Page 1. " In the corner of a first-class smoking carriage, Mr. Justice Wargrave, lately retired from the bench, puffed a cigar and ran an interested eye through the political news in the Times. "
Railway at Devon, England
Creative Commons AttributionRailway in Devon, England - Credit: freefoto.com

Wargrave would have been traveling on the Great Western Railway, which connected London with the southwest and west of England and with Wales.

References to the title “Justice” and the word “bench” reveal that Wargrave is a retired judge.

The Times is the London Times, a highly respected newspaper with a history going back to 1785 and still in publication today.

Events may be assumed to be taking place around 1938, when the novel was written.

Page 1. " They were running now through Somerset "
Somerset County, England
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSomerset County, England - Credit: Nilfanion

Somerset is a county northeast of Devon.

Page 1. " He went over in his mind all that had appeared in the papers about Indian Island. "

The story takes place on a fictional island off the coast of Devon (see Setting). It has been suggested that Burgh Island was the inspiration.

However there are significant differences. Indian Island is about a mile off the coast; Burgh Island is only 270 yards (250 meters) off the coast. Indian Island is inaccessible except by boat; Burgh Island can be reached on foot at low tide.

Burgh Island Hotel, July 2009
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeBurgh Island Hotel, July 2009 - Credit: Tony Atkin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Burgh Island is home to the Burgh Island Hotel, which may have inspired Christie’s references to Hollywood stars and wild parties.

Page 2. " 12:40 from Paddington "
Paddington Station, 1953
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikePaddington Station, 1953 - Credit: Ben Brooksbank

 Paddington Railway Station is a large terminus in London, first opened in 1838. Agatha Christie referred to it again in her 1957 novel 4.50 from Paddington (alternate titles: What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw! and Murder, She Said).

Paddington Bear is named for the station. The film clip below shows footage of the station in 1939, the year And Then There Were None was published.

 

Page 9. " General Macarthur looked out of the carriage window "
Gen. Douglas MacArthur has nothing to do with And Then There Were None.
Public DomainGen. Douglas MacArthur has nothing to do with And Then There Were None.

Christie's General Macarthur has no relation to the American General Douglas MacArthur, who became famous for his role in World War 2's Pacific Theatre, after the book was published.

Page 10. " Exeter! And an hour to wait! "

Exeter is a city in the county of Devon. It is one of the oldest cities in England.

 

Google Map

 

 

Page 10. " Dr. Armstrong was driving his Morris across Salisbury Plain "

Morris 8
Creative Commons AttributionMorris 8 - Credit: suzanneandsimon
The Morris Motor Company was an English car manufacturer that operated from 1910 to 1984.

Dr. Armstrong's car could have been a Morris 8, as shown. Morris 8s were first manufactured in 1935; production was discontinued in 1948.

 

 

Stonehenge, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire County, Southwest England
Public DomainStonehenge, Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire County, Southwest England - Credit: www.freefoto.com
Salisbury Plain is located in Wiltshire, which is northeast of Somerset. Stonehenge is located here.

 

Google Map

 

Page 10. " There had been a time when he had sat in his consulting room in Harley Street "

Harley Street in London has been home to numerous medical practices since the 1800s.

 

Google Map

 

Page 12. " an enormous Super Sports Dalmain car rushed past him "

My research suggests that the "Super Sports Dalmain car" is a Christie invention.

Page 13. " Mr. Blore was in the slow train from Plymouth. "

Plymouth is a port city on the coast of Devon, close to the border with Cornwall.  It boasts a major Royal Navy base.

 

Google Map

 

 

Page 14. " General Macarthur, C.M.G., D.S.O. "

Distinguished Service Order
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDistinguished Service Order - Credit: Robert Prummel
C. M. G. stands for "Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George." The Order was created by the Prince Regent (later King George IV) on 27 April 1818 to commemorate the British protectorate of the Ionian Islands. It is awarded for non-military service abroad, and for service in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

D. S. O. stands for "Distinguished Service Order," a British military decoration awarded for gallantry during war.

Page 14. " Had one over the eight "

This is a British saying meaning "the final drink that renders someone drunk."

Page 14. " He remembered Indian Island as a boy "

'Dances With The Wind In His Hair'
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike'Dances With The Wind In His Hair' - Credit: Oast House Archive
Although it seems astonishing to today's sensibilities, the original title of the book was Ten Little N_____s. We'll look more at the reasons Christie chose that title when we examine the poem in the Bookmark for page 31. Because the term was quickly considered offensive, her publishers subsequently changed the title to Ten Little Indians. Hence, the name of the island had to be changed as well:

Original text: He remembered N____r Island as a boy. . . . It had got its name from its resemblance to a man's head--a man with negroid lips.

Revised text: He remembered Indian Island as a boy. . . . It had got its name from its resemblance to a man's head--an American Indian profile.

(Source: Sanders and Lovallo, The Agatha Christie Companion [New York: Delacorte Press, 1984], 182)

Interestingly, in the last few years the term "Indian" referring to the indigenous peoples of North America has, in turn, become offensive to some groups. "Native American" is usually the preferred term nowadays. This has resulted in yet another change to the novel--removal of the references to "Indian Island" and "Ten Little Indians" and insertion of "Soldier Island" and "Ten Little Soldiers." It's difficult to imagine that the term "soldier" will ever become offensive.

For a thoughtful discussion of the term "Indian," see this usage note.

Page 15. " 'Watch and pray,' he said "

The elderly seafarer is quoting Christ from the King James Version of the Bible:

Matthew 26:41: "Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."

Mark 13:32-33: "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is."

The phrase "the day of judgment is at hand" does not occur in the King James Bible. However, the Bible does include a number of references to the "day of judgment"--for example, Matthew 11:22, 24; 12:36 ("But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment"); Mark 6:11; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; and 1 John 4:17.

Page 18. " I have been to Cornwall and to Torquay "
Torquay Harbour

 Cornwall is the county southwest of Devon.

Torquay is a town in Devon; it was Agatha Christie's birthplace.

County of Cornwall, England
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeCounty of Cornwall, England - Credit: Nilfanion

 

Page 22. " He'll ask me now if I was old enough to be in the War "

The war in question is World War I since And Then There Were None was published in 1939, just prior to the commencement of World War II.

WWI was known as "The Great War."

Page 23. " Natal, South Africa's my natal spot, ha, ha! "

Map of South Africa with KwaZulu-Natal highlighted
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeMap of South Africa with KwaZulu-Natal highlighted - Credit: Htonl
Natal was a province of South Africa from 1910 until 1994.

It is now KwaZulu-Natal.