'It's no fish ye're buying, it's men's lives'

The fisherman

Fishermen have featured in the food industry for a great many years as generations of them fished in all waters in all weathers to earn a living and at the same time feed nations

There is no typical fisherman and yet we have to tell a story about them and their life. What better way than to use the example of our Vice-chairman, Liam Sparke. A fisherman for most of his life

Liam Sparke"I started going to sea at aged fifteen. That was in 1964. All beginners start off as a galley boy in order to acquire the necessary sea legs. At sixteen you are allowed to go on deck as a Dekkie learner. At eighteen after two years on the log book and six weeks at NCL school you were then able to get a job as a deck hand full (AB) After four years you could apply for a bosun's ticket or a mates ticket. However you still had to do two years as a bosun before going as a mate. After two years as a mate you could apply for a skippers ticket"
"I finished deep sea fishing in 1980 as the cod war and new 200 mile fishing limits for Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia left the deepsea fleet with nowhere to fish. In fact we were made redundant. We did get compensation eventually (fifteen years later) After this happened I went inshore fishing (home waters) from 1980 untill 2004. I had a very bad accident aboard The 'Ocean Trust' which resulted in me being unable to obtain insurance cover for work at sea. That was the end of my fishing career which I miss very much"

Liams poignant ending really sums up the life of a fisherman. It's hard, it's dangerous and yet rewarding. Could these men that serve the nation so well really work in a factory or an office..........?

If you choose to go to sea for a living, you are 50 times more likely to die at work than people in other occupations. (source UK Health & Life Insurance Services published 2013) Of course fishing is now safer than it was, even so there are dangers and there is no escaping the harsh reality of those

If you enjoyed this then please look at the tales of Catfoss Mick just click here

Next time you complain about the high cost of fish, think about this quote, 'It's no fish ye're buying, it's men's lives' - Sir Walter Scott (source 'The Antiquary' chapter X1)




Deep sea fishing

Types of trawlers used

Sidewinder Trawler (nets of the side)

Time at sea,18 to 21 days with 3 days shore leave per trip

Areas fished: N.E. and S.E. Iceland, White sea Russian coast, Bear island, Greenland, North cape Iceland

Crew of twenty-one

Known rates of pay:

Skipper £100 to the thousand net

Mate £75 ditto

Bosun £15 to the thousand gross

Chief engineer £20 ditto

2nd Engineer £15 ditto

Fireman £6 ditto

Stoker £6 ditto

Greaser £6 ditto

Radio operator £10 ditto

Cook £10 ditto

Crew ££7 10 shillings

Galley boy 7 shillings and sixpence

Deckie learner  7 shillings and six pence

Stern dragger Freezer Trawlers (nets dragged astern)

Time at sea, 6 to 10 weeks with one week shore leave per trip

Areas fished: N.E. and S.E. Iceland, White Sea Russian coast Bear Island, Greenland, Nova Zembla Canada, Grand banks Newfoundland, Nova Scotia North American Coast, Gulf of St Lawrence

Average landing after six weeks at sea was five to six hundred tons

Crew of twenty-one

Known rates of pay:

Skipper £10 to the ton

Mate £7 to the ton

Deckhand £1 to the ton

Other rates not known


It's all about the fish

The deck of Hull trawler St Nectan. Clearly a good catch

Most trawlers landed every three weeks.

Two or three thousand kit of fish was common (1 kit = 10 stone. 10 stone = 63.5 kilo's)



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