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OUR LONDON LETTER., Issue 8035, 11 October 1889
OUR LONDON LETTER.
London, August 30. The great strike of the London dockmen his, of course, most seriously affected the great Australian steamship lines. The P. and O. Company promptly met the emergency by retransferring their business to Southampton, and so joyfully were they welcomed back, and such concessions are the controllers of that port now willing to make them, that it is by no means unlikely they may stay there permanently. The following significant little interview between a Daily News’ reporter and Mr Sutherland, the chairman of the P. and O. Company, tells its own tale: — „ , , , . “ At present,” said Mr Sutherland yester day morning, “ wo are bringing our ships into Southampton, and we shall continue to do so so long as this strike continues. “ But when the strike is over, Mr Sutherland, what then?” “Ah! that 1 am unable to express any opinion upon. ” “ Your inability looks significant. Supposing, now, it should be found expedient to make Southampton your port again permanently, what do you reckon would be the difference to London ? ” “ The difference,” replied Mr Sutherland, appearing to work out an addition sum as he went along, “ the difference in labor, dock charges, stores, repairs, etc., would be not less than half a million of money a year to London.” , , , “But the P, and O. boats formerly went to Southampton, and they came to London presumably because they found London the more advantageous of the two.” “Yes, the opening of the Suez Canal entirely altered the conditions of the shipping trade. It gave P. and O. boats heavy cargoes instead of light ones, and the Southampton docks and the South-Western Railway were not sufficiently alive to the altered circumstances of the times. They failed to adapt themselves to our requirements, and therefore we came to London. "And would they be likely to meet your requirements now, do you think ? “ I have no doubt they would make great efforts to retain us at Southampton.” “But surely the railway carriage between Southampton and London is a very serious consideration ?”
“Yes, it is of course, but there are considerations on the other side. At Southampton we oonld do our business with fewer ships, and we should avoid the risks of the Channel passage. Besides there are our relations with the dock companies to be considered. Now that they have amalgamated it is very probable that as soon as they begin to feel their position secure they will be putting the screw on the shipping companies. Indeed there have already been indications of a disposition to do so. If, in addition to this screw put upon us, we are have difficulties with dock labor, it may become a very serious question whether, on the whole, we could not do better at Southampton. I am, you understand, merely giving you the arguments for and against. Some thirty years ago, you may remember, the shipbuilding business was driven from the Thames to the North of England by a strike of labor, and it never came back. There is a real risk of shipping business being similarly driven away now. London is still to a most important extent an entrepCt— a distributive centre, though no doubt it is true that its business of this kind has not increased in proportion to the general increase of other trade. Continental ports have now their own direct lines. But London is still a most important enfrepfrOnly a small part of the goods brought ini', the Thames are kept here, and with the exception of the tea trade there are practically no goods which might not just as well be distributed from Southampton or either of the other chief ports of the kingdom.” Other colonial companies, without the P. and O.’s facilities, have of course been dreadfully inconvenienced. By dint of keeping their few permanent hands and the crews of their other vessels in port at work night and day, the Orient Company were able to get the Liguria off to time yesterday, though only, I hear, half full of cargo. The New Zealand Shipping Company’s Ruapehu, which should have sailed last Thursday, was loaded by her crew and steerage passengers, and could not be despatched till Wednesday afternoon. Up to the last moment there were fears that the firemen meant to stay. The Tainui has her coal bunkers empty, and cannot possibly sail next Thursday unless the strike ceases. The New Zealand steamers Kaikoura and Fifeshire and another liner called the gelembria are lying quietly in the Royal Albert Docks waiting for their meat cargoes, which total nearly 90,000 carcases, to be discharged. A rumor was floated on Tuesday to the effect that the coal essential for keeping the refrigerators going had given out, and that as, of course, no more could be got the meat was going rapidly bad. There is, I learn, no foundation for this statement. The refrigerators can be kept going for another week if necessary. Messrs Nelson took down a few of