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Maritime Heritage Centre

Fleetwood Development Trust have made a rival bid for a replacement for the burned out pier. The new building will be a Maritime Heritage Centre and will be for the benefit of tourists and local folk alike.
You may have seen the article in the local newspaper concerning the Maritime Heritage Centre that has been proposed for the site that the pier once stood on.

The Trust needs dedicated volunteers to take charge and drive this project forward and provide Fleetwood with a resource that will benefit the town as a whole.

As you will know, Joey Blower (who holds the lease on the site) has proposed building a hotel complex, a proposal that has been rejected by the town on more than one occasion. The Maritime Heritage Centre will be more in keeping with the current surrounding architecture and will celebrate Fleetwood’s nautical past as well as containing modern, forward looking projects.

We need to plan, negotiate and to secure finance to push this vital project forward so that the town’s links to the sea will not be forgotten.

If you are willing to help in any way, please contact Peter Brady at peter@fishermansalmanac.co.uk (01253 872219)or Jim Porter at webmaster@fleetwood-trawlers.info (01772 452326) for further information.

Thank you

The mainstay of a series of attractions will include the following.

  • A rolling maritime heritage exhibition.
  • A planetarium/cinema.
  • A debating chamber for the newly formed Town Council (this will also be available to local interest groups for meetings and displays).
  • A cafeteria/coffee shop.
  • A viewing platform to allow visitors to make full use of the panoramic vista of Morecambe Bay.
  • Local schools will have the opportunity to participate in projects such as The Jason Project.
    And much more.

Several large corporations have expressed interest in supporting the project and an artist’s impression shows the projected building.

The Proposed Centre

The Proposed Centre

A pleasure trip on the Red Rose

By Eric Haworth

I spent most of my school summer holidays in Fleetwood and had been intrigued by the trawlers as they left or returned on the high tide. As many as twenty or thirty trawlers would pass the families lined up on the prom waving goodbye to their dads for weeks on end. Each trawler would sound the fog horn in its own way so even at night they would be recognised by the families left behind.

The Taxi came to my Granddad’s shop in North Church Street at four o’clock in the morning. We swept past the police at the dock gates on a cold dark rainy night and drove straight up to the trawler Red Rose that was to be my home for the next three weeks.

The quayside was frantic, ice and provisions were being loaded, men were leaping on and off the ship. The whole crew it seemed to me, were all drunk, arrived cursing and swearing as they fell out of taxis in a last minute dash before we sailed. If they were lucky they would have had two days ashore with their families (or in the pubs) before setting off on another trip.

The Red Rose was a new ship built in Aberdeen in 1955 and was one of the last oil fired trawlers built to fish the Icelandic and North Russian fishing grounds out of Fleetwood. In those days it was revolutionary in providing decent aft crew quarters, with showers and flush toilets. (It was later relocated at Hull, renamed Lord Howe and finally scrapped in 1968.)
We sailed on the early morning tide to Heysham where we filled up with fuel oil. The heavy smell of the oil gave me the first hint of seasickness which was to plague me for the next week. Being sick for days on end and not eating meant that my stomach was throwing up bile and my muscles were aching with all the retching. These first few days were a nightmare not helped by the whole crew recovering with foul hangovers only to start boozing again when the `bond store` was opened.

As the crew sobered up, and we approached Iceland the fishing gear was made ready. It started to dawn on me how hard and dangerous the work was as the net was manually hauled over the side and the bobbins and trawl doors were winched into the sea (In the 1950’s all the trawlers had side nets).
The skipper, Captain McKernan, up on the bridge in a high chair lashed to the side rail, leaned out of the window and controlled every movement. He really was the boss, and was acknowledged as one of the most successful trawler captains in Fleetwood.
The net was trawled night and day for the next two weeks, weather permitting until the holds were full of fish. The crew worked 16 hours at a time in the worst conditions imaginable often soaked and covered in fish blood as they gutted the fish on the open deck .

After helping to gut the fish my jeans were soaked in blood and slime of the fish and stayed that way for the rest of the trip. I must have smelled delightful!
A more pleasant but equally difficult job was to chop the ice down in the fish holds and cover layer after layer of fish as they were placed in the aluminium storage racks.

The worst was to come in the form of a Force 9 gale when all we could do was to stow all the gear and steam slowly into the storm. The ship literally sailed up a wave then down into the trough repeatedly for two days. It was sheer terror to a young teenager. The bow would dive into an oncoming wave which would wash onto the bridge blacking out the windows, in what seemed ages they gradually turned dark then light green and then cleared as the wave moved down the ship.

