Tag Archives: Fishing

Age of Innocence – 1958, The Cod Wars with Iceland

Ross Tiger Grimsby Fishing Heritage Museum

Ross Tiger” by Grimsby Artist Carl Paul – www.carlpaulfinearts.co.uk

In 1958 Britain went to war – this time with Iceland.  The First Cod War lasted from 1st September until 12th November 1958 and began in response to a new Icelandic law that tripled the Icelandic fishery zone from four nautical miles to twelve to protect its own fishing industry.

The British Government declared that their trawlers would fish under protection from Royal Navy warships in three areas, out of the Westfjords, north of Horn and to the southeast of Iceland.  All in all, twenty British trawlers, four warships and a supply vessel operated inside the newly declared zones.  This was a bad tempered little spat that involved trawler net cutting, mid ocean ramming incidents and collisions.  It was also a bit of an uneven contest because in all fifty-three British warships took part in the operations against seven Icelandic patrol vessels and a single Catalina flying boat.

Eventually Britain and Iceland came to a settlement, which stipulated that any future disagreement between the two countries in the matter of fishery zones would be sent to the International Court of Justice in The Hague and the Icelandic Minister Bjarni Benediktsson hailed the agreement as “Iceland’s biggest political victory.

cod war

But it wasn’t the end of Cod Wars because there was a second in 1972 and a third in 1975 when on both occasions Iceland further extended their territorial fishing waters without consultation and continuing to protect these is what keeps Iceland from joining the European Union even today.

I had no idea that when I visited Iceland that I was now there as a resident of the English fishing town of Grimsby which was once recognised as the largest and busiest fishing port in the world. The wealth and population growth of the town was based on the North Sea herring fishery but this collapsed in the middle of the twentieth century and so diversified to distant water trawler fishing targeting cod in the seas around Iceland.  The concessions that Britain made to Iceland as a result of the Cod Wars which put these fishing grounds off limit destroyed the fishing industry in the town.  It is said that many men who survived the sea came home without jobs and drowned in beer.

Today Grimsby is dominated by the fish processing sector rather than the catching industry. Processors are mainly supplied by over-landed fish from other UK ports and by a harsh twist of fate containerised white fish from Iceland.

There is a National Fishing Heritage Centre in Grimsby which is a museum including a visit on board a real Grimsby Trawler – The Ross Tiger.  It’s a museum well worth visiting and the last time that I went I learnt from the guided tour that ironically Grimbarians don’t particularly care for cod anyway and have a preference for haddock which they consider to be a superior fish!

Cod

It wasn’t only Grimsby that was adversely affected by the outcome of the Cod Wars and across the Humber Estuary the fishing industry in the city of Kingston-upon-Hull  was similarly devastated by the capitulation of the UK Government and also went into dramatic and irreversible decline.

In view of this in a previous post I expressed surprise that Reykjavik and Hull are official  ‘Twin Towns‘ but I suppose the arrangement may be an attempt at reconciliation and mutual understanding because this was one of the original principles of twinning which became a popular thing to do after the Second World War as people sought to repair shattered relationships with their neighbours

I have often wondered however what the process was for getting a twin town. Perhaps it was like the draw for the third round of the FA cup when all the names go into a hat to be drawn out with each other, or perhaps it was like the UCAS University clearing house system where towns made their preferred selections and waited for performance results to see if they were successful, perhaps it was a sort of international dating service and introductory agency or maybe it was just a nice place where the Mayor and the Town Clerk rather fancied an annual all-expenses paid trip!

Anyway, the city of Coventry started it all off and was the first ever to twin when it made links with Stalingrad in the Soviet Union in 1944 and is now so addicted to twinning that it has easily the most of any English town or city with a massive twenty-six twins.  That is a lot of civic receptions and a lot of travelling expenses for the Mayor of Coventry.  Earlier this year I visited another of Coventry’s twin towns – Warsaw in Poland.

