"The Blue Funnel Odyssey" W.J.Harvey

3rd June 2009, 08:00
“Alfred Holt & Company - The Blue Funnel Odyssey” W. J. Harvey

I have recently received a copy of this new ‘book’ which is actually a ‘pdf’ document on a CD. The author explains that the lack of a willing publisher caused him to self-publish in this way, which actually has some advantages for the reader as well as the author.

It is perhaps surprising that this is the first really comprehensive study of this famous line, earlier works (which are fully referenced) having covered the history of Alfred Holt and fleet lists and photograph albums as separate publications.

The work covers the main elements of what became known as ‘Blue Funnel’, principally the Ocean Steamship Company, China Mutual S.N. Company and Nederlandse Stoom. Maats. ‘Oceaan’ plus lesser known subsidiaries. It does not embrace the broader group members such as Glen and Shire Lines and Elder Dempster, acquired in the 1930’s from the demise of the old Royal Mail group, or interests such as Rea Towing.

Alfred was born in 1829, one of the five sons of Rochdale cotton broker George Holt who became a prominent Liverpool businessman and was instrumental in supporting his sons as they entered the world of industry and shipping. One son, George served as an apprentice with Brocklebank before founding Lamport & Holt, another famous Liverpool line. Alfred first took up engineering on the railways and achieved such success that he became a consultant engineer in the development of steam engines in shipping from the 1850’s. By 1853 he was (via his father) part-owner of DUMBARTON YOUTH and in 1865 founded the Ocean Steamship Company with partners including John Swire. A long-lasting association with the shipbuilder Scott of Greenock started with the trio of new ships AGAMEMNON, AJAX and ACHILLES which also introduced the Greek mythological names to the fleet. Attention turned from the West Indies to India and the Far East and the Dutch subsidiary ‘Oceaan’ was set up in 1891 in order to gain equal access to the Dutch East Indies trade, while a Far East trade rival China Mutual was bought out in 1902.

The comprehensive history takes up 86 pages and is followed by the main fleet list with over 500 entries and well-illustrated, the ship details following the well-established ‘WSS’ format. There are separate sections for 97 managed vessels and 12 China Mutuals from prior to the merger with Ocean. There is also an appendix for the Tientsin Lighter Company in which Holt was a partner with Swire.

So how does a CD compare with a book, for the reader? Well, you can’t keep your thumb in one page whilst looking for another! But Adobe reader (available on a free download) does have a ‘find page’ command and there is a comprehensive page index at the front. I found the document easy to read and one big advantage is that the pages can be comfortably read at 70% size but can easily be brought up to 125% or more for those with more limited eyesight or to avoid eye strain. Photographs come up well and appear with good definition, also with the advantage of being able to ‘blow up’ any details. Of course the whole document is printable, 315 pages.

In summary, I am quite happy to add this useful reference work to my library and I will be pleased to see more ‘books’ produced in this form, and which can be produced ‘on demand’ by the authors, all of which should help to offer a fair reward for their efforts whilst also keeping down the sales prices.

The CD is available from W. J. Harvey at Flat 2, 191, Uttoxeter New Road, DERBY DE22 3NP, £20.00 including UK postage, £25.00 overseas, payments in sterling to W. J. Harvey.

Please note this is an independent review, I have no business connection with the author.

3rd June 2009, 09:04
My late uncle Oswald John Morgan of Barry, sailed with Alfred Holy in the early thirties, where he obtained his second Class (Motor) Certificate. He left the MN in approx 1938 to join the RAF as a commissioned ground engineer, when he retired, he had been AOC Holton, and Chief Engineer of Bomber Command. He was later President of the Royal Aeronautical Society. Blue Flue trained some of the best engineers in the World.

4th June 2009, 04:11
The author is a member of this site.

Bill Davies
4th June 2009, 20:21
Blue Flue trained some of the best engineers in the World.


I can see you like living dangerously.