The Hull Fishing Industry
Kingston upon Hull was for more than 150 years a major renowned fishing port and in the 1950s through to the mid 1970s St. Andrews Dock was recognized as the home of the world’s largest distant water fleet of deep sea trawlers.
From the early 1950s through to the mid 1970s Hull’s distant water fleet developed from old pre-war coal burning side trawlers to crude oil, then diesel electric power culminating in the introduction of stern trawling factory vessels. Many of the older vessels were scrapped and, with the oil price increase in the 1960s, the scrapping of vessels accelerated. In 1975 St. Andrews Fish Dock was closed and operations moved back to Albert Dock, the original home of the fleet. In 1976 the last of the oil fuelled vessels, the Arctic Ranger, was withdrawn from service.
THE EVOLUTION OF TRAWLERS
After WW2, fishing the Arctic waters off the coasts of Norway, Iceland, Russia, Bear Island, Greenland, Labrador and Newfoundland was prolific and, for the most part a lucrative business. The grounds around those coastlines had, due to wartime hostilities been closed to commercial fishing operations resulting in a massive natural increase in fish stocks. The area around Bear Island was an example when vessels from Hull and Grimsby were regularly returning to port with capacity catches.
To maximize carrying capacity the crews, when gutting the fish, beheaded them in order to allow greater edible weight of catch to be stowed in the fish hold. This practice created over supply and, as a consequence, affected fish prices on the fish markets at all ports with unsold fish being sent, at a pittance of their true cost, to the fish meal companies to be turned into animal feed. In later years the practice of returning fish heads to the sea was blamed for the pollution of the sea bed. After this practice was abandoned and as catches became less bountiful the stowage of the catch became more important, with crews being made more aware that quality rather than quantity was what mattered in order to reach the market in good condition.
A practice came into being whereby the earliest caught fish was stowed in ice on what was called ‘bulk shelves’ which were about three feet deep. The later caught fish which brought premium prices was laid out on ice in single layers of fish on one shelf. This part of the catch always looked in much better condition than bulked fish which would show the marks of ice and the weight of being stowed among other fish. Single layered shelved fish always had a sheen to them and brought a higher price. However the practice of shelving could not be done throughout the trip because as it was not encased in ice, as was bulked fish, it would not have remained fresh; also this method of stowage would have greatly reduced the carrying capacity of the fish hold.
Territorial Fishing Limits
Over the years a number of factors resulted in fish stocks being depleted to such an extent that the nations controlling the Arctic grounds took action to conserve their commercial interests. This action included the extension of Territorial Fishing Limits around their coastlines.
What effect did the 200 mile limit have on the Humber fishing ports?
The three ‘Cod Wars’ between Britain and Iceland were the consequence of Iceland’s unilateral declaration of exclusion zones, eventually resulting in a 200 mile limit around Iceland’s coastline being imposed thereby expelling foreign vessels from thousands of square miles of traditional fishing grounds. Norway, Canada and other countries also adopted this policy/ban.
For the Humber ports of Hull and Grimsby, who were both extensively distant water operators, these actions were a disaster and signalled the beginning of the end for a number of other British ports; in addition, the fleets that sailed from Fleetwood and a smaller number of Scottish fleets were left with only home waters to fish. The overall effect was that thousands of people employed in the fishing industries, both in the catching and processing of fish, lost their livelihoods when many businesses folded, with hundreds of ships being laid up/scrapped.
A nationwide workforce of highly skilled experienced fishermen who had developed their knowledge over many years was no longer required and suffered redundancy. Many of the seamen, some of a mature age, were not able to adapt and never sailed again, whilst others found employment in different maritime fields or low paid manual shore work.
**For more information on the Cod Wars and a first hand account – see menu page ‘The Cod Wars’.
What caused the decline in fish stocks worldwide?
A number of factors which contributed to the depletion of fish stocks were: the development of electronics – fish finding equipment such as sophisticated fish echo sounders, sonar and net sounders which created the ability to carry out mid water (pelagic) trawling instead of the traditional seabed (demersal ) trawling.
With demersal trawling, if the fish were detected more than four (4) or five (5) metres off the seabed, they evaded being caught as they were above the vertical opening of the trawl net. Once mid water trawls were introduced, the trawl’s vertical opening was much greater and could be positioned anywhere within the water depth, which allowed a greater volume of the water column to be fished giving the fish little chance of evading the net. This was made possible by the introduction of sonar, which increased detection of shoaling fish, and the net sounder which showed the Skipper at what depth his trawl was operating.
Both diagrams on the right of page courtesy of: www2.gov.scot/Uploads/Document/Fishing%Gearpdf
The fact that the mid water trawls did not need to be dragged along the seabed made for less friction which in turn could result in a saving on fuel consumption/costs and allowed vessels to tow much larger trawls. A trawl in mid water was a lot less likely to sustain net damage and therefore increased its catching capability.
A scientific theory was that with the phenomena of global warming, sea temperatures had changed affecting the breeding of fish in the Arctic waters, in particular the traditional breeding grounds along the Norwegian Coast. However, while this was true for adult cod, they appear to be somewhat more conservative in their choice of water temperature when they spawn. During a comprehensive scientific experiment it was determined that all fish stocks studied, including cod, consistently sought out water that had a temperature of between one (1) and eight (8) degrees. This indicated that the egg and larvae stages of a cod’s life may constitute a particularly vulnerable time with regard to the effects of climate change.
These damaging factors were ignored in the pursuit of financial gain, and a large portion of the blame for today’s problems can be laid at the door of national authorities who governed the fishing areas and the fish stock management, over fishing, by trawler owners.
Management of Hull’s Fishing Fleet
The owners of Hull’s Fishing Fleet were hard nosed business men whose ambition and financial acumen turned Hull into a highly successful world renowned fishing port. Their endeavour provided employment to a large percentage of the local workforce, either directly or indirectly. Their poor understanding of fish stock management was damaging to the industry and indirectly contributed to its eventual collapse.
Blatant disregard to the preservation of existing fish stocks was completely ignored when vessels from many northern countries fished seasonally along the coastline off Norway during a time when breeding was ongoing. The fish caught had millions of young fish within their bodies in the form of fish roe which were never allowed to develop into fully grown fish. Although the fish roe was saved and landed and sold as part of the catch, the profit realised from this product never compensated for the damaging loss of the potential replenishment of fish stocks.
Deep sea fishing – the most dangerous of jobs
The business of deep sea fishing was a brutal and uncompromising way of earning a living and was recognised as the most dangerous of jobs. These dangers were also evident in the running of a financial business that relied heavily on day to day supply and demand.
Trawlers often brought a catch to market with the crew having optimistic views on how much their hard earned work would profit them….. only for an excess amount of fish being landed or a poor demand by the processors to dash their hopes. These circumstances not only affected the crew but the cost of sending a vessel to sea for three weeks or more, fully loaded with the necessary fuel and equipment, was an expensive outlay which often resulted in both crew and owner settling in debt.
However, the heartbreaking situation of working for three weeks without remuneration was nothing compared to the dangers encountered on vessels regularly plying their trade in the Arctic which geographically almost always presented an environment fraught with inherent danger.
Gale and storm force winds, coupled with sub-zero temperatures led to extreme icing up conditions which were frequently encountered during the winter months. Accidents, sometimes life changing injuries to crew, were normal. Weather conditions made operational activities many times more dangerous and could result in loss of life caused by crew members being crushed, caught by wires, ropes parting under strain, and the washing of a man overboard inevitably led to loss of life. The tragedies which could overcome a vessel and crew, more often than not, were down to circumstances and weather conditions over which there was very little control.
With vessels experiencing gale, storm and, on occasions, hurricane force winds combined with severe icing up, the ship’s superstructure collected additional top weight which could quickly affect the vessel’s stability leading to it capsizing with catastrophic consequences. Hull suffered many such incidents over the years when vessels sank and all hands on board perished.
However, there were times when decisions, made by the Skipper to continue fishing in extreme weather conditions, led to accidents, loss of life and, in some cases, loss of the vessel. Trawler owners were hard taskmasters and expected their Skippers to combat and overcome conditions and circumstances that were obstacles to success.
Roles of the Crew
A system of marine education implemented by the trawler owners and government regulations allowed trainee fishermen to be trained in the technical and safety aspects needed for the progress through life in the Fishing Industry. Sea time, during which they learned their trade, was the most beneficial process through which all fishermen needed to become competent and earn promotion. Any ambitious fisherman would during his career observe and learn from the man immediately above him in the chain of command.
Legislation required that all ship’s Officers followed and completed the Department of Transport examinations together with the required amount of sea time. This process spanned a number of years during which time the person worked at each job title stage and achieved the necessary experience and qualifications.
