Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Book Review: Those In Peril - a Blue Funnel Story, by Ian Cook

When I ordered this online I got a message back from the New Zealand vendor: it was heavier than expected and so the postage would be higher than quoted - would this be ok? Yes it was, I replied, but I can see why they would ask that as it clocks in at nearly 1.5 kg.

Those in Peril, A Blue Funnel Story, is the autobiography of Ian Cook who grew up in Scotland and was to travel the world, ending up in New Zealand many years later.

In 1944 he signed up with Blue Funnel and after training was appointed as midshipman to MV Prometheus: it was to be the start of a lifetime at sea. The book describes that life in its main stages:
- the Blue Funnel years, travel between Britain and the far east
- the Malaysia years, first with the Straits Steamship Company and then as a pilot at Penang
- the New Zealand years as pilot and harbour master

Its a rich story and I wasn't surprised to hear in this YouTube recording of a Skype interview that he constantly kept at diary which must have been the basis of this book.

Its a record of a time of much change, the last years before the container revolutionised merchant marine life, turning sailors into components to feed a mechanised distribution system. It also covers the end of empire, with independence from Britain, which was one of the motivations for the end of Cook's Malaysian years.

Intriguingly there is mention of him piloting the boat in which Victoria Drummond (another Blue Funnel old hand) was chief engineer into Penang but I couldn't see any reference to him in her book or actual reference to them meeting which is a bit frustrating.

What was common theme was Cook meeting fellow Blueys over the years and for that company to be a bond to connect them across time and space. But there was also a feeling that the Blue Funnel line changed when Lawrence Holt retired, and Cook decided to leave the company at that point.

During those years he got married three times and played a lot of golf, but that is mostly in the background, as the main focus in on his life as a sailor, ending up in New Zealand as "Captain Cook" (very appropriate).

Its a rich record of a life, though it could do with a bit more dates to tie down when events occurred, and probably more of a specialist than general read.

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