Other significant events of 1958 included a revolution in Iraq that overthrew the monarchy, murdered the King and triggered years of instability in the Middle East which continues today; Charles de Gaulle became President of France, which was bad news for those wanting to join the Common Market and Nikita Khrushchev became President of the USSR, who although a liberal by Communist standards was the man who would later approve the construction of the Berlin Wall.

Scrap Book Project – Danger, Water, Roads and Building Sites

Talking of catching things, we used to go fishing down the canal and this wasn’t quite so dangerous except when my friend Colin Barratt (who was forbidden by his parents to go to the canal on account of not being able to swim) fell in while struggling to land a four-ounce Perch with a home made rod and line.

One minute he was standing on the towpath with his garden cane rod and bit of string and there was an almighty splash and Colin was thrashing about in the water struggling for his life.  Between us we dragged him out without having to jump in ourselves and took him home and didn’t see him again for about three months after that but to make him feel better we told him that it was a monster Pike that had pulled him in.

Water always had a special attraction and when we weren’t messing about on the canal there was always Sprick Brook where we used to fish for minnows and red-breasted Sticklebacks and take them home in jam-jars in the days before goldfish.  Sprick brook ran under the railway bridge on Hillmorton Lane and was just the sort of place where you could have an accident and no one would find you for days.

One place that wasn’t nearly so dangerous as it is today were the roads and we used to play on our bikes without any real sense of danger and certainly without those silly cycle helmets that kids wear today.

Cycling however did get me into trouble once when I was about ten and persuaded some friends to tackle a cycle ride one afternoon to Leicester to see my grandparents without checking with anyone first.  I have to confess that this was both ambitious and thoughtless especially on a Raleigh Junior bike with 18” wheels and no lights and not in any way suitable for a fifty mile round trip.

Getting there was reasonably straightforward but the return journey was a bit more difficult on account of it being dark and us being completely knackered.  There was a search party that night for sure and I can remember being astonished about how much fuss was made over such a trivial incident when Dad intercepted me at Abbots Farm and sent me home immediately for a good telling off from Mum which turned out instead to be an emotional and tearful reunion and I can remember being thoroughly confused by that.

Building Site 1

Apart from the dangers presented by the transport system there were other equally hazardous places to play as well.  Building sites for example.

There was a building boom in the 1960s and this presented all sorts of opportunities.  Especially good fun was climbing ladders and playing on the scaffolding and hiding in part constructed rooms.  There were piles of bricks to build camps (much better than Lego), sewer pipes to crawl through, sand and cement to kick around and oil drums and bits of timber to take away and use to build rafts to sail on the canal but this never worked either.

Once a passing police patrol car stopped and the officers watched us building a waterway craft with bits of material that we had ‘borrowed’.  They teased us by asking to see our boat license and then as we dawdled about hoping they would just drive off told us to hurry up and get on because they wanted to see us fall off and get wet before getting on with their duties.  We clambered aboard and didn’t disappoint them.  I can still hear them laughing as I write this.

Perhaps the dumbest and most dangerous thing we ever did on a building site was to go underground.  In preparation for new houses on Bridley Road there were some new storm drains installed so we lifted the manhole cover and went inside, crawled through the pipes and made a camp in an inspection chamber where we sat in candle light and thought that it was all great fun.  I dread to think now what might have happened if there had been a storm while we were down there.  I certainly wouldn’t be writing this retrospective journal.

Most of these dangerous places are closed off to children these days, the railway line is fenced, building sites are secure, the canal locks have wooden guardrails and you would have to be just plain daft to take a bike out on a main road.  Given the modern restrictions it’s hardly any wonder I suppose that today children have to stop at home and watch the television or play computer games and are denied the pleasure of real dangerous activity and that is a real shame.

Scrap Book Project – Fishing

These days I can’t really understand the point of catching fish but I used to go fishing for about three years between ten and thirteen years old.  I had a three piece rod, two parts cane and the third part sky blue fibreglass with a spinning reel which, to be honest, I never really got the hang of, a wicker basket, a plastic box for my various floats and miscellaneous bait boxes for bread, cheese, garden worms, maggots and ground bait.

