Friday, September 12, 2008

Captain A. E. Dingle

Out of the Wreck (Wildside Press, 2006)

As Captain Dingle led me a merry chase all yesterday evening I thought I'd share my confusion.

In what I laughingly call my spare time I'm doing a lot of background research for the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. You can probably guess how far I've gotten...

Captain Dingle wrote primarily under two names, the abbreviated Captain A. E. Dingle and the pseudonym "Sinbad". He wrote mostly adventurous yarns of the sea for British and American story papers and pulps. Nowadays he's almost forgotten except by pulp collectors and Sherlock Holmes buffs. To the latter he was the author of a Holmes pastiche entitled "Watson!" which appeared in Short Stories, 10 October 1921. He was a popular author in his time, a reviewer of one of his novels remarking that "This Captain Dingle is really a captain, a deep sea sailorman, and more than that he is a story teller par excellence. The Flying Kestrel pulsates with the pounding of the seas on battened hatches, it thrums with the singing of the gales through bellying topgallants and taut braced hemp and it exults in the sailor-craft of a master mariner ... It's like "Two Years Before the Mast" and Morgan Robertson and Conrad rolled into one. And it's dollars to doughnuts after you have raced through it once, you'll turn right back to the first page and begin again." (Egbert S. Turner, 'Browsing in Literary Fields', Syracuse Herald, 26 June 1927)

Wildside Press have put out a couple of his books in recent years but there's very little about him on the web beyond a handful of books for sale and the occasional mention of his Sherlockian connection.

His name in full was Aylward Edward Dingle and in reference works it's pretty well established that he was born in Oxford in 1874 and died on 30 October 1947. A quick check with death records showed that he died in Kerrier, Cornwall, aged 74.

Which bit of information meant at least half an hour's work, because 1947 minus 74 years doesn't make 1874. So I checked for his birth and couldn't find it mentioned anywhere between 1870-1875. In fact, there's no record of anyone called Aylward Dingle ever being born. I could see my evening slipping away.

Here's where luck plays a part in the story: last month, a Bermuda newspaper called the Royal Gazette carried an article on the celebrations surrounding the 100th birthday of Muriel Ethel ("Bubbles") Gauntlett. Mrs. Gauntlett was born in Oxford in 1908 and was the daughter of... Captain Aylward Dingle. A quick search proved that Muriel Ethel Dingle was registered as being born in Headington, near Oxford. The article also mentioned Muriel's mum (Marion) and sister (Doris) who was two years older. And some family stories...

The Dingle family moved from Oxford to Staten Island, New York, when Muriel was about two years old, where her father pursued his career as an author of novels and magazine articles about the sea. "These were well received at the time and, apart from hardships during wartime, provided a good living for the family."

In 1918, Captain Dingle became weary of trying to make a comfortable life for his family in a climate that was bitterly cold in the winter, often without the means to heat his home because of war-time shortages of fuel.

He began to long for a warmer, gentler climate in which to work and raise his family, and on August 13, 1918 he set sail for Bermuda in his small boat The Gauntlet, its name later having great significance in Bubbles's life.

Captain Dingle made his solo voyage to Bermuda accompanied only by his dog Trixie, and is believed to be the first man to have sailed this route single-handedly.

He reached Bermuda on September 9, much to the relief of his anxious family who had travelled to Bermuda a few weeks prior to this voyage on a converted destroyer.

Captain Dingle was near starvation when he was towed into Hamilton Harbour by the American Coast Guard, after enduring the most extreme hurricane conditions at sea which blew him off course, causing great delay and hardship that nearly took his life.
The Dingle family then settled in Bermuda where Captain Dingle did much of his writing on Marshall's Island. His two daughters were educated and later employed on the island. Muriel was married to Ernest Gauntlett (hence the comment above about the significance of the name).

