Monday, March 23, 2009

A Boat Called Henry



You are one of the wealthy, mighty and seemingly all powerful Keswick family (so posh you pronounce your name with a silent 'w', "Kezzick") who control the Jardines empire. Known by all as the latest taipan of the Jardine Matheson empire built out of running dope into China in quantities the Medallin Cartel would envy, you pitch up in Hong Kong after a few years in Jardines’ New York office. You get to represent Hong Kong at the coronation of King George V in 1911 and then return in triumph in 1922 aboard your own yacht, the Cutty Sark, and then you remain a Director of Jardines until your death. That was Henry Keswick.

So how to honour such a great taipan who balances great wealth with great power and is a lynchpin in the British Empire east of Suez? Why surely there could be nothing better than having a “twin screw tug and salvage steamer” named after you!! What an honour – having perhaps one of the ugliest little craft to ever sail upon the seas named in your honour – not a cruise liner or a battleship but a dirty old tug!!

Still, someone at the Hong Kong and Whampoa Dock Co. Ltd., must have thought it a good idea – they even ran this ad in the North-China Daily News in 1904 showing the horrid little thing chugging away like an emphysema ridden pensioner. Sadly old Henry Kezzick’s reaction to this honour remains unrecorded. We expect he emitted a mighty harrumph.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this tug ended it's life in the North dock of Corregidor in 1942?

Nigel W. said...

Thanks for finding this image of her, its the first I've seen as she was hardly a vessel to grace the pages of any book on 'real' ships of note, but she was a worker none-the-less.

No, she made it away from North dock; my grandfather Hugh Hoskyn Williams (Skipper) was her captain when she was captured by the Japs at Corregidor. He sought permission to scuttle her but that was refused, and he was more than annoyed to see his fully equipped salvage tug sail away in Jap hands.

My grandfather died in Los Banos POW camp on the last day of 1944, 6 weeks before the camp was liberated.

So while the Henry Keswick may not have done 'enough' honour to its esteemed namesake, for me and my family it is the eternal reminder of those who sailed on her, and died serving her and freedom.

My grandfather's last command.

I would like to hear from anybody who served with Hugh, either in the war or before. He was x Union Steam Ship Co, then worked for Hong Kong & Wampoa Dock Co, hence his association with the ship. When she was captured she had a scratch crew of mixed nationalities including volunteers from US ships.

Thanks

Nigel Williams, New Zealand
gmnigwil@gmail.com

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