Until a few weeks ago this canvas lay hidden, rolled up in a trunk in the attic of a Dinas cottage where it had probably lain undisturbed for 100 years or so.
The painting belonged to Capt John Walters, known to my father as Uncle Johnny, who was apprenticed to the master of the Windrush* at Bristol docks round about 1890. The artist had been a shipmate who, like all sailors according to Uncle Johnny, had to occupy himself between the busyness of leaving one port and arriving at the next. He didn’t rate the never-ending task of removing rust from the handrails and repainting.
Given that the artist was a sailor, I thought that maybe the signal flags on the ship would have a message for us, so here is the key to the alphabet that was used before they had radio communication.
This photo shows Capt John Walters with his wife, Elizabeth, née George.
*As far as I know, this Windrush had no connection to The Empire Windrush that brought the first Caribbean immigrants to London from Jamaica in 1948.
Another painting of the sailing ship Windrush is owned by The Pannett Art Gallery in Whitby. The picture can be seen on the BBC’s ‘Your paintings’ site by clicking here.
MQSB?! And what’s the packet boat answering?!
Your BBC link asks “Do you know anything about this painting? Help Your Paintings and the Public Catalogue Foundation improve the information we have by visiting Art Detective” — might be worth contacting them.
But couldn’t work out the Windrush’s message in that painting either!
Yes. I was thinking of contacting the BBC but wanted to see if I could gather any more family information first.
Sadly the flags don’t seem to tell us anything. I was hoping for at least the initials of the artist but the Q makes even that unlikely.
Maybe the flags as well as being letters may also be shorthand for short phrases: “on return voyage — home soon — whoopee! — put the kettle on!”
Well, you get my drift!