The stepson of a Liverpool ship carpenter, who died as a result of an asbestos-related cancer, is calling on colleagues who worked with him in the 1960s and 1970s to help understand how and where he contracted the disease.


Gerald Breen

Gerald Breen – known as Gerry to his friends and family - died in June 2021, aged 81, after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Now, Mr Breen’s family are seeking answers as to how he was exposed to asbestos during his working life.

Mr Breen worked as a ship carpenter for Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, as well as Alfred Holt and Company - which traded as Blue Funnel Line - in the Liverpool area between 1961 and 1967.

He also worked for the Ocean Steamship Co. Ltd in the 1970s which owned Blue Funnel Line.

Ship carpenters and shipwrights are well-known occupations for asbestos exposure. This is because asbestos was commonly used in the construction of ships, including in insulation, boilers, pipes, and other components. Ship carpenters and shipwrights were often involved in the maintenance and repair of these components, putting them at risk of inhaling asbestos fibres.

In order to find answers as to what happened to his stepfather, and to make a civil claim for compensation arising out of his stepfather’s condition, Mr Breen’s stepson, Daniel Stoppard, has instructed specialist asbestos law firm, Thompsons Solicitors.

Thompsons won the first-ever asbestos compensation case brought to the House of Lords back in 1972 and has since been involved in every major fight against the asbestos insurance industry. In addition, the firm is a member of the Mesothelioma UK Legal Panel, which recognises the firm’s expertise fighting for the rights of asbestos victims.

In March 2021, Mr Breen, who had moved to Wakefield in the intervening years, went to see his local GP after experiencing pain in his side. He was referred to hospital and underwent x-rays which revealed a shadow in his lungs. Following a biopsy, he was diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma in March 2021 and passed away around eight weeks later.

Mr Stoppard said: “The diagnosis and passing of my stepfather was a massive shock for us all, but particularly my mother, who is still struggling to come to terms with her loss. She used to go out shopping on her own but has become withdrawn and won’t venture out as much.

“Gerry used to be such a physically active, happy-go-lucky character, particularly pre-pandemic, but the asbestos cancer diagnosis really took the wind out of his sails.

“It was hugely distressing for the family to witness the rapid deterioration in his health. We’re still trying to process his loss, so any help from his former colleagues and their family members, would be hugely appreciated as we try to seek closure.”

Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that develops in the lining of the body's organs (typically the lungs), which is usually linked to asbestos exposure. It can often take decades for symptoms to develop after exposure. According to Cancer Research UK, 2,394 people died from mesothelioma cancer between 2017-2019 in the UK.

Charlie Bradley, senior specialist asbestos lawyer at Thompsons Solicitors, said: “We would be grateful to hear from anyone who remembers working for Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, Alfred Holt and Company, Blue Funnel Line and Ocean Steamship Co. Ltd, alongside Mr Breen.

“We’d also like to hear from anyone who worked for these firms during the 1960s and 1970s and can recall asbestos exposure as a part of their work. Such individuals will be invaluable to Mr Breen’s family, as they may be able to add vital information that will assist us in building a civil claim on their behalf.

“We hope then that we will be able to help Mr Breen’s family answer questions about the conditions that he worked in.”

Anyone with information should contact Charlie Bradley at Thompsons Solicitors on 0113 205 6385, or via email at