To take command of a deep sea trawler required a number of disciplines. The way forward for any young person joining the Fishing Industry was as one would expect to start at the bottom of the ladder. Ambition, hard work, intelligence, determination, strength of character and a large slice of luck were the main ingredients needed to progress through the stages to become a Skipper. Being in command of a vessel was the ambition of most fishermen and those who did achieve command took on a great responsibility. The most responsible part of the Skipper’s duties was to ensure the safety of his vessel and crew, a task always made difficult due to weather conditions and operational procedures.
Making his vessel a profitable unit was his objective and the most difficult to achieve as it relied on a number of variables, not least the vessel of which he was Skipper. A modern vessel with the latest equipment and advanced technology gave a Skipper the edge over a rival in command of an older vessel with outdated gear.
The most positive and valuable asset to any potential Skipper was the ability to predict where and when to take his vessel to the most prolific fishing grounds. Successful Skippers seemed to have this inbuilt sense coupled with experience and historic information collated over years which enabled them to consistently complete profitable trips. The recording of information relating to date, time of year, location, weather and sea temperature, etc, being logged and retained for future reference was absolutely necessary for them to build up a catalogue of vital personal knowledge. There was a saying in the Industry that went ‘A Skipper was only as good as his last trip’ Over the years a number of Skippers were noted for their ability to catch fish. People like Roy Waller, Richard Taylor,Charles Drevers, Bernard Wharram who all were very successful. The most successful was Bill Brettell who on a number of occasions won the top award. Many people claimed that fish which became stuck in the meshes of his net (stickers) were trying to get into his trawl, not out.
Many of these top men regularly featured in the Silver Cod/Challenge Shield Competition which identified the ship, Skipper and crew who, over twelve months landed the most fish and generated the most points making them the top vessel for the year. Although these competitions were open to all vessels operating from the Humber ports, it is a fact that no Grimsby trawler won either the Silver Cod or The Challenge Shield. The nature of these competitions led to criticism from many people who claimed that the aim to be top ship led to recklessness on the part of the Skipper, in that he would continue to fish in weather conditions that were considered too dangerous.
Although there were a number of trawling companies trading from Hull, successful Skippers sailed mainly for one employer and were coveted by the Company. Less successful ones often had to move to another company to seek a command. Many failed to be a success at all and spent a great deal of time sailing as Mate or even lower rating.
There was an unwritten rule practiced by trawler owners which banned ship’s officers, in particular Skippers, from seeking work with alternate companies. A company which agreed to give a Skipper a job had to seek agreement from the company from which the Skipper was leaving. This rule was often used as a form of punishment by a company who did not want a Skipper to transfer his employment and therefore did not allow a transfer to take place. Under these circumstances an individual could be unemployed for weeks/months at a time.
As second in command the Mate was required to assume overall responsibility when the Skipper was otherwise employed e.g. sleeping below. The Mate organised and supervised the watch keeping rota and the daily work schedule for the ‘day men’ who prepared the fishing gear en route to the fishing grounds. During fishing operations the Mate managed the deck when the trawl gear was being shot and hauled and was responsible for the stowage and landed condition of the catch. When the Mate had his watch below period, he had an appointed ‘fishroom man’ to cover his absence down the fishroom over a twelve hour period . (The twelve hours consisted of the Mate’s watch below and his time in command on the bridge whilst the Skipper slept).
The ‘fishroom man’ had to be hard working and conscientious and ensure the fish were sorted and stowed correctly. For this added responsibility the fishroom man received a (secret) gratuity when the catch was landed and sold. The Mate was personally obligated and liable for the payment of this tax free bonus (known as a backhander).
Fresh fish trawler trips to Iceland, Norway etc, were normally of 21 days duration but when fishing distant grounds off the coasts of Greenland, Labrador or Newfoundland, they were away for up to 28 days. The landing of fresh fish which was more than sixteen or seventeen days old could result in a poor quality product which, in turn often led to fish being unsold and sent to the fish meal plant. Profitability depended upon a catch being a good quality product. If a poor quality catch was presented on the market the Mate was held responsible and this often led to him losing his job.
When fresh fish trawlers landed their catch, the sale of the fish was sold by a system known as a Dutch auction. This was the accepted way of doing business but could be a hit and miss method due to supply and demand of the day. Dutch auctions start at a high price and come down in stages with the buyers making their bid as and when the price suits them.
The crew of fresh fish vessels could, and sometimes did, complete a trip which resulted in them owing the Company money. Assuming the crewman sailed on the vessel’s next trip, the deficit would be deducted from the monies earned on that trip. Settling in debt occurred when a very poor trip was brought to market coinciding with poor demand and low prices. If a vessel had a major breakdown and returned home, it rarely cleared expenses. These incidents not only cost the crew but also the owners.
All crew members profited from the sale of the catch based on a percentage of the gross earning of the vessel. The Skipper and Mate, as ‘share men’ were paid on the nett earnings of the vessel, i.e. after all expenses incurred on that trip were deducted. These expenses included all payment made to sources such as the crews earnings, fuel costs, landing of the catch, etc. If the vessels catch realised £12,000 gross the crew members would receive their agreed percentage of £12,000. The Skipper and Mate would receive their agreed percentage after expenses, e.g. if the expenses for the trip was £4,000 they would settle on £8,000.
The Skipper, as a share man, earned £100 to every £1,000 of the nett amount the catch made. So in the example above he would settle on £8,000 which meant his share would be 8 x £100 = £800 plus trip money of £80 totalling £880, less any personal expenses. The Mate would settle on £75 to the thousand, e.g. 8 x 75 = £600 but no trip money. The Mate was also responsible for his own personal expenses. Personal expenses included items from the outfitting store, such as personal protective clothing, and his bond bill incurred during the trip, items such as tobacco, cigarettes, chocolate and a limited allowance of alcohol.
The position of boatswain required a man of good seamanship and net technology knowledge. He deputised for the Mate during the periods when the Mate was sleeping or acting in command during the Skipper’s watch below. It was a role that most men progressing through the ranks had to master. Quite often the Boatswain was a mature seaman who never achieved his ambition to be in command or serve as Mate, sometimes as a result of failing the required Department of Trade eyesight test.
On passage to and from the fishing grounds the Boatswain was the Officer in charge of one of the three watches but whilst fishing his role was total committed to deck work. The major part of his job was organising the hauling and shooting of the gear during fishing operations. A specific quality required for this role was expertise in net fixing and repair. Further to this, the ability to sort out foul gears, a situation that often occurred when a main wire, such as the warp or cable was severed whilst the gear was on the seabed leading to the gear having to be retrieved via a single wire, warp or cable, was expected of the Boatswain. But by far the greatest ability a boatswain could have was to be an able net repairer. The Skipper determined where he wanted to tow his trawl, sometimes the seabed was even and kind to the net, other areas were not and the trawl would often be hauled onboard with substantial damage done to it. The Skipper would solicit from the boatswain the extent and time required to repair it. Experience allowed the boatswain to estimate how long the repair would take. His answer to the Skipper would either lead to repairing the net or the Skipper instructing the crew to put a full new trawl in place. To mend a badly damaged net the boatswain would organise those deckhands who were proficient at mending to start repairs, one from either end of the split, but could also by calculation, perform a manoeuvre whereby he started two other deckhands at a ‘jump’ point in the middle of the tear. This meant that four (4) men could be mending at the same time to repair the damage thereby halving the time taken. Many Skippers carried regular boatswains for this skillful ability.
The boatswain was not a shareman and was paid a percentage of £12.5 to every thousand pounds of the gross amount the vessel’s catch made, plus liver money. He was paid a weekly wage to his family or designated representative.
All qualified deckhands were paid a weekly wage. Their settlement from the catch was equal to £6 for every thousand pound of the gross amount the vessel’s catch made, plus liver money. Many fishermen were content to sail always as deckhand and did not, for whatever reason, wish to attain promotion.
With the work schedule during fishing operations, and the often horrendous weather conditions the deck crew were subject to, it is surprising that any harmonious atmosphere existed at all. It is easy to see, after eighteen hours of hard work with only six hours rest, in extremely hazardous and freezing conditions, how discord could start between tired men. The deckhands were that part of the crew that were most effected by the conditions and circumstances under which they operated. The period of rest included meal times and any personal hygiene a man would wish to undertake. A meal lasting half an hour when leaving the deck to go watch below, and a meal when he was awakened to start work again, reduced actual sleeping time to less than five hours.
A large percentage of these men were very capable, hard working, excellent shipmates who frequently stayed in a particular vessel for long periods of time. It was a bonus to sail in a vessel manned by men such as these; the camaraderie made life at sea that little bit more acceptable. A crew of competent seamen, who were not afraid of hard work, who hoped for good fishing was a boon to a Skipper. Team work on board always led to a productive and, in general, a happy ship. An accomplished deckhand was not simply a labourer most had seamanship skills, especially in net repair, that could only be achieved by years of sea time experience.
