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

FISHING BOATS OWNED BY THE MELLING FAMILY OF ST. ANNE’S

By Commander G I MAYES OBE CEng MRINA

(Vessel identification assisted by Maurice P. Evans, Heswall & Nick P. Miller, Barrow)
Dates in brackets indicate the approximate period in the St. Annes fleet

Introduction

The Melling family of St Annes, my ancestors, were Fishermen and later Fishmongers in the town. What follows is a detailed, almost forensic analysis of the fortunes and boats owned by the Melling Family. Whilst the Melling’s are its main focus, the work includes the history of St Annes, it’s fishing families, it’s fishing fleet and Geographic’s of local fishing grounds. It is reproduced here by kind permission of its main author, Gilbert Ian Mayes who produced the work in 2002. I have also included extracts of correspondence between him and me which sheds more light on the Melling’s fishing boats. Also included at Annexe ‘B’, are maps showing the topography of the Fylde Coast, photographed from Ian’s book ‘On a Broad Reach’.

Ian Mayes, a St Anne’s lad, born in 1936 to a family that came to the Fylde in 1875, from the Rossendale Valley, to work on the building of the town. His Gt Grandfather was a Carter and married Phoebe Tims, whose two brothers were lost along with the rest of the crew of the St. Anne’s lifeboat, ‘Laura Janet‘, when she capsized on service to the German barque ‘Mexico‘ in December 1886. Annexe ‘C’ below is a more detailed portrait of this extraordinary man and his extraordinary career.

The Melling’s Boats

We know that the Melling family of fishermen lived in Lytham Heyhouses/West End cottages, certainly from the late 18th century (Henry Melling b, Lytham-1781), and owned open sailing Trawlboats fishing in the then wide waters of the North Channel off where St. Anne’s now stands. These open boats we suspect were very similar to the clinker planked beach boats used at Blackpool around that time for fishing and later for trippers. We know that in the early days the Mellings kept their boat(s) in what was known as Granny’s Dock, the natural harbour inside the Double Stanner which now forms the outer Promenade around Fairhaven Lake, a refuge they shared with the Commonside (Ansdell) fishermen. This was surprising because we also know that the Little Marton fishermen, with whom they were more closely associated and included the Harrisons and the Balls, kept their boats at Gillett’s inside the Parker Bank, which later became known as the Crusader Bank and the waters as Oliver’s Heading.

Fig. 1 Blackpool beach boats hauled up on the beach opposite the Wellington Hotel near Chapel Street, around the mid-1860s.

Blackpool beach boats, with no protection forward to prevent swamping, were only suitable for inshore working and several were rebuilt as ‘Halfdeckers’ to enable them to fish outside the banks, as far north as Shell Flats and south to the Burbo Bank. Although we have no concrete evidence it is likely that the Annie’ was of this type.

ANNIE (1882-1906)

A two man ‘Shanker’ – approx 26ft (based on height of new mast (26ft x 7½ inch) made Jan 1890 by Rawstrone of Freckleton, weighing 2 tons (Imperial)

1882: Owned in St. Annes by John Melling, Mellings Lane, St Annes and registered at Preston -PN106. 1.1.1890: At Rawstrones, Freckleton for repair (211¾ man hours – £9.17s.0d). 15.10.1890: Broke from moorings off St. Annes Pier, sighted aground on Horse Banks. Recovered and returned to fishing. 1906: Registry closed.

Fig. 2 One of two half decked Blackpool beach boat types on the Double Stanner in the early 1890s when most of the St. Anne’s owned boats had moved to moorings to the south of the new Pier. It is likely that the ‘Annie’ was of this type.

Like the ‘Annie, the ‘Why Not’ was an older boat and whilst we have no direct proof that she was Melling owned, she is mentioned in this context by Harry Cooper in his essay, ‘Days of My Youth – The village of St. Anne’s 46 years ago’, published in 1932. Although built on Blackpool beach boat lines she was carvel built, so it is not clear whether or not she was originally an open boat, but most likely she carried internal ballast in the form of pig iron or stones which could be moved to windward when sailing. ‘Why Not’ (1889-1924)

A Trawler/Shanker 3.80 ton 28ft approx. 1889: Owned in St. Annes probably by the Melling family. 3,4.1891: Registered at Preston – PN25, as a two-man (fish) trawler. 1899: Re-registered as two-man shrimper (shanker) and fished by Thomas Ball, Abbey Road, Squires Gate with other partners including Nicholas Johnson, 53 Church Road and Hugh Rimmer, 35 Nelson Street. 3.4.1906: Possibly sold, coinciding with the purchase of the Tern. Re-registered as one man shrimper {shanker). New owner possibly Hugh Rimmer. 16.10.1924: Registry closed, broken up at St. Annes.

