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Saturday 3 October 2015


Among the many delights of my ancestral cousin John Cooper-Chadwick’s book Three Years With Lobengula are the six pages of advertising within it which presumably helped to fund its publication.

Louis Velveteen – “Ladies Should Reject All Subsitutes”
(advertisement from Three Years With Lobengula)

The book describes John’s adventures in southern Africa, and naturally there are advertisements from the shipping companies which served that region. He sailed out to Cape Town in 1885 aboard the Pembroke Castle, a ship of the Donald Currie Line; and the book concludes with the sentence, “The Dunottar Castle was due to sail in a few days, and brought us safely home.”

Above, the Pembroke Castle; below the Dunottar Castle

Donald Currie founded his shipping company in 1862, and the original Pembroke Castle was one of four ships built by Robert Napier of Govan on the Clyde to create Currie's Castle Line fleet in 1863. The second Pembroke Castle, on which Cooper-Chadwick sailed, was the only ship of the line not built on Clydeside – she was launched at Barrow-in-Furness in 1883 only two years before John joined her, and her maiden cruise had attracted the Russian Tzar and European royalty on board.

The Castle Line sailed mainly to Calcutta, until the Suez Canal opened in 1869 and Currie switched his attention to South Africa. On that route the Union Line, established in 1853, was already dominant. In 1876 both lines were appointed to provide the mail service to the colony, to avoid giving either one a monopoly. In 1900 however, the South African government decided to award the contract to only one company. To avoid either of them losing the valuable business, the two lines merged to become the Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co Limited. Currie and his Union Line counterpart Sir Francis Evans signed the deal aboard the Dunottar Castle, built in 1890 only a year before Cooper-Chadwick’s home voyage on her.

The Castle and Union advertisements from Three Years With Lobengula, both boasting the presence of surgeons and stewardesses on board

The promotion of Louis Velveteen through the pages of Cooper-Chadwick’s South African adventures is a less obvious marketing strategy. So too is the decision to advertise Langdale’s Manures there, until one reads in the ad’s copy that John Cooper-Chadwick is Langdale's local agent in Tipperary. John returned on the Dunottar Castle with horrific injuries sustained in a rifle accident while escaping from Lobengula. Despite the loss of both hands he took on the running of the family estate in Ireland, attracted a wife, raised two sons AND handled the agency for the Newcastle-on-Tyne fertiliser firm. Perhaps he was also an agent for Louis Velveteen.

As his book illustrates, he took a no-self-pity, get-on-with-it approach to life even when faced with the tribulations of his African adventures and their consequences. I have the greatest admiration for him.

John Cooper-Chadwick’s advertisement for Langdale’s Manures in his book Three Years With Lobengula – “To agriculturalists who do not use them, a trial is respectfully suggested.”

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