MENTION Thomas Cook and most people will think of the troubled travel firm which recently collapsed, putting thousands of jobs at risk until Hays Travel came to the rescue, writes Carla Flynn.

But when bestselling Wirral author Peter Lupson thinks of Thomas Cook, he recalls the pioneering businessman who founded the company in 1841 as a vehicle to spread the Christian word around the world.

Peter, a devout Christian himself, has spent four years researching Thomas Cook and six other inspirational entrepreneurs for his new book In God's Company.

"There is no name in the world more immediately recognisable in connection with travel than Thomas Cook, yet the furthermost thought in his mind when he organised his first ever railway excursion was making money," said 73-year-old Peter, who lives with his wife Evelyn in Pensby.

"Throughout his career as a tour organiser, his sense of service to others was paramount.

"His life's mission and greatest passion was to bring 'man nearer to man and nearer to his Creator' by making travel affordable and accessible to all."

The travel company stayed in the family until 1928 but subsequent owners kept the name because of Thomas Cook's proud reputation.

The inspiration for In God's Company came after a conversation with Peter's son, Mike, about the moral challenges business throws up and the pressure to make profit and take shortcuts.

"I started to do some research and found that the world of business is one in which moral boundaries are frequently crossed," explained Peter, who also has a daughter Karen and four grandchildren.

"When Richard Branson started out in the 1970s he said the word 'entrepreneur' had unsavoury associations and people assumed he was a wheeler dealer.

"I found seven businessmen who were absolute beacons of integrity – Cook, Colgate, Crowell, Hartley, Heinz, Kraft and Rossi.

"What they all had in common was a reputation for integrity, quality and outstanding care for customers and employees.

"They were Christians who cared about others and saw their work as service and not money making.

"They were all brilliant at what they did – they were world leaders and achieved their success honourably.

"They didn't have it easy either and they all faced terrible pressures and financial pain and struggle.

"They survived terrible crushing pressures but they had a personal relationship with Christ which sustained them and helped them get through.

"Their stories are so inspiring; they were all humble, ordinary people who started with nothing. They were not born with silver spoons.

"They showed that the ordinary stuff we're made of does not disqualify us from doing great things."

Peter, who grew up in Cambridgeshire, moved to Merseyside in the 1960s to pursue a career in education.

He taught English and foreign languages at several schools including Alsop Comprehensive for Boys in Walton, Yew Tree Comprehensive in Dovecot, Kingsmead Independent School in Hoylake and Weatherhead High School in Wallasey.

His first foray into publishing came when he wrote a series of school text books for O Level French and German students.

In God's Company is Peter’s 14th book and follows his bestseller Thank God for Football which was published in 2006 by SPCK.

His son Mike was also the inspiration for that book which charts the church origins of several top-flight football teams including Liverpool and Everton.

"Mike and his friends went to the Longcroft Christian Fellowship in Barnston and they played football in a church league," said Peter.

"However, they were mocked by their school friends who said things like 'I bet you use bibles for shin pads'.

"They felt left out and people were not taking them seriously.

"I thought this was terrible and I remembered that Everton was of church origin and Liverpool is an off-shoot of Everton.

"I told them that the next time they got verbal at school they were to tell everyone that Everton and Liverpool wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for the church

"I started to do some research and discovered that a third of the clubs in Premier League at that time were of church origin.

"I contacted the clubs and the churches that founded them and found there was very little information out there – I couldn't believe it.

"I remember speaking to the vicar of the church that started Tottenham Hotspur and he had no idea they had been involved in the birth of Spurs even though it was a six minute walk away.

"I felt so sorry for these lads for being laughed at. I had to do something to establish credibility so started to write a book."

The church league in Wirral forged close links with Tranmere Rovers and semi-professional teams in North Wales and was so successful the youngsters played in tournaments across Europe.

"Slowly but surely the climate changed and people realised we were doing things others weren't doing," said Peter.

"I wrote Thank God For Football to show that these youngsters were not freaks or odd bods but part of a rich tradition."

The book was launched at the FA Headquarters to rave reviews and led to Peter writing Across The Park, another bestseller which looked at the close links between the red and blue halves of Merseyside, despite the fierce rivalry on the pitch.

Peter, who retired from teaching two years ago and who was a chief examiner for A Level German for Oxford University, has also made documentaries to accompany his books which are aired across Christian TV channels.

He said: "Just as I wrote Thank God for Football to show that the people who started off some top clubs were not interested in fame and fortune but in recreation and good fellowship, I felt a compulsion to tell the stories of these seven businessmen who were beacons of integrity, to inspire and encourage others.”

In God's Company is published by OneDay Publications.


Peter will be talking about his new book at the Good Shepherd Church, Telegraph Road, Heswall on Wednesday, November 27 at 7pm, Entrance is free.