their own men on Tuesday, and tried to remove some of the meat, but the action of the strikers was so threatening they only obtained 180 carcasses. These were sent to the market (which was completely paralysed) and fetched 2d a pound more than the previous week. The carcasses sold on Monday numbered only a few hundreds, whereas on an ordinary market day Nelsons alone usually dispose of 30,000 to 40,000 carcasses. The worst of the strike seems, fortunately, now over. It was fully hoped the strike would end yesterday (Thursday), but the Dock Committee, after raising everyone’s hopes to the highest by conceding many important points, dashed them to the ground again by a manifesto refusing the extra pay. This morning the men are angrier than ever. Over LI ,200 has been collected in aid of the strikers by the ‘ Star ’ alone. The big shipowners threaten to amalgamate and form a dock of their own. This morning’s ‘Telegraph’ says:—“ln shipping circles considerable attention was directed to the consideration of the proposed dock trust, on which subject the views of Mr Sutherland were debated with much interest. The published opinions of the chairman of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company are regarded as providing an explanation why the shipowners, who have been in daily conference during the strike, have not as yet approached the joint Committee of the docks, but have made their own arrangements to grapple with the situation, Mr Sutherland says: ‘ The amalgamation of the two dock companies, and the elimination of all shipowners from the councils of these undertakings, in order to give the dock authorities more freedom to study the interests of their shareholders, has somewhat strained the relations between the docks and their customers, so as to render intervention or advice by shipowners more difficult at the present time than it would be under ordinary circumstances. Two entirely different tariffs are in operation in these docks against ships in the sametrade, to the great detriment and prejudice of the more heavily taxed shipowners. The dock companies sought amalgamation, knowing that it would be the means of perpetuating this gross injustice. This was done in the interest of tho dock shareholders, and in tho same interest the charges have been piled up against shipping, until London is now the dearest port in Great Britain. It is no secret, therefore, that the principal shipping companies connected with the trade of the port have had, and still have, under their consideration the project of constructing a co-operative dock for themselves on the Thames, which would enable them to control their own business under conditions much more economical than they can ever hope to ensure at the hands of the present dock companies. Shipowners feel that under the present monopoly which has been, unfortunately, granted to these two great docks, their position is one of considerable danger in the future, as is of seriousburden in the present. In the opinion, therefore, of many shipowners, a very slight addition to the charges now levied would place London at such a disadvantage that the construction of a co-operative dock would become absolutely necessary to prevent the trade from leaving the port.’ There were one or two more sailings yesterday. The Hawarden Castle, for the Cape, with a full cargo, and the General Havelock, one of the General Steam Navigation vessels. The New Zealand Shipping
Company’s steamer Hurunui is being loaded by city clerks and supernumerary stewards; and the P. and 0., as well as other of the leading companies, have secured the aid of men who have come from a distance, and have been conveyed into the docks by rail, thus avoiding the pickets, who, however, contrive to obtain access to the docks, and do their best to secure converts, _ The Orient mail steamer Austral has arrived at Plymouth, and will there receive instructions as to the port of disembarkation. As showing the extent of the work which has been accomplished in the Victoria Docks during the past few days, it is stated that in the case of the City of Bombay, whicn arrived ten days since with a cargo of 5,000 tons, 250 tons only have been discharged. The Kaisow reached the docks twelve days ago, and of 4,000 tons 100 tons have been got out; the Aberdeen has been in dock a week, and 150 tons out of 5,000 tons have been unloaded; the Dardanus has discharged 200 tons of 4,000 tons; and the Ulysses, which has been in port ten days, has still 3,900 tons on board, 100 tons only having been worked. Several other ships have been untouched.
The P. and O. Company have, it is stated, unconditionally conceded the terms laid down by their men, and the latter are only 4 waiting the instructions of the Dock Committee to return to their work. The engineers’ laborers have also obtained the increase for which they asked, and are resolved to hand over a part of it to the strike fund, THE NEW ZEALAND SHIPPING COMPANY.
