The Golden Run

Henry Damant


The Golden Run

By Henry Damant

Published by Publishing Print Matters


A Nostalgic Memoir of the Halcyon Days of the Great Liners to South and East Africa

For 120 years the Union-Castle provided South and East Africa with a vital link with Britain - services that were unequalled for their regularity. During his tenure with Union-Castle Henry Damant occupied a 'ringside seat' by virtue of the various senior marketing and PR posts he held.

"The Golden Run" highlights the fascinating post-war history of the Union-Castle Line: the company's legendary chairman, Sir Vernon Thomson, whose foresight and courage in re-building the fleet - six new ships in five years - resulted in the Union-Castle being able, much earlier than other Lines, to re-start a full sailings schedule; his sudden and tragic death on the eve of the centenary celebrations; the heavy weather his successor, Sir George Christopher, made of his responsibilities; his 'rescue' in 1956 by the wealthy Cayzer family, owners of the Clan Line; the four months of bitter struggle prior to the Cayzer's take-over of Union-Castle, whose flair, style and overall enthusiasm put new life into the historic shipping Line until its closure in 1977.

Seven years later attempts were made by Safmarine and others to restart a regular run to the Cape, but most were abandoned.

Henry Damant sailed on two of these line voyages and, later, two cruises, and recounts the efforts made by the various shipping companies to recapture the glamour of sailing Union-Castle.

Regular line voyages finally ended in 2004 and the author's story is a salute to 147 years of maritime history.

The author has lightened this saga with many personal anecdotes, for example:

Why did Churchill take the pillow from his cabin when he disembarked? What return favour did Major-General Prior-Palmer ask of Montgomery? What did the doyen of the shipping correspondents, Jack Frost, do on the 1st May every year? What caused the Queen Mother to delay her launching of the RMS Windsor Castle, and some years later, what was her revelation about the cause of the delay?

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