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Classic TV Drama: The Onedin Line – #63 – S06 E01 – “No Smoke Without Fire”


A great Brit TV Classic – this episode

Sir Daniel asks James to carry £100,000 of gold bullion from South Africa – off the books: he is liquidating his South African holdings for fear the country is becoming strife-ridden. James charges 2% of the value of the cargo, jokingly throwing in a ‘free passage’ for Daniel who smiles. Baines jokes that James might as well run up the ‘skull and cross bones’, such is the size of the fee. Josiah Beaumont (a new character) and the new head of Mr Harris’s bank (he has sold his bank) calls. Twenty-year-old William suggests they dine at his club to discuss business. Letty is trying to become pregnant and tells Elizabeth that she is concerned that she might be barren. Letty has also made a tapestry to put in place of Anne’s picture. Dunwoody tells Elizabeth that Mr Simmons (a client who has built 4 vessels with Frazers previously) has cancelled his order for a ship. To get the order William quoted low initially and then tried to push the price up with extras. Beaumont suggests that he can coerce Simmons to deal with Frazers. Elizabeth insults Beaumont for forcing Harris out and argues with William who says that Beaumont can be of tremendous help to them. Meanwhile, James voyages home and the Panama canal – which will mean ships will no longer need sail to around the Horn of Africa – is an active idea although Baines regrets the loss of bravery in sailing that will ensue once difficult passages are avoided. A hazing ceremony on board sees a young boy shaven and tarred and feathered by a pirate Neptune. Samuel has come home: also grown up. At a Bank party – quite unthinkable under Mr Harris -William confides to Samuel that his goal in 5 years is to be richer than any one in the room. Beaumont has convinced Simmons to have his new ship built with Frazers who tells Elizabeth that it is the last ship Frazers will be building for him. He tells Elizabeth that Beaumont threatened to take away his support if he had the ship built in another yard. On hearing this, she declares to Beaumont that she is dining with Mr Harris tomorrow night, ‘such an upright man’! She leaves taking William with her. Later Samuel tells Letty about this and that within 5 minutes all the other guests had left as well. A fire starts on board the Christian Radich – wool is burning. The fire is put out, but once again we learn that James is sailing under-insured. Daniel discovers that three bars of gold have been stolen and James threatens a rope across the back of the man who has stolen the gold. However, one of the sailor points out that it is now against the law (recall that in series one merchant vessels sailed under Napoleonic Naval laws where mutiny or striking an officer was punishable by death). The young boy who was hazed previously has stolen the gold and confesses saying, “why should you have all that gold”. The sailor who spoke out against flogging also speaks up for the boy and James lets him off saying that they can both crew a ship round the Horn and that the boy is now his responsibility. The mate who found the gold beats Daniel to the deck, blaming him for stopping him marrying a rich Chinese girl some years earlier although apparently Daniel had saved him from sharks years before; he says they are now even. As the episode closes, James bids for business with Fogarty against the Frazer line. James goes to put up a shield he has brought back from Africa only to see that Letty has replaced Anne’s picture with her tapestry.

The Onedin Line is a BBC television drama series, which ran from 1971 to 1980. The series was created by Cyril Abraham.

The series is set in Liverpool from 1860 to 1886[1] and covers the rise of a fictional shipping company, the Onedin Line, named after its owner James Onedin. Around this, it depicts the lives of his family, most notably his brother and partner Robert, a ship chandler, and his sister Elizabeth, giving insight into the lifestyle and customs at the time, not only at sea, but also ashore (mostly lower- and upper-middle-class). The series also illustrates some of the changes in business and shipping, such as from wooden to steel ships and from sailing ships to steamships. It shows the role that ships played in such matters as international politics, uprisings and the slave trade.


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