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Hard Down! Hard Down!


The Life and Times of Captain John Isbester from Shetland
by Captain Jack Isbester

This entertaining book describes the eventful life of a Shetland man in pursuit of his ambitions – to reach the top in his profession, to find a wife, to cherish a family, to do his job well and to be respected by his peers. Extracts from numerous well-chosen family letters, diaries and postcards revealing details of shipboard and family life 120 years ago, bring the story to life. After four years as a fisherman in the stormy waters around Shetland, John Isbester chose to spend his next forty years in large square-rigged sailing ships from Liverpool at a time when shipping casualties were all too common. Remarkable feats of survival and tragic deaths are described with clarity and detail. Happier times are also remembered with picnics in Sydney harbour with captain, family and friends transported in the ship’s longboat, rowed by the eight apprentices. John Isbester’s wife, and sometimes their children, sailed with him on several year-long voyages accompanied by her upright piano. Her letters provide an extra dimension, describing conditions ashore in Sydney, ‘Frisco, Antwerp and La Rochelle. She also describes the birth aboard ship of her ninth child! A great read that’s a real pageturner. 240 pages, illustrated in black & white.

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Captain Jack Isbester




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