Engine Room Personnel
On side trawlers the engine room was manned by a Chief Engineer, a Second Engineer, and two Firemen/Greasers. The Chief was responsible for the running and maintenance of the engines and all other auxiliary equipment, this included the deck winch and the anchor windlass. The Second engineer took charge of the Engine Room during the Chief’s rest time. The four engine room staff worked two watches of two men, six hours on, six hours off, throughout the trip. Although their work schedule was less extreme to those on deck, it was nevertheless a demanding job which started once the vessel left the quayside until it berthed again at the end of the trip. The Chief and a Firemen formed one watch, with the Second and a Fireman the other. The Firemen’s role was one of continued basic maintenance and cleaning. The Chief and Second Engineers had the additional responsibility of ensuring the deck winch was kept in a good operational condition at all times. During bad weather this often involved them having to go on deck to oil/check the working parts. The winch was one of the most important items of equipment, without it the trawler gear could not be shot or hauled. In terms of seniority, although there were no laid down rules, it was accepted that the Chief Engineer’s role was on a par with that of the Mate. Financially they differed as the Mate was classed as a ‘shareman’ and only came on pay after all expenses of the vessel were met. The Chief’s remuneration was based on a gross settlement and he was also paid a weekly wage.
The galley was manned by the Cook and his assistant/galley boy. The role of the Cook was probably one of the most difficult onboard the vessel. In addition to working in a really confined space in often extreme weather conditions in which everything he prepared had to be firmly placed to avoid it being spilled as the vessel rolled and pitched, the use of ‘battens’ on the galley stove bore evidence to this. These iron bars divided the stove top and could be moved and temporarily fixed to retain the food filled pans in place whilst cooking. In addition the Cook had the unenviable problem of cooking for a twenty man crew and pleasing them all with the meals he prepared. Three meals a day plus a cold buffet supper table, meant that the Cook had to provide a variety of foods that not only were tasty but were nutritious and suitable to satisfy twenty hardworking men some of whom had just come of the deck from a wet freezing and at times hostile environment. The Galley staff worked long hours with breakfast usually two sittings between six am and seven am followed by dinner at twelve noon to one pm. Tea was taken at six pm to seven pm. The cold supper often consisted of just bread,cheese, corned beef, and cold fried fish. Cold fish sandwiches were quite popular with many fishermen. The Cook and Galley boy finished their day at around eight pm. In addition they could usually catch a short nap in between dinner and teatime. At all time there was kettles of tea available. The Cook’s assistant was usually a young man/boy in the early stages of his life at sea. Some wished to follow a life in catering but in the main they were looking to be promoted onto the deck as a deckie learner. Their role as assistant to the Cook consisted of many menial tasks. Preparing vegetables, serving the crew’s messroom and Officer’s mess at meal times, washing up of all the many utensils used at mealtimes and general cleaning duties. The role of Cooks Assistant was not a well paid job and in order to supplement his salary he cleaned the berths of many of the crew who on settling day would give him a gratuity for his work. As a rule the Cook would look after his assistant and because they were generally youngster were helpful and would not allow them to be used.
The Radio Operator
The role of a radio operator was in the main highly technological with him being responsible for the operation and maintenance of all the electronics, such as the wireless receivers and transmitters, the radar(s), the echo sounders/fish finders, Other items of importance included Decca Navigators/Lorans and depending on how well the vessel was laid out the introduction of new technology was included in his work load. The Operator was not employed by the trawlerowners, they were usually employees of Marconi or Redifon and payed a salary by them, in addition they received a percentage of the gross amount the catch made at market. In the late 1940’s and through a period in the 1950’s the wireless operator had a secondary role, he was responsible for the process of extracting the cod liver oil from the livers saved by the crew durin the gutting of the catch. This involved the operator dragging full baskets of livers along the deck to the liverhouse at the stern of the vessel where he tipped them into large steam powered boilers to render them down. The fluid extracted was crude cod liver oil which was further processed ashore by the Seven Seas Cod Liver Oil Company. In the mid to late 1950’s the Operator was relieved of this role as technology developed and his skills were need on the navigation bridge.
When West Hull changed.
In the 1940’s and 50’s the hub of the fishing industry was concentrated in West Hull and at its height the seagoing fleet brought great prosperity to the City of Hull in general, but Hessle Road in particular. The Road was a heavily populated residential area stretching from St. James Street / Walker Street in the east to Brighton Street / Carlton Street in the west. Many of these street had terraces off them which meant that they were densely populated rows of back to back housing. Bean Street was always quoted has being the most populated street in Hull. Gypsyville to the West and Porter Street to the East were basically extensions of Hessle Road. Much of West Hull suffered bomb damage during WW2 and it took many years for the area to be redeveloped.The resultant redevelopment plan meant huge swathes of street and houses were demolished and families were rehoused on new estates on the outer limits of the City, i.e Orchard Park, North Hull and the Longhill and Greatfield estates. Today these areas have been joined by Bransholme and Kingswood. This plan split up friends and neighbours who for many years had shared good and bad times together. Although relocation gave residents superior housing, it badly damaged the community spirit that was the essence of Hessle Road and the Fishing Community. Secondary to decimating the community spirit, places such as Orchard Park were never provided with facilities that could engage the young and allow the grown ups the leisure and social environment they had enjoyed in their old homes. This led to a feeling of isolation and created problems for the authorities, Orchard Park has never been updated resulting in the residents bearing resentment in what they see as abandonment, a feeling still felt by many to this day. The traders of Hessle Road including the taxi firms/individuals suffered badly with the movement of residents from the Hessle Road area and also when the Industry declined with many going out of business facing bankruptcy.
The make up of the Fishing Community covered a variety of jobs/trades. The seagoing people and those who worked within the Industry onshore were integrated through their relatives, marriage and the workplace. It has often been said that for every one fisherman employed there were seven people employed ashore in fish associated work. Depending on how many vessels were landing the West Hull area was a hive of activity, with a vibrant, exciting environment each day of the working week . Monday in particular was generally a day of heavy fish landings, as many as ten trawlers may bring their catch to market landing as much as two hundred thousand stones (200,000) of fish. With this volume of produce St. Andrews fish dock and the surrounding area began their working day when at around 2.00 am in the morning bobbers started landing the catch. The sale of fish to the many fish merchants commenced at 7.00 am and after the sales, their staff, filterers, barrow lads, etc started the process to prepare and box the fish prior to its transportation by road and rail to the many locations throughout the U.K. The fish merchants staff usually finished around 5.00 pm unless they had to catch the late evening train. The Easter period was always exceptionally busy, sometimes trawlers were landed, pulled from the market and another vessel would be berthed ready to land her catch. Ten or twelve vessels could be landed on these occasions with fish landings totalling 250, 000 stones. Most types of fish were landed and weighed off by the bobbers into 10 stone aluminium containers called kits. When fish landings began to decline six days a week was discontinued and reduced to five days, but again this was determined by how many vessels arrived.
In the 1960’s there were as many as one hundred and fifty (150) deep sea distant water trawlers based at St. Andrews Fish Dock. Each vessel had a crew of at least twenty (20) men and there was always a surplus of crewmen ashore at any time. The number of men on the seagoing register was approximately three and a half thousand (3,500). It is not difficult to see the disastrous economic effect this had on the businesses and workforce of the City when the industry declined and eventually imploded as a result of Iceland, Norway and other countries extending their fishing limits thereby excluding British vessels from traditional fishing grounds.. The loss of much of the seagoing personnel was not the only workforce to suffer. The many fish merchants and processing companies employed a large number of employees who were within a very short period of time, unemployed. With such a large number of unemployed seeking work at the same time it was very difficult to find another job. Some of the newly unemployed were skilled in a role that had no similar opportunity in the City, others were labourers but also suffered the same lack of opportunity. Workers who had been employed in the fishing industry had in general earned a reasonable standard of living so to become unemployed in such a short time with very little time to adjust meant many experienced financial difficulties with things such as mortgages, rents and facility bills, i.e. gas, electric, and rates. A percentage of the sea going men moved to the oil offshore fleets, which although and easier workload, paid less. A few even emigrated and went to Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
There was also a contingent that found employment, again in oil exploration, in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Emirates, these locations being very popular, in the main because of a more lucrative pay packet and reduced tax liabilities. Most of these countries had strict religious Islamic rules which had to be adhered to including the law banning alcohol, one law that did not go down well with ex-fishermen.
A few shore based fish processing companies struggled on managing a supply of imported and overland fish supplies and are still active in the City to this day. Firms such as Simpson’s Fish, Smales Fish, both still located off Hessle Road.
