Before getting started, I want to acknowledge the contribution and assistance of the following:
- Andrew Moore for making these diaries available for publication, his painstaking transcription of the text of the diaries, photographing its pages and images, and identifying John Hilton Davies as the author of the diary and William Oliver Tyers, as the Master of the ship on which the journey took place through his persistent research.
- Michael Wood for sharing additional information about WOT and his family (Michael is the great-nephew of Captain Tyers).
- Huw Jones for sharing his extensive family history research
- To the shipping experts of the SeaTheShips website  for clarifying information on many points
My contribution has been to reformat the diary material, enhance images, add explanatory notes to the diary content and to dig deep into the circumstances of the break-up of the Tyers family on the death of both parents of Captain Tyers within the space of a year when he was just 14 years old. There is more of this material than was originally planned but I became fascinated by the way that it illustrates by a real example the plight of the poor in Victorian times and because it had great resonance with a similar event in my own family at around the same time.
The diary makes up most of the content but I have added the following additional pages:
- This introduction
- Information about the ship and her crew
- Brief histories of the lives of the diary author and his friend the Captain
- A list of the sources of information and images and cross-references
- A glossary of some of the lesser known terms used in the diary
No attempt has been made to update the text to make the narrative politically correct. The diary author was steeped in the attitudes of the British of his time - a colonial power 'bringing order and civilisation to India' - whether the Indians wanted it or not. The use of the terms 'coolie' and 'natives' particularly jar on modern nerves. The former is considered offensive in most places now and the latter holds negative colonial connotations. But the diary gives a realistic picture of how the British thought and spoke in the Edwardian age and needs to be read with that in mind. The author didn't set out to be offensive, and in many places seems to be quite sensitive to the Indian people.
A few photos included with the diary have been omitted as they show nudity and, although perfectly innocent, it is inappropriate to place them on a website where we have no idea how the images might be used.
The author was obviously proud of his diary and had it nicely bound. The photos below show the binding and first page of Volume 2.
In about 1970 volumes 2 and 3 of a diary were bought for a few pence from a car boot sale in Eastwood Notts. They were beautifully bound and are a wonderful piece of social history. They cover the journey of the writer as he joins Brocklebank Lines vessel Manipur at Birkenhead in 1914 on a return voyage to Calcutta.
The previous keeper of these volumes had done some research and managed to obtain the ship’s Particulars of engagement, but the missing first volume meant that the author’s identity remained a mystery. There are 3 pictures of him within the 2 volumes, and on one of them he refers to himself as “JHD”. With just 3 pictures and 3 initials, it seemed there was little or no chance of ever identifying the author. With this in mind I decided to concentrate on finding out more about the ship’s captain mentioned in the diaries. He is named as W.O.Tyers. Research shows him to be William Oliver Tyers. He was born in April 1871, married 14th September 1907 to Edith Mary Fewkes and had two daughters, Marjorie born in 1909, and Hilda Beatrice born on the 21st September 1912 and who died on 15th January 1925. Hilda is buried in Rake Lane cemetery Wallasey. William was mortally injured in the blitz on the night of 20th December 1940 and died 5 days later on Christmas day. He is buried with Hilda but sadly is not named on the gravestone. The breakthrough occurred when William’s probate notice was acquired. I had already read the notice a couple of times, but in a moment of excitement I realised I had identified the Author! William’s executor is named as John Hilton Davies. JHD now had a name!
Whilst in Calcutta, JHD meets an old colleague Bertie Lindsay with whom he had worked for many years at “No.1 North John Street”. This, I discovered, was the Royal Insurance building in Liverpool. So "The Royal" that JHD refers to in Calcutta would have been the Royal Insurance offices in Calcutta. It seems that Bertie Lindsay then worked for "Messrs. Martin’s" in Calcutta, “one of the leading firms here”. I do not yet know who Martin’s were.
JHD and WOT were obviously well acquainted. They dined together on the Manipur and spent much time together in Calcutta.
JHD was born in about 1872. He married Minnie Sophia Craston (born Q1 1869) on 11th May 1898 at St Simon and St Jude Anfield. They were living at 2 Matlock Avenue Walton on the Hill, Liverpool in 1901 and in Sudworth Road New Brighton Wallasey in 1911. They had a son Harold John Craston Davies (born 11th May 1899, died. Q4 1982). JHD died 26th December 1954.
The "Messrs' Martin's" mentioned in the diary may well have been an engineering company called T. A. Martin & Co based at Jackson House in Calcutta and founded by Thomas Aquin Martin in 1892. They had interests in light railways, collieries, steel works, docks, engineering works, manganese mines, tea, timber, electric supply companies, cement and allied undertakings. The company built jute mills and had further large contracts for water and drainage works. The building department was responsible for the design and construction of many important commercial and public buildings and private residences .