Fig. 3 The scene is the south beach adjacent to the Pier, sometime between 1910 and the spring of 1913, with two boats up on the Stanner for repair. From her lines and general arrangement, we think that it is safe to identify the boat on the left as the Why Not. Other boats are the Wild Duck fished during this period by “Ting” Harrison and “Nicky” Johnson, the Oliver Williams of “Noms” & “Teddy” Rimmer and the ‘Tern‘ of “Harry” Melling and “Skip” Harrison

The Annie’ was either sold out of fishing in 1906 or broken up at St. Anne’s at the usual repair site to the south of the Pier where a lot of the work was undertaken by the fishermen themselves or by the Nixon family; because of her age it is highly likely that the latter course was taken. The replacement for the ‘Annie‘ was the ‘Tern‘, a bigger and more efficient Trawlboat built on lines that had evolved rapidly over the past thirty years and was destined to see them culminate in the most powerful cutter rigged sailing trawlers on the UK coast. The lines and scantlings of the ‘Tern‘ suggest that she was built at Fleetwood by Gibsons and a boat with very similar dimensions was launched in 1893 for J. H. Bullock of 17 Dean Street, Blackpool as The Tern, and registered as a “yacht” but we have been unable to confirm that this was the same boat. The ‘Tern‘ is not recorded in Lloyd’s Register of Yachts in 1906/7 and this coincides with change of ownership to the Melling/Harrisons. In all the many Trawlboats, Nobbies, Prawners, Smacks, Half-deckers, etc. registered from the Solway Firth to Cardigan Bay only one boat ever carried the name ‘Tern‘.

Fig. 4 Although this is an Annan trawlboat it gives a good view of the layout on deck with the beam trawl stowed on the starboard side; the foredeck hatch and bogey stove pipe are clearly seen.

TERN (1906- 1913)

Smack 12.82 net tons (from 5.4.1913 – 8.20 net tons), 33ft – 5ins LOA x 9ft – 9ins x 3ft – 10ins draught. Class 2nd Trawling & Shanking.

1893: Possibly built by John Gibson & Sons, Fleetwood. 29.6.1894: Registered as ‘Tern‘ at Preston – PN64. (Possibly owned in Blackpool). 1903: Sold ? 3.5.1906: Sold to Henry Melling, 61 Church Road, St. Annes {fished in partnership with Robert Harrison, 43 Church Road, St. Annes). 5.4.1913: Sold to Fleetwood. Registered at Fleetwood – FD182. 23.2.1916: Sold to William McParlin, New Ferry Road, New Ferry. Registered at Liverpool – LL25. 7.5.1918: Sold to Heaton Bedson, Russell Road, Rock Ferry. 21.6.1923: Sold. Registered at Runcorn – RN37. 2.5.1931: Registry closed – ceased fishing. 1939-1946: Served as a firefighting float in Liverpool Docks. Renamed ‘Jean‘. 1946: Sold to Ernie Jones, Liverpool. Registered at Liverpool – LL1. 19??: Sunk at Knott End, raised by Stan Hurley, Thornton, but repairs too daunting. 19??: Sold to Mike Griffiths and towed to Fiddlers Ferry for repair and restoration. Renamed ‘Arthur Alexander‘ (LL1) on completion. 19??: Sold to Dave Pendleton 8.2.1997: Sold to Dennis Wright, Aberconwy. 1998: Won Mersey Nobby Race. 11.2001: For sale £17500. 12.2002: Not sold. Still sailing Conwy.

Fig. 5 Arthur Alexander‘ sailing on the Mersey
Fig. 6 Arthur Alexander‘ ashore for refit in the 1990s her appearance belies her working life as a trawlboat, at least seven years of which were spent fishing from St. Anne’s

With the continued silting of the North Channel and the ever-changing banks, channels and roads in the estuary following the cutting and restraining of the new Gut Channel opened in January 1910, it was inevitable that the deeper draughted Smacks could no longer operate safely from St. Anne’s. Harry Melling and Bob Harrison had the foresight to appreciate this fact early on when in 1913, they sold the Tern to Fleetwood owners and both purchased smaller boats suitable for single handed working; Harry, a 25 footer from Morecambe which was to become the Irene’ and Bob the Sunbeam’ a slightly larger boat at 28ft and suitable for working with his son.

