Putting the Plans into Perspective
The incredible progress being made by our volunteers towards meeting the output targets of our project, meant that during December 2018 we could afford to give them a well-earned rest from cataloguing & digitisation, and reward their efforts with a pre-Christmas treat.
Thanks to our friends at the ‘Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City’ project, that treat was an exclusive ‘behind-the-scenes’ tour of the Arctic Corsair trawler, which had been closed for refurbishment in line with their project plan.
The vessel was one of the last sidewinder trawlers to be built by Cook, Welton & Gemmell at the Grovehill shipyard in Beverley, and the fact that it remains in service (now as a museum, under the ownership of Hull City Council) means that it holds particular significance for the history of the company and its ongoing legacy.
Needless to say, we were all delighted to be offered such privileged access to the vessel at its berth on the river in Hull’s Museum Quarter, prior to its removal to dry dock. After being involved in detailed work with the cataloguing and digitisation of the technical ships plans, it was fascinating to see how those plans translated into the practical result of a working, seagoing vessel that went on from Beverley to locations all over the world.
“Our guides really helped to bring the trawlerman’s story to life and put our own heritage work on the company’s legacy into context.”
Our visiting party had to brave some inclement weather during the morning, and a crisp, cold December afternoon on deck, but this in no way dampened our enthusiasm, with several of the group busily making the most of the opportunity to capture photographs of the vessel. Of course, for our guides (ex-trawler skipper Ron Wilkinson and his team from STAND), this weather was just like another day at the office, and the temperatures would have been positively balmy compared to the bitter Arctic conditions they doubtless endured in Icelandic waters and further north. It’s truly amazing to consider that Ron and his men ventured out into these inhospitable parts of the world to work and live on such small, but remarkably tough, vessels that owe their seaworthiness to the brilliant workmanship and engineering carried out in Beverley and Hull.
Our guides really helped to bring the trawlerman’s story to life and put our own heritage work on the company’s legacy into context. Tales of 18-hour shifts on deck in freezing conditions, falling asleep at the dinner table from exhaustion, frantically breaking ice on deck in a race to stop the ship from sinking under the weight of ice as it accumulated, all served to paint a stark picture of the reality of fishing on the high seas. Stories about those who tragically didn’t make it back to port and were lost at sea, also resonated with our group as we stood surrounded by the same kind of rooms and furniture that these men would have used.
“For many of us in the group, this was our first visit on board a trawler, but there are a number of our volunteers who have served at sea in various occupations…”
From the peaceful waters of the River Hull at Beverley, then Hull itself, these ships went on to a life of adventure in conditions that were alien to their birthplace, sometimes ending in tragedy, but for Ron and men like him who served on these vessels, many are in agreement about the life of a trawlerman; that they wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
For many of us in the group, this was our first visit on board a trawler, but there are a number of our volunteers who have served at sea in various occupations, or indeed worked for Charles D Holmes and co. and associated contractors in designing and fitting out the vessels that were built in Beverley. John Wilkinson is one such volunteer, and it was especially poignant for him to be able to stand on board the Arctic Corsair in 2018, as he had been involved in her sea trials during 1960 through his engineering work for C D Holmes. It’s both fitting and rewarding that men such as John, and Ian Stanley (to name but a few) who were involved in the production of these ships, can now make their valuable contribution towards our project and help secure the legacy of the company’s story.
View some of the photographs of our visit on our Arctic Corsair gallery. With particular thanks to our volunteer, Clive Dennison (ex-trawlerman, ex-Royal Navy) for his large contribution of images to the gallery page. Our thanks also to Sam North (Hull:Yorkshire’s Maritime City project), Ron Wilkinson and the team at STAND for arranging and hosting the visit.
Sam Bartle: Digital Archivist, and Project Co-ordinator
(East Riding Archives)