January 14, 2005

The Sea Wolf

Speedy takes El Gamo, May 6, 1801

I like this. Tim Worstall brings news of a ceremony in the Catalan town of Roses honoring Thomas, Lord Cochrane, the real-life inspiration for both Horatio Hornblower and Lucky Jack Aubrey.

I happen to have a copy of Cochrane's autobiography and can heartily endorse Tim's suggestion that you read it. One thing that distinguishes Cochrane from both Hornblower and Aubrey - he was a manic, flamboyant self-publicist. Also, as I recall, Patrick O'Brian was at least agnostic about Cochrane's innocence with respect to his stock-rigging trial, even though O'Brian made Jack Aubrey completely so.

One other thing - The first Aubrey/Maturin novel, Master and Commander, reaches its climax with a fight between the little 14-gun brig Sophie and the 32-gun Spanish xebec-frigate, Cacafuego. (BTW, is O'Brian really making the crude joke I think he is with that name?) This action is taken literally shot for shot from Cochrane's own exploit. His ship was named the Speedy and the Spanish ship was named El Gamo.

UPDATE: Found a painting of the action between the Speedy and El Gamo. Here is a little more biographical info about Cochrane straight from the Royal Navy.

Posted by Robert at January 14, 2005 12:20 PM

What crude joke? As I speak no Spanish I don’t see it....although I would point out that Castilian is rather different from Mexican or Cuban.

Posted by: Tim Worstall at January 14, 2005 12:39 PM

Well, "fuego" is "fire" of course. And in the Tex-Mex of my youth, "caca" was slang for "doody." So I always wondered whether the translation of Cacafuego should be "sh*t-fire."

Posted by: Robert the LB at January 14, 2005 01:14 PM

I interpreted it as "flaming bag of poo."

Posted by: The Colossus at January 15, 2005 08:24 PM

This page discusses Drake capturing a Spanish galleon named Cacafuego, which it translates as "Fireball."

Probably where O'Brian got the name.

Posted by: The Colossus at January 15, 2005 08:29 PM

I have written, I believe, the ultimate book on Cochrane, having spent two terms in England researching archives and in Greece, Brazil and Chile. My book is in Spanish."Mas alla de la audacia" My blood boils when I read O'Brian who believes Spanish sailors were lazy, incompetent, scoundrels. The officers corrupt, inept and cowardly. These are not the characteristics that Lord Cochrane describes in his reports, letters and books. Cacafuego was a ship captured by Drake off Esmeraldas Ecuador in 1576. The name was Nuestra señora de la Concepción, nicknamed probably, "cagafuego" not "cacafuego". There have been other ships named "lanzafuego" or "fire thrower" it could have been a mild expledit for the orignal "fire shitter".

Posted by: Clopez at June 12, 2005 03:43 PM
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