Hitchen's original What's in a Name? article on the naming of features in Rockall
has prompted a mailbagful of correspondence, which we thought that readers might
find interesting. The first was received from Antony Swithin:
Dear Dr. Hitchen,
I received today from my friend Ellis Yochelson a copy
of your article in the recent EDINBURGH GEOLOGIST. I am absolutely delighted and
quite thrilled that some of the names I chose for localities on my imaginary sub-continent
of Rockall have been perpetuated and given reality on Rockall Bank!
Please accept my sincerest thanks. I should, however,
point out that I am still a geological lecturer, at this university since 1972,
and that I came here from Nottingham, not Leicester. The confusion is understandable
in that the old Nottingham Geology Department's personnel were mostly transferred
to Leicester when that Department closed; however, by then I was already in Saskatchewan.
'Antony Swithin' are my middle names, by the way; I was born on the 15th of July.
I have five more books about Rockall awaiting publication.
Unfortunately, Harper took over Collins and promptly cancelled my contract, since
which time I have been seeking a fresh publisher in vain. (It is not easy to persuade
a new publisher to take on, not only the publication of the new books but also
the republication of the original four!).
good wishes and my sincerest thanks once again; truly I am greatly honoured!
William A.S. Sarjeant, D.Sc., F.R.S.C.
The remaining correspondence was related
to the naming of sea-bed features discovered during fisheries research:
Chance led me to read your
article 'What's in a name?' in THE EDINBURGH GEOLOGIST. May I comment? The George
Bligh Bank was named after a ship (probably a Royal Navy survey ship) which first
mapped it out. Bill Bailey's Bank is named after a fishing skipper, probably from
Milford Haven. Whether he was trawling or great-lining I know not. Lousy Bank
is so-named because fish, particularly halibut, caught there tended to be heavily
infested with sea-lice. I have seen this for myself when hauling great lines on
the bank, as many as a dozen lice on one halibut.
am passing a copy of this letter and your article to Jim Adams, of 2 Drummond
Place, Edinburgh, who knows much more than I do about the history of oceanography
As a smallish boy, I was
privileged to go on a number of excursions of the Edinburgh Geological Society,
many led by Robert Campbell, and some by Murray MacGregor, so I was quite interested
to be shown this edition by my daughter-in-law, who is a member.
Dear Dr. Hitchen,
As you know, my former colleague, Bobby Craig, passed
me a copy of your interesting article, which appeared in THE EDINBURGH GEOLOGIST.
I would not claim to be as expert as Bobby suggests. However, your article did
encourage me to look at some texts which I had to hand. As a result, I would like
to comment on the names of two of the banks.
Bobby was partly correct in his
supposition that the George Bligh was a naval ship. However, according to A J
Lee's excellent history of MAFF's Directorate of Fisheries Research, by the time
the vessel discovered the bank in April 1921, she was on her maiden voyage after
conversion as a fisheries research vessel. The survey in which she was involved
was aimed at locating new fishing grounds.
vessel had been built as a Mersey class naval trawler during World War I, and,
on being purchased from the Admiralty after the war, the Ministry retained her
original name, George Bligh. I can find no evidence that the name in turn is based
on that of a famous explorer. Indeed, H T Lenton and J J Colledge, in their Warships
of World War II, state that the names of theŻ Merseys (and the Castles and the
Straths, also built as naval trawlers) were taken from the muster rolls of the
Victory and the Royal Sovereign at the time of Trafalgar.
of the Mersey class naval trawlers, the John Felton, was purchased for the use
of the Marine Laboratory in Aberdeen. However, the name was changed to Explorer,
and she continued in service as a fisheries research vessel until 1956. Her successor,
also named Explorer, was in service from 1956 to 1984 and is currently in the
Edinburgh Dock, Leith, where a group of enthusiasts are attempting to preserve
her as part of Scotland's maritime history.
This bank was also discovered during
a survey aimed at finding new fishing grounds. However, on this occasion the vessel
was the HMS Rosemary, working during the course of the second of two cruises which
the Admiralty agreed to undertake in 1929-30 in response to pressure from the
fishing industry. Again, A J Lee provides the details.
she was a naval vessel, it should not be difficult to establish the origins of
the name Rosemary, although it could be the plant, rather than the lady.
publications referred to in this correspondence are:
Lee, 1992. The Directory of Fisheries Research: its Origins and Development; MAFF.
H.T. Lenton & J.J.
Colledge, 1963. Warships of World War II, part six, Trawlers; Ian Allan, London.
Anthony Swithin's published books on mythical continent
of Rockall are:
Book 1 Princes of Sandastre
Book 2 The Lords of the Stoney Mountains
Book 3 The Winds of the Wastelands
4 The Nine Gods of Safaddne
All are published