Meet

Fergus dunlop

at the Guernsey Literary Festival 2021

  • Title: Could a classic Bentley circumnavigate the Med?
  • Date: Tuesday 27th April, Time 18:00–19:00
  • Venue: Guille-Alles Library, St Peter Port
  • Admission: Free
  • Fergus will be interviewed about his circumnavigation of the Mediterranean in a 1957 Bentley, 30 years ago, and the subsequent multi-decade journey to publication.

The Lady With No Name

Part One of the Borderline Pass trilogy

The year is 1988. The Cold War is ending. Europe’s near-abroad unlocks. And a thirty-year-old Londoner attempts a road trip from France to western Turkey in a vintage Bentley, the book’s eponymous heroine (if having no name can be an eponym).

Their journey unfolds into a circumnavigation of the Mediterranean Sea.

The car’s heroic skittishness is a source of comedy and woe, easing the author’s frustration with his non-committal girlfriend back home.

This book will appeal to adventurers and travelers, to students of human nature and late twentieth-century European history, to classic car enthusiasts and petrol-heads, and to all who enjoy a gripping story.

As Part One of Fergus’ Borderline Pass travelogue trilogy, The Lady With No Name takes Part One of his story, from the summer of 1988 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989.  320 pages including a map and 17 colour photographs.

Purchase online (from the Book Depository or Amazon)

Borderline Pass - the full trilogy

After The Lady With No Name, Fergus continues his search for adventure. In 1993-4 he rides The Elephant’s Child, a Russian motorcycle with side-car west from Moscow. A year later, he and his new bride take The Cheshire Cat, a condemned VW Beetle, on their honeymoon. Together, they follow the battle-scarred Dalmatian coast to Albania, a land on the brink of civil war, looking for their Garden of Eden. 696 pages including five maps and six line drawings.    Purchase online (from the Book Depository or Amazon)

Twenty-four bonus photos, beyond the seventeen in the book

Caption indicates relevant page in The Lady With No Name.

Page numbering in Borderline Pass may differ slightly.

Days 6 & 7, page 20, Turkey above Kusadasi –

We wonder at a dancing bear….‘.

From left, with a mixture of curiosity and horror, the author, Philip Blackwell, Claire Hill, bear and itinerant bear-tamer.

Days 6 & 7, page 20, Turkey, Ephesus –

The view from the front passenger seat as we parked among the ruins.

Day 9, page 25, Turkey, Izmir customs pound –

We are entering the Underworld, creeping between demolished lorries and more shattered cars, into a compound heaped with written-off vehicles of every description. For a moment we are both speechless. It is a spectacle of automotive damnation.’

Day 12, page 32, Turkey, Pamukkale –

The fragile moonscape… would make a spectacular alternative to the Villa d’Este or Monterey for a classic car photoshoot.’

Day 14, page 42, Turkey, Holy Urfa –

Urfa airport has one flight a week, and it left yesterday.’

Day 18, page 56, Turkey, tractor repair workshop in Karaman –

It is lunchtime.’

The Bentley’s rescuers: the partners who run the shop are second from left and second from right. The German-speaker, ‘Foxy’, is on the left.

Day 18, page 57, Turkey, Karaman – day-job for a whirling Dervish

First the welder licks the flame across the whole pump (if that is what it is) to warm it.

Day 29, page 93, Turkey – roadside stall

Cobalt sky, distant snow-capped mountains, cold…

Day 29, page 94, central Turkey –

We have just passed a monumental old stone bridge, perhaps a royal one, stranded in a broad dry riverbed.’

Day 32, page 108, Syria, over the Turkish border above Iskenderun –

…a teenager interpreter called Ahmed…

Day 33, page 115, Syria, south bank of the Ephrates, upstream from Raqqa.

With the dynamo fixed, we take our last look at water before heading into the desert in search of Sergiopolis.

Day 34, page 129, Syria, Roman Palmyra at dusk, with the 13th century Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle in the background on the ridge, between the arch and the end pillar.

… an abandoned archeological wonder conjoined to a twentieth-century township on its rim.

Day 36, page 138, Jordan, Petra –

… the amphitheatre… would have required silence in the rest of the town for anything to be heard from the stage below.

