After three old books edited by Sir Richard Carnac Temple, I thought it would make a nice contrast to feature a very new book today. Gill Blanchard’s Lawson Lies Still in the Thames: The Extraordinary Life of Vice-Admiral Sir John Lawson was a book I eagerly awaited publication last year. I love the title that comes from the first entry in Samuel Pepys’ diary.
I learned Gill was writing this book as I joined her Writing Your Family History workshops. Knowing that she was doing so provided the encouragement I needed to write Thomas Bowrey’s biography. I had asked Gill if she had any previous naval history experience and was cheered to learn that, like me, she had not. Having always had an interest in both London and the period, I was so surprised to learn about the incident described in the title. I had never previously read about it. It is amazing how many books about the Commonwealth period do not mention it.
As the publication date approached, I discovered in parallel that Thomas’ father and uncle had served in the Commonwealth Navy at the same time as Lawson. In fact, his father had been part of the blockade referred to in the book’s title.
The book was not a disappointment. The result of a chance archive find, it is well researched and accessible to anyone. Unlike so many books written by experts in the events of the period, you do not need an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Civil War and Commonwealth period to understand Lawson’s story. I can recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the period, who enjoys biography or is intrigued by how a life can be pieced together from careful research in archives – in fact, it should appeal to anyone who is looking forward to Thomas’ biography. His and Lawson’s stories are very different but have these elements in common.