Next port of call (there's a joke in there somewhere) was the immigration records for New York, which recorded the arrival of a Muriel Dingle and her older sister Doris on two occasions in 1911 and 1912. However, mum's name turned out to be Ethel M. Dingle rather than just Marion.

So is there any record of a Dingle marrying someone called Ethel Marion in the UK...? Why yes, there is: in 1904 Ethel Marion Tuckey married one Albert Edward Dingle. That's Albert, not Aylward.

In 1901, Albert Dingle appears in the census records as a 21-year-old able seaman in the Royal Navy, born in St. Clement's, Oxford..

In 1891, there are two Albert Dingles listed as being born in Oxford aged 11. Albert E. Dingle was the son of Robert C. and Sarah Dingle. Jamie Sturgeon has pointed me to Dingle's entry in Who Was Who in which "Aylward's" parents are named as Robert Charles Dingle and his wife Sarah Ann (nee Cotterell). In the 1881 census Robert C. is listed as being a "shopman / ropemaker", living with his wife Sarah, 4-year-old daughter Annie E. and 2-year-old son Albert E. Father and mother were married in Oxford in 1876, and there is an Albert Edward Dingle registered as being born in Oxford in 1879.

Who Was Who reveals that Dingle first went to sea at the age of 14 and commanded both sail and steam ship until the age of 40. He began writing for American magazines, eventually returning to England in 1930. As well as writing novels and short stories, he was a frequent broadcaster and sailed his own schooner yacht in ocean races. At various times in his life he built gasworks, managed a rope factory (perhaps his father's?), was footman for J. Pierpont Morgan (the American financier), sold dictionaries to Negroes living in New York and was a labourer in Thames Ironworks shipyard.

In 1944, and now living in Cornwall, Dingle married for a second time, to Dorothy A ("Nan") Fessenden. He died only a few years later.

However, this still doesn't explain why his second marriage and death were registered as Aylward or his age at death was listed as 74. Was Aylward an official change of name? And if I'm right about Albert being born in 1879, he would have been 68 or thereabouts when he died. Mysteries for another day.

Ships of Strife (Wildside Press, 2006)

UPDATE: 18 September 2008

I stumbled upon the following biographical sketch by Dingle which appeared in a column entitled "The Men Who Make The Argosy" dated 12 November 1932.
I was born in Oxford, England, of parents who not only thought poverty no crime, but actually seemed to be proud of it. I ate bread and lard for my school luncheon for a good many years, wore my father’s old togs and my mother’s old shoes. My father was a retired whaler turned itinerant preacher, and was a hard old man.

All the school I got was common day school to the age of fourteen. Then the sea. I sailed in British ships for twenty-two years from boy to master. Commanded two steamers in the Cape and Australian trade, and one bark. Was mate of a full-rigged ship, second mate of another, quartermaster in the only windjammer I ever knew to carry one, and able seaman in yet another famous old clipper.

After nearly a quarter of a century afloat, and five shipwrecks, I had a steamer blown up under me, and thereafter failed to connect with the sea as master, and my eyes were too poor to go through the grades again; so I had to seek new employment at the age of nearly forty, with a small family to take care of. A friend in New York wrote me in England that I could get work in America; so I sold my home, left the cash with the family, and worked my passage over on a steamer as a waiter.

I washed automobiles for Gimbel’s for two dollars a night, and was fired because I fell asleep in a car after trying to sell dictionaries in Jersey all day. I packed groceries for one of New York’s biggest stores, at ten dollars a week.

I got a job sweeping out offices; and the boss persuaded me to go to his country home and run a little motorboat. He bribed me by advancing the money to get my family out, and I fell. I was freight wrestler and milkman, had to keep in order a stinking motorboat for which I had only hatred, and was expected to polish brass and varnish, carry express bundles and cases of milk, and look like a yachtsman. I wasn’t fired; I was taken back to the office, which was part of the bargain I had insisted upon. I earned seventy-five dollars a month, running a calculating machine and a battery of files.

