and Tommy Matches. The books also discuss the long forgotten Winter Fayre, the performance of the Galoshans Play and life in and around the West Brig. The affectionate reminiscences of a vanished Greenock are full of nostalgia and good humour, making them hugely popular with local readers for generations – though we are now more aware of the slightly less idealistic lives the Greenock Characters must have lived. And within those tales and sketches, Old Greenock is itself a character, a place now long gone, described in detail as Donald’s characters dodge in and out of the closes and backstreets of a bustling harbour town. As we head into a future where digital mapping and recreation of lost heritage makes virtual reality journeys to disappeared places a real possibility, we can all hope that we may one day get to walk through John Donald’s Old Greenock – opening up a whole new frontier for heritage trails. A digitised copy of the original book can be read in full on the Inverclyde Council website.

The following pages show elements of the script which was adapted with the help of Ardgowan Primary School p6/7 and also initial sketches and page layouts from artist Mhairi M Robertson. PAGE ONE : Three widescreen panels Panel 1 A ship (not The Arran) at dock on left of panel. Man walking down gangplank towards shore with a letter in hand. CAPTION

During the fair holidays of 1868, the good folks of Greenock were made aware of some terrible news‌


A letter had arrived from Quebec, explaining the fate of a number of local boys who had stowed away on a ship bound for Canada.

Panel 2 Close up of hand passing letter to another hand, the terrible news being delivered CAPTION Few had read the letter, but everyone seemed sure that they knew the truth about what had happened to the boys. It was the talk of the town. CAPTION

Some said the boys had been thrown off the ship and left to perish on the ice outside Newfoundland.

Panel 3 A man sitting reading the letter by the fire (it does not specify that it is one of the stowaways parents) his hand over his mouth in shock and outrage CAPTION Others said the boys had somehow managed to survive harsh treatment aboard the ship and had only just escaped with their lives. CAPTION

The parents and families of the boys who had disappeared had waited months for news, worrying, weeping. Soon they would know the truth...

PAGE THREE : Two top panels, a widescreen panel and two bottom panels Panel 1 WATT has grabbed PAUL by the collar of his jacket and is shouting into his face CAPTION

Captain Watt had a reputation for kindness, but he was furious to discover the stowaways aboard his ship.


What are you doing here? Please sir, we want to be sailors.

Panel 2 WATT, softening only slightly WATT PAUL

What food have you had? Please sir, four barm biscuits between us.

Panel 3 WATT now addressing all boys and pointing below deck, other crew members have grabbed a couple of them. WATT WATT

Well you needn’t expect much from me. Take them along to the cook and get them something to eat.

Panel 4 McEWAN kneeling on deck, head in bucket CAPTION

By morning, all the boys were suffering from sea-sickness. But they were all put to work scrubbing the deck

MCEWAN Bleeuurgghh CAPTION It seems that despite his anger, the Captain intended to treat them fairly Panel 5 Our first view of the leering, angry KERR CAPTION

He authorised rations for the boys, 5lbs of beef per day, 14oz of coffee, 7oz of tea and 5lbs of sugar per week.


The first mate, James Kerr, had other ideas…

PAGE FOUR : Three long vertical panels Panel 1 The Arran, sailing towards us, lashed by the high seas. CAPTION

The Arran sailed into stormy weather

CAPTION And as the high winds and waves lashed the boat, the boys sea sickness continued. Panel 2 Boys sit below deck in foreground, assortedly looking ill / throwing up in buckets. KERR stands mid panel, watching them. CAPTION

The mate, observing how ill the boys were, decided that giving them any further meat was a waste of time.

KERR I’ll give you the ground of your stomachs before you get any more from me. Panel 3 KERR stands towering over one of the terrified boys, about to strike him with a length of thick knotted rope. By and large, in the scenes which detail violence, it will likely be just before, or occasionally after. Never during. CAPTION Not content with starving the boys, Kerr would also lash out at them without reason, striking or kicking them whenever he walked past. CAPTION

It was clear that he did not want the stowaways aboard, and the Captain seemed afraid to challenge him‌

Inverclyde in Comics Over the last few years, Inverclyde has been turning up in all sorts of comics – including several supported by Heritage Lottery Fund Scotland and Inverclyde Council. You can find most of them online to read for free. Identity – The Archivists Treasure Two local schoolchildren are guided through some of the important stories and events of Old Inverclyde by the mysterious Archivist. Tales of the Oak A collection of folktales and ghost stories inspired by the myths and legends of Inverclyde and presented in the style of a vintage horror comic. Achi Baba – Gallipoli 1915 An award winning exploration of the experiences of a local battalion in Gallipoli during the First World War. Camanachd Ghrianaig An adaptation of a Gaelic song by Mairi Mhor nan Oran, about a Shinty Match between the Glasgow and Greenock Highlanders. Created with Whinhill Primary for Inverclyde 1+2 Language Initiative. The Doom That Came to Gourock Granny Kempock, Gourock’s ancient witch, is back, looking for revenge. Created with Gourock Primary School for Inverclyde 1+2 Language Initiative. Ghost Train A mysterious train rattles through Port Glasgow, taking its passengers on a strange journey through time. Created by Newark Primary School with support of Scotrail Cultural Fund. The Skeleton Key Witches at War! Magical characters from the Clyde’s past unite to help the war effort.

The Arran left Greenock in April 1868, bound for Quebec. Seven boys stowed away on board. Not all of them came home.

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