Arctic Trawling from HULL: Once 'the great deep-sea trawling port in the world'

Tutor: Dr. ALEC GILL MBE, BSc. MSc. Author, social historian, psychologist, public speaker, video producer, and Hull University lecturer.

The Port of Hull is my hometown. The topic of the fishing community and its people - is the subject closest to my heart (of all those on this website). I began a photo-documentary study of the area and people in 1974 - this resulted in twenty solo exhibitions in the UK and USA. In 1984 I began to write about the dynamic deep-sea trawling industry and lifestyle of the fishing families - this resulted in six books, hundreds of articles, countless talks on the topic, interviews on radio, and television appearances at home and abroad. In 1995 I produced my first video (with Dovedale Studio) followed by five more. The 'latest' being in 2002 about Hull Fish Dock. At the start of 2010, I very much need to convert all this video material into DVD format - but I will get there!

In 2009 I was both humbled and excited to receive an MBE (a Member of the Order of the British Empire) award at Buckingham Palace (28 May 2009) for my 35-years of dedicated research into this subject. Arctic trawlermen were "the last of the hunters" doing the most perilous job in the world. In war or peace, British deep-sea fishermen stared death in the face each time they set sail. This way of life was endured by the tough crewmen and their brave families. The dangers at sea, life in the community, superstitions ashore and afloat, the role of trawlers in war-time, fish dock activities, the Cod Wars, and 'Spyships' in the Cold War are some of the subjects I have enjoyed researching. Given my MBE, I now feel that I need to make my research more widely available to a global audience. 

This section of my website is a brief historic exploration of Hull's Arctic trawling and the hardships of "those in peril on the sea". This diverse topic can be applied to many dynamic aspects - at both the level of education and entertainment

WELCOME: To each other and the topic.

: From smack to stern-freezer; deckie-learner to skipper. As the "world's most dangerous occupation" many Hull trawlermen were lost at sea. Documents at The Register of Dead Seamen at Cardiff catalogue all those Hull trawlermen lost at sea. At one time in my life, I had hoped to record all their details from this reliable source material; but it never worked out. Instead, Brian Langley has compiled a list of over N,000 Hull trawlermen who were lost and his research is available via the Hull City Council website.

Life in Hull's related Hessle Road fishing community - with a special emphasis upon the wives, widows, and children - will be developed within this website under newly-designed webpages (work still in progress).

"Of all seafarers none are more superstitious than fishermen". Many taboos were home-spun religion.

FISH DOCK LIFE: Working around the clock, "Time is money" was the trawler barons motto as they ruled the dock with a feudal fist.

WAR TRAWLERS: At the end of the First World War, Lord Jellico declared that the Royal Navy had saved the Empire, but it was the fishermen in their boats who had saved the Royal Navy. Churchill (during World War Two)described the Royal Naval Reserve of fishermen as "a Navy within the Navy". They swept mines, escorted convoys, hunted U-boats and carried out countless dangerous duties - yet were looked down upon by officials within the Admiralty.

CRUEL SEA: The dangers at sea were multifold: ice, storms, blizzards, hurricanes, ice-bergs, frost, fog, collisions, stranded ashore, wrecked on rocks, and, most of all, from fatigue within the crew themselves by doing the endless work of catching fish in dangerous conditions.

COD WARS and the COLD WAR TRAWLERS: As well as being in constant battle with the elements, trawlermen also found themselves in much more dangerous and fathomless minefields from politicians who used them as pawns. Hull was at the centre of the 'spyship' rumours, especially around the loss of the "Gaul" in 1974.

The Trawling page was last updated on 24 March 2010