Friday, 21 October 2016

Master and Commander

First draft: 
Master and Commander: it’s actually the only Russell Crowe movie I have seen, which is perhaps why I don’t understand the overall bad vibe that seems to surrounds his reputation. I love his character in the film, and I love the story and score. The humour appeals and the naval battle scenes are memorable.
Thomas Cochrane 1807

I watched it again three years ago when my sister commented that she was using the opening scene for a training session she was developing on decision making and team work. And as that co-incided with my exposure to Assassins Creed sea shanties, it re-kindled my interest in the Royal Navy and men in tight uniforms. (cue watching lots of Sharpe and Hornblower on Youtube).

Last year I took my first cruise, although veteran cruisers informed me it was actually a crossing… from Fort Lauderdale to Rome. It was a cost-effective way of crossing the Atlantic, and certainly bumped up my stock of characters (the fake Baron, my crazy antisocial cabin mate… more details may follow). On a crossing there are many sea days (the first 8 days straight were all at sea). I took advantage of many of the entertainment options, one of which was a series of lectures about sea explorers, pirates and battles. One lecture was devoted to Admiral Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald who was the real-life inspiration for the fictional characters of Horatio Hornblower and Jack Aubrey.

Bust of Bernardo O'Higgins at Richmond

He is certainly worth another blog post, but for today I will touch on his role in the Chilean war of independence. One of his colleagues in that war was the memorably named Bernardo O’ Higgins. Imagine my surprise and delight when not a week after finishing the cruise I discovered quite by chance a statue to this same Bernardo, just down from the bridge at Richmond, London. Well, it wasn’t exactly by chance. Those who know me will recognise my inability to walk past a plaque without reading it, and it was a name not easily forgotten. So there he was commemorated, having lived nearby at the turn of the 18th century.

Further research on my beloved Wikipedia underlined the close relationship between these two naval heroes: Cochrane named his second son William Horatio Bernardo Cochrane. I was touched to imagine the depth of friendship. I think it is safe to assume the Horatio is in honour of Lord Nelson, and clearly Bernardo was another of Thomas Cochrane’s role models.

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