As the stern and propeller came out of the sea, the engines raced to maximum revs and the ship shuddered violently. The ship was almost like a submarine with all doors locked and hatches closed. The pitching motion was so violent that the only way to sleep in my bunk was to tie myself in. Another boy on the same trip didn’t, and ended up smashed against the cabin wall as he was thrown out of his bunk.

At the other extreme, we steamed through flat calm in a dense fog among a least twenty other trawlers all determined to carry on fishing. We were the only ship with radar but that packed in and like all the others had a lookout at the bow and regularly sounded the foghorn. It gave a whole new meaning to fishing blind.
The weather changed again as we steamed back from Iceland on a beautiful summer evening the sea was like a mill pond and myself and several of the deckies were leaning back against superstructure enjoying a bit of warm sunshine.

Literally out of the blue we were reminded how fickle and unpredictable the sea can be. A rogue wave quietly bore down on us and although we spotted it at the last minute all we could do was grab the hand rail and hold tight whilst it swept over the trawler. We rolled through what seemed like 90 degrees and were
completely engulfed by seawater which rushed through the open doors and flooded the crews quarters. It also deluged down the galley skylight where the cook luckily escaped scalding as the water hit the stove.

Two minutes later we steamed on through flat calm as though nothing had happened, but then had to bail out and dry everything. Then as now, deep sea fishing was dangerous and out of our twenty-one crew,
three died at sea within a few years. Tragically William Cooper the radio operator on the Red Rose later became the radio operator on the Red Falcon and died when she went down in 1959. I spent a lot of time with Bill since I was interested in becoming a radio operator. His other job on the Red Rose was boiling cod livers in the bow . This was a peculiar feature on the Red Rose in that cod liver boilers were usually located astern.

In spite of the weather, at the end of two weeks non-stop fishing we had the hold full of mainly cod and haddock all neatly stowed in ice. The latest i.e. freshest was carefully laid out in trays head to tail to get the highest price at the quayside auction. Everyone had a vested interest since the wages depended on the value of the catch. After a good catch, the crew with children would shower them with presents
and sweets, and the pubs which lined Dock Street did a roaring trade.

First Trawler Loss of WWII

Davara FD152

In August 1939 with the prospect of conflict in the offing, several trawler owners on both the East and West Coast recalled their vessels and delayed the sailing of others. Once War was declared, however, and with markets suffering from a lack of supplies, many trawlers returned to sea thinking that on the West Coast at least, the War might be slow to get under way.

They were not to know that many German U-boats were already moving into positions to the West of Ireland and outboard of the Western Isles – both areas favoured fishing grounds of the Fleetwood trawling fleet. On Tuesday 12 September 1939, the Mount Steam Fishing Co’s DAVARA (FD152) commanded by Skipper William Boyles and a crew of eleven, sailed from Fleetwood for the West of Scotland grounds.

In the early afternoon of Wednesday 13 September she was in a position some 21 miles NNW of Tory Island, County Donegal when she was closed by the U-boat, U.27 which with the deck gun manned, commenced shelling the DAVARA. Despite damage Skipper Boyles managed to get the boat into the water and with all the crew onboard the trawler was abandoned.

The shelling continued for about half an hour and thirty five rounds were counted, the DAVARA sinking at 14.55. The crew were in the boat for five hours constantly baling and rowing and were exhausted when picked up by by the West Hartlepool steamer WILLOWPOOL (4815grt/1925) and landed safely.

The DAVARA was the first British trawler to be sunk by enemy action in WWII. (Crew (all Fleetwood unless stated) – Sk. William Boyles; G. T. Pugh, Mate; W. Spall, Bosun; A Scott, Ch Eng, Thornton; J. Higgins, 2nd Eng, Burn Naze; E. Prentice, D. G. Gall, C. S. Hunter & H. R. Wright, deckhands; R. O. Welch & J. Gregger, firemen; C. W. Sharpe,

Only days later on 16 September in position 53.50N 11.10W the U.27 came upon The Sun Trawling Co’s RUDYARD KIPLING (FD33) under Skipper Charles Robinson with a crew of twelve and boarded the trawler. Ordering the crew to lower the boat and pull over to the submarine, supplies of food, including sugar, bread and fish and the vessels wireless equipment were transferred to the submarine before time delayed explosive charges were placed forward and aft; at 15.53 the trawler sank in three minutes. In complete contrast to the treatment of the DAVARA’s crew, during the eight hours that the U.27 towed the boat towards the Donegal coast the men were fed with hot soup and meat, given cigars and two rations of rum. In the early hours of the following morning when about five miles off the Donegal coast, they were ordered into the boat, but before being set adrift they were given greatcoats to wear. After an unpleasant journey they eventually landing safely at Killybegs. On 20 September the U.27 was detected by HM Ships, FORTUNE (P.No.H70) and FORESTER (P.No.H74) to the West of Scotland and forced to the surface by depth charges, she was sunk and all the crew captured.

