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Children at Sea

Pen and Sword

Children at Sea

Children at sea faced even more drastic separations from loved ones than those sent 'home' from India or those packed off to English boarding schools at the age of seven, the subjects of Vyvyen Brendon's previous books. Captured slaves, child migrants and transported convicts faced an ocean passage leading nearly always to life-long exile in distant lands. Boys apprenticed as merchant seamen, or enlisted as powder monkeys, or signed on as midshipmen, usually progressed to a nautical career fraught with danger and broken only by fleeting periods of home leave. Solitary among numbers , as Admiral Collingwood described himself, they could be not just physically at risk but psychologically adrift - at sea in more ways than one. Rather than abandoning seaborne children as they approached adulthood, therefore, Vyvyen follows whole lives shaped by the waves. She focusses on eight central characters: a slave captured in Africa, a convict girl transported to Australia, a Barnardo's lass sent as a migrant to Canada, a foundling brought up in Coram's Hospital who ran away to sea, and four youths from contrasting backgrounds despatched to serve as midshipmen. Their social origins as well as their maritime ventures are revealed through a rich variety of original source material discovered in scattered archives. These brine-encrusted lives are resurrected both for their intrinsic interest and because they speak for thousands of children, cast off alone to face storms and calms, excitement and monotony, fellowship and loneliness, kindness and abuse, sea-sickness and ozone breezes, loss and hope. This book recounts stories never before told, stories that might otherwise have sunk without trace like so much juvenile flotsam. They are sometimes inspiring, sometimes heart-rending and always compelling. _Children at Sea_ embarks on a fresh voyage and explores a world of new experience.

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