Last time I focussed on Demon’s Rocks and the lighthouse. This time it’s going to be all about Jeremiah Boogle and the wreckers.
All about Jeremiah Boogle
Jeremiah Boogle is one of a few similar characters Blyton gives us. The sort of very old man who loves to sit and tell stories about times long past. Often they get past and present muddled up. Sometimes they are very crotchety and have little time for the youth of the day, but of course the Five are so polite and well-mannered that they are exempt from this scorn.
We first hear of JB as I will call him from his great grandson George Jackson, who drives the Five plus Tinker and Mischief to Demon’s Rocks.
I was born at Demon’s Rocks. My old great-grandad is still in the same cottage where I was born. My word—the stories he used to tell me of that old light-house…
You ought to look up my old great-grandad, and get him to tell you his tales…
Ask for Jeremiah Boogle. You’ll find him sitting some where on the quay, smoking a long pipe, and scowling at anyone that comes nigh him. But he likes children, so don’t you be afraid of his scowl. He’ll tell you a few tales, will my old great-grandad!
The Five find JB, sitting at the docks with his pipe just as described. JB is not so complementary about his great grandson, however. George seems a perfectly friendly and capable young man until you hear JB talk about him.
That’s more than that silly young great-grandson of mine can! He don’t know nothing, nothing at all—except about cars. Well, who wants cars, nasty, smelly noisy things? Pah! That young George Jackson is a ninny.
However he quickly gets on to his stories of wreckers and regales them with some fine tales – see below for more on that. From what Tom the Tobacconist says, it would appear that the locals think that JB is a bit of a fantasist. They are probably too young to remember or have witnessed the wreckings, and the fact that he holds a grudge against the wreckers’ descendants is probably a source of amusement to them. Still, he seems well-respected and liked.
I did a some maths to work out JB’s age (and the timeframe for the wreckings) based on the information we are given throughout the book. There’s a propensity for children to think anyone over the age of about thirty is ancient, but Blyton’s old men are usually genuinely very old.
I began with the assumption that the story is set around 1961 – the year of publication. Tom the tobacconist says that JB never forgets anything, even if it happened 80 or more years ago, so we can assume he is at least 83, putting his birth around the late 1870s. Tom also says that the wrecking business occurred nearly 70 years ago, so in the 1890s. JB told the children that he was not much older than Tinker at the time, so around 10-12 perhaps. This ties in, as in the early 1890s, a 12 year old would have been born in the late 1870s. None of the dates are exact – there are lots of ‘nigh ons’ and JB is estimating Tinker’s age so it could be a few years either way.
Anyway – he’s clearly sprightly for his age as he gives the children a tour of the underground caves, breaks down the lighthouse door with his shoulder (alongside a policeman) and is even nimble enough to avoid being rushed at by one of his arch enemies.
All about the Three Wreckers
The present-day bad-uns of Demon’s Rocks, who the Five have some run-ins with, aren’t wreckers, but they are descendants of the wreckers.
Jacob and Ebeneezer Loomer (this is the first time I’ve actually noticed they have a surname!) give tours of the wreckers’s caves at Demon’s Rocks and boost their income with a little petty theft from time to time. (Though the policeman says that Jacob is a fool as well as a rogue and might have given the things stolen from the Five away…)
I think I’ve always thought the tours were their job – these two fellows he spits at have the job of showing people round the caves here—especially the Wreckers’ Cave (Tom the Tobacconist is a font of local knowledge). But later Julian asks JB is they have to pay to go in the caves, and he answers No. People give Ebenezer a tip – a shilling or so—if he shows them round—or Jacob, when he’s there. That makes it sound a bit less organised or official than a job. The Five also find out that Jacob and Ebeneezer have dressed up the main wrecker’s cave with some old boxes and so on, pretending they are genuine. They also only take the visitors so far in as they are afraid to go too far into the caves.
Anyway, they are descendants from the Three Wreckers – One-Ear Bill, and his son Nosey and nephew Bart. One-Ear’s name reportedly came from his ear being chewed off by a monkey. All three were hated and fears in the Demon’s Rocks community.
JB tells them that back in his day there was no lighthouse at Demon’s Rocks, but instead a warning light would be lit on the cliffs to tell ships to stay out to sea and avoid the dangerous rocks. In a similar plot to Five Go Down to the Sea – but with more personality as the wreckers have names and identities – the wreckers move the light to force shipwrecks which they can then plunder. At first the wreckers just took from any ships that happened to crash but then they got greedy and began to cause them. I don’t know why but that somehow just makes it all worse.
They went to prison in the end – thanks to JB telling the police about them – but their treasures were never found. One-Ear Bill had hidden them – somewhere that not even Nosey or Bart could find them, and then One-Ear Bill died in prison. JB has hunted for the treasure (even though he doubts anything was ever hidden there), as did Bart and Nosey along with hundreds or maybe thousands of tourists but not a single thing has ever been found. Until the Five show up, naturally.
Next time – all about Uncle Quentin and Professor Hayling