From Lower Deck to Pulpit
At the turn of the 20th century, Henry Cowling published this fine little book (about 70 pages) as an autobiography of his life as a young sailor boy in the Royal Navy and the journeys that led him towards the Baptist ministry. Mr. Cowling, while not an author by trade, still manages to conjure up a vivid picture of his life in those sea-faring times.
The short volume covers Mr. Cowling’s life from a young child dreaming of a life at sea to the moment, years later, when his family petitioned to buy him out of his remaining service so he could enter seminary. His life, while not remarkable in any particular way, had many moments the reader could admire and enjoy in the light of sympathy and empathy. In one particularly insightful passage, the author describes how his life’s ambition of joining the Royal Navy went from a barely containable excitement to an overwhelming, fearful dread in the matter of a few steps along the gang-plank. It was passages like this one, where the true timbre of the author’s character shown forth in an all-too-real and all-too-familiar way that made the old book accessible.
Though there were enjoyable parts, and altogether the story was illuminating, I found myself rather thankful of the books brevity. The stories of life at sea for a young man who had not yet achieved the rank of Ordinary Seaman were interesting indeed, but there is only so much that can be said of these few years of non-ficticious journeys.
For those of you who might be interested in a realistic image of what life was like at sea at the turn of the century on boats powered by steam and sail, this quick, little book might be just what the doctor ordered. Read it with a nice cup of tea.