I told you in my last that Mr Dawes—who, to a great extent, controls the New Zealand Shipping Company nowadays—has a notable scheme on hand for wiping off at a blow the “ dead horse ” of liabilities caused by previous extravagance and mismanagement, Few shareholders have any idea how great these are, or how hopeless the prosspect of a dividend is should things go on as at present. The ships were all bought in the dearest possible market. Mr Dawes has the poorest opinion of the way in which the late Sir William Pearce manipulated matters. Why, on the chartered steamers alone, there was a loss of over LIOO.OOO. To show the way in which repairs, etc., were managed, it may be mentioned that though materials have recently gone up 30 per cent, in price the company are now getting their work done 30 per cent, cheaper than formerly. It is only quite recently Mr Dawes has been able to insist on tenders being called for all important jobs. Well, Mr Dawes’s plan for putting the company in a fair way to pull round is no doubt a drastic one, and will fall hard on some of the older shareholders, who paid up in full or bought in a dear market. There will probably, therefore, be some difficulty in passing it. The scheme consists in reducing the paid-up value of the shares from LBto L 5. This will provide the Board with a sum sufficient to enable them to wipe off at a blow all liabilities and start fair again, with reasonable prospect of paying decent dividends regularly. A few of the older shareholders, who paid up the full LlO per share (in consideration of certain concessions), will, of course, oppose this plan tooth and nail; but, on the other hand, there are large numbers who, when the L2 call was supposed to bo imminent, bought as low as 10s, 15s, and 20a, and to these, of course, the scheme will seem eminently desirable, Mr Dawes finds Mr Strickland an admirable manager, and thinks the company would do well if only the “ (lead horse ” of past liabilities could be successfully worked oft'. The N.Z.S. Company are, of course, entirely at the mercy of Mr Dawes as things at present stand. He could foreclose the mortgages any day, if so inclined. This does not seem a satisfactory state of affairs to the Finance Committee (Sir John Gorst and Mr Thomas Russell), and they are trying to arrange a scheme by which they pay Dawes 5 per cent, interest, receiving in exchange a guarantee of immunity from foreclosure without six months’ notice. I may not have explained this quite correctly, but it is as I understood it. The great opponent of this idea, and indeed of the other too, is the vice-chairman (Mr Johnstone), who was Sir W. Pearce’s colleague, and may be said to represent the “ good old times.” It is sincerely to be hoped, however, that the shareholders will stand by Dawes. What he has done for the British India Steam Navigation Company he will do for the N.Z.S. Company, i.e., if he is cordially and helpfully supported.
The total loss is announced of Messrs John Kerr and Sons’ (of Glasgow) sailing vessel Windhover, 847 tons register, whilst on a voyage from New Zealand to Java to load sugar. The vessel was built in 1868. The crew were saved. Robert Pervis Stewart, a private in the Ist Battalion of Scots Guards, where he appears to have borne a respectable character, walked into the Caledonian road Police Station on Saturday, and gave himself _up for murdering a man named Muir in New Zealand twelve years ago. The crime, he said, was committed by striking the man on the head with a piece of wood at Otepopo Bush, Otago. As the man persisted in his statement he has been locked up pending inquiries in the colony. Primu fade the story sounds probable. The man was evidently suffering torments from remorse, and seems to feel much better since he has confessed, . Sampson Low announce the publication of the first four volumes of Mr John White’s colossal work on ‘ The Ancient History of the Maori ’ (price two guineas). Latest reports from America seem to imply that the Vancouver cable will not after' all touch New Zealand, but simply Honolulu and the Island of Tutuila. Sir Charles and Lady Dilke leave for Australia in October.
