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31st July 2020

Watching shipping on the river Humber has been a popular pastime for generations.

The owners of ships often display flags and paint funnels in company colours. But which companies own them and what do they do?

Student volunteers from the University of Hull's Hull History Network have researched objects in our collections plus the companies behind them and uncovered some interesting facts, characters and stories.

In this blog Nathan Honest and Matt Pooley look at two fishing companies that sailed from Hull’s St Andrew’s dock.

Large model of the sidewinder trawler 'Arctic Corsair', H320, built in 1960 by Cook, Welton and Gemmel for the Boyd Line

Established in 1940, Boyd Line operated fishing trawlers from Hull. The above photo shows a model of their most famous vessel, the Arctic Corsair, which survives to this day and is currently being refurbished for display. All Boyd Line ships had names prefixed with the word "Arctic".

Fishing trawlers were so named because they are designed to drag (or trawl) enormous nets along the seabed behind them, and they made up a significant portion of Hull's fishing fleet in the twentieth century. Boyd Line operated from St. Andrew's Dock, located off Hessle Road in west Hull.

Today the dock is overgrown and abandoned, but in the heyday of Hull's fishing industry it was a hive of activity, with trawlers leaving every day for fishing grounds that were often extremely remote: close to Iceland and the Arctic Circle. It was extremely dangerous work, and many men lost their lives. Today, their names are inscribed in a memorial which stands at the entrance of the dock.

A busy pre-World War 2 view of St Andrew’s Dock, Hull

Unlike most Hull fishing companies, Boyd Line survived the "Cod Wars" of the 1970s. During this time, there was a dispute between the UK and Iceland about the legality of fishing within Iceland's territorial waters, which the latter defined as extending 200 nautical miles from its coast.

In 1976, Arctic Corsair rammed an Icelandic Coast Guard patrol boat, causing serious damage. Unfortunately for Hull's fishing industry, Iceland effectively forced a resolution to the dispute by threatening to withdraw from NATO, which meant the U.S. military would be unable to construct bases there.

Warp / net cutter used by the Icelandic Coast Guard during the 1970s Cod Wars

Boyd Line operated until 2003, when it was bought by UK Fisheries Ltd. In 2019, the company launched a brand new trawler, Kirkella H7. Today, fishing is much safer and more sustainable, thanks to advances in technology.

Boyd Line's flag consisted of three bands of red, white and red (similar to the Austrian flag) with a large red capital "B" in the centre.

The Boyd Line flag

The Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Co. Ltd. (1885-1979)

The Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Company started operations in August 1885 with seven fishing smacks (small boats working in small teams) which the company bought second-hand. The fleet was expanded in November of that year with two new steam trawlers.

Originally based in Hull, activity moved to Boston in Lincolnshire when a fish quay and stores for the catch were built, with the company becoming profitable by the turn of the 1890s. In 1922, the Boston Deep Sea Fishing and Ice Co. salvaged a coal-carrying vessel, the steam ship Lockwood, which had run aground in Boston Harbour, blocking the harbour mouth completely. However, the Company had trouble getting payment from Boston Corporation for the work in completing the salvage operation, pushing the owner of the Company, Fred Parkes, to move the business to the ports of Fleetwood and Grimsby.

This spelled the end of Boston’s time as a major port in the British fishing industry. Upon moving to Fleetwood and Grimsby, the Company began to acquire smaller arms to the company, coming to own fleets in Fleetwood, Hull, Grimsby and Lowestoft, before being reformed after the company was liquidated as Boston Deep Sea Fisheries. In 1979, the company ended operations after the European Economic Community (the forerunner to the European Union) imposed a 200-mile fishing limit on areas where the company could legally operate.

The Boston Deep Sea Company Fishing Company Flag

The house flag of the Boston Deep Sea Company has a white shield with three red crowns. The design is loosely based on the arms of Boston, Lincolnshire: sable and three coronets.

Boston Deep Sea Company Fishing Company stern trawler Lady Parkes