Two years that lasted. Then at a dinner to which I was invited, where every man had to tell a story about himself, an editor man told me I ought to write, and he’d like to see something.

I wrote something. He said it was fine, but he couldn’t read it. I’d have to type it. I had never seen a typewriter near enough to touch it. I tried to get the thing typed. Cheapest offer was five dollars. I had no five dollars, and didn’t believe the story would bring that much money. Saw an ad offering ten days’ free trial on a reconstructed typewriter, and sent for it. Took all the ten days to pick out a card saying I had received it. Then I asked for more time, because I had not been able to try it out. They gave me ten days more. I wrote the story in that time and got sixty-five dollars for it! Typewriter cost thirty-five dollars. Paid for it and started as a pukka author. Sent my family home out of the first money I earned that would pay their second cabin fare. They could live on one third the cost over there.

Then I sat down to write in deadly earnest, and did not sell a line for thirteen months. I sold everything I owned, the collection of years of far wandering, to keep the family going. For myself, at one time I lived for a week on fifteen cents worth of beans, boiled without salt, and nothing else.

Nobody told me why every story I wrote failed, until another editor man said he’d like to see me. He gave me a hint which opened my eyes to the fact that fiction is made, not born, and I soon began to sell stories. I have two daughters who are both threatening matrimony. I have published five books.
I also note that Black Dog Books are shortly to put out a collection of Dingle's pulp stories under the title Old Sails.


Novels as Captain Dingle

Gold Out of Celbes. Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1920.
Wide Waters. New York, Brentano's, c.1924.
The Flying Kestrel. New York, G. H. Watt, 1927; London, William Heinemann, 1928.
Fathomless. New York, Henry Waterson Co., 1927; London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1930.
Sea Worthy. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1929; Boston & New York, Houghton Mifflin Co., 1930.
Tares. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1930.
The Silver Ship. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1931.
Ships of Strife. Rockville, MD, Wildside Press, 2006.

Out of the Wreck. Rockville, MD, Wildside Press, 2005.
Old Sails. Normal, IL, Black Dog Books,

Novels as "Sinbad"
Red Saunders. The chronicle of a genial outcast. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1934; as Salt of the Sea, Red Saunders, Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1934.
Yellow Half-Moons. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1936.
Not Wisely. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1936.
Mary, First Mate. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1937.
Nor Breed Nor Birth. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1937.
Mock Star. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1938.
Nita of Martinique. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1938.
Old Glory. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1938.
Adrift. London, Stanley Paul & Co., 1939.
The Bomb Ship. London, Robert Hale, 1942.
Calamity Jock. London, Robert Hale, 1943.
Pirates May Fly. London, Robert Hale, 1943.
Desert Island Discord. London, 1944.
"Black Joker". London, Robert Hale, 1946.
The Age-Old Kingdom. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1947.
The Petrel's Path. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1947.
Reckless Tide. London, Robert Hale, 1947.
The Corpse Came Back. London, Robert Hale, 1948.
Out of the Blue. London, Hutchinson & Co., 1948.
Moonshine and Moses. London, Robert Hale, 1949.
Cave of Stars. London, Robert Hale, 1950.
Magnolia Island. London, Robert Hale, 1952.
Sargasso Sam. London, Robert Hale, 1952.
Sword of Tortuga. Beaufort, N.C., Pirate Privateer Productions, 1992.

Collections as "Sinbad"
Spin a Yarn, Sailor. London, George G. Harrap, 1934; Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1935.
Pipe All Hands!. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1935; Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1935.
Sailors Do Care. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1936.
She Stories. London, Avon, 1994.

Novels as Brian Cotterell
Sinister Eden. London, George G. Harrap & Co., 1934; Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1934.

