Waterfront Blues

The Rise and Fall of Liverpool's Dockland

By Brian Towers

Format: Paperback

The story of Liverpool - warts and all - written with warmth and passion from the perspective of the working people of the docks.

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Carnegie Publishing

Carnegie is the home of great history books. They believe that good historical writing packed with insight, explanation, interest and illustrations has a good potential market. They like to make their books accessible to a wide readership, with modest retail prices and attractive design. They are currently expanding their publishing in the areas of general history, city and town histories, counties and regions and industrial heritage.

Product Description


This book tells the real story about Liverpool's docklands and the people who lived and worked there. Set against the background of Liverpool's unique urban experience, the author sets out to tell what conditions were actually like in one of the world's largest and most important seaports. Sometimes, this makes for harrowing reading. There was poverty and poor housing. There was massive over-crowding, and the town grew at such a rate that public health in the poorer districts was among the worst in the world. Yet migrants came from near and far in search of work. And the work they found in dockland could be plentiful and relatively well paid. Often the work was brutally hard and exhausting. Cargoes had to be unloaded manually or using modest dockside cranes. Deal porters shouldered long, heavy planks of wood, while 2 cwt (100 kg) sacks were commonly carried by one man half-running along a narrow plank from ship to shore. Only the young, agile and experienced could safely handle such loads or the great barrels of tobacco and bales of cotton. Employment on the docks was far from secure.

Until quite recently workers had to stand by twice a day hoping to be picked for that half-day's work. This casual system of hiring brought no security whatever, and dockers were at the whim of the employer as well as at the mercy of trade depressions or even the weather. Not surprisingly there were strikes and industrial disputes, to which the employers' and the government's response was often harsh and uncompromising. At one low point the Royal Navy's HMS Antrim was photographed at anchor in the Mersey 'at readiness' to respond to any trouble from the striking dockers. A series of disputes and generally improving conditions did eventually lead to the abolition of the casual system, but by then the shipping container had led to the closure of many of the docks (the whole South End system closed in 1971), while the creation of a container terminal at Seaforth totally transformed the nature of the port. The traditional docklands and their way of life was gone for ever. Brian Towers was uniquely well placed to write this book. He was a professor of industrial relations whose family roots were as seamen based in Liverpool.

His perspectives and insights recreate way of working and life that have now been largely lost.

Additional Information

Additional Information

Format Paperback
Imprint Carnegie Publishing
Publication Date 20 Sep 2011
ISBN 9781859361795
Number of Pages 376

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Press Reviews

"Waterfront Blues: The Rise and Fall of Liverpool's Dockland "by Brian Towers is a depiction of the bustling city in England which was once one of the most important seaports in Europe and had a large population of poor dock workers and their families who lived in deplorable conditions along the wharf. The book depicts in heart-rending photographs the conditions of former years. Now Liverpool has been totally transformed since the dock is no longer a major seaport for shipping. The city nearly collapsed but this book shows the great heart, determination, and spirit of these hard working men and women and their leaders which has given Liverpool a marvelous re-birth with the squalor now gone and replaced by modest modern homes and buildings and businesses. This book gives hope now in these troubled financial times of flux for so many industries and the difficulties so many towns around the world are facing. It is well worth reading and well written

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