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Classic TV Drama: The Onedin Line – #66 – S06 E04 – “Stand by to Go About ”


A great Brit TV Classic – this episode

The episode (set in 1883) opens with James explaining to Letty, who is gaining her sea legs, that their magnetic compass has deviated – paradoxically, because James’ new two-masted ketch the Falcon is not carrying her normal cargo of steel plates – for which her compass has been calibrated with deviating magnets. Daniel meets with Sir Norman – they discuss a £50,000 robbery in Manchester. Their main question is to break the Liverpool to Manchester transport monopoly of the Mersey docks, the harbor board and rail company. “The government will do nothing”, suspects Daniel. Sir Norman retorts “You wouldn’t ‘want’ the government telling you how to run your business would you? We don’t do things that way in this country, thank God!”. They briefly discuss the death of Karl Marx and anarchy. Elizabeth suggests the canal as an alternative to the rail monopoly – Daniel pooh-poohs the idea as too slow (the canal was shut as rail replaces the horse), then realises that freight could be trafficked by steam in the canal… Elizabeth suggests they discuss it in bed. Cross cut, and Letty suggests James put his arms around her… Talking to Sir Norman, Daniel expounds on his idea now: to tow the ocean going steamers up widened canal lanes all the way from the port of Liverpool to Manchester. Samuel continues to develop his idea of parcel post (mail order) trading. An idea pioneered in the United States by Sears. William continues to reveal himself to be a naive and a more callous and less humane person than he had appeared. James takes on a cargo with a Mr Jack Wadham, with no bills of lading required or desired. The Fennian strike and blowing up of a town hall motivate the cargo – transfer of a rich man’s possessions. Sarah begins seeing a medium – she becomes convinced through his simple predictions that he can see the future and is in contact with the dead Robert. James suspects that Wadham and his cargo are not what they appear and opens the crates. Wadham discovers him and confesses that they are stolen and holds James and Baines at gunpoint. James pretends that they are on the wrong course by deviating the compass and having put up warning flags land at a cove in Wales. They are met by customs officers and Wadham is arrested while James sets sail again with £5000 in reward money. ‘Not bad for one trip’ says James!

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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