Hull’s Trawling Heritage in Song

 

Pete Clement is a songwriter living in landlocked Leicestershire. His songs aim to reflect the lives of ordinary working women and men – both now and in the past.     

He comes from a long line of agricultural labourers and frequent visits to Hull have prompted him to write about those who sailed from the port to harvest the sea – very much like those who worked to win a harvest from the land.

Below is a collection of songs written and performed by Pete Clement for STAND.

 

 

Notes on the songs:

Toilers of the Deep

Back from the Banks 

The North Sea has offered productive fishing grounds for hundreds of years and certain areas are known to deliver particularly good hauls.

There about twelve of these shallower areas – know as Banks. Most well known is Dogger Bank but there is also Coal Pit, Viking Bank, Little Fisher, Silver Pits, White Banks, etc.

But such fishing has always come with many hazards to be faced in the hope of a profitable catch.

 

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                 Three Day Millionaires

Roar Ashore

Trawlermen have always faced danger when fishing in northern waters but if they found the fish the money was good.

When landed the fish were measured out in containers – or kits, the more kits – the more money.

When the crew were paid off after several weeks of hard work and peril at sea they were ready to hit the town.

With money in their pockets they were known as ‘three-day millionaires’ as it was usually some three days before the sailed again.

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            They fed a nation, now desolation

Tobacco Road

When a trawlerman was due to sail he would invariably call in at ‘the stores’ at St. Andrew’s Dock to get the gear he would need for the trip.

The building was situated on a short street running down to the dockside which was a continuation of the tunnel running off West Dock Street.

Many crewmen would gather there buying boots, wet-weather gear, jerseys and oilskins, gutting knives – and even their own cheap, straw-filled mattresses known as ‘donkey’s breakfasts’.

Mufflers were bought to be worn to stop the seawater running down the fishermens’ necks. These pieces of tartan fabric were often worn by crewmens’ wives and gave their name to the Headscarf Revolutionaries.

But importantly the store also sold ‘Punch’ tobacco and a good supply of ‘smokes’ was vital for every trip.

So the area became known to all as Tobacco Road.

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     From record breaker to memory maker

Arctic Corsair

This trawler is one of the few remaining of her sort and is one of the main attractions in Hull commemorating the city’s maritime history.

Not only did she make record catches but she held her own during the Cod Wars when Icelandic gunboats harassed the UK fleet and drove them from their traditional fishing grounds.

    

 

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Settling Day: a family’s reward for father’s absence

Dad – and Mom/Fishdock Races/Settling Day

The role played by trawlermens’ womenfolk in supporting their men while they were at sea gave an underpinning strength to the fishing community.

While their man was away they became mother and father.

In early years the trawlermens’ wives would pick up a weekly wage on behalf of their menfolk from the trawler owners’ offices at St Andrew’s Dock.

 

This was a Friday morning routine and the wives would exit from the streets off Hessle Road to converge on West Dock Avenue and make their way to collect the much-needed housekeeping.

The scene was nick-named Fishdock Races.

When trawlermen came to be paid by the trawler owners on landing day the whole family- including the children who would take the day off school, would make a day of it by going into Hull.

Their shopping was mixed with the treat of having a meal at somewhere like the department store Hammonds which served, amongst other things, a mixed grill which was al local legend in terms of its quality and quantity.

So after a trawlerman’s wife had endured several weeks of loneliness, worry and solo parenting she naturally looked forward to Settling Day.

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      Three weeks to catch; three hours to land

Bobbers Job

Catching the fish was only part of the story.

When the trawlers docked back in Hull the haul needed to be off-loaded as quickly as possible.

The fish were weighed-off in containers called kits before being auctioned, processed and distributed all over the country.

The unloading was done by teams of men called ‘bobbers’ with each member of the team having a particular task to undertake.

There was no love lost between the trawlermen and the bobbers – but both groups were vital to the success of Hull’s fishing industry.

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Pete would be happy to collaborate with those who want to put their reminiscences of Hull’s fishermen, their families and their lives into words – and ultimately into song.            

All Music and lyrics © 2021 Pete Clement. All rights reserved.
All Tracks Recorded\Engineered by Chris White at Electric Fields in South Derbyshire –
www.piggybackstudios.co.uk