Further U-boat victims soon followed though not all crews were released or lost. Fishing off the Faroe Islands the CALDEW (FD347), under Skipper T. J. Kane was stopped on 24 September by the U.33 and following the same pattern the crew was ordered into the boat before the trawler was sunk by gunfire. The boat was sighted by the neutral Swedish steamer KRONPRINSESSAN MARGARETA, (3765grt/1914) and the crew were rescued. Unfortunately the rescue was observed by an enemy seaplane which informed the German destroyer FRIEDRICH IHN (Z14) and torpedo boat, ILTIS, who intercepted the Swedish steamer and demanded that the survivors be handed over. On return to Germany the crew was declared prisoners of war and interned first in Stalag XB and later Milag Nord and with the exception of the Skipper, remained as prisoners for the rest of the War. Skipper Kane was exchanged on 21 June 1943 in Lisbon and repatriated.

By the end of 1939 and four months into the War, Fleetwood had lost a further eight fishing trawlers, WELLVALE (FD140), ARLITA (FD188), LORD MINTO (FD51), CRESSWELL (M129), DELPHINE (A126), SEA SWEEPER (FD171), SULBY (FD87) and WILLIAM HUMPHRIES (LO533) and with them the lives of over 50 fishermen. The incidents of Monday 18 September 1939 are particularly interesting. On the previous Monday, the ALVIS (H52) owned by Saint Andrew’s Steam Fishing Co, with Skipper Albert E. Thomason in command, left Fleetwood for the St. Kilda grounds. On the afternoon of the 18 September the Alvis was trawling about 29 miles NNW of St. Kilda in about 200 fathoms when around 1.20pm BST a submarine approached and fired a single round which fell short of the trawler. Skipper Thomason was ordered to stop the ship and put the crew in the punt and row over to the submarine, where he was taken onboard and questioned by the Captain. While alongside it was noted that the boat was leaking and the Captain asked “Is that the only boat you have got?” When Skipper Thomason replied in the affirmative, he said that the English should be ashamed of this, to send ships to sea with only one boat. The crew were ordered back onboard the ALVIS accompanied by an officer and three ratings from the submarine and the wireless transmitter and receiver were thrown overboard along with the trawl and all the gear out of the fore hold, all the time taking photographs; it was 4.40pm before they finished and were rowed back to the submarine. The Captain gave the Bosun a parcel, “Give this to your Captain with my compliments, and I hope he gets home quite safely”. It was a bottle of gin. The ALVIS having recovered the boat, steamed for St. Kilda with the submarine in company for about 11/4 hours before she submerged, and the trawler, her part catch still intact returned to Fleetwood accompanied down the Irish Sea by the HAYBURN WYKE (FD99).

The submarine was U.35 commanded by Kapitänleutenant Werner Lott, who on leaving the ALVIS proceeded back to the fishing grounds were he stopped the LORD MINTO (FD51) (Sk. C. Pennington), the ARLITA (FD188) (Sk. E. Christy) and the NANCY HAGUE (FD133) (Sk. R. King). The crews of the LORD MINTO and ARLITA were ordered to leave their ships and proceed to the NANCY HAGUE, whereupon the two abandoned trawlers were sunk by gunfire in position 58.09N 09.17W. The NANCY HAGUE which was the oldest trawler of the group, was allowed to return to Fleetwood with all the men. On 29 November 1939, off the West Coast of Scotland, the U.35 was detected and attacked by HM Ships ICARUS (P.No.D03), KINGSTON (P.No.F64) and KASHMIR (P.No.F12) and forced to the surface where she was scuttled by the crew who were then taken prisoner.

Fred Hobbs and Family

The seagoing gene seems to run deeply in the Hobbs’ family. Fred’s father stowed away on a cattle boat from Dublin and made his way to Fleetwood. He later became Chief Engineer on CEVIC and was aboard her when she was lost at Ballure, South Ramsey.

In later life he went on to become 2nd engineer in ISER and chief in the TRANQUIL. On one occasion, after getting the sack from ISER, the shore engineer (Sam Butler) had to call him out and reinstate him as no-one else could get her to fire up.

Fred recalls that, as chief, his father was not a man to allow his fireman to sleep at the Fisherman’s Mission, instead he brought them home where they slept with Fred and his brother Tom. Joe Rice, who was to hold Fleetwood’s record for being a drunk, disorderly and disobedient seaman, was his favourite.

