photo of RMS Titanic

Carter USM the Ultimate Sex Machine to Lloyds of London

I was given a challenge the other day to write a mind stimulating piece of content connecting late 80s pop culture to Lloyds of London the heart of modern-day insurance. Let me tell you it was not easy; I could have just written about music insurance but that's not the way I roll, I wanted to write something that people like yourself would find interesting.

Carter USM the Ultimate Sex Machine

Carter USM on stage singing Sheriff Fatman

Carter USM had 12 UK top 40s, and only one single ever made it to the UK number 1 spot. I will forgive you if you've never heard of him. However, you most likely have listened to some of his music, even unintentionally. To build our 6 degrees of separation, I chose the song Sheriff Fatman; the track only made it to number 23 in the UK charts in 1989. The song has a crucial line in the second verse that is integral to our journey and will help me lead you through time to our final destination that is Lloyds of London.

The line in the song comes from the second verse "Master butcher of Leigh on Sea." It just so happens that my father was a master butcher in Leigh on Sea and was the manager of Dewhurst butchers. Unfortunately back in 1995 Dewhurst's went into receivership and was sold to Lloyd Maunder in 2005, in 2006 it went into administration. Apparently, though it is now making a comeback, so let's go and take a little look at some of its history.

The Butchers

Dewhurst Butchers

Dewhurst was one of the first butchers to introduce glass-fronted shops; previous butchers were all open fronted which left the meat open to the elements, pollution, and insects. The Vestey family owned the chain; they were the 20th wealthiest family in the UK and made their fortune in the international food industry. Their most significant business interests lay in cattle ranching and sugar cane.

Vestey Group

The Vestey Brothers, William Vestey (later Lord Vesty) and his younger brother Edmund (then Sir Edmund) were sent to South American to make their fortune as the economy there at the time was booming. They started out by buying game birds, storing them in cold stores of American companies before shipping them to Liverpool. Their undertakings grew, and it wasn't long before they started importing beef into the UK.


Blue Star Line Ship in German Harbour

To make this process easier, they purchased some Reefers (Cold Storage Ships), this led them to create their own shipping company called the Blue Star Line. The Blue Star Line had offices located in Liverpool; Albon House to be precise, this iconic building recently underwent a full refurbishment. Blue Star Line was not the only business based in Albion House there was another, a much more famous or infamous shipping company depending on whom you speak to, called White Star Lines.

White Star Lines was founded in 1845 and made its name operating a fleet of Clipper ships that sailed between Britain and Australia and America. However, they are more well known for the three sisters ships they ran in the early 20th century; the Olympic, the Brittanic and possibly the most famous ship in maritime history the RMS Titanic.


Collision in the Solent showing damage to the RMS Olympic and HMS Hawke

The Olympic class vessels were designed and built by Harland and Wolff (Lord Pirrie was a director of both White Star and Harland and Wolff), RMS Olympic being the first and longest-serving of the three ships operating from 1911 until 1935. While all three vessels were virtually identical, RMS Titanic (albeit for a brief period) was the largest due to its extra tonnage. The extra weight was due to some alterations to enclose its A deck promenade.

The term "unsinkable" given to describe the Olympic class ships was not due so much to their design as far as it was due to an incident involving the RMS Olympic and the Royal Naval Cruiser HMS Hawke. On the 20th of September 1911, the two ships collided in the Solent. HMS Hawke's bow was designed to sink enemy ships, and while it did considerable damage to the luxury liner, above and below the waterline, the RMS Olympic still managed to limp back to port without assistance.

Titanic Insurance

Inside Lloyds Today

Lloyds was still primarily a marine insurer and carried the insurance for most of the shipping in that time. Marine cargo insurance was big business back then as virtually all goods transported were done so via sea, river, and canal.

Back to our story, on the 9th of January 1912 insurance brokers, Willis Faber & Co went to Lloyds to arrange insurance for the Olympic and the ill-fated Titanic on behalf of the White Star Line. The insurance was a prestigious risk, with cover for the hull alone set at £1 million (£95 million in today's money).

Many Lloyds syndicates covered various amounts ranging from £200 to £75,000, and due to the Ocean Liners 'unsinkable' reputation, the brokers managed to negotiate a very favourable premium of just £7,500.

On the 14th of April, 1912, the Titanic struck an iceberg in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic, and as the saying goes, the rest is history. That brings me to the end of the journey; I hope you enjoyed the trip, however, should you wish to continue your journey I have placed some links and sources below.

Lloyds and the Titanic

Titanic and Lloyds Podcast

Wikipedia Ref: Vesty Group - White Star Lines

Albion House

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