31 January 2019

Friends Send Me ... camel things (9)

It's getting harder to keep track. They just keep a-coming.

I know not where on earth this one came from. Politically incorrect, you say?

Here's a classic, sure to offend everyone: a camel with a camel.

Coralie is full of jokes:

Cathy's favourite, but a little marzipan goes a long way ...

To follow up from cousin Brian's teaching moment:

Did anyone say Arabs don't have a sense of humour?

Shirley is tireless at finding them:

Is Google tireless too? I've seen different promotional shots of the Google street view camera mounted on a camel, allegedly in the U.A.E.'s Liwa desert with a camel called Raffia. Balancing act looking a teeny bit photoshopped?

Not sure I want to try these ...

... which leads to this

And that's probably more than enough for now.

© 2019 Brenda Dougall Merriman

16 January 2019

Chichester, England 2000

A trip to Sussex in England and the publication of a decade-long historical collaboration, what's not to like? And a perfect small B&B in the Sussex town of Chichester iced the cake for the book launching. I've written about The Petworth Project on my genealogy blog, more than once I think ...

Being in the physical presence of history that stretches into dim distance is always special. Pity that we then took so few photographs of our surroundings. Just too engrossed as tourists, absorbing the feel. The environs have changed even in the almost twenty years since. Our little group likely stayed at a B&B on St Pancras Street (~ collective memory fail ~) now shuttered and silent. Me, now, trying to capture the elusive moments before they disappear altogether.
Formerly the St Pancras B&B
B&B breakfast
Chichester is a quintessential English town, a cathedral town, to boot. It dates to Roman times 1800 years ago when walls and gates were built for defence against hostile raiders. Those city walls still stand. You can walk the entire mile and a half circuit around the old town. I am totally hooked on the fascination of artifacts that connect me to people who lived before. And the walls are one big, impressive artifact.

The Ship Inn was then the grandest place to stay, and has its own history from the late 1700s. Built as a home by Admiral George Murray, a great friend of Lord Nelson, it has of course been renovated more than once; it was repurposed as a hotel just before the Second World War. We enjoyed a lovely collegial dinner there.

And then the cathedral! The Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity. Is there ever enough time to fully explore such a site at leisure? Founded 1108; mother church of Sussex; full of monuments, music, art, stained glass, needlecraft. 

Lady Chapel
the Chagall window
Probably the most visited section is the Arundel tomb. Richard FitzAlan, the 10th Earl of Arundel, and his wife Eleanor died in the late 14th century. Originally buried in Lewes Priory at his request, they were moved to the cathedral probably after the priory's dissolution in 1537. The figures are unusual for the time because the knight is depicted as having removed his glove to clasp his lady's hand. The effigy has inspired countless admirers and a famous poem by Philip Larkin. 

From "An Arundel Tomb" in Larkin's The Whitsun Weddings:

" ... A sculptor's sweet commissioned grace ..."

© 2019 Brenda Dougall Merriman

30 December 2018

End of the Year

Time to make like a shill again. The book is still available. For sale on Blurb.com, $15.00 Canadian; the USD equivalent is less.


"Chasing camels in Arabic countries encumbered only by gender, age, opportunity, and gentle self-delusion. Impersonating a world traveller requires permanent smiles and sign language on high alert. Strange, the writer's pull to ancient civilizations. Stranger still, baking one's tender body in near-isolated deserts. Highly recommended for lovers of animals and warm climates. Lose yourself briefly here in a different world."

"Arabic" is over-stated only in that two of the countries are not. The United States and the Netherlands. Some of the experiences were divine. Others were funny or disappointing with a variety of characters, and just one heart-attack-scary night "hill climb."

Back cover:
Brenda Dougall Merriman is well-known as a genealogist for her serious books Genealogy in Ontario: Searching the Records; United Empire Loyalists: A Guide to Tracing Loyalist Ancestors in Upper Canada; and Genealogical Standards of Evidence. She writes about her Canadian, Scottish, and Latvian ancestors at http://brendadougallmerriman.blogspot.com. Crime fiction, too - https://anotherfamdamily.blogspot.com/


15 December 2018

Our Man of the Camels

It makes me happy to bring to light some women who work with camels (Our Lady of the Camels, three posts). I haven't even touched on those who labour to grow the camel dairy industry, what with the health benefits of camel milk slowly being recognized.