Fig. 7 Sometime after WW1 the Irene with Harry Melling at the helm. His daughter Edith and a friend are sitting in the thwart and the Irene is towing a punt with three passengers. Note the two shank trawls and the general cramped condition in a 25ft Shanker, used for shrimping in the channels at low water, particularly the Pe(i)nfold and the North Road.

IRENE (1913- 1935)

Shanker   25ft       2.11 tons. 1913: From Morecambe owned in St. Annes by Henry Melling, 61 Church Road. 14.9.1917: Renamed Irene and registered at Preston – PN65. 1927: Mooring transferred to Lytham. 4.6.1935: Ceased fishing and sold to Preston owners.

With the closure the St. Anne’s Lifeboat Station on 30 September 1925 and the North Channel reduced to a very shallow waterway, it was inevitable that the three remaining St. Anne’s boats, Harry Melling’s ‘Irene‘, Bob Harrison’s ‘Sunbeamand Teddy Rimmer’s larger ‘Playmatewould have to move, along with several punts and dinghies. As all three fishermen were still employed looking after the lifeboat ‘James Scarlett’, which had been retained in the Lifeboat House for publicity purposes, it was not until the decision to remove the lifeboat was taken in September 1926 that they decided to move their boats. This move to Lytham was achieved in 1927.

We have been unable to trace any Morecambe boat that fished under the name Irene and as her name was not changed until the autumn of 1917, she must have fished from St. Anne’s under another name. We do know that she was last seen by Harry Melling and Keith Threlfall downstream from Penwortham Bridge around 1950, but what subsequently became of the last St. Anne’s boat in the ownership of the Melling family name we do not know but suspect that like many projects with old fishing boats she ended up being cut up. (This excludes the steam trawlers, the last of which the ‘Lizzie Melling‘ (PN45), 207grt/1904, owned by Melling Ltd, Fleetwood, was not broken up until June 1957 by Hammond Lane Foundry Ltd, Dublin).

Fig. 8 The Jetty, St Annes Pier

PIC

Fig 9. Freckleton Shipyard

Trawling from St. Anne’s was undertaken with two distinctive type of trawls each for different species of fish/crustaceans. The nets were braided by the fishermen themselves in the long winter evenings from twine supplied by the packman from Preston and treated with linseed oil and cutch (A preservative, made from catechu gum boiled in water, used to prolong the life of a sail.) to preserve them. The ironwork for the net frames would be made by the local blacksmith, in the case of the Melling’s possibly by the smithy at the top of Squires Gate Lane, Blowing Sands or Smithy Lane, Heyhouses. For demersal fish (those fish living close to the sea floor – Plaice, Sole, etc.), a single Southport beam trawl was towed, the overall dimensions depending on the size and power of the Trawlboat/Smack involved but seldom less than an 18ft beam.

While the beam trawl also caught brown shrimps the Ribble Estuary was home to a specific type of trawl for shrimping – the shank trawl. The development on the northern shore was distinctive from that on the Southport side and involved blacksmithed ends and wooden beam members. The smaller shanking boats trawled with two 8ft nets whilst the larger boats used two 10ft – 6inch trawls except when “broadsiding” – drifting broadside to the tide, carried by the current, when possibly four nets could be rigged.

Fig. 10 A Lytham/St. Anne’s shank trawl frame photographed on the Double Stanner in the early 1890s, this type of trawl frame was used until Arthur Wignall of Lytham built the first all metal box framework.

