Fog, Fishing and Wrecks

What nowadays would be a sea mist, in the 1930s and 1940s turned into a thick orange impenetrable fog.

Picture of boy gutting fish

Boy gutting fish

In the 1940s days, fishing nets had slabs of cork the size of a small bible as floats.  These sometimes got detached in storms and mostly got washed up on the north side of St. Mary’s Island bay.  We stuck a butchers skewer [like a pencil] in the cork block, put a cardboard sail on, then we had an instant galleon to sail on the large pools.   Some older youths got a couple of fish hooks baited with shellfish slung under these boats, then let them sail out to sea on say 200 ft of string.  After half an hour or so, these would be pulled in, especially if they had capsized, and you may have two fresh codling for tea.  These were called west wind boats as they only worked if a west wind was blowing.

There were also large edible crabs to be caught in the gullies on the north side of St. Mary’s Island.  You put a bit of bait, shellfish or meat, on the end of a long string, dropped the bait to the seabed in a gully, waited until you felt a slight tug, then ever so gently pulled the string in until you could get hold of the crab still just under water.  Never grab a crab from the front – the nip is very painful.  Another dodge was to get two old bicycle wheels, tie them together side by side, tie some bait inside the middle, attach a rope, and throw them in the deepest part of the rocks, especially near a sewer pipe end at low tide.  Come back at the next low tide and haul them out.  With luck, you had two nice crabs trapped inside, or even lobsters.  Why they could not find their way out when they had found their way in, I could never understand.

Shipwrecks were much more frequent before radar and the Clean Air Act.  I saw three wrecks and the remains of two.  Until 1960 most factories used coal fired boilers with the attendant smoke.  Most railway trains were pulled by steam locos with their smoke, and most houses used coal fires.  With a gentle west wind all Tyneside’s smoke billowed far out to sea as a high grey cloud.  What nowadays would be a sea mist, in the 1930s and 1940s turned into a thick orange impenetrable fog.

I remember going over to Uplands one day, normally a ten minute walk from home, it took me about half an hour running my fingers along the garden walls for guidance.  The fog was bright orange from the Sun far above it, and I could not see more than six foot in front of me; everything was silent and muffled.  Almost no cars and buses were running; the electric trains ran slowly, signal to signal.  Cyclists walked on the pavements, most folks stayed indoors.  There was even fog in our garage!

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