1 9 7 1 – 1 9 8 0 (UK)
91 x 50 minute episodes
The Onedin Line events took place in Liverpool, England, in the 19th Century. The series opens in 1860 as Captain James Onedin (Peter Gilmore) inherits the smallest part of his late father’s estate – just £25.00.
Onedin marries Anne Webster (Anne Stallybrass) in order to get his hands on a ship – the Charlotte Rose – but the marriage turns out to be one of true love after all.
The series followed Onedin’s career – accompanied by his faithful Captain Baines (Howard Lang, pictured below) – as he hopped from boardroom to bedroom to briny sea, along the way remarrying twice.
Years after his first wife had died giving birth to his daughter, Charlotte, James married Letty Gaunt (Jill Gascoigne) but she died of diphtheria (when Gascoigne quit the show to star as policewoman Maggie Forbes in The Gentle Touch), and by the end of the series James was married to a tempestuous widow by the name of Margarita Juarez (Roberta Iger).
James was ruthless in his attempt to get his shipping company – the Onedin Line – started, stay solvent, win some of the arguments with his more prosperous brother and beautiful sister Elizabeth (Jessica Benton, pictured below) – who was the owner of the rival steam-propelled Frazer Line – and put an occasional smile on the faces of his unlucky wives.
The series ran for nine years (taking the Onedin saga up to 1886) giving early TV appearances to Jane Seymour and Kate Nelligan. At its peak, The Onedin Line was seen by an estimated audience of 109 million viewers in 44 countries.
Location filming was shot off Charlestown and Dartmouth in Devon. Working at sea unnerved some of the cast but newcomers were told not to worry – someone knew how to drive the boat – and not to be embarrassed if they were seasick.
While they couldn’t afford to stop filming each time an actor or actress felt queasy, the pep-talk went, there was always a bucket nearby.
The boat which was used in the second part of the series, the Sõren Larsen, is still in use. She now sails the tropical islands of the South Pacific and the New Zealand coast, not with cargo like in the series but with passengers.
The stirring theme tune was Aram Khachaturyan’s Spartacus.
Elizabeth (Onedin), Lady Fogarty