Day 43, page 169, Egypt, Cairo – looking out from the British embassy mechanics’ workshop

Sunset across the embassy compound.

Day 46, page 185, Libya, Tobruk – military cemetery – with my notebook in the shot from the left.

…British sovereign territory in Libya, and the salaries of these grave-keepers come in sterling via Cairo.

Day 46, page 188, Libya, Susa/Apollonia – the closest harbour in Africa to Athens.

‘... a base for yellow-decorated fishing smacks.

Day 48, page 214, Libya, Gulf of Sirte – the Bentley is the white dot amongst the vegetation to the extreme left of the shot.

A huge natural salt-pan stretches beside the road, like the hard sugar on a school bun.

Day 50, page 232, Tunisia, Jerba – waithing for the ferry back to the mainland.

Greek and Roman historians thought Jerba Island was Homer’s land of the Lotus Eaters in his Odyssey. Little wonder.

Day 52, page 248, Algeria – eastern highlands

… the contours are Grampian and I have even found a convincing loch, complete with a mist as might creep up the hill…

Day 53, page 251, Algeria – Mascara

They don’t need mascara in Mascara.

Day 55, page 263 / Day 57, page 269 Spain, Seville – scouting for a place to garage My Lady for the autumn

We pass under the tower of La Giralda, the twelfth-century Moorish minaret…

Day 61, page 289, France, Avignon shunting yard –

The ramp to the top deck is steep, like coming out of a riverbed in Syria. I cannot see a thing, and five cylinders won’t pull. We take a run.

Day 62, page 291, France, Paris-Bercy shunting yard –

We are alone. No one is left to show off to. Now my little hellcat will pull herself together.

Day 62, page 294, France, Pas de Calais –

Freezing fog in the kingdom of the wicked witch.

Days 6 & 7, page 20, Turkey above Kusadasi –

We wonder at a dancing bear….‘.

From left, with a mixture of curiosity and horror, the author, Philip Blackwell, Claire Hill, bear and itinerant bear-tamer.

Days 6 & 7, page 20, Turkey, Ephesus –

The view from the front passenger seat as we parked among the ruins.

Day 9, page 25, Turkey, Izmir customs pound –

We are entering the Underworld, creeping between demolished lorries and more shattered cars, into a compound heaped with written-off vehicles of every description. For a moment we are both speechless. It is a spectacle of automotive damnation.’

Day 12, page 32, Turkey, Pamukkale –

The fragile moonscape… would make a spectacular alternative to the Villa d’Este or Monterey for a classic car photoshoot.’

Day 14, page 42, Turkey, Holy Urfa –

Urfa airport has one flight a week, and it left yesterday.’

Day 18, page 56, Turkey, tractor repair workshop in Karaman –

It is lunchtime.’

The Bentley’s rescuers: the partners who run the shop are second from left and second from right. The German-speaker, ‘Foxy’, is on the left.

Day 18, page 57, Turkey, Karaman – day-job for a whirling Dervish

First the welder licks the flame across the whole pump (if that is what it is) to warm it.

Day 29, page 93, Turkey – roadside stall

Cobalt sky, distant snow-capped mountains, cold…

Day 29, page 94, central Turkey –

We have just passed a monumental old stone bridge, perhaps a royal one, stranded in a broad dry riverbed.’

Day 32, page 108, Syria, over the Turkish border above Iskenderun –

…a teenager interpreter called Ahmed…

Day 33, page 115, Syria, south bank of the Ephrates, upstream from Raqqa.

With the dynamo fixed, we take our last look at water before heading into the desert in search of Sergiopolis.

Day 34, page 129, Syria, Roman Palmyra at dusk, with the 13th century Fakhr-al-Din al-Maani Castle in the background on the ridge, between the arch and the end pillar.

… an abandoned archeological wonder conjoined to a twentieth-century township on its rim.

Day 36, page 138, Jordan, Petra –

… the amphitheatre… would have required silence in the rest of the town for anything to be heard from the stage below.

Day 43, page 169, Egypt, Cairo – looking out from the British embassy mechanics’ workshop

Sunset across the embassy compound.

