Off Hats!

I always love the reading from Mark: 10:13-16; ‘Let the little children come to me.’

Over many years I am slowly ploughing through Patrick O’Brien’s twenty Aubrey & Maturin books. The characters are often becalmed, tacking slowly towards port. The wealth of eighteenth-century detail is so tight packed that sometimes I only read only one page before going to sleep.

In The Reverse of the Medal, there is a most moving passage when Aubrey is put on trial, shaved, and put in the pillory.

The man was slowly fumbling with the bolt, hinge and staple [of the pillory] and as Jack stood there with his hands in the lower half rounds, his sight cleared. He saw that the broad street was filled with silent men… all perfectly recognisable as seamen… He heard the clack of the bolt and then, in the dead silence, a strong voice cry ‘off hats!’ With one movement, hundreds of broad brimmed hats flew off and the cheering began.

I could hardly stop a tear rolling down my cheek.