The spy thriller with Seaham at its heart

An author has combined Wearside fact with fiction to create a new book about the life of a seaman.

Thursday, 17th November 2016, 10:08 am
Updated Thursday, 17th November 2016, 2:32 pm
Seaham North Dock marina development.

Fred Cooper has written A Master Mariner’s Tale about a ship’s captain who sailed out of Seaham Harbour. It’s a spy thriller story which describes real political events of the time.

It is also a sixth publication for Fred who explained more about the book which is available as an eBook for the Kindle on Amazon and on iBooks for Apple, and also in paperback.

Fred's new book.

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“This novel is about certain events in the life of a humble, honest old sea captain, a Master Mariner, and a family man who died of heart failure in Bell Street, Sproston, Hartlepool on July 5, 1906.

“The integrity of this man would not allow him to speak of an adventure in which he became accidentally entangled. These events affected the very security of the monarchy and the empire but because he gave his promise that he would keep the part he played secret he never spoke about it to anyone. He took his promise to the grave.

“My inspiration for the novel came from a short visit I made to Southport staying at the Prince of Wales hotel in November 2011. The hotel is located on the Victorian boulevard of Lord Street and just across the road was an antiques and collectables antiquarian shop in the Royal Arcade. There were thousands of old books on display including shelves of books on the long covered alleyway leading to the shop entrance.

“Just supposing, I thought, if I found a journal on those cobwebbed shelves that took me on an adventure on board a sailing collier ship with a ship’s captain, a Master Mariner, who sailed out of my home town of Seaham Harbour.

Fred's new book.

“I knew lots of the history about the harbour and the town because I was involved with the local family history group. I purposely chose a collier sailing ship because of the links to my home town which was built to ship coals originally from South Hetton and the Rainton Collieries and then later from Seaham’s own three collieries.

“Sea stories normally feature fashionable Royal Navy ship-of-the-line vessels with beautiful clean lines but I felt that it was about time a tribute was paid to the workhorse of the Victorian merchant fleet – the collier brigantine.”

Fred decided to include real people who lived and worked in Seaham Harbour at that time, and said: “The 1881 census was the perfect vehicle to select characters to weave into my storyline.”

Lots of research followed into factual events. The first three chapters describe the town as it was in 1881 including real characters who lived and worked in the town such as William Sheridan, ship owner and harbour master; Jeremiah Hall, dock gateman; Rev Angus Bethune, Vicar of St Mary’s and Chief Magistrate and the Sixth Marquis of Londonderry who was to play a major part in the novel as it developed.”

Another significant event at Seaham Harbour was a visit by the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII, who carried out the annual inspection of the 2nd Durham (Seaham) Artillery Volunteers in the town. Accompanying him was Count Herbert von Bismarck the son of the German Chancellor.

Fred decided to use international intrigue and mystery as another aspect of the book.

And throughout it all, Fred went deeper into research - even to the point of learning how to enter, moor and leave port in a sailing ship; read the weather; navigate a course; the layout of the harbour; the perils of sailing in bad weather and “many other lost skills.”

The thriller element was achieved by introducing an “international arch-villain”, a British Secret Society bent on anarchy and the overthrow of the British Government.

Even the tragic loss of the hero’s ship, the William Thrift, in a great storm off Pakefield near Lowestoft in 1882 is based on a true event.

Fred said: “If anyone has relatives or friends that enjoy local history and sea stories this would make an ideal stocking filler for Christmas.”