John Henry lowry was my Great grand father, he was a ships captain in the 1890's from St.Mawes in Cornwall. My family are custodians of his private diaries and I have begun to develop work based on the writings and drawings he made so long ago. This is a long, ongoing project which has become very important to me. From the glimpses of his life and the struggles he faced it is actually helping put my own fathers struggles with dememtia into some sort of context, he was also John Henry Lowry, he passed away on August 24th 2014. As I try to make something solid from words and narratives from long ago- it helps strengthen the bond to my father and reinforce my connection to him.

The old John Henry Lowry could spend over 100 days at a time at sea.  Circumnavigating the globe, his existence was perilous. His journal has linked me to a fragile and delicate echo of a hard life, if he had perished at that time, I would not be here. Because of my fathers illness, my great grandfather’s stories now are more prescient to me rather than just a family history. His are tales of resillience and survival, of bravery and compassion, a life and legacy passed on.

My great grandfather survived hurricanes, ice bergs, starvation and thirst. He caught albatross and dolphins to eat and circumnavigated the globe without radio or radar. He went from the sail to the steam age and was captured by a German U boat in 1917 as his ship was sunk in the Irish sea. He was a prisoner of war until 1918. He travelled under the channel for three weeks, a captive of the German U boat commander, his family believed him dead.

His diaries are full of inspirational tales and whispers of marvellous things as was my own dear father - watch this space for more

More here on my facebook page 

see a painting of the Fontenaye here

Julia Mckenzie




The perilous sea voyages of J.H.L - screen printed laser cut- 90x67cm 2013

click on the titles to see more and enlarge the images



The Fontenaye  laser cut & screen print. A ship trapped in paper 2014


Great Grandfather, my grandfather and great great grandfather

all John Henry


SS Penhale, great grandfather's ship that was torpedoed off the coast of Southern Ireland in 1917. One life was lost, the crew were cast away in life boats and JHL taken prisoner



           The Homecoming - 2014

             Hand cut admiralty chart with sepia ink drawing and watercolour



              close up


            close up


   John Henry in the 1900's


JHL indentity card



 The albatross dinner- ink and watercolour on ocean thermal chart 2014


The albatross dinner - close up


diary transcription- ' A terrible time'


My Father, John Henry born 1927


JHL prisoner of war card, swearing on his honour as a gentleman that he will not try to escape