Important acquisitions

The tail of the Beagle, ship! ahoy!

Author Rob Roy [MacGregor, John]
Title The tail of the Beagle, ship! ahoy!
Imprint [Castle Wemyss: John Burns],
Date of Publication [1865]
Language English
Notes Early Scottish privately-printed books often did not come to the Library through legal deposit, so the acquisition of such books is always a bonus. This privately-printed book describes a cruise in the Western Isles of Scotland in 1864, and is taken from a tongue-in-cheek log kept by John 'Rob Roy' MacGregor (1825-1892), barrister, philanthropist, traveller and intrepid canoeist. Although born in Kent, MacGregor had Scottish parents and spent part of his childhood in Scotland, and thus regarded himself as "Scotch to the backbone". After studying law at Cambridge and training to be a barrister, he chose instead to devote himself to philanthropy, becoming involved in the provision of ragged schools (independent charity schools for the poor). He also spent a lot of time travelling, writing and illustrating books about his various expeditions and contributing articles to "Punch". In 1864 he was invited by his friend and fellow philanthropist John Burns (1829-1901), who was later to become the first Baron Inverclyde, for a cruise in the Western Isles. The cruise was the inaugural voyage of the screw-steam yacht 'Beagle' which had just been built for the shipping company owned by Burns's father. MacGregor and Burns were members of a party of eleven men, the 'Beagles', who enjoyed an eleven-day trip, starting from Burns's home at Castle Wemyss, Renfrewshire, on July 26, up to the island of Lewis, then back again. MacGregor kept a log of the cruise, written in typically whimsical and humorous style, and illustrated with pen and pencil caricatures of his fellow shipmates and of the various incidents that befell them. The following year John Burns had MacGregor's account of the trip, based on the entries in his log, printed as a book for distribution to friends and fellow Beagles under the title "The tail of the Beagle". No expense appears to have been spared for the folio-size publication, which was bound in green cloth with gilt lettering and borders and included seven photographs of pages from the original log, as well as a group photograph of the Beagles, and a map of their journey. While much of the content of the book has long since lost its relevance, MacGregor's drawings are particularly witty. Sadly the 'Beagle' did not last long after its inaugural cruise. In November 1865 it was involved in a collision with another ship near the Cumbrae islands and sank. MacGregor would go on to achieve fame for his long solo canoe journeys on the Continent, being one of the first to promote the sport of canoeing in Britain. This particular copy of the "The tail of the Beagle" includes an undated MS note which appears to be in MacGregor's hand: "Dearest Carry, I am clearing up finally at Comyn[?] House - & don't think the "Beagles" should go with the sale, so send it to you! ..."; it also has a newspaper cutting pasted on the back pastedown reporting the loss of the 'Beagle'.
Shelfmark AB.10.210.04
Reference Sources Edwin Hodder "John MacGregor (Rob Roy)" (London, 1894)
Acquired on 14/05/10
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