Day 52, page 248, Algeria – eastern highlands

… the contours are Grampian and I have even found a convincing loch, complete with a mist as might creep up the hill…

Day 61, page 289, France, Avignon shunting yard –

The ramp to the top deck is steep, like coming out of a riverbed in Syria. I cannot see a thing, and five cylinders won’t pull. We take a run.

Day 62, page 294, France, Pas de Calais –

Freezing fog in the kingdom of the wicked witch.

Photo: The author in Izmir on Christmas Day 1988

Fergus Dunlop as a writer

Fergus was born in London in 1958, so is now in his mid-sixties.

His passion for writing began in early boyhood. As a teenager, he edited his school’s fortnightly magazine, and in his final summer turned poacher by launching a competitor. That venture made a profit, and even broke the mould, but at the price of a lifelong caffeine intolerance.

Fergus’ undergraduate and postgraduate research (see below) again explored new ground, but neither of these projects resolved the question of what to do for a job.

By the age of 29, Fergus had hopped from engineering to publishing to retailing. His roles had included production, sales and general management. The one constant was his writing – speeches for members of the British parliament, papers for political campaigns, and an award-winning FTSE 100 annual report.

Eventually, he headed to the City of London, because ‘that was where the money was’. A decade passed, pitching to clients, planning expansions, designing sales databases and crunching asset risk models. Some of his best-sellers were multi-chapter, single-copy investment proposals. Outside of work, the writing continued – his travel journals date from this period: The Lady With No Name, about a circumnavigation of the Mediterranean Sea in his company car; and the trilogy from which it is drawn, Borderline Pass. These books provide a street-level view of European and Middle Eastern life in flux, at the end of the Cold War.

 

Read more

The next decade passed in Germany, growing the businesses that had resulted from his spreadsheets. But he was still putting pen to paper, on the side, for example with a proposal in German for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s office, and the Finance Ministry, on pension reform.

Early in the new millennium, in parallel with his fund work, he launched an annual tome, German Institutional Investor Positioning. This was an in-depth asset allocation forecast for the year ahead, with English and German language editions, and won a following among pension funds, asset managers, stockbrokers and banks.

In 2006, Fergus took early retirement and his family moved to Guernsey. However, the break from writiing did not last long. He has since helped manage several stock exchange-listed and privately held investment companies. With weighty prospectuses, take-over documents, annual reports and internal policies, striking the right note remains important.

In Guernsey, Fergus became more active in the community. He served as Constable of his parish; chaired a campaign group in the referendum on electoral reform; and stood for the States of Deliberation, the bailiwick’s parliament. He founded a consumer group, Bus Users Guernsey (BUG), and helps lead a church Sunday Club. The writing never stopped – he has circulated pamphlets and research on Guernsey topics (see below), scripted and produced nativity plays and penned dozens of parish magazine articles.

So, with the publication of Borderline Pass (2020) and The Lady With No Name (2021), Fergus stays true to his longest-standing love, arranging a story on the page.

To Infinity & Beyond: a critique of P&R’s vision for post-lockdown

Sent to the Deputies on in June 2020. It notes that two-thirds of our economy can work easily from home; and the Staycation £ is worth three times the spending of visitors 

Download a PDF

Saying No to the £500m 40-year Bond

Sent to the Deputies in April 2020. P&R’s idea to borrow £500m assumed a dole queue of 10% by Christmas.    In the event, it was 1.68%. Even in July 2020, when joblessness was down to 3%, this scare was repeated.

Download a PDF

The Risks of States Borrowing

A pamphlet written for Deputies in June 2009, in response to a proposal from Treasury & Resources to borrow £175m at the  ‘unrepeatable’bargain rate of 5.7% fixed for 20 years. Happily, Deputies saw the light.

Download a PDF

Undergraduate Research

The Council of Peers at Guildhall and Whitehall, December 1688 (Bristol, 1980). This B.A. history dissertation looked back at a moment, still lost to England’s national memory, when London escaped by the slimmest of margins a Bastille Day of its own, a century before the celebrated tipping-point in Paris.

Download a PDF

Postgraduate Research

The Management of Assembly Robot Flexibility (Oxford, 1982). This M.Phil. thesis peered into the future of manufacturing, foreseeing as many challenges for managers as for workforces. The conclusion was that robots would not take over assembly lines any time soon.

Download a PDF