Sunday, December 11, 2005

‘Little Jim’

I have no idea how Alastair Law came to name his Paradox micro-sailboat, ‘Little Jim’, but there is a poem by E.Farmer with the name as a title for his poem.

The cottage was a thatch'd one,
The outside old and mean,
Yet everything within that cot
Was wondrous neat and clean.

The night was dark and stormy,
The wind was howling wild;
A patient mother knelt beside
The death bed of her child.

A little worn-out creature,
His once bright eyes grown dim;
It was a collier's only child,
They called him Little Jim.

And, oh! to see the briny tears
Fast hurrying down her cheeks,
As she offer'd up a prayer in thought,
She was afraid to speak.

Lest she might waken one she loved
Far better than her life;
For there was all a mother's love
In that poor collier's wife.

With hands uplifted, see, she kneels,
Beside the sufferer's bed;
And prays that He will spare her boy,
And take herself instead.

She gets her answer from the child,
Soft fell these words from him,
'Mother, the angels do so smile,
And beckon Little Jim.

I have no pain, dear mother, now,
But oh! I am so dry;
Just moisten poor Jim's lips again,
And mother, don't you cry.

With gentle, trembling haste she held
The tea-cup to his lips;
He smiled to thank her, as he took
Three tiny little sips.

'Tell father when he comes from work,
I said "good-night" to him;
And, mother, now I'11 go to sleep,
Alas, poor Little Jim.

She saw that he was dying -
The child she loved so dear
Had uttered the last words that she
Might ever hope to hear.

The cottage door was opened
The collier's step is heard,
The father and the mother meet,
Yet neither speak a word.

He knew that all was over,
He knew his child was dead;
He took the candle in his hand,
And walked towards the bed.

His quivering lips gave token
Of the grief he'd fain conceal;
And see his wife has joined him -
The stricken couple kneel.

With hearts bowed down with sadness
They humbly ask of Him,
In heaven, once more to meet again.
Their own poor Little Jim.

This is a very sad story that could well have been based on fact, before being transformed into fiction, but to my mind there is little to connect it to the name of a boat, but this particular boat of Al’s has become an object of study for me. I’ve made two visits to his place of residence to examine ‘Little Jim’. She’s very unusual in design, in that she has chine runners instead of a keel for minimizing leeway. She was designed by Matt Layden as a very small coastal cruising yacht, eminently suitable for shallow waters.

My interest in ‘Little Jim’ came about when I conceived the idea of building my own Paradox sailboat. Only yesterday I saw Al’s gem of a boat a second time and I made use of the opportunity to photograph some of the more complicated parts as aids memoirs to help me when building my own boat.

I am grateful for his help and encouragement.

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