But I can no longer avoid sharing a man of the ilk. Avoiding is not an apt word; I've put it off because describing one of the most consistently decent human beings I have ever met is next to impossible. Decent is that quite right? Considerate, caring, modest, funny, warm, open-minded, literate, patient, unpretentious ... see, so many very suitable words come to mind but they will encourage disbelief, ringing like the smitten fan that I am.

'Tis Doug Baum, hardworking proponent and advocate of traditional camel culture.

For your information, it's not just me. Hundreds of people across the United States and bushels more across the world know and love Doug Baum for his camel expertise, his willingness to help, his hospitality, his uniquely enriching tours abroad. Not to mention his home-based Big Bend Camel Treks in eastern Texas. Want a history lesson? Doug's Texas Camel Corps attends numerous schools and historical reenactments where he educates. Need camels for your living Christmas tableaux? Doug's on it. In fact, his entire family trailers their own camels (nine at last count) around the countryside and beyond; in 2016, for instance, they participated in some thirty-nine nativity and holiday performances.

Cameleers looking for training advice or for veterinarians or saddle construction? Doug and his contacts run training clinics for international participants and freely dispense advice on Facebook. Oh, the contacts! ... in Egypt (where he keeps a home with his Cairo family), Jordan (where he regularly arranges donations for Syrian refugees), Morocco, India. Wishing you could explore an exotic country in-depth with camel ride options? Doug's your man. He leads very small group tours to all those places where travellers spend their time with locals in a cultural immersion; personal relationships become the outstanding memories. His enthusiasm is expanding to Kenya and Mongolia/China.

Photo: Heather Daveno

Doug also travels to provide training for animals and handlers, to build saddles, to attend conferences from Mexico to England to Mongolia. He knows that camel tourism a newly coined phrase – can help ensure the animal's survival and turn things around economically for families in the more depressed regions. Always on his mind is the question of the native camel herdsman: "How do I continue to keep camels in my life in the face of changing times and modernization?"

So Doug's calendar must have 26 hours in a day and 40 days a month. When does he have time to make educational videos or play his guitar? And perfect his Arabic?? Or maybe he's studying Marwari by now. Yes, he has a Facebook page ("The US Army Camel Experiment") with many videos.

At any rate, don't let Doug see this or he would deflect any hint of admiration with his trademark humour.

He lights up the life of everyone he meets. I consider him the redheaded son I might have had. Camel culture is his calling, but the man with the stetson is a full-time goodwill ambassador on a global scale.

© 2018 Brenda Dougall Merriman

27 November 2018

A Ship Called Camel

In 1783 with the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War, a ship called Camel was one of a host of British vessels busy ferrying Loyalists to places of refuge in Nova Scotia and Quebec. Many sailed from New York, the last Loyalist stronghold.

References to the ship come from quite a variety of sources and they provided a continuing discussion in several issues of Loyalist Trails.[1] Different consultants and sources, both original records and authored works, were gleaned for information about Camel in the year 1783.[2] Original sources note that Camel was a frigate, converted to an armed transport carrier in 1783.

Model of a heavy frigate
The ship's activities looked like this:

April: Capt. Tinker was the master; Camel sailed with the Spring Fleet of late April, her first landing in (what is now) New Brunswick on June 10th.

July-August: She departed New York July 10th, arriving Quebec City on August 12th; Capt. Tinker as master. A transcribed list of passengers is available on the UELAC website: http://www.uelac.org/Loyalist-Ships/Camel-1783-July-QC-passengers.pdf.

September: Camel sailed September 1st to Saint John and Passamoquoddy, first landing on the 18th; the captain's name was indecipherable in the Master's Log but the ship commander was Lt. Geo Burlton. A roll of passengers is in the Ward Chipman Papers (Archives New Brunswick).

November: One historian believes she sailed this month from New York to Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia.[3] Part of the ongoing discussion involved whether the fourth trip even happened. The ship's log records only the first three. At the time of the discussion in Loyalist Trails, it was unclear whether the log book extended beyond October 1783.

Another point of debate: "Secondary sources" say Camel did not arrive in New York from Spithead in England until late May of 1783, therefore could hardly have taken part in the Spring Fleet evacuation. Hence the question: was there more than one Camel? How likely is it that two ships of the same name were commissioned at the same time?

