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James and Elizabeth Onedin of The Onedin LineThe Onedin Line story outline
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James Onedin (played by Peter Gilmore), the younger son of old Samuel Onedin, a miserly ship chandler, was a penniless sea captain with aspirations to greater things. James married Anne Webster (Anne Stallybrass), who was some years his senior (Stallybrass, however, actually was 7 years younger than Gilmore) and the spinster daughter of Captain Joshua Webster, owner of the topsail schooner Charlotte Rhodes. James's only motivation was to get his hands on the ship. A shrewd and often ruthless operator, James soon built up a fleet, assisted by the loyal Mr. (later Captain) Baines. His other sailing ships included the Pampero, the Medusa and the Soren Larsen. He also initiated the building of a steamship, the Anne Onedin.

James's Onedin volatile sister, Elizabeth, became pregnant by seafarer Daniel Fogarty (not Fogerty) but married wealthy Albert Frazer, developer of steamship technology and heir to the Frazer shipyards, a connection James Onedin soon turned to his own advantage. Elizabeth gave birth to a son, William, who later died as a young man in a street accident.

Robert Onedin, James's older brother, took after their father and counted coppers in the family shop, though he later expanded it into a profitable department store, urged on by his thrifty and socially ambitious wife, Sarah. They had one son, Samuel Onedin, who cared more for the sea and ships than shop keeping. Robert Onedin was elected as a Member of Parliament and he and Sarah moved to a smart new residence, but Robert's life abruptly came to an end when he choked on a bone at a family dinner. His widow Sarah made attempts to contact him through a medium, then, despite her son Samuel's objections, almost married the fortune-hunting Captain Dampier. She was last heard of as having undertaken a tour of the world but at a certain point abandoned its itinerary. Since she did not reappear in Liverpool she may even have settled abroad.
Howard Lang / Captain Wiliam Baines from The Onedin Line
At the end of the second series, Anne Onedin (Webster), whom James had come to love, died giving birth to a daughter, Charlotte. James Onedin considered two possible replacement brides for a while, wealthy widow Caroline Maudslay and the young heiress Leonora Biddulph, before settling for his daughter's governess, Letty Gaunt. In due course Letty also died, of diphtheria, and by the last series James Onedin was married to a third wife, the exotic Margarita Juarez, and was by then a grandfather.

The eighth and final series ended with news of the death at sea of Daniel Fogarty, whom Elizabeth had finally married after the death of her first husband Albert Frazer, and also with the birth, at last, of a son and heir for James. Born aboard ship, the child was named Will after Captain Baines.

The cast: View the complete cast of The Onedin Line

The episodes: follow this link to view all Onedin Line episodes

Where did the name Onedin Line come from?

An article in the British Woman magazine published in July 1973 featured an interview with Onedin Line writer, Cyril Abraham where he recalled how he came up with the very unusual family name Onedin. He wanted something unique. He had decided to call the leading male character James but still had not found a surname when the BBC agreed to film the story. Then some inspiration - he said: "One day I stumbled across the word Ondine, a mythological sea creature. By transposing the "e", I had James Onedin, a sea devil."

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