Andrew Stanley Keyworth was the younger of twin sons born at Auckland to Herbert Reginald Keyworth, a merchant, and his wife, Olive Rhoda Hathaway, on 2 December 1923. His three brothers were to become seafarers, but only Andy, as he was known, would remain at sea for the whole of his working life.
After his education at Devonport School, which he left as head boy, Andy at the age of 14 joined the scow Katie S as a deck boy. He revelled in the hard work and basic skills of coastal seamanship that life on board a commercial sailing vessel demanded. A year later he joined the Northern Steam Ship Company’s passenger and cargo steamer Hauiti , serving the Coromandel and Waiheke trades. The outbreak of the Second World War found him in the Holm Shipping Company’s coaster Holmlea. In 1940 Keyworth joined as an ordinary seaman on the trans-Tasman passenger liner Maunganui belonging to the Union Steam Ship Company of New Zealand, which he was to serve for the rest of his working life.
He had moved to the coastal refrigerated steamer Baltraffic , which the Union Company was managing as part of the wartime measures, when a blow from a falling hatch beam almost severed his leg. While recuperating ashore for three months in Wellington in 1941, he saw the Finnish barque Pamir entering harbour under sail and longed to be on board. Fortunately for him, the Pamir was shortly after taken in prize and handed to the Union Company for management in the trans-Pacific trade. Keyworth joined the vessel as an able seaman on its first voyage to San Francisco in March 1942. He was paid off in October 1944 with the rank of bosun, although he had actually served as uncertified third mate for the fourth voyage, so that he could sit for his second mate’s certificate.
With that qualification he joined the Union Company’s permanent staff in November 1944. He served briefly as third mate of the coaster Waipahi and the Picton ferry Tamahine , before returning to the Pamir as second mate for a further three North American voyages and a Tasman crossing. Promotion to chief officer came in time for the Pamir ’s 1947–48 round the world voyage, via Cape Horn to London and back to New Zealand, from New Zealand, the last by a commercial square-rigged ship. While Andy Keyworth was on an official visit to Lloyd’s during the vessel’s stay in London he met Joyce Lillian Arnold, who was employed there. They were married on 3 April 1948 in London, before the ship sailed. The Pamir went back to Auckland from Antwerp and was then returned to her Finnish owners. Her New Zealand crew was paid off.
Returning to the Union Company’s regular fleet, Keyworth was first appointed mate of grimy, hard-working West Coast colliers such as the Kartigi and Karepo. After working on the trans-Tasman and trans-Pacific cargo ships he was made chief officer of the Tasman passenger liner Monowai. In December 1956, at the age of 33, Andy received his first command. This was to one of the smallest ships in the Union fleet, the general cargo motor ship Katui , on the east coast cargo service. Wider experience came rapidly, including command of some of the cargo ships in the Pacific islands trade.
Keyworth was to be particularly associated with two areas of the Union Company’s operations. The first was the Far Eastern trade to Indian and Malaysian ports, where the ships still carried a small number of passengers on their round voyages. Keyworth spent over 10 years in that service and was regarded as the company’s most widely experienced master. He eventually commanded nearly all the ships on the run. His memories of the trade were somewhat clouded by the unfortunate Wainui confrontation between the ship’s engineers and the New Zealand seamen’s union in 1969–70, which contributed to the Union Company’s withdrawal after over 80 years’ participation.
His other main service was on the trans-Tasman run, where he spent the last 10 years of his sea-going career in command of one or other of the Union Company’s two jumbo roll-on, roll-off ships. While he was in command of the Union Rotoiti , Keyworth wrote himself into maritime history. In May 1980 the Union Rotorua , bound from Tauranga to Sydney, had broken down 200 miles west of Cape Maria van Diemen. The Union Rotoiti was only 80 miles away and the two masters agreed to attempt a tow. With skill on Keyworth’s part, and while the ships were sometimes only 25 metres apart, a polypropylene line was made fast by use of a line-carrying rocket and the tow began. Two further similar lines were secured by rocket near Cape Reinga and the tow resumed. Altogether 422 miles were covered in just over 56 hours at an average speed of 7.5 knots. It was a feat never before accomplished, and Captain John Warren of the Union Rotorua later exclaimed: ‘If anyone had previously tried to tell me it was possible … I would have thought them quite balmy’. Typically, Keyworth attributed the success of the operation to favourable weather conditions and the quality of his crew.
When Andy Keyworth retired from the Union Steam Ship Company in November 1986 he was its senior master, having been in command for 30 years. He was also the last master in the company’s service to hold a foreign-going square-rigged master’s ticket, a distinction that brought him the New Zealand Section presidency of the International Association of Cape Horners and the patronage of the New Zealand Pamir Association.
Retirement did not sever Keyworth’s connection with the sea. His home on Stanley Point, Devonport, overlooked the Waitemata Harbour and he delighted in cruising the waters of the Hauraki Gulf and the North Auckland peninsula in his 32-foot keeler, L’Avenir. Andy Keyworth died suddenly while taking his daily walk on 25 July 1996. He was survived by his wife, Joyce, three daughters and a son.