A Modern Sinbad: An Autobiography. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., Ltd., 1933; abridged [by J. Lennox Kerr], London, Guild Books, 1948; as Rough Hewn: The Autobiography of a modern Sinbad, New York, D. Appleton-Century Co., 1933.
Sinbad's Book of Pirates. London, G. G. Harrap & Co., 1935; Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott Co., 1936.

(* My thanks to Jamie Sturgeon for the d/j of Out of the Blue.)


  1. Hi!
    Thanks for this very well-researched post! I've actually run across it whilst trying to find a Captain A. E. Dingle identified on the convenyance of a piece of property here in The Bahamas, where I live. I believe Capt. Dingle may have been a friend of my grandfather or great-grandfather.
    In your research, did you happen to find any link to the Bahamas?
    Thanks for your help!

    1. I’m Aylward Dingle’s great-granddaughter - he was shipwrecked in an island in the Bahamas with his 2nd wife, Nan. There’s a rumor that he won (and subsequently lost) a Bahamian island in a poker game.

  2. Hi, excellent work on Dingle! Much appreciated. I was reading a very old edition of "A Modern Sinbad" and was intrigued to know more about him. You supplied what I wanted to know.
    Thanks a lot.
    John du Plessis (Ballito, South Africa)

  3. I am a great fan of this author - his 'Spin a Yarn Sailor' doing more to encourage my own enthusiasm for writing than any other work. But wasn't Dingle left almost permanently blinded from dazzling sheet ice he faced on a long watch as a youngster?

  4. In answer to bahamablonde, Yes, Captain Dingle's address (in 1919 anyway) was Cove Cottage, Pembroke West, Bermuda. This appeared in the "Ask Adventure" column of ADVENTURE magazine, where they listed experts on various topics who had agreed to answer readers' questions. Captain Dingle was ADVENTURE's expert on "Islands and Coasts", and one of their two experts on "The Sea".

  5. This is very interesting. Bought a Sinbad book today (Fathomless), published by Arrow in, I'd guess, the 60s. I was intrigued by the cover, but had never heard of him. Other Google results show that Capt Dingle was on Desert Island Discs on Thu 12 Mar 1942 - can't listen to it, unfortunately, but the DID website gives his choices.

  6. Thanks for this great research! I've been a fan of Dingle (aka Sinbad) since picking up a copy of Pipe All Hands from a second-hand bookstore discount bin here in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It seems Dingle also had a Halifax connection - he sailed in here in the mid-thirties, I believe, having lost his wife overboard on a voyage from New England. Her body was never found.

    1. He had a much-loved girlfriend who went overboard. Nan was her best friend and went to collect her belongings -she met Sinbad, fell in love and they had a wonderful life together. Nan died in Clearwater, FL.

  7. Hi,

    Thank you so much for all your research. I am Captain Dingles Great Great Granddaughter. I have been researching parts of our family history and am thoroughly interested in him as a character. My grandfather (Dingles Grandson) was also a gifted writer as is my mother (just wish it wore off on me!)

    As a relation I feel I really must read his work and, with such positive comments from you all, I am eager to get started.

    Again, many thanks.


    1. Hi, Megan! I‘m Muriel’s (Bubbles) granddaughter, my mum is Betty, her oldest daughter. Who was your grandfather? Steve’s blog is fabulous!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Hi,
    I have a copy of The Petrels Path, which is an orange hardcover but is not dated inside. I thought it may have been a first edition, however in researching online it seems the first edition was a blue hardcover. Can anyone help me ?

    1. I have a blue-green copy, but it isn’t dated either. Published by Hutchinson & Co. Ltd printed by The Anchor Press Ltd

  10. Just read Dingle's account of being castaway on St Paul's Island in the Adventurers' Club 1935 anthology 'Call for Adventure'. Thrilling tale, great writer. I shall try to read more of him.

    Appreciate your biography here. Would like to read his autobiography A Modern Sinbad.

    Did you know in 1942, Dingle was one of the first guests on the BBC's enduring Desert Island Discs? A castaway with experience! Sadly, the recording is lost to posterity.


