Shrimping from St. Annes

By Gilbert Ian Mayes

I was born in November 1936 at 6 Edward Street, St. Anne’s-on-the-Sea.  At 34 St.Patrick’s Road South lived the Harrison family, Robert Harrison, his wife Mary and four children.  The Harrisons were originally from Marton and were fishermen, keeping their boats in North Hollow inside Crusader Bank, just this side of Squires Gate.  From the arrival of the Mayes and Tims families to the embryo township in 1875/6 the three families had worked together when fishing was slack and the need to earn some money to support their families, on such projects as the gas works and the building of the Parish Church.

From 1939 my father was away in WW2 in the Royal Navy, in minesweepers for the entire war and demobbed in 1946.  Robert Harrison, known to all the children of the area as “Uncle Bob” became in a way a surrogate father for those war years, and when not at school I spent a lot of the time with him, both shrimping, cockling and caring for livestock.  My earliest recollection of this relationship was going with him by bus to Skippool in 1943 to buy a boat – BOBBY (FD157) a 19ft motor boat (I have the registration document).  At that stage he was still cart shanking with a flat cart and a small pony – Peggy, which meant that he had to wade in the water alongside her as she towed the nets.  BOBBY was not a success; she was kept on a mooring off Church Scar, just up from the Navigation Barge and having to cycle from St. Anne’s to Lytham and back with the catch was too much.

Towards the end of the war, Uncle Bob bought a horse from Midgeland Road, Marton – Dolly, which had previously been a landau horse in Blackpool, and with a cart started to shrimp in the Southport style.  The ability to get on to the sands easily and more importantly get back quickly to boil the catch (as you know shrimps have to be boiled whilst still alive) meant better returns per tide.

The horse was stabled behind St.Anne’s Road East, on ground on the north side to the west of Clarendon Road.  The stable was a homemade affair on about three acres of ground rented from the St. Anne’ Land & Building Co and also had ducks, hens and later pigs.  It was known as ‘The Pen”

I ‘helped’ Uncle Bob from about 1943 to 1953 when I joined the Royal Navy. My role was mainly fetching and carrying but when I was about nine I would undertake weekend tasks, cleaning out the stable, riding the horse to the smithy (Neville Sanderson at the railway end of Sandhurst Avenue) for shoeing once a month (£1 to shoe all round), delivering shrimps for ‘shilling’ (picking) to the girls who did this work for him (the family also did the shilling, Uncle Bob, Mary his wife and Sheila his younger daughter). I would also pick up the shrimps and the ‘sloughs’ (shells) and bring them back to St. Patrick’s Road for scalding and laying out on the marble slab. Later when I was at King Edward’s I would take shrimps to Talbot’s in the Square by bike and to Blackpool by bus to a shop on Talbot Road.

Daily routine was dictated by tides, fishing being possible about two hours before low water and up to an hour after.  Weather also played an important part and could make a big difference to the time spent on the sands.  At about four to five hours to low water we would go to the pen.  Feed the horse while we prepared the cart, cleaned out and when she had finished give her a bucket of water and harness up, take her out, back her to the cart and we would be off.  Fishing was seasonal and in the summer it was the North Road (North Run) a mile and a bit across what had been Salthouse Bank (Salt’ouse corrupted to Salters).  On arrival the two ten foot shank trawls would be laid out on the sand the boomer connected across the front of the cart and the two trawl warps connected through the eyes at the end of the boomer to the trawls.  We would get back in the cart and with the command ‘walk on’ the horse would go forward into the water.  The horse would be turned so as to run parallel to the bank and at a depth up to the shafts, more or less depending on the weather, the tow would commence.  Unlike the Southport boats who hauled on the move, we always came out onto the bank to empty the cod end into the withy basket, which was placed back in the cart, the nets reset and the whole process repeated. While trawling the catch would be riddled roughly to get rid of most of the unwanted fish – stingers, crabs. star fish etc.  The duration would depend on the catch and once the tide really started to make we would leave for home.  This is where the horse’s previous experience as a cab horse came in; she could trot at speed.

At home Mrs Harrison (as she was always known) would have the electric boiler on and immediately the catch would be riddled again to get any ‘stingers’ (weaver fish), small crabs, etc that we had missed on the first riddle.  When completed the catch would be laid out to cool, all the while the horse had stood patiently outside on the road.  We would take her back to the pen, feed her, rub her down and I would either turn her out or take her along the back of St. Anne’s Road East to some ground that was rented behind the Memorial Hospital and I would walk back to the pen and pick up my bike.

If it had been a good catch I would take the carrier bike with boiled shrimps out to the shillers, one girl, a Lytham lass, I remember lived in Newton Road.  I would then return and help tidy up and depending on the time of day the table would be set up for shilling.

A shank trawl as made and used by ‘Uncle Bob’ Harrison.  He was at the autumn fishery off Harrowside.  Note that the cart tows the nets from a boomer which is the same way that the St. Annes boats (and some Lythamers) spread their nets under sail.  The cart fitted out very much like the boat. He would fill at least those two baskets with shrimps and probably on a good day the third one.  Then the race home to the boiler.  (The cart was made in 1946 at Preston)

GIM
Oct 2021

1 thought on “Shrimping from St. Annes

  1. Hi Mike Thanks for sending these through I do enjoy reading about the local history you research . Hope you are all well . We are in Rhodes at the moment , on a holiday that had been postponed three times, so enjoying the sunshine. We are up in St Annes on the weekend of 23rd October so hopefully can catch you all for a drink somewhere Cheers Martyn

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s