At the outbreak of war, Fred’s father volunteered for the Navy and was accepted immediately and became chief of the minesweeping Lowestoft drifter Mar’e. Later, until his passing, he was on board HATSUSE. Fred still remembers the painful memories generated by fishing with her off St. Kilda.

Brother Joey also went to sea and, at 15, became a fireman. At one time he fired one of Fleetwood’s largest trawlers, ST. LOMAN. Looking for an easier life he joined the RN in 1937 and served until 1949 as second engineer and chief, ending with oil rig support vessels until he died in 1976. His last trawler was BOSTON KESTREL.

Brother Tom sailed as brassie on ISER at 14 years old in 1935. After committing the cardinal sin of hitting the skipper (Beck Newton) for swearing at him, his fishing career was over, for a time at least. After this incident he cooled his heels for a while on the Fleetwood to Llandudno paddle steamer ATLANTA. In 1938 he joined the navy as a boy seaman and served in cruisers and destroyers both in the home and Mediterranean fleets. Both Tom and Joey were on the cruiser PHOEBE which was hit at Crete. Tom went on to the destroyer LANCE which was bombed and sunk at Malta. As if that weren’t enough, he was on WARSPITE when she was damaged at the Salerno and Anzio. He was still aboard when she was hit on D-Day.

The end of the war saw Tom off to the Med once more, this time with the Naval Police in Taranto. His naval career finished on the trawlerSTEEPHOLM in 1947. Returning home he managed to get back into fishing as a fireman, mostly in the ‘Duck’ boats where he gained the reputation as one of Fleetwood’s cleanest firemen.

His fishing days ended as second engineer and chief, sailing for Wyre Trawlers and Hewetts, indeed, he was in ELLA HEWETT when she was struck the wreck of the torpedoed WW1 cruiser HMS DRAKE, and sank in Church Bay, Rathlin. As with many Fleetwood fishermen, the cod wars forced him into oil rig support work. Tom passed away in 1991 after a short illness.

Fred remembers asking Tom why, after 8 years in the navy as a seaman, he wanted to go as a fireman. His reply was that -…it’s too bloody cold on deck-. Yet, at Iceland aboard WYRE GENERAL, he would take the trouble to cross the foredeck to the foc’sle to bring Fred a pot of tea at hauling time. He also taught Fred the ‘rules of the road’ as well as how to splice wire and rope, in the engine room of WYRE GENERAL.

Fred Hobbs in the Fishermens Club

Fred Hobbs in the Fishermens Club

Fred sailed with Bobby Nash in RED DRAGON and was with him when a sea took out the bridge windows off the Norwegian Coast. Fred also sailed in RED ROSE and is the author of an article that was published in ‘Life In Fleetwood’ in 1992.

Fred Hobbs passed away in 2003.

Fred Hobbs started trawling relatively late in life at the ripe old age of 19 when he left the RN and signed on COTSMUIR as half deckie with Freddie Slapp. At the time the Cotsmuir’s bosun was Freddie’s 16 year old son.

With Fred being familiar with the sea and ships, some ship’s husband’s would have considered that sufficient to sign him on as deckie but Fred’s brother Tom insisted that he “Knew nowt” so he was signed on as half deckie, with the probability that he would make three quarters the second trip and full deckie the third if he was with a good crew who could cover for any shortcomings until he was totally familiar with the job.

Due to bad weather it took a week to get COTSMUIR to sea for the first trip. Everytime the crew turned out the ship’s runner waved them away. Eventually though, and despite the weather, COTSMUIR sailed and Fred was on his way to what he describes as ” A great life with good money”

After one more trip Fred sailed in EASTCOATES, with Jack Wilson, for a trip to St Kilda as full deckie. He was soon of the opinion, though, after having to swap sides due to a busted trawl, that he wasn’t quite ready so he went back as three quarters.

Fred Hobbs Gutting with Bob Rayworth

Fred Hobbs Gutting with Bob Rayworth

With a few trips under his belt Fred signed on AGNES WICKFIELD with skipper Steve Reader and bosun Tom Ellerby. He recalls that “She was one of only 2 trawlers fitted with sirens so that all Fleetwood knew when old ‘AGGIE’ was around, she sounded like a destroyer”. Tom Ellerby taught Fred a lot and he was signed on as full deckie for his second trip after another deckie had been downgraded.