Fishing was generally quite boring but one day became quite lively when my friend Colin Barratt (who was forbidden by his parents to go to the canal on account of not being able to swim) fell in while struggling to land a four-ounce Perch with a home made rod and line.

He had turned up just as we were about to go to the canal so we made him a rod from a garden cane with a bit of string and a nylon line and hook and persuaded him, against his better judgement, join us.  One minute he was standing on the towpath with his garden cane rod and bit of string and there was an almighty splash and Colin was thrashing about in the water, spluttering and gasping and generally struggling for his life.  Between us we dragged him out without having to jump in ourselves and took him home and left him dripping and bedraggled on the doorstep.  We didn’t see him again for about three months after that but to make him feel better we told him that it was a monster Pike that had pulled him in.

This story was not all childhood fantasy I have to say and had some dubious foundation in fact because there was always a story that there was a big fish lurking in the reeds on the opposite bank to the towpath that was alleged to be a trophy pike which is a rather big fish that can live for thirty years and grow to over thirty pounds in weight – always supposing that no one is going to drag it out of the water on the end of a fishing line that is.

We never really caught very much, a few greedy perch, the odd roach and loads and loads of gudgeon but there was never enough for a good meal.  Sometimes if we were fishing too close to the bottom we would bring up a crayfish and the only sensible thing to do was to cut the line and throw it back, hook and all.

Actually by the time I was thirteen I had tired of fishing in the same way that I had tired of Boy Scouts and Saturday morning cinema because by this time I had discovered girls and the only good thing about the canal towpath after that was that it was a good place for snogging.  I didn’t really like catching fish at all, I thought it was cruel, so used to dangle a hook in the water with no bait attached while I concentrated on adolescent activities.

Water always had a special attraction and when we weren’t messing about on the canal there was always Sprick Brook where we used to fish for minnows and red-breasted Sticklebacks and take them home in jam-jars in the days before goldfish.  Sprick brook ran under the railway bridge on Hillmorton Lane and was just the sort of place where you could have an accident and no one would find you for days until someone organised a search party.

I still find fishing completely pointless and I am always amused by people who have twelve foot rods and sit on one side of the river and I always want to ask them why they don’t just get a shorter one and go and sit on the opposite bank?

Maybe it is because fish are just too smart.  One time in Portugal at the  the ancient town of Ponte de Lima I walked across a bridge that crosses the River Lima into the town and watched some men optimistically trying to catch the huge carp that we could see clearly swimming in the water below and teasing the optimistic fishermen on the bridge above.  They were big fish and had been around a long time so I don’t think they were going to get caught that afternoon.  If it was a pike that pulled Colin into the canal that afternoon I like to think it knew exactly what it was doing!

Fishing

Isaac Newton who knew a thing or two about fishing died on 15th December 1683.

These days I can’t really understand the point of catching fish but I used to go fishing for about three years between ten and thirteen years old.  I had a three piece rod, two parts cane and the third part sky blue fibreglass with a spinning reel which, to be honest, I never really got the hang of, a wicker basket, a plastic box for my various floats and miscellaneous bait boxes for bread, maggots and ground bait.

One day my friend Colin Barratt (who was forbidden by his parents to go to the canal on account of not being able to swim) fell in while struggling to land a four-ounce Perch with a homemade rod and line.  He had turned up just as we were about to go to the canal so we made him a rod from a garden cane with a bit of string and a nylon line and hook so that he could join us.  One minute he was standing on the towpath with his garden cane rod and bit of string and there was an almighty splash and Colin was thrashing about in the water struggling for his life.  Between us we dragged him out without having to jump in ourselves and took him home and didn’t see him again for about three months after that but to make him feel better we told him that it was a monster Pike that had pulled him in.

We never really caught very much, a few greedy perch, the odd roach and loads and loads of gudgeon but there was never enough for a good meal.  Sometimes if we were fishing too close to the bottom we would bring up a crayfish and the only sensible thing to do was to cut the line and throw it back, hook and all.