  11. Doing some searching before finding this site I found some fascinating articles that I posted at my Pulp Magazine Yahoo Group - DLS



    Steamship Now lies Almost a Hopeless Hulk on Coast.


    Had Been Running by Log In a Deep Fog, but Captain Fails to avoid Cape Race.

    "ST. JOHN'S. N. F., June 6 - Running through the fog at full speed, the Leyland line steamer Assyrian struck Cape Race just before midnight last night and jammed herself onto the rocks. It is probable that she has finished her last voyage. Her holds are full of water and she lies almost a hopeless hulk on the coast.

    When the steamer struck the rocks the crew, composed mainly of "Dutchmen," as sailors term Scandinavians, Germans and Hollanders, stampeded and scrambled for the lifeboats. The officers were helpless, only the proximity of land, on the port aide, forming a partial shelter, prevented a greater catastrophe. The crew had a most wretched experience in the boats in the night. They were not aware of their position and were in great danger of the ship's collapsing boats swamping.

    RUNNING BY THE LOG. For three days Captain Dingle of the Assyrian had been navigating by the log, and he had calculated upon a course rounding Cape Race thirty miles south of land. This plan, however, was frustrated by northerly currents.

    No fishing boats operate off Cape Race owing to the danger of being run down by such vessels. Consequently Captain Dingle had no warning. The Assyrian struck at 11:40 last night. Land had been sighted only a minute before. The fog was as dense as ink, and there was no time to reduce speed. The ship struck with a sidelong blow. Another 500 yards southeast would have carried her clear of all obstructions and enabled her to finish her voyage without injury. She struck the face of the cliff and was forced upon the outlying rocks. The impact tore out the bottom of the two forward holds. She heeled over to the starboard when her side glanced against the cliff.

    CREW CALMED DOWN. The crew at first was panic stricken, but after a time comparative calm was restored, and all precautions were taken to insure the safety of all on board.

    When the extent of her injuries was disclosed it was seen that she was badly damaged, but would outlast any except a severe storm. Some of the crew feared that the rear part of the ship would break off and that the hull would go to pieces, but no mishap occurred. The arrival of daylight enabled Captain Dangle to land the mates, who climbed the cliffs, proceeded to Cape Race station and telegraphed the news of the disaster.

    STEPS TO SAVE HER. At a late hour to-night it is not known what steps will be necessary to refloat the Assyrian, should that be possible. Three steamers and three divers are now on the way to the wreck, ready to begin operations to-morrow morning. The Merritt & Chapman Derrick and Wrecking Company have wired that they are ready to undertake the work of refloating her. The British owners are awaiting the report of the divers before acting.

    The Allan liner Siberian, from Philadelphia, will pass Cape Race to-morrow and will be signaled to give assistance.

    The Assyrian left Antwerp May 16 for Montreal. She is commanded by Captain Dingle. She is of 1,841 tons register. She carried a cargo of 2,000 tons. The steamship is 250 feet long, has 42 foot beam and is 23.2 feet deep. She was built In 1898.



    Suspended for Three Months For Lose of the Assyrian.

    "Trade inquiry into the loss of the Leyland line steamer Assyrian on June 5TH, near Cape Race, while on a voyage from Antwerp to Montreal, was concluded today. Her commander, Captain Dingle, was found responsible and was suspended for three months. The court calls attention to the danger of the Cape Race signal being mistaken for a steamer's whistle."

    ENJOY PULPS - David Lee Smith

  12. With a bit more searching I found the other unlucky Captain Dingle:


    Schooner Picked Up Adrift In Mid-Atlantic


    ??? of the Ship Wreck ... Two Children of the Captain Who had Spent Eight Days With the Body Their Father

    CAUZ, April 3 —The newspapers here report that the British schooner Robin Hood, Captain Dingle, from St. Johns, N. F., on Feb. 18 for Lisbon, has been brought into this port in an extraordinary manner.

