About the Elder Dempster project

An online archive of the Elder Dempster Lines

Our archive is a 'people's history' of the Elder Dempster Lines - from its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s to its demise in the 1980s.

The project

The Homeward Bound: A Liverpool-West Africa Heritage Project documents the lives and memories of Elder Dempster’s seafaring and office staff. As part of the project, we recorded 25 oral testimonies.

Not only has the Homeward Bound Project told us much about Liverpool’s global role, but we’ve also been able to record a way of life that has now largely disappeared with the advent of containerisation and air travel. Similarly, the project has provided detail about West Africa and its transition from colonialism to independence.

As well as collecting the 25 oral testimonies, Dr Ailbhe McDaid, the project assistant, has collected additional Elder Dempster ephemera too; from photographs and discharge books to menu cards, indentures and correspondence. As part of the project, we have also: trained volunteers, hosted workshops and organised a bespoke visit to the Merseyside Maritime Museum archive.

In the future, we aim to collect, digitise and display more of Elder Dempster’s material culture, such as people’s personal collections of photographs, correspondence and memorabilia. We also hope to do more outreach work, working with teachers and schools.

"Hard work. (EDL = 'Every Day Labour' was a true enough acronym). However, it was always performed alongside good shipmates and with being reasonably well rewarded for it."

John Goble -
Chief Officer at Elder Dempster Lines

Elder Dempster Pensioners' Association

The Elder Dempster Pensioners' Association (EDPA) is the principal partner in and initiator of the Homeward Bound Project. We’ve worked closely with EDPA, gathering information on the firm and its employees.

EDPA was formed with the objective of helping former staff of Elder Dempster Lines (seafarers or shore based) to maintain contact and old friendships. Over the years, this has been achieved through the regular publication of a newsletter and two lunches per annum held in the Liverpool area.

In 2018, two significant milestones were reached by EDPA. These were marking the 40th birthday of the association and, with great regret, the decision to close down. The reason for closure was declining numbers at EDPA events and, above all, the loss of a number of crucial committee members. To mark the closure of EDPA, a farewell lunch was held in June.

Individual EDPA members will continue to work with LJMU to complete phase two of the Homeward Bound Project which aims to collate and archive the collection of artefacts which have been donated to the Project by its participants. The completion of the Project will result in a rich and varied archive, and one which is a fitting and lasting tribute to Elder Dempster Lines and all who worked for the company.

Fourah Bay Reunion Association

We have also worked closely with the Fourah Bay Reunion Association, which was founded in 1996 as a forum to reunite the Elder Dempster midshipmen who served aboard the training ship m.v. Fourah Bay. The members and their partners meet as a formal group at a bi-annual reunion dinner, which is held in Liverpool during October. In recent years, the membership has opened up to include others who sailed on the Fourah Bay or were Elder Dempster trained, such as those from the former training ship m.v. Obuasi. The Fourah Bay Association welcomes new members.

Complementary to the Homeward Bound online archive, Captain Steve New of the Fourah Bay Reunion Association has been managing a project to document how the Elder Dempster ships were operated and how seafarers led their lives. Information gathered from participating members of the Fourah Bay Association will be indexed and stored for future evaluation. The gathered archive will be made readily available to Liverpool John Moores University and the Homeward Bound Project.

Our partners

We’ve collaborated with a number of organisations to complete the Homeward Bound Project.