|Abstract||E. Arnot Robertson was little more than a girl when she came to the Island in the early twenties, she had been
lent the Dutch boat owned by James McBey, the famous etcher. He had met her in London, he had painted a picture
of her that was accepted and hung in the Royal Academy and named 'A portrait of a red haired girl'.
E. Arnot Robinson was literally inclined and James McBey had lent her his boat for the winter so that she could pursue this activity. Her stay on the boat ended when she broke her arm riding. Living a life on the water as she had, she turned a dinghy into a home by adding a top to it, and had to lie down on her bunk to use her typewriter.
She had the most magnetic personality and dominated any gathering with her sparkling and brilliant wit, she was a
wonderful after dinner speaker, good tempered, a sense of humour, enjoyed a joke against herself.
On one occasion she was helping Sidney Hewes paint a dinghy on the Hard, he noticed that when she bent down she had
a large hole in her white slacks, and he dabbed her with white paint, saying 'let's keep you all the same colour'.
Although so fond of the water the amenities on her boat restricted her from using it, she had a great jest for life [sic],
light hearted and gay. From time to time she asked me the name of yachts that anchored in the fleets, often I wondered
if she was in dead earnest or tongue in cheek, any strange yacht stuck out like a sore finger.
The Victory was the only place offering hospitality so I was able to impart this information, she would row in the
vicinity of the visiting yacht, drop an oar and appear to be in difficulties, which usually finished in meeting the
owner and an invitation to dinner. She quickly learned to handle a boat, learning ost of her seamanship from
Brigger Potter who owned the auxiliary cutter NEPTUNE. She used to crew for him, he was a confirmed batchelor but
fell in love with her. She changed her mind, which was a great hurt to Brigger.
At the annual suppoer of the Dabchicks which was held at the Victory, the menu always the same and consisted of an
individual steak kidney and oyster pudding, she practically devastated the assembly with a very description poem
"The Mersea Drains and Taffy the Welshman". Unfortunately these poems were lost when the first building of the
Mersea Sailing Club was destroyed in the early thirties. She also wrote 'Bill the Bold' which I still have.
From then on she began to write many famous novels, I believe the first one 'Four Frightened People' was turned into
a film with great financial success. Among her activities apart from that of author of popular novels, she became well
known on Radio and Television. She had a happily married life which lasted until the early sixties, this ended with the
death of her husband who was drowned off their yacht on the Thames. Not long after this we read of her mysterious
and sudden death. An unhappy ending to this red haired girl who I had known in her youth who made such a brilliant
life for herself.
Winifred spells James McBey as James MacBay.
The title name in the transcription of Winifred's notes is E. Arnot Robinson, but it clearly refers to E. Arnot Robertson.
'Mersea Sailing Club destroyed' probably refers to the fire at the first Sailing and Social Club which had been converted from Arthur Hempstead's shed.
See also "Three came unarmed" from Mistral Magazine 1990.