Sources and Further Research

Marine Research & Vessel Statistics. Search ‘SmaShipData’,

Mayes,G.I.& McCall, 1995, Short Sea Shipping 1995, Portishead Private

Mayes, G. & Mayes, JE., 2009, On A Broad Reach: The History Of The St Anne’s-On-The Sea Lifeboat Station 1881-1925 , Bernard McCall, Bristol

Images from G.I. Mayes Collection

Glossary

TrawlboatA boat used in fishing with trawls or trawlnets.
PrawnerA boat used for prawn fishing
HalfdeckerAn open boat with some decking – commonly over the forepeak, over the stern sheets, and along each side of the well.
NobbyAn inshore sailing boat, used for traditional fishing around Lancashire and the Isle of Man
SmackA traditional fishing boat, often containing a well to keep the catch alive.
StannerA gravel, shingle and/or sand bank, offshore.
Shanks/ Shanker/ ShankingIn the North West of England a ‘shank’ is a brown shrimp, so a ‘Shanker’ is a boat that catches shrimps by net, usually a shank trawl, but in a mixed fishery, a beam trawl.  Shanking generally refers to boat fishing, but more in respect of Southport, St. Anne’s and Flookborough, as horse drawn carts towing two shank trawls i.e.. cart shanking.

Annexe ‘A’  Further information from extracts of correspondence between G.I. Mayes and the Blog Owner, Mike Coyle
(NOTE: Recent, personal information, addresses, etc. have been removed to protect privacy)

28 July 2001

Dear Mike

Since we last communicated our ‘Lancashire Nobby Research Group’ have managed to locate the yard ledgers for Peter Rawstrone’s shipyard at Freckleton. I had seen several transcripts, but most people thought that the originals had been destroyed, however a chance comment from a colleague, tracked them down to the Textile Museum at Helmshore! They are now in Fleetwood Museum, but not available to the general public – I hope to get them placed on microfiche or CD. The interesting thing is that as I already knew John Melling is mentioned, but with more detail.

In On A Broad Reach p.72 the Lytham Times is quoted recording the incident on 15 Oct 1899 when the ‘Annie‘ (PN106) owned by John Melling was torn from her mooring south of St. Anne’s Pier and was last seen on the Horse Banks. From her continued existence, fishing from St. Anne’s until 1906, I knew that she had survived and from one of the Freckleton transcripts, that she had gone to Rawstrone’s for repair.

In the yard ledger Book 1, the ‘Annie, a ‘Shanker’ is entered on 1 Jan 1890, owner John Melling, St. Anne’s and some 2113/4 man-hours were expended on her repair. In the notes are ‘Church Road’ and that a new mast, 26 ft x 71/2 inches was made for her, the total cost of repairs and mast was £9.17. 0. Perhaps the most interesting is that this bill was not settled until 1 Nov 1890. The cost should be related to the wages being paid in the yard, a shipwright 4/4d a day and a labourer 2/8d a day. The measurements of the mast give us a rough idea of the ‘Annies’ length overall, this would be 27-28 ft, a single hander which would either be fished alone or with a ‘fisher lad’/ ‘fisherman’s boy’, and essentially used for shanking for shrimps inside the banks in the channels, roads and gullies.

Enclosed is a repro of the Fleetwood NobbyNora(FD46), which at 32ft x 9.4ft x 4.2ft and 7.73 tons was very similar to Harry Melling and “Skip” Harrison’s Tern (PN64) 33ft – 5ins x 9ft – 9ins x 3ft – 10tns 12.82 tons, the difference in tonnage being a slightly ‘chunkier’ boat. ! think the pic gives a good impression of the sail area of about 850 sq ft, even though they are becalmed and have a sweep out. Hard to imagine a fleet of about six or seven boats of this size getting underway from their moorings south of St. Anne’s Pier prior to WW1.

Fig. 11 ‘NORA’ FD46, Built Overton 1892.

16 May 2001

Dear Mike

As discussed this afternoon, pics of the ‘Arthur Alexander’ ex ‘Tern‘ (PN64) owned by Harry Melling and worked in partnership with Robert “Skip” Harrison from 3.5.1906 until 5.4.1913. At 33ft she was a good sized Smack (Nobby) used for both flatfish trawling using a 20ft Fleetwood style beam trawl or for shrimping using the St. Anne’s/Lytham 10ft 6ins shank trawl, two when trawling and two or three when ‘siding’ (broadsiding – using the tide flow to move the boat broadside, used when the current was strong and there was little wind).  In the winter they would also tow out the punt and use her to set long lines off Blackpool for spur dogs and cod. It is highly likely that the punt ‘Our May’ owned by ‘Skip’ Harrison was used in this fishery. ‘Skip’ Harrison’s youngest daughter, remembers, both this boat and the smack ‘Sunbeam’ (PN10), which he bought after the ‘Tern’ was sold. She was 3ft longer than Harry’s ‘Irene’).

