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Harbour Head

Peter Anson
Date Published
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The first of two volumes of memoirs by monk, writer and artist Peter Frederick Anson, Harbour Head was published in 1944 and deals with the first part of the author’s unsettled life, trying to balance his religious vocation and his love for the sea.

Born in Southsea, the son of a rear admiral, islands, ships and sailors always exerted a strong hold on Anson. His memoirs combine his distinctive talents for writing and drawing to create a unique record of the two great loves of his life: the sea and the church. Anson’s meticulously observed line drawings (thirteen in this volume) have an inimitable character, informative and touching, gossipy and camp. Many of Anson’s drawings of ships are preserved in the National Maritime Museum.

Anson lived for some years at Harbour Head on the Baffshire shores, hence the title of this volume of his memoirs, and became involved with burgeoning Scottish Nationalism. In Harbour Head Anson chronicles the constant changes of direction that were the defining feature of his eccentric character, from a peripatetic childhood taking trips to sea with his father, through his early training as an architect and his first foray into the monastic life with the Benedictines on Caldey Island and subsequent trips researching the lives of fisherman in Italy, Canada, France and Scandinavia.

Anson himself wryly described his life of extreme vicissitudes as ‘a long life on a choppy sea’. The skill of Anson’s writing and his draftsmanship make Harbour Head an invaluable portrait of a world of seafaring that all but disappeared in the late twentieth century.


Peter Frederick Anson (1889-1975) was born in Southsea, the son of a Rear Admiral with strong ties to the Church of England and the monarchy and on his mother’s family’s side, strong ties to Scotland. Throughout his life Anson would live out the tensions between these early influences of the sea, the Church and Scotland and his attempts to reconcile…

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