By: Father John Buckley
Dr Ashley's Pleasure Yacht, by Fr Robert WH Miller, published by The Lutterworth Press.
'I must go down to the seas again,
to the lonely sea and the sky' John Masefield.
I grew up in Cork City not far from where my father worked on the docks. From my earliest years, Dad introduced me to the world of the dockland. With special permission he was able to take me on board ship. In awe and with a certain amount of fearsome wonder I went down into the bowels of ships to meet merchant seamen and sometimes even, was taken up onto the bridge to be introduced to more merchant seamen officers and captains all friendly and neatly dressed. My father was what I would call a Christian socialist and had the welfare of seafarers at heart. Those were the years of fledgling Irish Merchant Navy with such ships as 'Irish Pine' and 'Irish Oak'.
It was then a privilege for me to be invited to review 'Dr Ashley's Pleasure Yacht' by RWH Miller. For me Dr Miller's work was both a pleasure and an enlightenment. I have learned so much from this excellent work.
John Ashley was a man of deep faith and great humanity. Add to that a far seeing vision. That dream led him towards a goal that was to be his life's work, that is, to bring Christ to seafarers, whatever the cost. Dr Miller does not pull any punches in this honest assessment of John Ashley. In gifted people like him there is often a restlessness, a tension. Indeed there are shades of Paul here. Like the great apostle himself and because of this, John Ashley could be his own worst enemy. For him, driven by such passions, nothing must come between him and the mission. Such people attract negative and dark forces.
Enter John Ashley's good ship 'Eirene'. If seafarers would not come to Christ or indeed were not able to do such, then John Ashley would take Christ to them. The Mission to Seafarers had really set sail. The rest is history. But what a great story. Or should I say what great episodes. For Dr Miller has very skilfully combined three in one. The man and the ship as well as the history of the beginning of mission to seafarers.
So I would urge you to jump on board the good ship 'Eirene' with Dr Miller. It will be a voyage of calm seas and stormy oceans. The 'Eirene' with John Ashley at the helm will encounter many obstacles but it will never sink, because the dream is still alive today. When you come off that ship you will, I assure you , be a better person for that voyage. People still go down to the seas again and modern life has changed things and brought new challenges to seafarers. We must be ready and willing to be there for them.
Dr Miller deserves full marks for a magnificent effort.