We think that the ‘Tern’ may have been built at Fleetwood, but we have been unable to confirm this. | think that the recent owners would like to lay claim to her being ‘Stoba’ designed, and there are lots of features that point that way, but nothing positive so I am wary. In her present yacht like guise it is difficult to appreciate that she lay at her moorings to the south of St. Anne’s Pier for nearly seven years, taking all sorts of weather and providing a living (of sorts) for two families. With over 800sq ft of canvas, I bet they drove her hard, fishing both inside the banks and outside from Rossall to Burbo Bank, she would be a well used tool, that Harry and Skip were superior coastal boatmen and excelled at the fishing is clear from all the recollections I have of talking with “Uncle Bob” Harrison and listening to Tommy Harrison and Teddy and “Boxer” Rimmer. Hard men who led a hard life.

7 January 2003

Dear Mike

I am still a bit puzzled as to why the Melling steam trawlers never seem to get mentioned. I can remember the ‘Lizzie Melling’ registered at Preston (PN45) and the ‘Harry Melling’ (FD397), but when the latter was owned by lago Steam Trawlers and registered in London as LO55. Others were the ‘Annie Melling’ (FD168), ‘Tom Melling’ (FD414),‘Nellie Melling’ (FD25), ‘Lily Melling’ (FD222), ‘Lena Melling‘ (1) (FD189) and ‘Lena Melling’ (2) (FD417), they were owned by Melling Ltd and managed by W. Melling, 7 Fish Trade Buildings, Fleetwood (note this is not J. W. Melling, they were most meticulous with trading names in the BOT Mercantile Navy List.

Annex ‘B’ Topography and wrecks off the Fylde Coast
(Photographed from Mayes book, On a Broad Reach)

Annex ‘C’ Pen Portrait of Commander Gilbert Ian Mayes OBE CEng MRINA

My interest in ships and shipping took hold when I attended King Edward VII school in Lytham St. Anne’s overlooking the Ribble estuary.  The ability to observe the Preston bound shipping on a daily basis and to recognise the ships themselves was the start of a lifetime of research, collating and writing on current and maritime subjects.  This was fostered by the Geography master who suggested that I record a month’s shipping, noting the ports and cargoes and present as a snap-shot of Preston shipping.  Following on from this, visits were organised to Preston Dock and followed up by further visits, to Courtaulds’, Red Scar Mill,  Ribbleton to see rayon being produced from the imported wood pulp, the Preston Bypass where the imported roadstone was being used and others industries associated with the dock traffic. 

A thirty seven year career in the Royal Navy gave the opportunity to view the maritime scene world wide, particularly in Singapore and Hong Kong and books of notes were filled with my observations.  During my apprenticeship I started to write about shipping and became the Journal of Commerce & Shipping Telegraph correspondent for the Forth ports, particularly recording the large numbers of steam trawlers arriving for breaking up.  In 1974 I took over the compilation of the Ian Allen pocket book Coastal Ships, Tugs & Trawlers and complied the final version of that publication.  

Whilst serving at Bath I became involved in the Naval Control of Shipping in the short sea trades and this led to supporting Bernard McCall in his column in Sea Breezes writing abut the coastal shipping scene.  This was to form a lasting partnership.  The centenary of the Mexico disaster in 1986 took me  and my cousin John into research of the St. Anne’s lifeboat station and St. Anne’s  and Lytham fishing fleets.  Both these avenues  resulted in compiling and publishing the results, the former in On a Broad Reach the history of the St. Anne’s-on-the-Sea lifeboat station and the latter in publications by both Leonard Lloyd and Nick Miller on the Lancashire Nobby.  A follow on from this was teeming up with Alan Hirst at Fleetwood to start to compile a database of Fleetwood fishing vessels.  Realising the size of this task we decided to concentrate initially on the steam trawlers but with the untimely death of Alan I was compelled to carry on alone.  Contact with Jim Porter led to the results being posted on his website Bosun’s Watch and this relationship continues.

