This is a book about the sea, and
those who sailed in a word of seafarers and shipping that has much
changed. It is written by a man who did it all, from a deck apprentice
to a shipowner.
The Liverpool shipping company of
Alfred Holts, more affectionately known as Blue Funnel or ‘The China’,
was once the largest general cargo shipping line in the world. Holts
believed in nurturing the business and its greatest assets, their
employees, from within. It was a family affair in every sense.
They took in young men from all over
Britain who thought they were made of the right stuff to become
seafarers. The organisations training methods were not an easy ride,
because they wanted the best, the most able, and the most determined. To
paraphrase a famous song,“if you could make it there, you’d make it
anywhere”. So it was that Denis Gallagher, a boy from the Scottish
countryside, signed up for a life at sea with Holts in the late
1950’s.... and he made it!
After a faltering start under a
tyrannical Blue Funnel skipper, he carved himself a career, gaining his
own masters ticket at the age of 27.His observations and adventures
along the way take the reader, quite literally, to sea and around the
world with him - from the burning heat and storms of tropical waters,
the mysteries of the orient, to the harsh and dangerous world of ocean
As the great shipping name of Holts
began its perilous plunge into obscurity, Denis, like many of his
comrades, had to offer his hard won maritime skills to make a living
elsewhere. That elsewhere was to be the land down under; Australia.
He fell in love with this new land and
in particular with Hawthorn Football Club, Melbourne. HFC looked to be
on the verge of going bust in the late 1990’s and how Denis and many
other devoted fans helped to save the club is also here. It is a love
letter to Aussie rules football and to Australia itself.
From small beginnings in his adopted
continent he ended up as a Master of ocean going anchor handling vessels
working in very high risk environments before he built his own shipping
line, Ocean Shipping Pty. with a fleet of four multi-purpose cargo
vessels plying their trade around the Pacific Basin. Typically, as only
an ex-Blueys man could, each vessel was bestowed with the same livery as
the famous Liverpool liners and indeed, like their predecessors, were
given classical Greek names.
There is a universal disbelief and
pain among ex-Holts employees, ashore and seagoing, at the disintegration
of Holts in the late 20th century. ‘Put Not Your Trust In Princes’,
for the first time, examines forensically how it all went so wrong for
Holts. How the ‘princes’ betrayed them all, and how much it still hurts.
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