After four trips with Steve and many boxes of whiting later, Fred was Iceland bound aboard UNITIA with skipper Harold Harrison, mate Chris Porter and bosun, Judder Harrison. The weather was bad but the fishing was good so sleep was a commodity that was in short supply and it was a case of catching a catnap whenever possible. A worse initiation to Icelandic fishing could not have been imagined as eight out of the ten deckies that UNITIA carried had never been to Iceland before and Fred was an ‘Old Timer’ compared to most of them. The unfortunate runner that had signed them on had imprecations heaped upon him from all sides. At the end of the trip they all got the sack

Fred and Joe Hobbs with Vic Buschini

Fred and Joe Hobbs with Vic Buschini
Boston Kestrel 1966

Soon after Fred was with Johnny Green and Sammy Archer in CYELSE when she ran aground at Wyre Light, after an easy trip, in thick fog. Sammy advised Fred “Bad omen that, better get out”. Subsequently they both signed off and, shortly afterwards, she was lost without loss of life. Sammy always took credit for saving Fred’s life. “Got you out of that one just in time”, he was fond of saying.

Fred Brendan and Shimmy

Fred Brendan and Shimmy
Red Rose 1957

Fred sailed with Billy Lane, homewater fishing, and George Elliot, Iceland, (who he describes as two of the best) in MARGARET WICKS and ROBERT HEWETT. Both men had regular crewmen who had sailed with them since WW1. Fred blotted his copybook with George Elliot by signing off the trip before George was due to pick up ELLA HEWETT. Fred says ” I was treated like I’d refused a pools win” and he knew that he’d be banished to ‘Under Gourocks Canopy’ a phrase well known to Fleetwood fishermen. If you were under the canopy you were either on leave, sick or banished for some wrongdoing.

The worst of the large trawlers that he sailed in was NEW PRINCE, (ex- CAPE BARRACOUTA). She was nicknamed the SALT WATER RINSE or CAPE WATER SCOOPER due to her sailing like a yacht in the Guiness yacht races. An hour on the wheel left the helmsman with sore sides. The deckies confronted the skipper over the seaworthiness of the vessel and declared that “Your ship has moved its boiler and we all want to go home”. The skipper declared that they could all “Sign off after you’ve stowed the gear, got the doors inboard and stowed the deckboards.”

After they complied the trawler ran into Vestmanneyar where a marine insurance surveyor examined her and declared her seaworthy. After that they decided to give her another chance but couldn’t wait to get off her. Norman Jinks was mate and the bosun was a Jinks also. Fred had several trips when they got absolutley ‘battered’ and never got to the point of saying “She’ll be alright”. Fred recalls that ” RED DRAGON, WYRE MONITOR, and RED PLUME were all noted for ‘laying over’ but it was far from natural behaviour for a trawler and was most dangerous, leaving the vessel seconds from running under.

Fred’s favourite trawler was RED KNIGHT under John Tomlinson. She was the last word in luxury for the times and she rode the worst of the weather well. It was aboard her that the most atrocious conditions that Fred ever saw were encountered and RED KNIGHT had to be escorted into Seydisfjiord by the LOCH FOYLE and LORD LLOYD, after 52 hours of 114 mile an hour winds that blew the seas flat.

It was the same time that ST. JUST had her aluminum bridge stove in. RED KNIGHT’s was made of steel and it was gutted. The radio room was wrecked, bridge doors gone and every handrail on the bow and casing had been wiped off. The food locker was gone and the forecastle was full of water to the top rung of the ladder so all the crew all had to bunk down in the cabin and they could only keep 15 minute watches on the bridge. After 4 days in Seydisfjiord she was patched up for the trip home with plywood shields around the bridge. The crew stayed ashore in a ‘Host House’ while they got the forecastle dried out and cleaned. The trip was terminated while they sailed home for repairs but they did stop off at the Faroes for a while and so avoided coming home with empty holds. The crew were praised by Captain Lawford for their efforts who contributed a bit extra to their pay. RED KNIGHT never even made the news, the papers were too full of the damage to ST JUST.

Fred’s favourite skipper was Harry Farrar (who he describes as a true seaman) and Nikki Wright (a gentleman fisherman). Harry once told Fred to “Get yourself one of these wooden sou’westers (a skipper’s ticket or the bridge), and you’ll find that the job is quite bearable. Meanwhile, get yer arse on that deck and we’ll see if we can get that trawl up”

“That”, says Fred, “was the very same night that HILDINA towed herself under in a following sea with the loss of six of her crew”. Calling the mate out Fred said ” Would you believe that he’s going to haul in this?” Chy Palmer replied “The man has no fear, we’ll both sign off for Christmas”, (which we both did)

Click to enlarge images

Fred Hobbs

Johnny Hamilton and Wilf Pook

Fred Hobbs

Fred Hobbs

Fred Hobbs

Fred Hobbs

Tom Hobbs

Tom Hobbs