My interest in Coastal shipping, fostered in my teens remains and in the early 1990s Bernard and I decided to compile and publish a directory of short sea shipping companies domiciled in UK and the Republic of Ireland.  Six editions of Short Sea Shipping was published but towards the end it became more difficult to validate material as companies chose to flag out their tonnage and the last edition was published in 2004. By way of compensation I joined a group who had compiled a basic yard list of vessels built by the Yorkshire shipyard Cochrane & Sons Ltd and with Mike Thompson at Hull, set about putting this into shape for publication.  To do justice to the subject I decided to write in three editions and these were duly published in succession as Cochrane Shipbuilders and were well received by the public.

Bernard McCall died suddenly in August 2021 and my efforts in respect of coastal and short sea shipping will be to continue to support his projects by helping his wife Doreen and son Iain in their efforts to pick up the reins and continue with the business.  As to the Fleetwood Steam Trawler database, this is a daily update, as thanks to modern communications and the internet, fresh material is constantly coming to light and more emphasis is being placed on the social history of the fishing industry.

GIM

Heritage: In the eye of the beholder

An observation by Mike Coyle

At any appropriate opportunity, I happily declare that I am a ‘Blackpool Heritage Volunteer’. I understand the nomenclature, I understand the role, I think I understand the concept, but the term ‘Heritage’ remains vague to me. So, what is ‘Heritage’ about? Is there somewhere I can find out, perhaps an online source I can interrogate for an answer?

Any attempt to get a rational definition is fraught with academic danger and intrigue. Heritage is confused by elements of tangibility and intangibility; perception and concept; cultural identity; ideas and memory. 

First port of call, a dictionary. However, it’s not helpful:

Heritage (Noun): …features belonging to the culture of a particular society, such as traditions, languages, or buildings, that were created in the past and still have historical importance.

At this stage, it worth considering the origins of the word ‘Heritage’ to provide a clue towards a definition:

 (Originally) c. 1200, “that which may be inherited,” from Old French iritage, eritage, Heritage “heir; inheritance, ancestral estate, heirloom,” from heriter “inherit,” from Late Latin hereditare, ultimately from Latin heres (genitive heredis) “heir” (see heredity). Meaning “condition or state transmitted from ancestors” is from 1620s.

That brings us a little closer, it’s about ‘Inheritance’, ‘something transmitted from ancestors’. But what is transmitted from ancestors. Further research suggests more complications. Harvey (2015) quotes Tunbridge and Ashworth (1996)

                  ‘a contemporary product shaped from history’

A ‘product’ then? More complications! A product implies a tangible form, but we know that we can regard language, condition, skill, song, or other intangible as Heritage. I’ve inherited several phrases that my grandad used, ‘Never assume malice when stupidity will do!’; You’ve always got to have something to look forward to’. Does that represent a product?  It is contemporary because I use both regularly and it is shaped from history.

The ‘contemporary’ description is an important one, everyone will interpret or perceive a ‘product’ as ‘Heritage’ by his or her own measures and standards. My dad may well have perceived something of his Heritage or inheritance: his Uncles watch or his meticulous attention to detail, that I might discount from my perceptions of value.

We could regard Heritage as a service, which includes tangible artifacts and venues together with sets of intangibilities. A service because Heritage as a product ignores the role of users engaging with the products. Producing a loaf of bread without someone to eat it, remains a loaf of bread. The story of a loaf must include its purchase, consumption, and satisfaction of its consumers. Writers on service quality have scrutinised the elements comprising the service experience and the gaps in that service experience that impact on users of the service.

A modern, collective understanding of Heritage requires us to regard it as precious meaning we must impart a perception of value to others. A building like Blackpool’s Grand Theatre is regarded as part of our Heritage, to be treasured, retained, and left for future generations to enjoy and to pass on themselves. So now we can add a ‘temporal’ theme to Heritage. To protect what we inherit for future benefit and educate folk in their value.

The problems do not end there. An apposite, but fictitious quote can be found to describe the problem:

‘History is that certainty produced at the point at which the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.’

Briefly explained, the quote suggests rightly, that the ability and authenticity of the recorder of history (or in this case, Heritage) it totally dependent on the constraints on recording, adequate memory, interpretation and setting down those interpretations cogently.  We rely on style of writing, intellect and ability of both writer and reader equally.

Archaeologists do not have facts to work with, but they are able to interrogate their knowledge and experience, deduce and project understanding and interpretation of circumstantial features of an object, in a bid to help our understanding. But we, the public are left just a little insecure; can we really rely on the stories about lost Fylde villages – Kilgrimol, Singleton Thorpe, Waddum Thorpe, without specific evidence.

