Saturday, 14 March 2015

The Fishdock Races.

You may recall my dad was a deep sea fisherman and sailed out of the fishing port of Grimsby on the east coast of Lincolnshire, England.
Fishing was a hazardous occupation and many lost their lives but there were other hardships involved.  The men would be away for two, sometimes three weeks, depending on the time of year which dictated which fishing grounds they must go to.  When they returned home the catch would be landed and sold to the fish merchants and then it was time to share out the money made from the sale of the fish.  Naturally the trawler owner got the lions share of the profits and next in line was the skipper and mate (2nd in command).  Then came the engineers, my dad was a Chief Engineer so his cut reflected this, and the rest was shared amongst the deck crew.  If they'd had a good trip there could be quite a big pay-out, not a huge amount of money but, as the men were only in port for  3 days at the most they tended to spend it very quickly.  This is why they got the nick name "three day millionaires".
Things didn't always work out so good though.  If the trip hadn't been successful, maybe bad weather had prevented them from fishing or they just hadn't caught much fish, then the sale of the catch would be low and after costs there would be no profit.  They would not receive any "settling pay" at all.  Worse still, while at sea the company would have been feeding them and the cost of this was always deducted from the pay, in some cases the men could end up owing the company!  They had no choice but to sign on again for another trip to recoup their losses and hopefully come back in pocket.
The fishermen's wives didn't have to rely  on Settling Pay to run the house or feed the family while their men were away however, they received a weekly wage from the Trawler Owning company.  It was paid out every Friday afternoon and the wives would go "down dock" to collect it.  The payment wasn't based on the result of the boats fortunes at sea.  This weekly occurrence was known locally as  the "Fish Dock Races" when the women went to the various offices.  It wasn't just the wives who received this pay, unmarried fishermen could nominate their mothers to join the "races" and receive the weekly payment.

One of the best times I remember was going to the lock gates on the dock to wait for dad's boat to return from a fishing trip.  The skipper always radioed home with an expected ETA and the wives could receive a cable (a sort of telegram) which the men had to pay for.  We would wait for it to sail through and the crew would be up on the bow of the boat in their shore clothes ready to either meet their families or go straight to the pubs!  If they saw anyone they knew they would shout out and wave.  My dad was never up on the ships bow as, being the chief engineer, he was below in the engine room  attending to the engines, slowing them up when the skipper rang down.
My dad's Trawler "Yesso" coming through the lock gates after another fishing trip.  The men
are up on the bow of the boat, they did this whatever the weather. However cold it might be
they wouldn't show it by wearing thick clothes, "they were too tough"!  

After passing through the lock pit the trawlers would go straight to the pontoon to be unloaded
that night ready for the fish market early the next morning.

When we had watched it pass through the lock pit we would rush round to the pontoon and when it had berthed and tied up we could go aboard to find dad.  The boat stank of fish and diesel fumes and below decks it was very hot.  That didn't matter though because we were just pleased to see dad again.