Perhaps it is true that cultural history should be written by historians and business history by economists. I claim neither distinction. I hope the reader of this book may be glad of the fact. It is my experience that shipping company histories mostly fall into two categories—those written by academics, many of which are busy damning the "capitalist" shipowner, and those written as commissioned works, where the company allows the writer to say nothing derogatory. Fortunately I am again in neither class. I have been under no constraints in my writing. How I came into possession of the A.U.S.N. Co. material is told in the bibliography. Suffice it to say here that at no time did any person in Macdonald Hamilton & Co. place any restriction on what I used or how I interpreted it.
Only as a shiplover have I tried to tell this tale. Originally it was written for my own satisfaction—I had known many, and even worked in some of the ships; I had "lumped" sugar at Fairymead, and the chance of trying to piece together the story of what I believe to have been the foremost interstate shipping company was impossible to resist. The work was done in 1963. I had no thought of publishing it, but lent a copy to many people engaged in preparing such things as doctoral theses. In the course of one such loan a few years ago it came under the notice of Roger Joyce, then Reader in History at Queensland University. He encouraged me to improve it by various means and ultimately it was accepted for publication. That this happened I owe to him.
Of course it would never have existed had it not been for the original gift of the records themselves. Though I had contributed articles to journals, I had nothing to back my request but audacity when I asked the company if it would let me try to write its history. Mr. Paddy Farrell, the manager of A.U.S.N. (Australia) Pty Ltd, was enthusiastic, and passed me over to Mr. Ian Brodie, then managing partner of Macdonald Hamilton & Co. In turn the request went to Lord Inchcape and in due course the approval came "down the line".
So at this stage may I record my gratitude to Lord Inchcape, Mr. Farrell, Mr. Brodie and Professor Joyce.
Many friends who share my interest have given unstintingly of their help where my own extensive records left still some gaps. Messrs. Ian Farquhar and W.A. Laxon, both New Zealanders, have been of tremendous assistance. My father (since deceased) knew ships and the Queensland coast like his own home; his recollections of an era earlier than my own, helped me round out many things which were otherwise merely words. He knew personally many of those who figure in this story—the First Earl (when he was Sir James Mackay), Bland, Munro, Burns, Macdonald and Hamilton. His memory to the last was acute; I owe him a great debt.
I am greatly indebted to the Adelaide Steamship Co. for the loan, many years ago, of a vast, unpublished work by N.W. Wright, a former branch manager of that Company, in which the history of the A.U.S.N. Go's greatest rival—and sometime best friend—is traced. Again, no constraints were placed on its use, and it has been most valuable.
There are many others I should thank—mostly their contribution is acknowledged in footnotes. I cannot fail to mention Mr. Fred Archer (Rabaul), Dr. D.S. MacMillan, and a number of people now deceased—Harry Hicks and H.G. Peak of Brisbane; "Hank" Bateson; G.E. Arundel of Sydney and Miss Louise Jacob of Morpeth. I am most grateful to the Library of New South Wales—the Public Library and the Mitchell Library—and the staff who helped me find my way through their collections.
Finally may I say with gratitude how much I owe to my editor, Mrs. Janet Whitehead. Her meticulous attention to detail saved me from going to print in the nakedness of my own inconsistencies and typing errors; her interest and patience have been unbelievable.