According to Revolvy, six British naval ships have been called Camel.[4] Two were in the period being discussed; of the others, one was seventeenth century and three were nineteenth century. It seems only the 26-gun naval supply ship HMS Camel is the best "fit" for the times. The Revolvy website says it was "formerly the merchant [ship] Yorkshire," ... "purchased in 1776 and sold in 1784."

HMS Surprise (replica), Maritime Museum, San Diego
Images here of eighteenth century frigates can only approximate what the Camel may have looked like. I stand to be corrected if I have misinterpreted any of the serial discussion or naval terminology. My interest here is in a name, not in arguing fine historical points of which I have no knowledge.

But why on earth the unusual name for a ship? Of course! ... Ship of the Desert. The camel is an ancient and enduring symbol of transportation.

[1] Loyalist Trails, weekly online newsletter of the United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada (www.uelac.org/Loyalist-Trails/2015/), No. 2015-18 (3 May); No. 2015-20 (17 May); No. 22-2015 (31 May). Information from Editor Doug Grant, and Ed Garratt, Stephen Davidson.
[2] For example, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Carlton Papers, Book of Negroes; LAC, Ward Chipman Papers; Archives of the New Brunswick Museum, Ganong Papers, The Book of Proceedings of the Society of Friends or Quakers who Settled at Pennfield, Charlotte County in 1783; The National Archives (TNA - UK), ADM52 Log Books, ADM36 Muster Books.
[3] As discussed by Davidson: Theodore C. Holmes, Loyalists To Canada, The 1783 Settlement of Quakers And Others At Passamaquoddy where "This book includes the line: After disembarking the passengers the Camel returned to New York to bring more loyalists to freedom. So this historian believed that there was [possibly] a fourth voyage. I have not been able to find any references to this outside of Holmes' book. Holmes says that the ship was 293 tons. Tinker is given as the captain of the ship."
[4] Revolvy, https://www.revolvy.com/page/HMS-Camel? ... which would have lifted the information from elsewhere.

© 2018 Brenda Dougall Merriman

04 November 2018

Salalah, Oman 2018

The fates were against us on this trip. After five days of serene cruising south on the Red Sea and then through "Pirates' Alley" (halloo, Djibouti, in the distance) in the Gulf of Yemen, we arrived at Oman's agricultural city, Salalah. The air temperature had been slyly climbing to unseasonal heights; nothing is normal anymore in world climates. Combined with excessive humidity, spending much time on deck became uncomfortable to say the least. Perhaps that is why the "beach break" excursion was cancelled for want of enthusiasts. Sitting in scorching sun and sand for hours seemed folly when other excursions would have air-conditioned interludes in a bus or an indoors visit. The real possibility of sunstroke outweighed my regret at the loss of a potential camel ride on the beach.


Salalah's coastal location, though of desert climate, benefits from mild summer monsoon rain that turns the brown to green and fosters banana, coconut, papaya, and pineapple plantations. Its low-rise architecture is a distinct relief from the unrestrained skyscrapers of UAE cities. The Dhofar region has been famous for millennia for its production of frankincense, that irresistible, aromatic, plant-based resin. The iconic incense burner can be seen everywhere.

So my companion and I took a bus to Al Haffa Souk for browsing, a familiar spot from previous trips and just the right place for gifts. Here was quite the sales pitch for frankincense:

In fact, the aroma became so overpowering in the souk alleys in the stifling heat that soon we opted for cold drinks and coffee in the shaded streetside cafe. Waiting for the return bus, another buddy with respiratory trouble was suffering even more than I was.

What happened next was quite unreal. We and the entire market street were startled by a horrendous metallic crash. Immediately a crowd of men surged into chasing an SUV with a smashed fender that came to a sudden, erratic stop opposite me. An angry-looking young man slammed out of the vehicle to confront the shouts. Fender bender, we thought. Such a busy street. Let's not gawk.

After the chaos began to make sense, we learned that the speeding young man had just run over and killed two of our ship passengers, who'd been unloading from a bus. Third person seriously injured. Smashed the bus door almost off its hinges. And then he had not tried to stop. The outraged crowd that materialized so fast had somehow forced him to a halt.

Police, ambulances, witness interviews; counselling provided for fellow passengers. Terse newspaper reports that the arrested perpetrator not from the Dhofar region they emphasized had been speeding, with no driver's licence! Much later, the survivor who'd lost his wife gave his own account:

Imagine the pall over the remainder of the cruise. This beautiful, peaceful country that I love has its flaws.

© 2018 Brenda Dougall Merriman