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22nd November 2019

A bottle of gin hand-made in Hull by a multi award-winning distillery is on its way to the Falkland Islands as a gift from an historic charity which is working to bring back an historic steam trawler back to the city.

Also being delivered is a message in a bottle signed by the Lord Mayor of Hull, a trustee of the Viola campaign and around 50 people who attended a celebration launch of the new commemorative gin at 1884 Wine & Tapas Bar in Hull.

Dr Robb Robinson, a maritime historian and member of the Viola Trust, is en-route now to Port Stanley with the two bottles, a copy of the Viola “Homeward Bound” calendar signed by the Artist, Larry Malkin, and a copy of the book, “Viola: The Life and Times of a Hull Steam Trawler”, co-written by Robb with Ian Hart.

Robb has arranged to deliver the gifts in person this weekend to Nigel Phillips CBE, Governor of the Falkland Islands in his capacity as Her Majesty’s Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Falklands Gin 2
Robb (left) with Emma and Simon presenting the new Viola gin at the launch event in 1884 Wine & Tapas Bar.

The Viola sits on a beach where she was mothballed following the closure in 1964–65 of the old whaling station in Grytviken, South Georgia. The Viola Trust, which is led by a group of business people with strong maritime and heritage credentials with former Home Secretary Alan Johnson as Patron, has reached agreement with the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands for her removal from Cumberland East Bay on South Georgia and return to Hull.

The Trust’s efforts now are focused on preparing for an environmental impact assessment prior to moving the Viola, negotiating with salvage experts for the vessel to be lifted, and securing funds for a project which is expected to cost around £3 million.

The message in a bottle reads: “On behalf of the people of Kingston upon Hull and the wider East Yorkshire area, the Viola Trust sends greetings and best wishes. With our thanks for your support and assistance for our efforts to return the Viola to Hull, and with our hopes for successful completion of the project and a strong, lasting partnership, we send a selection of commemorative Viola gifts. We also assure you of the warmest welcome on your future visits to our city.”

Lord Mayor signing the message
Cllr Steve Wilson, Lord Mayor of Hull and Admiral of the Humber was the first person to put his name on the message

Councillor Steve Wilson, Lord Mayor of Hull and Admiral of the Humber, was the first person to put his name on the message, donning his robes to be photographed for a signing ceremony which was later posted on his twitter account.

The message was endorsed by guests at the dinner, who included representatives of the Hull City Council team working on the Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City project. The bottles were presented to Robb for safe passage by Emma Kinton and Simon Pownall, who made the new gin at Hotham’s Distillery in Hepworth’s Arcade, Hull.

Robb said: “Hotham’s Distillery launched their original Viola gin, an Old Tom style, earlier this year and when we realised that the launch of a new, London Dry version would be just a few days before my trip to the South Atlantic we decided it would be nice to deliver the very first bottle in person to the Commissioner.

“For the message, we used an empty bottle from the very first Viola gin. We added a copy of the book, which is a comprehensive account of the remarkable history of the Viola, and a copy of the calendar, which features some famous ships with strong Hull connections including HMS Bounty, the Norland, the Arctic Corsair and of course the Viola herself!

“The Viola Trust contacted the Office of the Commissioner and he has agreed to welcome me to receive the gifts. I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to present these items which are a further demonstration of our collaboration between the Trust and the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

“I must admit to some frustration, that after travelling all the way from Hull to Port Stanley I will still not be able to visit the Viola, but that would take another 800 miles and three days!”

Falklands Gin
Robb Robinson (centre) receiving the bottles from Emma Kinton and Simon Pownall of Hotham’s Distillery at the launch event in 1884 Wine & Tapas Bar.

The Viola was built in Beverley in 1906 and operated from Humber Dock – now Hull Marina – as part of the Hellyer fleet of boxing trawlers. She was requisitioned to defend the UK in the Great War and left Hull for the last time in 1918 on a career which took her to Norway, Africa and Argentina, catching fish, hunting whales and elephant seals and supporting expeditions in the South Atlantic.

Details of the Viola’s history and the campaign to bring her back to Hull can be found at the Viola Trust’s website at www.violatrawler.net

Donations can be made through a link on the site and by purchasing the Viola gin from Hotham’s Distillery itself and through their website at www.hothams.co.uk

The Viola calendar is available from Hotham’s Distillery, 1884 Wine & Tapas Bar and the Maritime Museum in Hull city centre. It can also be ordered from the Viola Trust by sending an email to info@violatrawler.net