I have just returned home from a wonderful time away in Grimsby/Cleethorpes. It might not be the number one choice for anyone to go and spend 2 days in an area which is synomous with fish, especially for a fishmonger who is on her last holiday before the Christmas season, but you have read my blogs before??
I was very privileged to once again visit Flatfish, Mr Steven, Richard and Reece Stansfield and Anton Dietschel-Buehler and the whole team. The work they do and the hard work they put in each and every minute of the day is inspiring and I once again thank them for the time they spared.
Usually I only visit Grimsby and Cleethorpes during the Fish Craft Championships but there was one place I was encouraged to visit, and that was the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre. Having paid my entrance fee, I started on my journey. I knew it would be amazing, but it felt alot more than that for some reason. Watching the videos of Grimsby in the height of the fishing boom, hearing skippers and deck hands describing their time aboard trawlers and the hard work they did and still do made me stand there and listen and watch more than once.
There was one display that really gave me shivers, however. That was a demonstration of being on deck in the middle of high seas, the boat rocking, the “deck hands” struggling to pull the net full of fish, “apprentices” gutting fish, another trying to mend a net with water and wind in their faces. Then as I carried on the displays I read the display write ups and couldn’t help but notice that most mentioned the amount of lives lost at sea. Men, and, before the days of health and safety and child laws, young boys, went out to sea to earn a living and never returned, having been claimed by the Sea.
Over 5000 men were claimed by the Sea in the last 100 years, and that figure is probably a conservative number and the collective number since the birth of the port is innumerable. Skippers in the mists of time were not as regulated as they are today, and runaways and orphans were seen as cheap deckhands, so who would be bothered about any loss if they had no family or relatives? A harsh and shocking reality and one not confined purely to Grimsby.
Today the Fishermen’s Mission does the same work as it did since the it’s inception. It looks after fishermen and their families. Today on the mission page there are constant updates on fishermen lost at sea, young men and older men who leave behind families. For all the mod cons on trawlers today and the experience of skippers and crew, the Sea still has the final say during storms.
Another exhibit in the heritage centre is of a mother figure sitting in her rocking chair by the fireside in shock as the BBC radio broadcast plays out of a trawler from Grimsby being found out at sea with all hands lost, and an official figure stood, cap in hand with his head bowed. A scene played out many times I’m sure.
Which brings me to my title of the blog.
It does sadden me when customers will look at the price of the fish and say “oh, thats expensive.” The price of fish has to be competitive for retail and independent. The suppliers have to make a profit as do the markets. Even things such as quality, whether the fish is in season has an impact on the price. The price of currency will have an effect as does the Brexit issue.
But the bottom line is, if no one goes out to fish, there wouldnt be any. Being a Trawlerman is considered to be the most dangerous occupation in the UK in peace time. They literally put their lives on the line as soon as they step on deck. They face storms, life threatening accidents, and exhausting trips out at sea, all to make sure that fish is on the plate. So, the price of the fish involves more than just the money.
For more information please go to the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre website.
Also visit The FlatFish website, owned by The Stansfield family.
And for reading material please look out for Stephen Bloy’s novel “Hidden Truth” which follows the lives of two boys who went to Grimsby to start their lives.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and of course my blogs are purely my own thoughts