The most recent resurrection of fish landing in the port has come via the Hull registered ultra modern factory vessel ‘KIrkella’ H7 owned by UK. Fisheries. This state of the art fishing vessel brings a regular supply of One Thousand Two Hundred (1,200) tons of fish fillets to market approximately every eight/ten weeks. This product is processed onboard and landed ready for distribution to sales outlets locally and throughout the Country. The management of the product and fish stocks is rigorous and second to none in product quality and sustainability of the fishing grounds. The vessel design and specifications are first class, with working and leisure facilities making the crews environment both safe and enjoyable as one could wish for. The off duty activities include a gymnasium, sauna, cinema and berths that are fitted with telephones, television and internet. This environment plus the work schedule on offer makes the opportunities to become a crew member of ‘Kirkella’ very limited. The owners basically employ two (2) crews who operate one trip on and one trip off. Their daily work shift is eight hours on and eight hours off, a very different arrangement from the days of the side trawlers when the deck crew worked eighteen hours on and six hours off during the period the vessel was fishing. The operations bridge from which the Skipper oversees and carries out the hauling & shooting of the trawl gear and the skillful role of locating, catching and bringing onboard the catch is fitted out with the highest and most up to date technological equipment. It appears more sophisticated than the equipment used at Houston Control when landing men on the fifty years ago. The men who man these controls, the Skipper, and the Mate (when the Skipper is sleeping) are highly skilled fishermen who have not only mastered the new technology but have an instinct and lifelong knowledge for understanding how and where to catch fish. This instinct is a legacy from the days when the fisherman hunted their ‘prey’ using the barest of electronics, i.e echo sounding fish finders to search the water depths and a radar to accurately fix their position. They then over the years built up detailed records for future reference. Location, season, date, water depth, night or day fishing, sea and air temperature and weather conditions were some of the conditions that were meticulously logged both mentally and in written form.
The True Cost of Fish
It is a nationally accepted fact that the deep sea fishing industry is the most dangerous of occupations and over the years the Port City of Kingston upon Hull has experienced more than most, with the loss of hundreds of ships and thousands of men throughout its 150 years as a major fishing port. In 1883 Hull and its newly opened St. Andrews Dock was home to 420 fishing smacks and in the same year, during the ‘Great Storm’ in the North Sea, 47 vessels with their crews of 260 men were lost, with 27 of the vessels being from Hull.
Over the years the list of disasters and loss of life increased even though there were many changes to design and safety. Many of the incidents happened during the period 1940s to 1970s, some of which were due to war time activity but most were the result of the appalling weather conditions in the Arctic regions, which were the main areas in which the fleet operated. Post WW2 Hull’s fleet suffered a number of major disasters in which vessels were lost with all hands. Some losses were down to extreme meteorological conditions, whilst others resulted from grounding, collision and, in some cases, fire onboard.
On 4th Oct 1952 the ‘Norman’ was lost off Cape Farewell, the southern tip of Greenland, when stranding in poor visibility on what was later named ‘Norman Rock’. A contributory factor to this accident may have been due to allegations that the charts carried by the vessel were not up to date. Nineteen crewmen lost their lives with only a young deckie learner, Norman Spencer surviving after he had swam onto a nearby rock, from were he was rescued by a German vessel. (Poseidon)
On the 26th January 1955 two Hull vessels the ‘Lorella’ and the ‘Roderigo’, whilst fishing off the North Cape of Iceland, were lost with all hands (40 men/boys) being overwhelmed after battling for three days against storm force winds and severe icing conditions; both vessels capsized within two and a half hours of each other, 90 miles off the North Cape. There were no survivors.
In August 1959 the ‘Staxton Wyke’ was lost after collision with a Newcastle ore-carrier ‘Dalhanna’ in the North Sea, with five of the crew being lost.
On the 25th December 1966 (Christmas Day) the freezer trawler, ‘St. Finbarr’ was consumed by fire and an explosion whilst fishing off the coast of Labrador; this led to the loss of 12 crewmen. The Wireless Operator was sadly lost during his transfer to the rescue vessel, the Hull trawler ‘Orsino’ which rescued 13 survivors and took the ‘ St. Finbarr’ in tow. Due to bad weather, the vessel sank on the 27th December whilst under tow.
In early 1968, over a short period of twenty five days, Hull’s fishing community was devastated by the loss of 58 men, with only one crewman saved when three vessels were lost.
St Romanus H223
The first loss, estimated to be on the 11th January 1968, was the ‘St. Romanus’ H223 whilst on route to the Norwegian Coast fishing grounds. It is believed the vessel foundered in storm force conditions approximately 90 miles into its passage from Hull to Norway. There were no survivors, 20 crewmen were lost.
Off Iceland sometime on the 26/27th January 1968, the Hull vessel ‘Kingston Peridot’ H591 was lost in extreme weather consisting of storm force winds and severe icing conditions. The vessel’s last communication to another Hull vessel indicated that the Skipper was experiencing difficulty in establishing an accurate location. A mayday was sent from the vessel stating they were badly and dangerously iced up . It has been suggested that the ‘Peridot’ may even have grounded and been lost as a result. The position of this loss is listed as NW of Tjornegrunn. This mainland area was recognised for its poor radar reception, which may have been a contributory factor.
On the 4th Feb 1968 the fishing fleet, including Icelandic vessels, were exposed to one of the worst storms in history off the North Cape of Iceland with all vessels seeking shelter in anchorages. One popular place of shelter was Isafjordur and a number of ships were anchored there on 4th Feb in conditions that could only be described as horrendous, with hurricane force winds and extreme temperatures causing severe icing up. In spite of the fact the sheltered area offered some protection, many vessels were fighting to hold their safe position by heading into the weather at full speed. The Hull trawler, ‘Ross Cleveland’ H61 was attempting to make a safer position within the anchorage area and was manoeuvring in very poor visibility. During this manoeuvre, the vessel already heavy with ice on the superstructure heeled over badly and in minutes capsized.
Of the nineteen crew onboard two (2) men managed to free a liferaft and cleared the sinking vessel. The Mate, Harry Eddom who was dressed in full waterproof clothing, due to the fact prior to the capsizing he had tried to clear ice from the radar scanner, was helped from the water by the two men. The two men who rescued him were not dressed in any way to combat the Arctic conditions of the situation and, although gained some protection in the confines of the liferaft, succumbed to hypothermia and died within a very short period of time due to their lack of protective clothing.
The liferaft with Harry Eddom and the bodies of his two shipmates was driven ashore and the Mate managed to get onto the rocky landmass where he climbed up the side of what was a very steep cliff and miraculously found shelter behind a wooden hut where he crouched throughout the night. Later the following morning a young Icelandic boy found him and notified his father; together they managed to get him to their home. The loss of the ‘Ross Cleveland’ was made public to the world as being lost with all hands. Only when the Icelandic family, who rescued the Mate, contacted the authorities were his family aware of his amazing survival.
It was thought that his ability to cope with the horrific conditions was down to him being fully clothed including his waterproof oilskin suit and his robust healthy constitution, plus the fact that he adopted the fetus position throughout the night as he sheltered behind the hut. Harry Eddom was back at sea three weeks after the loss of the ‘Ross Cleveland’. With the demise of the fishing industry, Harry like a number of Hull ex-trawlermen, went off to the Middle East and served as Skipper of a diving vessel servicing oil support vessels/rigs on the East coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.
The ‘Ross Cleveland’ was not the only casualty of that storm. The Grimsby trawler, the ‘Notts County,’ was driven ashore and one crewman was lost, with the rest of the crew being rescued by the Icelandic Coastguard vessel. At the same the Icelandic fishing vessel, the ‘Heidrunn’ was lost with all hands (6 crewmen). The Coastguard were wrongly and heavily criticized by some Icelandic people who said their vessel should have been assisting the ‘Heidrunn’ rather than the ‘Notts County’.
February 1974 saw what was to become one of most controversial losses of a Hull based vessel. In very challenging weather conditions, on the 7th February off the North Cape of Norway, a number of vessels, including some stern trawlers: the ‘Pict’, the ‘Swanella’, and the freezer trawler, ‘Gaul’, were among 17 vessels fishing the North Cape Bank area. The conditions became so bad most of the fleet were ‘laid and dodging’ with some seeking shelter by heading into the land. It was normal safety practice for all vessels to keep a radio schedule with their owners at 0900 hours daily, sometimes direct, sometimes through other ships acting for them. The ‘Orsino’, the weather/mothership took on this responsibility. On 8th February the weather had deteriorated considerably with Force 8 winds and snow squalls. At 1630 hours that day the ‘Gaul’ should have made a report to the ‘Orsino’ but didn’t; in fact only eight trawlers did report in at that time. The ‘Gaul’ and her crew of 36 men were never seen or heard from again.
Being a modern 1106 ton freezer trawler, the disappearance of the ‘Gaul’ caused widespread speculation in the media and general public causing additional heartbreak for the families of those lost. With so many theories being passed around, the obvious cause of loss due to incredible weather conditions was ignored. Stories citing the ‘Gaul’ as a ‘spy’ ship and that she had being boarded by the Russians and taken into one of their ports, abounded.
In the following weeks, to those vessels operating on Cape Bank, it became clear that the Gaul had sunk after being overwhelmed by the conditions. This conclusion came about because an obstruction had been identified in an area previously seen to be clear for trawlers towing their gear on the seabed. Most of the fishing at that time was demersal fishing, i.e the trawl gear being towed on the seabed because the fish swam close to the seabed. Most Skippers had their fishing charts kept up to date re: obstruction – ‘fastenings’ as they were known. To suddenly have their fishing gear come fast to a large obstruction causing considerable damage to the net, or even losing a full set of gear, confirmed their fears. Although this information, which included the Latitude and Longitude of the wreck, was known to many Skippers, the authorities, including the owners never acknowledged this fact meaning that new misleading theories of the loss came to the media on so many occasions.