Actually by the time I was thirteen I had tired of fishing in the same way that I had tired of Boy Scouts and Saturday morning cinema because by this time I had discovered girls and the only good thing about the canal towpath after that was that it was a good place for snogging.  I didn’t really like catching fish at all, I thought it was cruel, so used to dangle a hook in the water with no bait attached while I concentrated on adolescent activities.

Water always had a special attraction and when we weren’t messing about on the canal there was always Sprick Brook where we used to fish for minnows and red-breasted Sticklebacks and take them home in jam-jars in the days before goldfish.  Sprick brook ran under the railway bridge on Hillmorton Lane and was just the sort of place where you could have an accident and no one would find you for days.

Seafood Dining

When we arrived in Peso Da Regua it was almost mid afternoon and we needed something to eat so we set about looking for a café or a bar but something suitable was difficult to find and so with options running out we choose a simple place on the road next to the river and made selections from a restricted but satisfyingly cheap menu.

Micky selected the local sausage, I choose hake and the girls went for what they thought was the safe option of a fish salad, but if they were expecting John West tuna they were in for a shock because when it arrived it was a plate of black eyed beans and chopped egg and a couple of unappetizing grilled fish complete with heads with bulging eyes and tails carelessly arranged on the top.

Portugal is a seafaring nation with a huge fishing industry and this is reflected in the amount of seafood eaten. The country has Europe’s highest fish consumption per capita and is among the top four in the world. Fish is served grilled, boiled, fried or deep-fried, stewed or even roasted. Cod is the type of fish most consumed in Portugal and it is said that there are more than three hundred and sixty-five ways to cook it, one for every day of the year.

In recognition of this Portugal has been granted an ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’, which is a sea zone in the Atlantic Ocean over which the Portuguese have special rights in respect of exploration and use of marine resources.  For the record it is the third largest Exclusive Economic Zone of the European Union, after France and the United Kingdom and the eleventh largest in the world.

Kim will eat mostly anything and Christine reluctantly finished hers but I would not describe Sue as a seafood enthusiast at the best of times and she really prefers her fish either in breadcrumbs or batter.  I wouldn’t say that she is a fussy eater but when it comes to fish she doesn’t really care for things that slither, float, or crawl about the seabed so she pushed this ugly critter around the plate a couple of times and then tried to cover it up with her knife and fork in a way that we used to try and hide uneaten food as children.    It didn’t work then and it didn’t work now and this gastro incident was a serious setback in Sue’s journey towards more adventurous dining.  I can’t remember what my hake was like – I was too busy laughing to really notice.

Seafood Dining

A Year in a Life – 15th December, Fishing

Isaac Newton who knew a thing or two about fishing died on 15th December 1683.

I used to go fishing for about three years between ten and thirteen years old.  I had a three piece rod, two parts cane and the third part sky blue fibreglass with a spinning reel which, to be honest, I never really got the hang of, a wicker basket, a plastic box for my various floats and miscellaneous bait boxes for bread, maggots and ground bait. 

One day my friend Colin Barratt (who was forbidden by his parents to go to the canal on account of not being able to swim) fell in while struggling to land a four-ounce Perch with a homemade rod and line.  He had turned up just as we were about to go to the canal so we made him a rod from a garden cane with a bit of string and a nylon line and hook so that he could join us.  One minute he was standing on the towpath with his garden cane rod and bit of string and there was an almighty splash and Colin was thrashing about in the water struggling for his life.  Between us we dragged him out without having to jump in ourselves and took him home and didn’t see him again for about three months after that but to make him feel better we told him that it was a monster Pike that had pulled him in.

We never really caught very much, a few greedy perch, the odd roach and loads and loads of gudgeon but there was never enough for a good meal.  Sometimes if we were fishing too close to the bottom we would bring up a crayfish and the only sensible thing to do was to cut the line and throw it back, hook and all.  Actually by the time I was thirteen I had tired of fishing in the same way that I had tired of Boy Scouts and Saturday morning cinema because by this time I had discovered girls and the only good thing about the canal towpath after that was that it was a good place for snogging.  I didn’t really like catching fish at all, I thought it was cruel, so used to dangle a hook in the water with no bait attached while I concentrated on adolescent groping.

