Figurehead
8 July 2021
At The Box… learning about the age of sail.

At the museum the other day… and learned a few things. The origin of the word ‘figurehead’ – the carved character placed on the bow (that’s the front, right?) of the ship. This figurehead would travel with the ship everywhere it went – seeing action, seeing the crew come and go, seeing storms and weather and wind. And then, when ships were destroyed and decommissioned, it was said that the soul of a ship was in the figurehead. So they would be salvaged, and memorialized in a harbour or harbourmaster’s office somewhere. Use the term figurehead, these days, and you really imply something, or specifically, someone, unimportant. “He’s associated with the cause, but he’d just a figurehead.” And yet figureheads were said to hold the soul, at one stage. Seems in life, the more things stay the same, the more they change.

Peter van der Walt is a fiction author, although you may find some non-fiction and the odd essay out there. Fans can find his newsletter, posts, updates and developments at petervanderwalt.com. Currently, he is hard at work on his next story. When not writing, he has far too many interests to reasonably keep up with. He lives with his partner in Devon, England.