A formal investigation into the loss of the ‘Gaul’ was held in Hull in September and early October 1974 with a conclusion that ‘the Gaul capsized and foundered due to taking a succession of very heavy seas on her trawl deck when she was almost broadside to the sea, which initially caused her to heel over, and then she had no time to recover before a subsequent wave or waves overcame her ability to right herself. It seems likely that initially, she was thrown so far over that those onboard her were unable to transmit a distress message.’
UNDERWATER IMAGE OF THE GAUL
These major losses were only a percentage of men lost, with thousands being lost in a multitude of different accidents. In the early years when vessels were less safe and the method of the ‘boxing fleet’ was in operation many men were lost from the small boats which transferred their daily catch to the cutters who took their catch to market. As years went by and vessels travelled farther afield to distant grounds they were exposed to hostile weather conditions. So many incidents were crewmen, especially those manning the deck, were lost overboard in heavy seas. Additionally because of the dangers of shooting and hauling the fishing gear coupled with little health and safety regulations, men were frequently badly hurt, even maimed and often fatally injured during fishing operations. Whenever there was a need for medical attention the vessel was often fishing many hours away from this kind of Service, i.e a vessels fishing off Bear Island would need to proceed to the nearest port on the North Norwegian coast, taking up to eighteen hours, to have access to proper medical facilities. Although all Skippers held a medical certificate their knowledge was rudimentary with limited equipment and medications. Records show that there were many deaths from illness due to the inadequacy of medical assistance. The number of men lost to single, dual or multiple fatalities far outweighed those lost in major disasters, tragically some of which a very small number were down to suicide.
Some instances of dual and multiple loss are:
St. Hubert H 142
On 29th August 1960 she trawled up a mine, off Makkaur Lighthouse, Norway, which she kept on deck to dump in deeper water. Sometime later the mine detonated and destroyed the vessel killing 3 crew. The trawler ‘Prince Charles’ rescued the remainder of the crew who had taken to life-rafts as the ‘St. Hubert’ sank.
Skipper George Ness died later of his injuries.
Ian Fleming H 396
On 25th December 1973 the motor trawler ‘Ian Fleming’ was abandoned in a sinking condition after striking a rock off Havoey Sund, North Norway. Fifteen crew took to one life-raft and five crewmen, including the Skipper, took to another which capsized with the loss of three men:
Mate – Terry Day, 2nd Eng – Dennis Colby and Wireless Operator – George Lee.
On 8th December 1964 the vessel suffered a boiler explosion in which three engine room crew lost their lives whilst outward bound for the Norwegian fishing grounds in a position 90 miles east of Dunbar, Scotland. The disabled vessel was towed back to Hull by the trawler ‘St. Matthew’ H201. Repairs were not economic and the vessel was declared a total loss.
Arctic Viking H452
On 18th October 1961 in the early hours of the morning, as she was passing Flamborough Head she was hit by two very large seas from astern, laid over and capsized. The vessel had been experiencing stability problems prior to her being lost.
The crew managed to launch one raft and a number of them gained access to it; unfortunately one man was seen by the others as he failed to clear the sinking vessel. Three men were trapped below deck aft and one man was forward, none of them could get clear from the vessel.
A Polish vessel, the ‘Derkacz’, who had heard the Mayday message, came to the area and saved those in the liferaft after performing excellent seamanship manoeuvres in very heavy sea conditions. The Arctic Viking sank at 12.30pm four (4) hours after capsizing with the loss of the following named five (5) crewmen:
CREW LOST ON ARCTIC VIKING (H452), which foundered, 16 miles off Flamborough Head, 18th October, 1961:
CRAFT, David (34), 254 Wansbeck rd, Longhill Est, Hull.
KENT, Edward (38), 51 Hessle rd, Hull – Fireman
LOUND, Dennis (29), 8 Endsleigh-villas, Wellsted st, Hull – 2nd Engineer
ROBINSON, John (23), 22 Foston-grove, Preston rd, Hull – Sparehand
WADDY, Arthur (47), 35 Harrow st, Hull – Bosun
LEFT: The ship’s telegraph recovered from the ‘Arctic Viking by a team of divers including Andy Dowsland and donated on loan to STAND.
On the right in the photo is Tony Craft who is the grandson of David Craft, one of the crewmen who was lost on the ‘Arctic Viking’.
Boston Lincoln GY 1399
Whilst carrying out hauling/shooting procedure two crewmen, brothers Terry and Harry Williams, were lost overboard. The loss was a result of Terry Williams being knocked down the ramp of the stern trawler, his brother Harry was working on deck at that time and, bravely without hesitation took to the sea to try and rescue his brother, sadly both lost their lives. Their bodies were not recovered but after a considerable period of time it emerged that their bodies had been washed up on the Russian coast and buried there. Again, after a protracted time span due to the fact that it was Russia, the two brothers bodies were exhumed and returned to their families for Christian burial. Their graves are side by side in Hull’s Northern Cemetery. Further grief to the Williams family occurred in 25/05/1976 when Brian Williams suffered fatal injuries in an accident with a trawl otter board whilst serving on the Hull based stern trawler St. Benedict.
The size and weight of standard type otter boards, eleven feet by five feet, with a weight of over a ton made them a danger to crewmen when working around them. Over the years a number of individual deckhands were killed in accidents involving them……
Esquimaux H297 – Carl Phillips 12/05/1953. Fatally injured whilst working the forward Otter Board (door)
Kingston Amber H471 – Terence Ledger 04/05/1971. Fatally injured when hit by the aft Otter Board (door)
The hauling and shooting operation always presented the potential for accidents due to the high speed of running warps (wires) when being payed out or hove in.
The use of heaving equipment, wires being used to lift/lower during the operation made the deck a highly dangerous work area. Men were often caught up in wires, ropes and dragged onto/around the winch which was almost always fatal.
Ross Aquila H114 – Bernard Warmsley 06/04/1963
A small number of fatal accidents occurred when excessive loads caused blocks to fail causing catastrophic injuries to men below….
Arctic Corsair H320 – Ron Senescal Date?
Due to the very limited medical facilities onboard and the often isolated area in which these vessels were fishing, anyone who became ill with complaints such as stomach ulcers, heart problems, etc, were at serious risk. A number of fishermen succumbed to such illnesses……
Kingston Andalusite H133 – Kenneth Thresh Date? Died from unexpected stomach problems.
?? Fred Hird Died after suffering a heart attack.
HEALTH AND SAFETY AT SEA
The Triple Trawler Disaster was the catalyst that brought about changes to Health and Safety at Sea, but not to the extent many people assumed.
The way in which the fishing gear on a side trawler was hauled and shot, coupled with meteorological conditions made this operation one of most dangerous occupations in the world.
It was always down to the Skipper of how bad the weather had to be before he decided it was too dangerous to the crew and ship to continue fishing. The pressure to catch a profitable catch of fish was always uppermost in the mind of Skippers, which at times clouded their view of what was fishing weather and what was not.
The deck crew were the ones most exposed to danger as the hauling of the net operation on side trawlers had to be carried out broadside to the wind and weather which left the men open to the elements. Most of this operation took place amidships, i.e. the lowest part of the deck with very limited room to get clear of large incoming seas.
There were many men lost and injured during this process but in extreme weather conditions the vessel was also more at risk than normal by presenting a more vulnerable attitude to the weather. However time meant money and the loss of too much down time for weather did not sit well with Trawler Owners, the Skipper and even the crew who were there to earn a living.
The Triple Trawler Disaster saw the birth of the group of women who became known in later years as the headscarf revolutionaries. The group formed by a local woman Lillian Bilocca began a campaign for safer regulation for the men at sea. They took on the Government and after much publicity and negotiations the Holland Martin report was implemented. This agreed into law certain conditions, and rules the group had highlighted in their campaign.
Lillian Bilocca laid down conditions to the Govermment as follows;
Her demands were for full crewing of ships, radio operators to be on board every ship, improved weather forecasts, better training for trainee crew, more safety equipment and a “mother ship” with medical facilities to accompany the fleet.
Not all the demands made a difference.
The stipulation re, Wireless Operators though a valid request was in almost all ships a reality. The inclusion of a Wireless Operator to most of the vessels lost, could not have changed the outcome.
Improved weather reports though useful if the Skipper did not act in accordance with a bad weather forecast, they were wasted.
The mother ship which, although providing some essential service to the fleet, was deficient in a number of ways. When the Orsino was assigned the role, being a modern stern trawler she was a capable asset. When the Miranda assumed the full time role she had limitations. She was at least three/four knots slower than any of the trawler fleet, her ability to cope with extreme weather was not as good as the vessels she was ‘mothering’ and her advocacy instructions were not compulsory, with some Skippers ignoring recommendations. The advantages provided by Miranda included a medial officer (Doctor), limited assistance with engineering problems and a mail system.
