Book Review: Ghosts of Rosevear and the Wreck of the Nancy Packet
Ghosts of Rosevear and the Wreck of the Nancy Packet
by Todd Stevens and Edward Cumming
210 pages, £12
The wreck of the East India packet ship, Nancy, is linked with a legendary haunting of Rosevear Island in the Isles of Scilly (UK) where the ship was lost. This book covers the modern-day search for the wreck by divers, the legend and the history of the wreck and the lives of those who died.
The book is a collaboration between Todd Stevens and Edward Cumming, both enthusiastic divers and shipwreck historians.
The Isles of Scilly are the most Southwesterly point of the British Isles, and a noted diving area. It is famous for its many shipwrecks.
The first part of the book tells the tale of the haunted island, and the life of the woman supposed to be doing the haunting. She was actress Ann Cargill, who led what was then considered to be a scandalous life. She was a child actress, eloped with various men before becoming prenant by a man not her husband: ships captain John Haldane. They ended up in India until the British Prime Minister, no less, decided that her behaviour was such that she be sent home.
The haunting part of the story orginates from lighthouse builders living on Rosevear, the last landfall in the Atlantic between England and America.
Towards the end of the book is the story of how the two authors and their diving friends discovered the wreckage of the Nancy, using newspaper reports of the day and their own local knowledge.
The book is partly factual and partly the authors' imaginings of what might have been said, thought and done by the participants. It contains many photos and illustrations and is well researched.
For those diving, holidaying or living in the Scilly Islands this book is worth buying. The topic is perhaps too specialised to be of interest to a wider readership. Also I would have preferred either a purely novelised account of the shipwreck and people involved, or for the book to be just factual without the fictionalisation. The two together didn't really work for me.
About the Author
Todd Stevens was "an East London drop out heading nowhere". He and his brothers took up diving with the BSAC in Northampton in 1979 and he credits the sport keeping him "on the straight and narrow ever since". In 1999 he moved to the Isles of Scilly to hunt out undiscovered shipwrecks and found the stern of Colossus in May of that same year. Later he wrote a book about his experiences with the Colossus. Along with his wife Carmen, who is also a keen diver, he is now head of a small team that actively hunts for undiscovered historic wreck sites. Read our interview with Todd Stevens. Ed Cumming has over 40 years diving experience and relocated to Scilly from Weymouth in 2005.
The Ghosts of Rosevear is available by sending a cheque for £12 (including p&p) made payable to CUAU to Todd Stevens, Ghosts of Rosevear, Pilot's Retreat, St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, TR21 0NA. Alternatively visit the web site at ghostsofrosevear.co.uk/.