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|His ship had also been badly battered by the storm, but he stayed beside the stricken vessel for four days, risking the lives of everyone on board his own ship and jettisoning most of his own cargo. Using chalked boards held up by the crew, he sent the San Francisco a message later immortalised by Walt Whitman, ?Be of good cheer, we will stand by you?. Eventually, and with the help of another ship, all were rescued. Robert, to his great surprise, became an overnight hero - in America. What happened on his return to Scotland was another matter. With meticulous research and using contemporary documents, Clare Abbott has pieced together Robert’s fascinating life, the life of a Victorian sea captain who sailed the world in the great age of Empire. It is a story of outstanding courage and love but also of greed, betrayal and hypocrisy.
"Clare Abbott has written a thrilling account of my great grandfather Robert's heroic rescue of the SS San Francisco when he was captain of the Three Bells. Her meticulous research has enabled her to chart the course of many of his remarkable exploits in a long career as master mariner and shipping agent, together with little known details of his family background.
The broad sweep of her narrative, with howls of hurricanes in the rigging, bring vividly to life this inspiring story which I had hitherto only vaguely known about as something to be proud of.
Robert Crighton's first born son (also Robert) became Deputy Chairman of Harland and Wolff, shipbuilders. His eldest daughter was my mother, Gladys. I was aware of the family shipping connection very early as a schoolboy, when I had two long voyages in the mid 1930s on a Royal Mail steamship to the Eastern Mediterranean and West Africa, on each occasion with a different captain. I particularly remember that each of them managed to run a happy ship with exceptional kindness and consideration - I like to think this had become part of a tradition started by enlightened seafarers like Captain Robert Crighton, a quality he had that the author highlights in her book. I am most grateful to Clare Abbott for wanting to tell this extraordinary tale of my famous relative and for the immense trouble she has taken to establish the true facts. Douglas Gordon Boyd November 2014"
I am a descendent of Alexander Crighton, Robert's brother. I met Clare, through the internet, a couple years ago as she was gathering data on our family tree and have been waiting on this book to be printed for about a year. She didn't disappoint. I read the book in 2 days. She has done a splendid amount of work assembling data and fastidiously piecing it together, even helping resolve a mystery that has eluded our family for a couple decades, which is finding out who Robert's father was. The picture painted is extraordinary and the story compelling. For any interested in maritime life during this period of history, you wont be disappointed.