Water always had a special attraction and when we weren’t messing about on the canal there was always Sprick Brook where we used to fish for minnows and red-breasted Sticklebacks and take them home in jam-jars in the days before goldfish.  Sprick brook ran under the railway bridge on Hillmorton Lane and was just the sort of place where you could have an accident and no one would find you for days.

Age of Innocence – Danger, Water, Roads and Building Sites

Talking of catching things, we used to go fishing down the canal and this wasn’t quite so dangerous except when my friend Colin Barratt (who was forbidden by his parents to go to the canal on account of not being able to swim) fell in while struggling to land a four-ounce Perch with a home made rod and line.  One minute he was standing on the towpath with his garden cane rod and bit of string and there was an almighty splash and Colin was thrashing about in the water struggling for his life.  Between us we dragged him out without having to jump in ourselves and took him home and didn’t see him again for about three months after that but to make him feel better we told him that it was a monster Pike that had pulled him in.

Water always had a special attraction and when we weren’t messing about on the canal there was always Sprick Brook where we used to fish for minnows and red-breasted Sticklebacks and take them home in jam-jars in the days before goldfish.  Sprick brook ran under the railway bridge on Hillmorton Lane and was just the sort of place where you could have an accident and no one would find you for days.

One place that wasn’t nearly so dangerous as it is today were the roads and we used to play on our bikes without any real sense of danger and certainly without those silly cycle helmets that kids wear today.  Cycling however did get me into trouble once when I was about ten and persuaded some friends to tackle a cycle ride one afternoon to Leicester to see my grandparents without checking with anyone first.  I have to confess that this was both ambitious and thoughtless especially on a Raleigh Junior bike with 18” wheels and no lights and not in any way suitable for a fifty mile round trip.  Getting there was reasonably straightforward but the return journey was a bit more difficult on account of it being dark and us being completely knackered.  There was a search party that night for sure and I can remember being astonished about how much fuss was made over such a trivial incident when Dad intercepted me at Abbots Farm and sent me home immediately for a good telling off from Mum which turned out instead to be an emotional and tearful reunion and I can remember being thoroughly confused by that.

Apart from the dangers presented by the transport system there were other equally hazardous places to play as well.  Building sites for example.  There was a building boom in the 1960s and this presented all sorts of opportunities.  Especially good fun was climbing ladders and playing on the scaffolding and hiding in part constructed rooms.  There were piles of bricks to build camps (much better than Lego), sewer pipes to crawl through, sand and cement to kick around and oil drums and bits of timber to take away and use to build rafts to sail on the canal but this never worked either.  Once a passing police patrol car stopped and the officers watched us building a waterway craft with bits of stuff we had ‘borrowed’.  They teased us by asking to see our boat license and then as we dawdled about hoping they would just drive off told us to hurry up and get on because they wanted to see us fall off before getting on with their duties.  We clambered aboard and didn’t disappoint them.  I can still hear them laughing as I write this.

Perhaps the dumbest and most dangerous thing we ever did on a building site was to go underground.  In preparation for new houses on Bridley Road there were some new storm drains installed so we lifted the manhole cover and went inside, crawled through the pipes and made a camp in an inspection chamber where we sat in candle light and thought that it was all great fun.  I dread to think now what might have happened if there had been a storm while we were down there.  I certainly wouldn’t be writing this retrospective journal.

Most of these dangerous places are closed off to children these days, the railway line is fenced, building sites are secure, the canal locks have wooden guardrails and you would have to be just plain daft to take a bike out on a main road.  Given the modern restrictions it’s hardly any wonder I suppose that today children have to stop at home and watch the television or play computer games and are denied the pleasure of real dangerous activity and that is a real shame.