The Holland Martin report also led to crews receiving an allowance twice a year for clothing/bedding to be supplied and paid for by the Trawler Owners. Previous to this ruling fishermen paid for everything them selfs including their mattresses, bedding and all articles of protective gear such as oilskins, Duck suits, sea boots, even the knives they required for gutting the fish.
Although the changes to health and safety helped and provided some degree of protection and comfort, the nature of the fishing industry, the geographic areas of operation, the dangers of the daily work onboard, are not changed.
It is not possible to combat weather conditions in certain Arctic areas in winter, when hurricane winds and sub zero temperatures present constant danger to men and vessel.
The development of stern trawlers has reduced the risk to crewmen, especially the deckhands as most of the shooting/hauling of the fishing gear takes place in the sheltered aft deck. Additionally all the processing of the caught fish is carried out below deck in a completely protected area free from seas, spray and in the main freezing conditions.
However, the loss of the modern stern trawler ‘Gaul’ with her crew of 36 men shows that, at times of extreme weather in certain circumstances, almost any type of vessel may be overwhelmed and lost.
Some Memories of Hessle Road – Post World War 2 (1954)
Most people would accept that Hessle Road began at the junction of Porter Street/Waverley Street/St. James Street and Walker Street From this meeting of four residential streets Hessle Road ran to the west and was the main shopping/residential area of West Hull. The Vauxhall public house No 1 Hessle Road still stands today open to the public, on the corner of St. James Street. Opposite it on the corner which formed one side of Waverley Street was a cycle sales and repair shop called Nobby Clarkes. In later years this site was occupied by the Council owned restaurant ‘Galatea’.
SOUTH SIDE OF HESSLE ROAD – Odd numbers.
On the South side of Hessle Road running from no.1. the Vauxhall, was a Co-op butchery, bakery and confectioners at no. 5-7, whilst no. 9-11 was shared by Stan Gresswell a cycle, radio and electrical dealer, and Bo’ness Iron Co. Ltd, general ironfounders. these firms were close to Commerce Lane, the businesses from there continued to Alfred Street which included Mallory’s at no.15-17-19 hardware merchants and dry saltery, adjacent at no.23 was F.W. Taylor sweets and tobacconist followed by J. Hy. Longbottom coal merchants ( which sported an excellent model train in the window). Close to the east corner of Alfred Street at 31-33-35 was cycle shops owned by L.C. Goodlife and S. Spencer, whilst on the west corner stood the Rose Tavern Hull Brewery Public House. Further along this block to the next intersection,which was Ropery Street was a butcher George.T. Bottrill, who was a staunch member of St. John Ambulance Service, Mulchinocks a watch maker and jeweller, Brookband saddlery, J.A. Dewar cycle dealer, Joshua Stones, fireplace manufacturer, P & R Chester electrical contractor and joiners, Wilf Barker gent’s hairdresser, Hockney fruit, flowers and canned foods, the last retail business was a Co-operative Store. which had a car park space adjacent to a small Jewish Cemetery which in turn adjoined a public house the Alexandra Hotel. The Alexandra was for many years in th 2000’s owned and run by Tony Dunbar and his aprtner Ernie accompanied by their parrot Sparky. The bird had a colourful vocabulary and on one occasion when the Archbishop of York visited, Sparky had to be moved to the back room. Both the cemetery and public house are there to this day. Moving across to the west corner of Ropery Street found Silver’s, a confectioner & tobacconist, which as a youngster I visited to buy banana spilt toffee, which was still on ration and the only shop in the area to sell it. Next door was a ‘smelly’ shop, W. Pedder a tripe dresser; many people ate tripe and onions a popular dish, which because meat was very restricted due to rationing helped to feed the family. F. E.Webber the footwear repairer had his business at no.75 Hessle Road, it adjoined the corner shop Gilbert Street fisheries which my mother always insisted we used. On the opposite site of this very short street was the The Foundry Arms, a Moors & Robson public house, the exterior of which was attractively decorated with a green and white tiled fascia.. Along this block was Lyzabeth’s sweets and tobacconist and on the east corner of Neptune Street stood a branch of the Hull Savings Bank.
Across Neptune Street was no.91 The Lily Hotel, a Henry Wilson public house, between the Lily and R & L Taylors, glass, china, and hardware was a small men’s public convenience. At 97-99 Hessle Road was the Smith & Nephew Welfare & Personnel Dept, Men’s Club. The last shop on this block was Gordon Roach, fishmonger, my brother as a teenager used to buy crab claws from there. I remember sometime after the war, at the rear of this shop, an unexploded bomb was blown up under control by an Army disposal team)
The next street was Tadman Street down which I spent much of my childhood and have many happy memories. I can still recall most of the families that lived down there at that time. It was also home to Smith & Nephew which employed a large workforce with many women working to produce bandages, elastoplasts and dressings. (since that time the Company has grown and now the factory occupies the complete area from one side of Ropery Street, Neptune Street and the whole of Tadman Street.) One company I have wartime images of is Barnabas cellulosers next to S & N within whose building we often sheltered during air raids. As a youngster I remember me and my mates playing on the large wrapped 4 x 4 cube shaped bags of cotton wool. An antic for which we were frequently chased by the factory foreman. I also remember the bad winter of 1947 when there was 4/5 foot snow drifts all down the roads and streets. We made a load of snowballs and ‘attacked’ the girls as the were leaving, harmless fun but not popular with the workers. The successful business of Smith & Nephew led to expansion and as a result we were rehoused in a small housing area on the corner of North Boulevard and Newton Street.
On the west corner of Tadman Street was no.113 L.A. Tate, wholesale and retail tobacconist. The owner was an ex-policeman, a formidable sized man who more than once chased, would be shoplifters trying to steal cigarettes. I seem to remember a derelict (bombed) shop which I think was Dinsdales, joke and novelty shop. At 121 -123 was Mason’s (Clothiers) Ltd, men and boys outfitters. My mother used to clothe me at this establishment twice yearly, Grey Trousers, Navy Blue Jacket, white shirt, navy blue pullover, and overcoat and a red cap which spent more time in my pocket than on my head. Re-Vi-Ve dyers and dry cleaners were at 125 adjacent to G. Barnes the pork butcher, his saveloys were tasty and very popular. the last premises in the block on the corner of Daltry Street no.129-133 was taken up by Holders, television, radio and musical instrument dealer.
On the west corner of Daltry Street was Lion Clothing Co. Ltd, outfitters adjoining was Pashleys a ladies hairdresser followed by a fried fish shop, Coronation Fisheries, which my Mother always told us not to go to as they were not very good fryers. Eggleton cobblers, where I had many a pair of shoes repaired due to constantly kicking a ball about. The taxi office, Nippy Cars, Melville second hand dealer, and Selles Chemist. There was an electrical shop owned by Mark Fields, whose had two sons, one of whom, Alan, attended Daltry Street school and was in the same class as me. Sammy Wolfe, men’s barber who was a popular and flambuoyant ginger haired character. The main Hessle Road Post Office was situated on the corner of Madeley Street, a street which was famous for the public swimming baths which also offered wresting, boxing, dances, skating facilities. As a youngster we were into the wrestling which was Promoted by Doug Relewysko for a number of years. He brought many famous/infamous names to the venue, people such as the Pye brothers Jack and Harry who were noted for their dubious tactics in the ring. The many favourites included Harry Fields, The Farmers Boy, Mike Marino, Le Ghoul, the masked man, Jackie Pallo and Les Kellett (The Fox) Masambula (Africa’s Ambassador of Wrestling) Big John Lees (Mr Adonis) and Bert Royal to name a few. On occasions the ‘real’ entertainment was provided by the regular referee, Scotty Ambrose who weighed about 7 stone wet through and spent many a bout wedged in between two heavy weights. His party piece was to ‘lose’ his temper with them and start fighting with them. He was a funny entertaining man. Quite often as youngster we could not afford the entrance fee so we hung around the doorway and when there was only a couple of fights left on the card, the doorman would let us in for free.
The west side of Madely Street street housed The City Temple, Elim Four-square Gospel Church, to which myself and some of my schoolmates attended the Sunday School sessions. This building still stands (derelict) today. Sissons newsagent and tobacconist came next, the shop still sells the same products along with sweets, etc. H. Thompson, Gents hairdresser came next I often used this barber as a boy, rather than Sammy Wolff. Next door was one of my favourite shops H. Cheetham the baker and confectioner, I can still imagine the smell of their freshly baked bread. The bakery was at the rear of the shop down an archway and just before Christmas each year families used to mix their own Christmas cakes and puddings and take them to Cheethams to be baked. At the other side of the archway was the premises of E.F. Westoby, joiner, builder and strangely enough undertaker. The surgery of Doctor.G.D. McIver, physician was next door, a well known, popular and respected local medical man. The West Hull Book Shop, books and magazine retailer adjoined the doctors followed by the Snack Bar a cafe and tobacconists. Another branch of the tripe family business of A. Pedder, tripe dresser was followed by James Waterworth, beer off-licence. I remember at some time this shop changing hands as a school mate and his sister of the Scott family living there.
