Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Stables, William

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STABLES, WILLIAM [GORDON] (1840–1910), writer for boys, son of William Stables, vintner, of Marnock, and afterwards of Inverurie, was born at Aberchirder, Mamoch, Banffshire, on 21 May 1840. He was educated at a school at Marnock and at Aberdeen grammar school. In 1854 he entered Aberdeen University, and was a member of the arts class until 1857. Refusing a commission in the army, he studied medicine, and took the degrees of M.D. and C.M. on 26 April 1862 (Aberdeen University Calendar, 1863, pp. 30, 33). While still a student, at the age of nineteen, he made a first voyage to the Arctic on a small Greenland whaler of 300 tons, an experience he subsequently repeated in a larger vessel. On 19 Jan. 1863 he obtained a commission as assistant surgeon in the Royal Navy, and on 2 Feb. was appointed to H.M.S. Narcissus on the Cape of Good Hope station. Later his vessel, the Penguin, was sent in pursuit of slavers off the Mozambique coast (Medical Life in the Navy, 1868, by W. Stables, pp. 67-9). On his return home he was commissioned, on 18 Feb. 1864, to the Princess Royal, at Devonport, and in the following year to the Meeanee, on the Mediterranean station. Stables was appointed to the Pembroke at Sheemess on 18 March 1870, and in the following year, after serving in the Wizard on the Mediterranean station, he retired on half-pay owing to ill-health. Subsequently Stables was for two years in the merchant service, cruising all round America to Africa, India, and the South Seas.

About 1875 Stables settled at Twyford, and henceforth occupied himself in writing boys' books, assuming the name of Gordon Stables. Personal experience formed the basis of his tales of adventure and exploration. His best-known volumes are: 'Wild Adventures in Wild Places' (1881); 'Wild Adventures round the Pole' (1883); 'The Hermit Hunter of the Wilds' (1889); 'Westward with Columbus' (1894); 'Kidnapped by Cannibals' (1899); 'In Regions of Perpetual Snow ' (1904). Stables also wrote many historical novels, dealing mainly with naval history; these included: 'Twixt Daydawn and Light,' a tale of the times of Alfred the Great (1898), and 'On War's Red Tide,' a tale of the Boer War (1900). His literary output averaged over four books a year for thirty years, and his writings occupy seven pages of the British Museum catalogue. His stories, which inculcated manliness and self-reliance, were popular with more than one generation of boys.

In 1886 Stables started caravanning as a pastime, being one of the earliest pioneers. He described his first tour in the 'Cruise of the Land Yacht Wanderer' (1886), and thenceforth he made annual caravan expeditions. On the formation of the Caravan Club in 1907 he was elected vice-president. A lover of animals and an active supporter of the Sea Birds Protection Society and the Humanitarian League, he illustrated his devotion to domestic pets in 'Friends in Fur' (1877) and 'Our Friend the Dog' (1884). He was known as an expert authority on dogs, cats, and rabbits, both in England and America, frequently acting as judge at shows, and compiling some popular treatises on the medical treatment of children and dogs. He died at his house, the Jungle, Twyford, on 10 May 1910.

In 1874 Stables married Theresa Elizabeth Williams, elder daughter of Captain Alexander McCormack of Solva, Pembrokeshire, and left four sons and two daughters.

[Records of the arts class, 1854–8, Marischal College, p. 61 (photograph, p. 48); Navy List, 1864-5, 1870-72; The Times, 12 May 1910; the World, 3 Dec. 1907 (report of interview); private information.]

G. S. W.