I see fish, skipper!
I worked with my father on the trawlers that were based at North Shields Fish Quay. I was part of the crew that got the fish, mainly mackerel and cod, prepared and boxed ready for sale on the Quay after it had been caught. Sometimes we used to catch sword-fish, horrible things that could take your fingers off. You had to cut ice for the fish to keep them fresh and my hands were covered in cuts and blisters, because of the constant cold. We had no gloves – we needed to be able to use our hands fully all the time. Everyone would act as look out for fish shoals. “I see fish, skipper” I would shout, and the skipper would reply “Get the nets out!” I will never forget one day when we were putting the nets out and I saw something in the sea. I was convinced it was a mermaid. I shouted to my father, but he didn’t believe me.
One day when I was about 21 years old, during the 1950s, the boat was fishing about 20 miles out of North Shields when a larger ship hailed us. A sailor asked if we had any fish for sale. A deal was struck, and a box of two dozen assorted fish was purchased and winched over to the larger ship. As all this was happening, I realised that the ship was the Royal Yacht Britannia and that the Queen and her family were watching from their private deck as the sale was made. I could see them all. Maybe they were going up to Scotland for their holidays.