Captain Alfred Ernest Horton of Poole, Dorset (1883-1974) had a long and varied career at sea. He came from a farming background in Kent and describes his childhood in the 1880s and 1890s (MS 4000/5/1/10/5-6). He left school aged 12 years and started his career at sea aged 14 years on barges before moving onto larger coasting vessels and brigantines. By 1901 he was working on coasting vessels and brigantines in the winter and schooner yachts in the summer (MS 4000/5/1/10/7-15). Horton talks in detail about his experiences on long distant trips abroad, including around Cape Horn, on large sailing ships in contrast to being in local waters on coasting vessels in the 'Sailing Ships' interviews (MS 4000/5/1/10/1-4). He also describes the wreck of the SS Antinous on the coast of Portugal, Jan 1922 during this sequence of tapes (MS 4000/5/1/10/3). Horton had an ambitious sailing career and the interviews document his decision to replace voyages on sailing ships with steamers c1907 on which he continued to travel all over the world (MS 4000/5/1/10/9). Horton also refers to the nautical examinations he took during his career (MS 4000/5/1/10/3,7,9). The last set of recordings (MS 4000/5/10/1/16-19) largely comprise Horton singing sea shanties, often with Charles Parker joining in or prompting him. The recordings also include a live theatre production of Joseph and His Technicolour Dreamcoat (MS 4000/5/1/10/16) and a choir singing various songs live at Sidmouth Folk Festival (MS 4000/5/1/10/17)
The first four interviews are conducted by Philip Donnellan, the BBC Documentary Producer for material for his film 'Sailing Ships' in 1971. See MS 4000/3/13 for written documentation on the television documentary film 'Sailing Ships' and MS 4000/1/7/9 for notes to Charles Parker by Philip Donnellan about his interviews with Horton where Donnellan clarifies that Horton always identified himself as a working class coaster rather than as a 'Cape Horner'
The remainder of the interviews are conducted by Charles Parker and the recordings appear to have been intended for broadcast by Charles Parker with the BBC (see MS 4000/1/7/9 for correspondence and songs connected with the interviews of Captain Horton by Charles Parker and notebooks kept by Captain Horton of his voyages). Charles Parker is particularly interested in the sea shanties that Horton sang, Horton's own poetry and writings, his way of life on the sea and naval colloquialisms.
Captain Horton also contributed to a television documentary film 'Before The Mast' produced by Philip Donnellan, which was first broadcast on BBC2 in December 1971. Horton did not himself appear in the film but he lent relevant items and photographs, provided contact for the producers with the 'Cape Horners of Bournemouth' (other sailors who remember voyages on sailing ships at turn of the 19/20th century) and provided detail for the Cape Horner sequences in the film. Material on 'Before The Mast' and references to the contribution of Captain Horton can be seen in the Philip Donnellan collection deposited in Birmingham City Archives (MS 1938).
arrangement: The tapes are arranged as follows:
MS 4000/5/1/10/1-4 'Sailing Ships' interviews Jun 1971
MS 4000/5/1/10/5-15 Interviews re childhood and
career at sea on barges, coasting
vessels and brigantines, sailing ships Dec 1972
MS 4000/5/1/10/16-19 Interviews re career at sea; singing
sea shanties; Sidmouth Folk Festival Jul-Aug 1973