From the increasing numbers who gather at the waterside daily to watch Searle and O’Connor practising, public interest in next Wednesday’s great match appears to be warming up a bit. There will not, however, be any of the intense excitement and enthusiasm which characterised the HanlanTrickett contest. Searle grows a better favorite with spectators daily; in _ fact, O’Connor’s speculators appear to bo in the main Americans only. The Thompsons and others materially interested in the Australian’s success profess the utmost confidence, Let us hope it may be justified. The match between Jem Smith and Frank Slavin seeming to hang fire a bit, Bill Goode, of Chesterfield, the English middle-weight champion, has stepped into the breach, and offers to take on the cornstalk at his own game, i.e., box him twelve rounds, or to a finish, Queensberry rules, in six weeks or two months, for L2OO a side. As an earnest of his intention he staked LlO with the ‘Sporting Life,’ and offered to meet Slavin and his backers at said paper’s office on Wednesday, to arrange details. The challenge, which appeared in Monday’s paper, should have been answered at once, but we scanned the columns of Tuesday's sporting journals in vain for a reply. Nor did Slavin turn up at the ‘Sporting Life’ office on Wednesday to cover Goode’s LlO. This scarcely looks as if the Australian really meant business. Evil communications will corrupt even the best colonial manners, and when I learnt that Frank Slavin (the so-called champion of Australia) had so far derogated from selfrespect as to permit himself to bo patronised by Lord Mandeville and Miss Bessie Bellwood I was not unprepared for mischief to follow. All town (by which, of course, I mean just the music halls and the sporting clubs and pubs) is now ringing with stories of a discreditable “spree” at Mandevilla (as Miss Bsllwood’a idyllic suburban retreat at Hampstead has been christened), and which ended (from all accounts) in the Australian’s running amuck, and having'to be temporarily provided with accomodation in the adjacent lock-up. The details of the affair are like much of the language used on the occasion, unfit for publication. Of course the row began in the usual way. Having indulged too freely in unlimited “fizz,” some of the party grew quarrelsome. First there was a difference between the “Uncle Kim" (Lord Mandeville) and Slavin, the “ cornstalk,” calling the Viscount a name which reflected opprobriously on his methods of supporting existence. Mr Coboron (of tnusm hall fame) thereupon intervened, and received for his pains one of the ‘ Two lovely black eyes’ which he is so constantly",warbling. Ageneral scuffle followed; and eventually' Slavin hod to be “chucked.” I hear he is much annoyed about the affair, and sensibly means henceforward to forswear Mandevilla and its inmates.
Mr Eden Savile’s Ringmaster was backed for pounds, shillings, and pence for the Great Ebor Handicap at York on Wednesday ; and, with that grand old slave King Monmouth out of the way, would have won easily enough. As it was, the pair came right away from the rest of the field at the distance, and had the finish to themselves. Opposite the stand, the Australian seemed to be holding Mr Lowther’s crack ; but it was only for a moment, as the aged son of King Lud and Miss Somerset quickly shook him off, and won in a canter by a length and a-half; Peeler being a bad third. King Monmouth carried 8.12, and Ringmaster 7.13, The latter was ridden, for_ the first time in England, by a professional jockey, George Barrett being put up in place of the “ cornstalk ” stable lad (Turner), who had always previously steered Mr Eden Savilc’s horse. Ten runners went to the post, and the starting price betting was 5 to 2 King Monmouth, 100 to 30 Ringmaster, 13 to 2 Peeler, 10 to 1 Jack Frost, 100 to 8 Redsand and Happy Thought, 100 to 7 St, Martins, 100 to 6 Crimea and Lily of Lumley, and 100 to 1 Derwent, The Ringmaster party do not lose much, as their horse was heavily backed for a place as well as to win. The Australian will now, I expect, be well taken care of in the Cesarewitch, for which, with 7st, he would have been a real good thing. It was remarked at York that had Mr Savile finessed with Ringmaster after the mode of the late lamented Fred Swindells he might have gone very near breaking the Ring,
OUR LONDON LETTER., Issue 8035, 11 October 1889
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