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Bill Thayer

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Tristan da Cunha

An Empire Outpost and its Keepers
with Glimpses of its Past
and Consideration of the Future

Douglas M. Gane

Douglas Montagu Gane (1863‑1935) was a London attorney, variously described as a solicitor or a barrister, who as a very young man fell captive to the unusual charm of Tristan da Cunha as he passed by the island in 1884 on a clipper from England to Australia: he describes this first encounter on pp23‑25 of his book. Years later, in middle age, he became a tireless advocate for the island, joining a romantic idealism that viewed the island society as a sort of Anglo-Saxon Eden to the effective talents of a lobbyist: with this book and other writing, much of it in The Times of London, he succeeded in getting the British government to resume regular mail service to Tristan, and the Anglican Church to provide a succession of regular ministers living there for two- or three-year tours of duty; he also brought this remote outpost of British freedom to the attention of a wider public in the mother country, founding the Tristan da Cunha Fund to collect donations used for much-needed supplies the island had no way of providing for itself: he was the Fund's Secretary and Treasurer. All these efforts resulted in a marked improvement in the well-being of the islanders, and on Jan. 1, 1935, shortly before he died, he was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

The book before you is not, therefore, a history of the island — the best by all accounts remains Tristan da Cunha, 1506‑1902 by Dutch historian Jan Brander (1940), updated since to 1953 — but a sort of political tract that first has to instruct the reader on the island. In this it amply succeeds, even if Gane's enthusiasm combined with a purely lay understanding of medicine make for some curious reading in Part V.

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Author's Announcement

Any benefit in the way of royalties on the sale of this book which the author may receive will go to the Tristan da Cunha Fund for the furtherance of the cause it has to serve.

[p7] Contents

Author's Announcement






Glimpses of Tristan da Cunha's Past

(a) A Passing Acquaintance


(b) Marooned on the Island — a Graphic Record of an Early Diary


(c) Landing Hazards at Tristan da Cunha — a Noted Australian's Vivid Experience


(d) The Grand Old Man of Tristan da Cunha — Remembrances of a Notable Character, with the Recollections of an American Woman who was Wrecked on the Island in her Childhood


(e) The Pandora's Visit to Tristan da Cunha — Its Sensational Sequel


(f) A Sportsman on Tristan da Cunha — a Glance at its Wild Life


(g) The Island's Relief of the Shipwrecked


The Island's Place in the Empire and the Question of Evacuation


Administrative Prospects


The Question of Communications


The Health Perfections of the People

(a) Their Physical Health


(b) Their Dental Health


(c) Their Moral Health


 p15  Illustrations

Tristan da Cunha from the Sea


Edinburgh, the Island Settlement

Facing page 48

Island Boat-Building


A Group of Islanders


An Island Cottage


A Cottage Interior


A Group of Island Women and Children


The Church Interior

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Technical Details

Edition Used

The edition transcribed here appears to be the first and only one. The author, Douglas Montague Gane, died in 1935; the book has therefore been in the public domain since Jan. 1, 2006.


In the printed edition the 8 illustrations, all black-and‑white photographs, are scattered thru the text. I've moved most of them, usually only a little, to accompany the relevant text even more closely. Their original placement is given in the table above, but the links are of course to the new location.


As almost always, I retyped the text by hand rather than scanning it — not only to minimize errors prior to proofreading, but as an opportunity for me to become intimately familiar with the work, an exercise I heartily recommend: Qui scribit, bis legit. (Well-meaning attempts to get me to scan text, if success­ful, would merely turn me into some kind of machine: gambit declined.)

This transcription has been minutely proofread. I run a first proofreading pass immediately after entering each section; then a second proofreading, detailed and meant to be final: in the table of contents above, the sections are shown on blue backgrounds, indicating that I believe them to be completely errorfree; any red backgrounds would mean that the section had not received that second final proofreading. The header bar at the top of each page will remind you with the same color scheme.

The print edition was well proofread; there are few typographical errors. These few errors then, when I could fix them, I did, marking the correction each time with a bullet like this;º or when trivial, with a dotted underscore like this: as elsewhere on my site, glide your cursor over the bullet or the underscored words to read what was actually printed. Similarly, bullets before measurements provide conversions to metric, e.g., 10 miles. Very occasionally, also, I use this blue circle to make some brief comment.

Inconsistencies or errors in punctuation are remarkably few; they have been corrected to the author's usual style, in a slightly different shade of white — barely noticeable on the page when it's a comma for example like this one, but it shows up in the sourcecode as <SPAN CLASS="emend">. Finally, a number of odd spellings, curious turns of phrase, etc. have been marked <!‑‑ sic  in the sourcecode, just to confirm that they were checked.

Any over­looked mistakes, please drop me a line, of course: especially if you have the printed edition in front of you.

For citation purposes, the pagination is indicated by local links in the sourcecode and made apparent in the right margin of the text at the page turns (like at the end of this line p57 ). Sticklers for total accuracy will of course find the anchor at its exact place in the sourcecode.

In addition, I've inserted a number of other local anchors: whatever links might be required to accommodate the author's own cross-references, as well as a few others for my own purposes. If in turn you have a website and would like to target a link to some specific passage of the text, please let me know: I'll be glad to insert a local anchor there as well.

[image ALT: A photograph, taken from the sea, of a small round island with slopes rising symmetrically at a constant angle of about 30 degrees to a central cone. The view of this peak is interrupted just below the summit by a ring of cloud, producing the effect of an object floating above the island. It is a view of the island of Tristan da Cunha, and serves on this website as the icon for the book 'Tristan da Cunha' by Douglas Gane.]

The icon I use to indicate this subsite is my colorized version of the frontispiece, above.

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Site updated: 13 Dec 20