|Master Under God by Fred Nicholls
Published by: Starborn Books; 1st ed edition (1 Nov. 2004)
Paperback: 418 pages
A fictionalised account of life aboard one of the tough Welsh windjammers of the late 19th Century, the Figaro,
in the nitrates trade around the Horn to northern Chile. These Welsh
ships were crewed mostly by men from the villages and small ports of
the principality - tight knit and often related or neighbours ashore so
a close Welsh speaking and stable community in a hard trade.
After an accident in Chile the Master has to take on a well-educated,
middle class English officer trained aboard one of the "new fangled"
training ships - HMS Conway.
The story is the impact of this officer on a small and closed shipboard
community - partly an account of the effect on one ship of the
increased professionalism throughout the Merchant Service intended by
the Liverpool Ship owners who founded the "Conway". A well written
account of life aboard a merchant vessel. Oh there is romance too but
not of the swooning one-dimensional variety. The Master's wife and
daughter are aboard and the daughter's conservative chapel upbringing
is severely tested by the young officer's modern views and her own
As well as social change technological change is, literally, on the
horizon in the form of an early PSNC steamer, commanded by another
fictional OC, which the crew, sensing the threat to their futures,
regard with a mixture of awe, fear, respect and scorn. A bit like our
generation of seafarers sometimes regarded the first box boats.