“Ross Tiger” by Grimsby Artist Carl Paul – www.carlpaulfinearts.co.uk
“Grimsby is a town that shuns the notion of heritage” – Daily Telegraph
I think this statement by the Daily Telegraph is a little unfair. No, it is a lot unfair. Grimsby is a lot like Hull and bear in mind here that the city of Hull on the opposite side of the Humber Estuary was named UK Capital of Culture for 2017 and no one in England, except for the awarding judges, can really understand why. Coventry in the West Midlands came second which is perhaps the reason why.
Today, my plan was to visit the National Fishing Heritage Centre which is where I take all visitors when they come to see us in Grimsby. It is a very fine museum run by the local council. It recreates life in 1960s Grimsby in and around the dock area and then takes visitors on board a trawler to experience life at sea in pursuit of the cod. It provides an insight to life in Grimsby when it was the biggest and most important fishing port in the World but as I mentioned before this has all gone now.
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 an unexpected new Icelandic law that tripled the Icelandic fishery zone from four nautical miles to twelve to protect its own fishing industry.
“Rule Brittania, Brittania Rules the Waves”
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 an uneasy 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 ever political victory.“
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 without warning and with disregard to the earlier agreement further extended their territorial fishing waters without consultation and continuing to protect these is what keeps Iceland from joining the European Union even today. Lucky Iceland some would say!
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.
The visit started well enough and after I purchased the tickets we took a look around the first rooms with their displays of ships and fishing and then we carried on to the trawler reconstruction and this is where things started to go wrong. As we walked through the ship, the wheelhouse, the crew quarters, the galley and the engine room we met a succession of life sized models which, and I hadn’t really noticed this before, are all rather intimidating. My eldest granddaughter declared them to be monsters and started to hurry us through at a pace that we couldn’t really appreciate the experience.
To be fair to her they are a bit ugly and scary but then I suppose life at sea was like that and what about this picture of the Duchess of Cambridge when she visited the museum, I don’t know if it is just me but that crewman seems to me to be inappropriately leering at her and that’s not right, because she is after all the future Queen of England.
We were racing through the museum now until we came to the end, a recreation of a Grimsby street complete with authentic sounds and smells. My youngest granddaughter rushed through and out into the reception area where some more visitors were buying tickets and she dashed across to them with some advice – “Don’t go in there…” she said, “…it stinks!” and although they found this amusing they carried on regardless.
So, the visit to the National Fishing Heritage Centre was not a huge success and the children were so keen to get away that they didn’t even pester me to look around the shop (there isn’t much in it anyway) and we left with unnecessary haste and went to find a fish and chip shop for lunch. At the table we ordered Haddock because since the war with Iceland Grimbarians won’t eat Cod and will tell you that Haddock is a superior fish. To be honest I can’t really taste the difference.