Julie Corbet, a volunteer for Hull Maritime interviewed Sally Taylor of the Fisherman’s Mission.
She first met Sally in late 2020 at an event for the project.
You can visit the Fishermen's Mission website here.
We were in the Ferens Art Gallery listening to an update on the project. I recall that there was a presentation on the move of the Arctic Corsair and the Spurn Lightship to Dunston’s Shipyard at Albert Docks. Here is a short video showing the moving of the Spurn Light Ship.
We also got to know how to apply for the first round of the new Maritime Community Grant Scheme. The successful applicants are detailed here.
Sally graciously agreed to an email-based interview.
The Fishermen's Mission
More than six thousand men were lost at sea having sailed from Hull to fish. Those men: fathers, brothers, sons, cousins, friends all had a life on land. All had people who would miss and mourn them.
Those individuals not only had that dreadful emotional loss, but families often lost the main wage earner. The Fishermen’s Mission is an organisation that provides support to families of fishermen.
Here's the interview with Area Officer, Sally Taylor.
Sally, I see from the society’s website that you are an ecumenical charity set up in 1881 and the mission began as a fleet of boats under the banner of ‘Preach the Word, Heal the Sick’ offering practical supplies and assistance.
How long has the Fisherman’s Mission been associated with Hull and do you know if something brought the Mission to this area?
Hull was one of the first places in the country to have a Mission ship. Our founder, Ebeneezer Mather, visited Hull and was shocked by the conditions of the fishermen.
They worked long hours in dangerous conditions, often under the influence of strong alcohol sold to them cheaply at sea by the Dutch.
Fishermen earned little once they had paid for board and equipment (and of course alcohol!). They were at the mercy of the tides and the weather. General living conditions were poor for fishermen’s families, who were often living in slum conditions.
My own Grandad was from a large family living in one room off Hessle Road. He told stories about going about bare foot as a child and begging for bread and dripping when his Dad was away on the Trawlers.
Mather provided hospital ships equipped with surgeons and nurses, as well as offering Sunday church services. Later Mission centres were opened ashore providing accommodation; recreation rooms; a canteen and a chapel.
The last Mission building in Hull was opened in Goulton Street in 1952 and was closed in 2014. We now have a small office in Centre 88 but also work from home.
In the museum collection is a painting of the Mission ship, Joseph and Sarah Miles. A mission ship was fitted out as a trawler but no fishing ever took place on a Sunday. Mission ships were also fitted out as hospital ships.
In 1904, Russia was at war with Japan, in a tragic case of mistaken identification Russian naval vessels fired on the Gamecock fishing fleet (out of Hull). This was at Dogger Bank. A fishing area in the North Sea.
On board Joseph & Sarah Miles was the mission surgeon Dr Anklesaria and he looked after the wounded seamen from the trawler Crane. You can read more about his account here.
Hull no longer has an active fishing fleet, but it is within many people’s lifetimes that it did. Do you still assist people in the local area, and could you say something about the work you do today?
On average one fisherman is still killed each month in the U.K. Many more are injured.
We provided practical, financial, and emotional support to all fishermen, former fishermen and their families. We work with over 600 people in Hull and the East Coast.
We are there if there is an emergency at sea and in times of crisis and bereavement. We may also be able to access a range of one off and regular maritime grants to help fishermen and their families through leaner times.
We support the provision of a range of physical, dental and mental health services on the Portside via the Seafit programme. Our fishermen and their families can also access services like counselling and financial/debt advice.
And Sally finally. Why is it important that we keep telling the story of trawling from Hull?
Although I grew up with fishing heritage in the family, I was not fully aware of the hardship and sacrifice involved in bringing fish to our plates.
I did not realise how this has truly shaped the culture, language and beliefs in the city. I don’t think that we can understand the city, or indeed our own family histories, without hearing these stories. One way or another, we are all linked to the sea.
Again, thank you to Mission Area Officer, Sally Taylor for the insightful and informative answers to my questions.