The Sizer-Simpson Repertory Theatre occupied the west corner of Strickland Street. It was run by Stella Sizer-Simpson the wife of a very well respected lecturer, Peter Harvey who taught at the Nautical College in North Boulevard. Peter Harvey was credited with schooling many local men through their examinations for the Skippers/Mates licence to serve in the fishing fleet. E. Ferraby a game and poultry dealer was the next premises, one as a youngster I will always remember with some trepidation for the dead rabbits, Chickens, Ducks, etc, hung from hooks across the open shop front. Blenkins a ladies and gents hairdressing salon was next followed by W.H. Ellyard Ltd, undertakers at no. 187 adjoining to that at no. 187a was West Hull Garage (W.H. Ellyard) which in addition to hiring funeral vehicles, including a hearse, hired everyday taxis. As a youngster I was often sent by one of my seagoing brother-in-laws to bring a taxi back to my mothers house when they were taking one of my sisters out. Between Ellyards and Walcott Street were a number of premises, W.H. Jennings, family butchers, Modern Beauty Shops Ltd, ladies hairdresser, W.R. Jordan, family butcher, Swanborough, baker and confectioner, Watson’s tobacconist and confectioner, Kingston Supply Stores, outfitters, James Wilson & Sons, (wholesale) grocer and provision merchants, Samuel Batte, wholesale potato merchants, Murielle, gowns and coats, New Carlton (recreation) Club, Percy’s, gents hairdressing saloon, D & E Holmes, china & earthenware (wholesale & retail), Cath Bayford, ladies hairdresser, C.A. Shepherd, newsagent & tobacconist.
On the west corner of Walcott Street was the Midland Bank, next to Arthur’s ‘Oyster Bar & Tea Bar’ a gathering place for teenagers and often the scene of verbal disputes leading to a modest punch-up. The office of West Dock taxis was next door followed by H. Moses & Sons Ltd, undertakers. The Port of Hull Society’s Sailors and Fishermen’s Bethel, the Victoria Hall and St. Barnabas Parish Church completed the block up to South Boulevard. The Bethel being run at one time by Tom & Ethel Chappell and the church by Rev James Elliot respectively. Both men were credited with providing welfare and comfort to the people of Hessle Road in times of need and especially in the event of loss within the fishing fleet. One of the earliest disasters after WW2 occurred in 1955 with the loss of the Hull trawlers, Lorella & Roderigo when the Chappell’s had to visit the families of 40 lost crewmen to break the tragic news and console them. The new medical centre on Hessle Road stretching between Wassand & Walcott Street is named after Thomas Chappell and James Elliot’s in recognition of their work within the West Hull community.
On the west side of South Boulevard was Barclays Bank Ltd, outside of which on the wide pavement was an underground ladies public convenience. The block up to Eton Street housed, Morgan’s Garage & taxi hire service, followed by Boulevard Fruit Stores which always had the fruit in particular apples on show in a pyramid shape, one day on passing the shop when leaving school one of my mates decided to nick an apple, unfortunately the one he grabbed was from the bottom of the pile causing the rest to spill out onto the pavement and road, we took a different route to and from school for a while. B. Harrison, newsagent and tobacconist and R. Jacklin, Boulevard Fisheries, fishmonger came after the fruitier. The next six premises leading up to Eton Street included, Wm. Johnson, dental technician, Marcus Bishop, men outfitters, used by many young fishermen, K. M Chow, Chinese Laundry, J.F. Hodgson Ltd, footwear repairer, which included clogs worn by many workers off the docks, Etonian Fisheries, fish & chip fryer and Eton House, children’s outfitters were the final two shops prior to Eton Street.
On the west side of Eton Street stood the imposing building housing the Yorkshire Penny Bank Ltd, next to A. Newton, radio engineer, whose premises was adjacent to C. Rosen & Sons Ltd, shoe manufacturers whose main workforce was female, many were girlfriends of young fishermen. Prince’s Gowns (Hull) Ltd, ladies gowns was the next business followed by Hygenic Steam Pressing Company Ltd, dyers and cleaners, with the adjoining photographic shop of West Dock studios. The last two shops prior to Harrow Street were Curtis fish & chip shop, who were popular due to the quality of their frying, followed by Whitesides, pet and aquaria requisites.
Crossing to the west side of Harrow Street was the pawnbrokers Owen & Robinson who was also a clothier. Bennetts wallpaper, crockery and mirrors operated from the next shop followed by Bottomley and Gilletts Ltd sweets and tobacco, and then the very popular premises of The Clothing House ladies and gents outfitters. This was a outlet that had a large following especially from within the fishing community. Credit through the use of ‘club cheques’ was a well used method of payment, long before the introduction of debit/credit cards and Clothing House had a successful business based a lot on this method of payment. W.C. Collins ophthalmic & dispensing opticians along with T.J. Windas funeral director, came next to the impressive Langham Theatre (cinema). This cinema was a beautifully constructed building with lots of features. It even boasted a Commissioner who was impressively dressed in uniform. He greeted cinema goers on arrival and marshalled the queues waiting outside to gain entry. The ‘crush hall’ was an extensive area after the reception and was the waiting space for people waiting to gain entry. In those days there was at most times two houses ( the film was shown twice in one night) and people waiting for second house queued in this area. It had a marble type floor, polished wood panelling around the sides with framed photographs of famous film stars, a large set of stairs led up to a lift and stairways each side which led to the circle and upper circle seating (the more expensive seating. The cinema downstairs on the interior ground floor was of a large capacity and sported an organ and accompanying organist on occasions. As a youth and on becoming a young man I spent many happy hours viewing the best Hollywood and the British cinematic Industry had to offer. Many young men spent their spare money in visiting the Langham to take their girlfriends and sit on or near the back row when in the early stages of courting. At that time and at my age it was not always possible to gain admission to see a film due to the strict regulations. If a film carried an A rating you had to be accompanied by an adult and often youngsters would wait outside and ask adults, (on occasions strangers), to take them inside with them. It is difficult to imagine in today’s way of life how this could be allowed. After the cinema was The Dainty Shop, confectioners and tobacconist who did a good trade when people were outside waiting to get in the cinema. Next was The West Hull, watchmaker and jeweller’s followed by Waistell & Co, men’s outfitters who was sited on the east corner of West Dock Avenue directly opposite the famous fisherman’s watering hole, The Star & Garter, more commonly known as Rayners.
Rayners carried the name of a long ago licensee and was only ever referred to by that name. Over the years it had a number of managers and for most of that time was a very successful business in the main down to the patronage of those people who were employed within the fishing industry both onshore and at sea. It was in close proximity to St. Andrews Dock (the old fish dock) and was for many trawlermen it was a stopping off place after settling day or for a quick pint when out of work. It was also very popular with the bobbers, who work over night and finished in the morning allowing them to call in prior to going home to bed. It’s popularity was also enhanced by it’s position on Hessle Road where it was virtually at the hub of the fishing community. Other places to drink and enjoy entertainment were close to the Rayners and including the St. Andrews Club opposite and the Dee Street Club across the road. As with many drinking venues the occasional dispute occurred and Rayners was no exception with any resulting fisticuffs often taking place in the school yard down West Dock Avenue. With the decline of the fishing industry Rayners suffered the same as many businesses, especially public houses, and now although still offering a good pint of beer, is a shadow of it’s former self. The fishermen who were regular customers have either passed on or, are at an age when they, like many people do nowadays, have a drink at home. Proceeding west and next to the Rayners was Hanneman’s pork butchers, a popular shop which sold many tasty food items, sausages and saveloys to name two. Feldman & Harris, dry cleaners and tailors occupied the next premises followed by Kay’s sweets, tobacco and fancy goods retailers adjoining Kingston(Yorkshire) Leather Co. Ltd, cobblers merchants. Direct Clothing Stores tailors and outfitters and a Bendix Launderette Self- Service Laundry followed on the east side of Subway Street.
On the west side of Subway Street was the Subway Service Station, petrol & garage. Gallons Ltd grocer and provisions merchant were housed next door followed by Victoria, fish and chip frier. Leading up to Rugby Street was John Gibson a very popular gents hairdresser, Mark Bennett, glazier and sanitary engineer, Bentleys, dyers and cleaners, W.E. Jones, photographer, Florence, ladies hairdresser, Ellis & Co, crockery & fancy goods, handbags & suitcases. On the east corner of Rugby Street completing the block was the outfitters, The Premier Store.