    It appears that the schooner, which is only of 76 tons register, left Newfoundland in charge of her captain and owner and his two children, three persons in all. Captain Dingle died when the little craft was in the middle of the Atlantic and his two children were alone eight days on board the Robin Hood with the body of their father.

    At the expiration of that time the Robin Hood was sighted by the British schooner Janning, which ran alongside the drifting craft. On board of the latter the children were found in great distress.

    The Janning placed a seaman on board to pilot the Robin Hood on her course and into the nearest port, which turned out to be Cadis. The commander of the Janning also supplied the Robin Hood with water and provisions, of which the children stood in need.

    ST. JOHN, N. F., April 3.— The schooner Robin Hood left here on Feb. 18 bound for Lisbon with a cargo of fish shipped by Goodridge & Sons. They arrived there safely, discharged their cargo and then visited Cadis, where they took on board a cargo of salt and sailed for this port.

    Goodridge & Sons received a message apprising them of the return of the vessel to Cadis, Captain Dingle having died a few days ago. They were surprised to learn that the vessel had been in distress, and they knew nothing about the children reported in the press dispatch to have been onboard.

    While he was here Captain Dingle was twice before a magistrate on a charge of ill treating a boy named Holden, about 14 years old, who formed one of the crew. It is believed that he is perhaps one of the children mentioned. The ship's crew appeared discontented while they were here and it is thought possible that they may have abandoned the vessel. Goodridge & Sons have cabled, after having read the reads dispatch, for further particulars."

    ENJOY PULPS - David Lee Smith

  13. My mother, Bubbles Gauntlett, younger daughter of Captain Dingle, lived to be nearly 101, passing away on July 8, 2009. Her four children, Betty, Janet (myself), Judith and Ted are all living, all except Betty in Bermuda. I have always had a great fascination with my grandfather, and have quite a few of his books. It gives me great pleasure to read of others who are still interested in his life of adventure.

  14. I recently acquired an autograph book on Ebay. In it, I stumbled across a personalised poem written by A E Dingle to the owner of the autograph book, a girl, who was in Jamaica in January 1930.

    The poem reads "I'm glad that I got shipwrecked up there in the Bahamas - Because it brought me waydown here to Jamaica's ripe bananas,
    But no banana's half so jolly, As my Bermuda friend, sweet Molly."

    The poem concludes with his signature, plus "Jamaica, Jan 1930".

    I welcome any comments.

  15. What an intriguing little poem! I'm afraid I don't know anything about "Molly", but my grandfather A.E. Dingle was shipwrecked during a severe hurricane in the Bahamas in 1928, when he lost all of his possessions, including logs and records of his many adventures at sea. His daughters (my mother Bubbles and her sister Doris) kept him supplied with writing paper so that he could continue with his work, and I believe it was during this time that he wrote "A Modern Sinbad", his autobiography. Perhaps Molly was a friend of my mother's, who brought him some paper from Bermuda!
    Janet Percy

  16. Lee wrote on January 19, 2014, about his orange copy of The Petrel's Path, and whether it might be a first edition. My copy is orange also, still with a very good dust cover, with the price of 9s. 6d. printed on it. The accompanying invoice for £12.60 from a bookseller in Kent, UK, claims it is a first edition.
    Janet Percy

  17. During his time living in New York (1912 - 1918) Capt. Dingle shared a flat in East 14th Street with another British man called Gordon MacCreagh (together with the latter's pet snake, Billy). They both served in the US navy during World War I and MacCreagh followed Dingle's lead in becoming a pulp fiction writer. MacCreagh would eventually write some 120 stories of adventure and mystery. He also became a famous explorer and adventurer, big-game hunter, entomologist and political commentator. MacCreagh was the original Indiana Jones. Details of the lives of both men in New York can be found in the book Indiana MacCreagh, published in 2019.



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