In Clarence's Time - Thomas Cook and the Egypt trip

Written by Marcus Bicknell on .

416 Cooks Nile Cruise logoI wrote to Thomas Cook to ask for permisson to reproduce images of theirs in the biography of Clarence Bicknell by Valerie Lester due in 2018. I was delighted not only to get the approvals but also a charming letter from Paul Smith, the Archivist for Thomas Cook, with some useful information. I reproduce the email here in full as it might be of interest to historians of travel and to students of Clarence's life. I have corrected the transcript of Clarence's Egypt diary and added the salient points here to its footnotes and the annex. You can consult the new version by clicking on the following link:

Dear Marcus,

Happy New Year!

Many thanks for your recent email. Apologies for the delayed response, but I have been out of the office for the past two weeks.

In answer to your query, I have no objections to your reproducing the photo of the Oonas that you found online. I am also happy for you to reproduce the Thomas Cook poster and logo that appear on p22 of the diary.

I also spotted a few errors in your notes about Thomas Cook & Son on p51:

  • Thomas Cook retired at the end of 1878; John Mason Cook officially gained control of the business at the beginning of 1879 (although, in reality, John had been running things since 1873).
  • An earlier edition of Cook’s [Tourist's] Handbook to the Health Resorts of the South of France . . . was published by Thos Cook & Son (never “Sons”) in 1885.
  • Thomas Cook conducted his first party up the Nile in 1869 (not 1884).
  • I’m not sure that Clarence Bicknell is referring to a specific person when he says that Cook got the party through customs with ease. I think he is more likely to mean the corporate “Thomas Cook”, although perhaps in the person of a dragoman (or other representative). It is also highly unlikely to have been John Mason Cook himself.
  • John Mason Cook’s youngest son was Thomas Albert Cook, usually referred to as “Bert” (but never Albert).
  • John Mason Cook was never John A. Mason Cook – the “A” is an error.
  • John Mason Cook had three sons.
  • Cook's Tourists' Handbook for Egypt, the Nile and the Desert was first published in 1876 (not 1897).
  • Thomas Cook & Son built their first Nile steamers in 1886 (not 1904).

NileCruise7If you are able to incorporate any of my amendments, I would be very grateful.

I also note with interest that Clarence Bicknell sailed across the Mediterranean on P&O’s “Hydaspes” – Thomas Cook himself actually travelled aboard this vessel as part of his pioneering world tour in 1872/73!

One final point: In footnote 14 on p5 you discuss the use of Australian vs Austrian. “Austrian” is definitely correct – Austrian Lloyd and Norddeutscher Lloyd were different companies, the former being much older and bigger than the latter.

I hope this helps, but please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further queries or requests.

Kind regards,



Paul Smith | Company Archivist

Thomas Cook UK & Ireland

T: +44 (0) 1733 417350

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Thomas Cook UK Ltd, Westpoint, Peterborough Business Park, Lynch Wood, Peterborough PE2 6FZ, United Kingdom

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