Starting at he west corner was four departments of the Hull Co-operative Society Ltd. At no.363-365 was the grocery and provision merchants, no. 367 housed the family butchery, 369-371 was the drapers outfitters, boots & shoes, and finally the Drug Store (Chemist). A variety of businesses followed up to Flinton Street, E. Beharrell, newsagent & staioner, A. Grimwood, coal & coke merchant, Excelsior Fisheries, fish & chip frier, Phil Coupland, carpets & linos, next door at no. 383-385 was Storey’s, cycle dealer, followed by B. Bernhardt, wholesale grocer, tobacco & general merchant, Tom Hollome another very popular gents hairdresser, adjacent to Henry D. Banks, confectioner & tobacconist. The premises adjoining was the home of D & E Gilman, general Stores & egg merchant, next to Newsom’s bakery, and the Labour Party Committee Meeting Rooms. The following shops were situated prior to Gillett Street, Johnson’s Taxi Hire Service, Direct Decorations Ltd, decorators supplies, Newell’s fruitiers, Robinson’s tripe and pickles, Louis Moseson’s buy, sell, or exchange mart, Cleveland’s toys, novelties, music & records, Atkinson’s fruitiers, Braithwaites, footwear repairer, with Darleys/Southall’s wine & spirits off-licence on the east corner of Gillett Street. Cleveland’s was very popular with the fishing fraternity for vinyl records and most things to do with music. The Cleveland family have performed for many years with their Band appearing over a wide range of venues playing their ‘Big Band’ music.
Gillett Street (nicknamed Razor Blade Alley) was one of the most densely populated streets on Hessle Road due to the type of housing which on the whole consisted of back to back terraced houses and side terraces off the main street. It was however one of most sociable of communities with everyone being of the same hard working class and with a sociability for helping each other.
The west side of Gillett Street started with Alf Dawson, familiy & shipping butcher on the corner, next to A.G. Clark, children’s outfitters. The next premises was that of a really popular shopkeeper, Ingilby’s fruitier & greengrocer who sold excellent produce always with a friendly manner and politeness to his customers. The following shops fronted Hessle Road up to the corner of Havelock Street. J.H. Berridge, newsagents & staioners, Carlines, grocer, baker & confectioner, Roach’s fishmonger & poultry dealer, Kress & Wagner, pork butchers, J.J.N. Mackman Ltd, baker & confectioners, Turner & Kitt, toys & fancy goods, J. Finestein & Son, tailor, at no. 439 was Turner & Kitt, fancy goods, Elletson’s, drapers and children’s outfitters, and at no. 433 on the east corner of Havelock Street was Dr. O.G. Prosser, physician.
At no. 477 on the west corner of Havelock Street right up to Brighton Street was the following premises, Lamb’s, Gents and children’s hairdresser followed by Jones, Beverage Supply Co. Ltd, wines, spirits & beverages, West & Barnett, florists and fruitiers, with the surgery of Dr. L.I. Hardy, physician. At no. 501-503 was cycle & pram dealer, F. Tiplady & Son, ( this shop probably sold more prams than any other, especially to the fishing fraternity) Standard, dyers & cleaners, F. Allon, glass & plumbers sundries, De Lor, ladies dresses, J. H. Farrel & Son Ltd wholesale fish merchants, Walter Parker, newsagent & stationer, Bridgeman’s footwear repairer, Bargain Clothing Shop, outfitters, Collins Book Exchange, book & magazine dealer, Maltby’s Corn Stores, seeds & pet requisites, C. C. Johnson, family butcher, Brown’s clog makers and outfitters, A. Giles, fish, rabbit & poultry, A. Chantry, cycle dealer, A. Chapman & Sons, taxi & wedding cars,E.L. Parker, newsagent & toys, ( in the days before fireworks were available in almost all shops, Parkers always seemed to have them on stock for Bonfire Night, especially bangers) at no. 549 was Eureka Fisheries, fish & chip frier which took up the east corner of Brighton Street. Hessle Road terminated at the Dairycoates Railway Crossing with the following businesses between it and Brighton Street. Chas. D. Pullman & Son, printers,’Bobs’ The Smoker’s Mecca, tobacconists, Lepicks, leathercraft products and materials, William Rosenberg, pawnbroker and outfitter, Dairycoates Parish Church.
NORTH SIDE OF HESSLE ROAD
On the north side of the junction of Hessle Road and Walker Street formed a corner which housed Rowlands Chemist and Rowlands travel and leather goods. A number of small shops were based on the north side up to Villa Place a narrow lane with houses that lead to a school of the same name. These premises included Gilboys pet and aviary requisites, Mrs. Bennet, a wardrobe dealer and Darley’s the fishmonger The next street along from Villa Place was Campbell Street the home of Riley’s Dairies and popular milk factory.This stretch was taken up by Hutchinson, grocer and confectioner with a cafe. Continuing to the west saw Alma Marshall, ladies hairdresser, Robinsons, newsagent and tobacconist, Fletchers family buchers, Longbottoms coal and coke merchants, Booth’s greengrocer and fruitier, and at 30 32a three Corporation establishments, Waverley restaurant, the Central Purchasing Dept, Corporation Restaurants Head Office. Mason’s buy an sell exchange and mart, Liptons grocery and provisions merchant and Gordon Fraser, chemist completed the buildings up to Campbell Street.
Going west from Campbell Street were a number of shops and a pub.The shops consisted of Woodhead confectioner and tobacconist, and at no.52 and 54 Rileys Dairies bakers and confectioners and Riley’s Northern Dairies pork butchers adjoining Westerbys a family butcher. followed by the Sheffield Arms an Hull Brewery Public House, another watering hole favoured by many fishermen. Completing this block was the Modern Dress Agency, gowns for sale and hire, Wilson family butcher and on the corner of Staniforth Place was Meadow Dairy Co. Ltd, a deli type grocers and provisions merchant, one of the shops that at that time sold butter and cheese products cut from large blocks as you requested and wrapped in it grease proof paper. Staniforth Place was a narrow badly bomb damage street which housed a popular social club, the Adelaide Club. Local Hessle Road character Sammy Walsam was a popular compere with a good voice who entertained on social evenings.
Just along from the corner going west was a fruit and vegetable shop owned by Ken Heseltine which was close to one of the most famous shops in West Hull, Winckles Pieshop. The pies produced from this shop were legendary and people today recall how tasty their product was. Their pies had a unique taste and the pastry texture was crisp but dissolved in the mouth on contact It was a small establishment which did a take away service but you could also eat inside in very limited numbers. The meat pies were the most popular, but they also did fruit pie and custard. A dinner from Winckles was a treat we always looked forward to. The business was for many years run by a local family by the name of Bishoprick, a male family member in later years was a cook on trawlers in the Hull fishing fleet. Also along this block on the north side from Staniforth Place was Arthur Boulton,, family butcher, a shoe shop (Stead & Simpson?) As youngsters me and my mates once witnessed a man climbing back over the wall from the shoe shop with a sack full of what obviously were shoes. When the police came to investigate the burglary we had to make statements about the man’s appearance. Not sure if it helped catch him, we were never contacted again. Going west along this block was no.92 Levitts a ladies outfitters, J.J.N. Mackman bakers and confectioners and Winterburns confectioner and tobacconist.
The next intersection was a small grove called Vauxhall Grove with a photographers W.H. Duncan and a drapers at no.102 on the west corner. Regent Street came next which was the location of the famous public wash house used by many families prior to the introduction of the household automatic washing. This facility was subject to great demand and people were forced to book time slots to use the washers, dryers, etc. As a youngster I along with a couple of friends would get up at around five am to queue and pre-book a boiler for our Mothers. The womenfolk who frequented this facility were hardworking, industrious and vocal. It was said that all gossip and rumours originated from the wash house. If someone became involved in a dubious incident it was said they would become ‘ the talk of wash house’.
Whilst queuing one morning I remember local boxer Peter Morrison walking past on his way from the railway station after a bout in London in which he had taken a bit of a beating, but he passed cheerful comments to the many people he knew as he went on his way. Peter was employed for many years as bobber on the fish market and was always a friendly and sociable man, I had the privilege many years later to live next door but one from him and his wife Dorathy and daughter Diane. Dot for many years served the public food and drink in Darley’s the popular pub and eating place on Boothferry Road. A salt of the earth family.
On the west side of Regent Street was Wilkinson’s family butcher and Nancy’s Laldies hairdresser next door to Izzy Turner the pawnbroker occupying the corner of Wellesley Avenue, a small terraced area, with Smith’s newsagents on the other. The newsagents was my source of boys comics, the Hotspur, Rover, Wizard and Adventure providing boyhood heroes such as ‘Limp along Leslie’ Roy of the Rovers. the Cannonball Kid, Alf Tupper, the Tough of the Track, Red Circle a school story.etc. This block leading to Bean street housed W.Fish a greengrocers shop, later to become Laughton’s, and a Mallory’s hardware store, with a Jackson’s store on the east corner.
On the North side the west corner of Bean Street had a premises called Linsleys which was licensed to sell most alcoholic beverages.