I’ve started the year on a positive foot, by knuckling down to a gritty task I’ve been putting off for ages – writing a dedicated Somerton Man page for the blog. OK, it’s not going to oust Gerry Feltus’ splendidly detailed “The Unknown Man”, but it covers quite a lot of ground in a thousand words. And the pictures are all basically on the money. Which is nice.
However, the reason I had been putting this off was that I wanted it to somehow reflect the edges of our knowledge about the Somerton Man, rather than get knotted up in a whole load of Wikipedia-esque meanderings. (I’m not a committee, and I didn’t want to write like one.) And yet the big question is surely… where are the edges? And what exactly is the difference between an ‘edge’ and a ‘brick wall’, hmmm?
As of early 2014, I don’t think the text is going to help us, not unless Naval Intelligence in Melbourne had (and still has!) an unannotated photograph of the cipher page – basically, I have more than a sneaking suspicion that we’ve been starting from a codicologically broken version of the page that will never sufficiently support us in our attempts to read it. And so all we have is The Man himself, in all his unidentifiable obscurity.
But we do also have the nurse, the mysterious Jestyn / Jessie / Jessica / Jo / Tina / Tyna. These days, one question I keep coming back to is whether “Jestyn” makes sense in the way she (apparently) claimed it did. I struggle to believe that particular story wholeheartedly; and when I asked Gerry Feltus about this recently, he seemed to share more than a few of my doubts. In fact, it was a bit spooky that we had travelled substantially different paths but reached almost identical positions.
At the same time, while I (almost) always enjoy Pete Bowes’ Somerton Man musings and thoughts, there’s something about his speculative take on the Unknown Man’s underdaks that rings true for me. Really, only someone answering to the name “Keane” would have “Keane” on their underpants, so I don’t honestly see any alternative to the idea that, at least some of the time, the Unknown Man did go by the name “Keane”… and if no such person existed or was missing, then it must have been a fake identity. After all, the problem with the laundry theory is that the grundies he was actually wearing had no name on. So how do you get them clean, then? That’s a mystery all of its own, I’d have thought.
I don’t know: maybe the missing link will turn out to be a Mr Keane / Styn, who changed his name as often as his underwear, and who was sweet on tiny little Jessie Harkness. Maybe Jestyn was comfortable with being Jess Styn, but didn’t want to be Jess Keane? If this is in some way right, why was the Somerton Man’s underwear Styn-free? Maybe we’ll find out in 2014, who knows!