Rollicking sea chanties sung as only men of thc sea can sing them provided a happy atmosphere for the ninth annual dinner of the New Zealand Company of Master Mariners held at the St. George Hotel on Saturday night. The guests of honour included the patron of the company, the Governor-General (Viscount Galway), and the Minister of Agriculture (the Hon. W. L. Martin), who deputised for the Minister of Marine (the Hon. P. Fraser). Mr. Fraser intended to be present until the last moment, when a severe cold forced him to cancel the engagement.
After the loyal toast, the chairman (Captain S. Holm) proposed a toast “The Governor-General”. The company, he said, had been exceedingly fortunate in the three patrons it had had since its inception, and Lord Galway was not the least of them. His Excellency had always shown a very keen interest in the company’s work.
His Excellency expressed his pleassure at being invited to attend the function. Captain Burgess of the Matai knows better than anyone else “my limitations at sea,” he remarked amidst laughter, “but all the same those trips round the coast with him have been some of the most pleasurable of our experiences in New Zealand. Captain Burgess has taken us to some of the most beautiful parts of New Zealand.” The Company of Master Mariners, said Lord Galway, was the youngest of the companies of the city of London, and just before he left for New Zealand he was a guest at the annual dinner at the Mansion House. The company had been founded after the war largely-to commemorate deeds of daring by members of the Mercantile Marine, whose stout hearts and ships had been largely instrumental in guarding the Empire from the danger that faced it. The then Prince of Wales had taken the greatest interest in the company. It was his hope that as time went on the company in New Zealand would move from strength to strength, and that its members would enjoy many another happy gathering.
The toast of “Parliament” was proposed by Captain W. H. Hartman. To those who followed the sea, he said, Parliament was a most important institution. Since they last met a year ago master mariners had been most fortunate in their Parliament, and many things had been accomplished for which they had been pressing for a long time. The present Minister of Marine had taken a very keen interest in steps to make the coasts of New Zealand safer for those who went down to the sea in ships. The Minister of Agriculture, after confessing that he was one of the world’s worst sailors, expressed regret that Mr. Fraser had not been able to attend. All those who knew Mr. Fraser must recognise his interest in the comfort and safety of the Mercantile Marine. They could rest assured that anything Mr Fraser and the Government could do to make the coast safer and the lot of members of the Mercantile Marine easier would be done. It had been said on many occasions that the farmer was the backbone of the country and while he believed that to be true he also believed that it was true that an efficient Mercantile Marine was the spinal chord of the backbone. If it were not for the Mercantile Marine, New Zealand would not be able to play the part it was playing in the trade of the Empire. He extended the best wishes of the Government and the Minister of Marine to the company.
The toast of “The Navy” was proposed by Captain Dalgleish and responded to by Captain R. D. Oliver, R.N. their speeches being reported* under separate headings.
In proposing the toast of “The Merchant” Service” Dr. E. Kidson said that the development of New Zealand had been made possible by an efficient Mercantile Marine. It was a vital service and one of which they might well be proud. He referred to the efforts that had been made in recent years tc improve the living conditions of the men whose livelihood was won at sea.
Captain Colin McDonald, in replying, said that he was one of the original three men responsible for the formation of the company, and he recalled the sympathetic assistance that had been forthcoming from Sir James Mills. During his long experience he had formed the opinion that the Royal Navy and the Merchant Service were as far apart as the Poles. That would have to be altered. Captain J Mawson acknowledged the toast.
During the evening several other toasts were honoured and opportunity was taken to farewell Captain Hartman and Captain J Keane, who are leaving Wellington in the near future.