Harvey (2015), expresses concern in the way that Heritage is presented to the public and the influence of presentation on our interpretation and perception of Heritage products:

               ‘… a visit to a cathedral has always been a highly mediated and controlled Heritage-related event. Just like museums, their layout and architecture, fixtures and fittings, practices and ritual, are carefully choreographed, replicated and constructed in order to convey messages about the ‘order of things’ as represented through a specific notion of the past.’

Like all ‘truths’, products are subject to interpretation, understanding and acceptance. Much has been written recently about efficaciousness of ‘Truth’. Today, truth is under close scrutiny, with advent of ‘fake’ news, ‘Augmented Reality’, ‘Artificial Intelligence’, ‘Conspiracy Theory’, and bias. There is much scepticism, re-interpretation (noting the recent Colston incident in Bristol), even denial of truth, presenting a real opportunity for academic research relating these modern conventions and constructs to Heritage.

As we move closer to a definition, what’s Heritage for? What is its role or purpose? We need to consider both its altruistic role and its commercial role. As a subject rather than a product, Heritage provides us with a glimpse into practices and behaviour, not to mention skills and culture, of the past, rather than simply museum references.

The commercial imperative, or saleability of Heritage presents both opportunity and risk. Opportunity to capitalise on public appeal and attraction of Heritage concepts, exhibits and venues. Risk in the betraying the integrity of those concepts, exhibits and venues, in favour of a marketing benefit, increased footfall or contribution to costs.

There is a third consideration of purpose, that is organisational development. National and local authorities have found a convenient banner in ‘Heritage’ to bundle those functions, that were previously stove piped in to function silos, libraries, museums, archives, historic properties, etc. The Heritage Council of Ireland goes further, by defining its version of Heritage thus:

Our Heritage comprises:  …the tangible – our historical sites, buildings, monuments, objects in museum artefacts and archives.

the natural – our waterways, landscapes, woodlands, bogs, uplands, native wildlife, insects, plants, trees, birds, and animals.

the intangible – our customs, sports, music, dance, folklore, crafts, skills, and knowledge.

Our tangible, intangible and natural Heritage and all the associated myths, legends, traditions, and memories provide us with a common language and insight that enables us to communicate on a deep level with each other and to express ourselves in a unique way to the outside world.

By broadening the definition, the organisation finds efficiency in delivery of its mission and services. It also imposes ‘democratisation’ of definitions for Heritage, requiring us to agree a standardised interpretation of what Heritage means to society. For example, Heritage in Fleetwood necessarily includes heavy reference to its seafaring history; in Horwich, its Railway and Locomotive Works; in Blackpool, its entertainment venues, and connections; in the National Trust, its stately homes, and gardens.

So where does this leave us in attempting to define Heritage? It has become clear to me that Heritage is in the eye of the beholder. It is what people say it is, depending on what it is seeking to achieve. I am still happy to declare that I am a Blackpool Heritage Volunteer.

Mike Coyle
Oct 2020

Sources and further reading

Definition at:
Oxford English Dictionary and
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/Heritage. Accessed on 06/10/2020

Heritage Council of Ireland at:
https://www.Heritagecouncil.ie/what-is-Heritage. Accessed on 06/10/2020

Harvey, DC., (2015), The History of Heritage, Ashgate Research Companion Available at:
http://www.campusincamps.ps/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Harvey-Heritage-08.pdf. Accessed on 06/10/2020  

Etymology of the term ‘Heritage’ at:
https://www.etymonline.com/word/Heritage. Accessed on 05/10/2020

Fictitious quote regarding recording history at:
Patrick LaGrange, a fictitious philosopher quoted in Barnes, J., 2011, ‘The Sense of an Ending’, Jonathon Cape, London.

Service Quality Tangibles and Intangibles
Zeithaml VA., Parasuraman A., Berry, LL., (1990), Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations, Simon and Schuster

A Forgotten Blackpool Sailor

Earlier this week I watched  ‘Yangtze Incident’ for the umpteenth time and have been captivated by the story since I was a boy. As a boy in the 1950s I took every opportunity to visit showings of war films at the local cinema. Films I can still watch as though for the first time: Dam Busters, Battle of the River Plate, Cockleshell Heroes, Odette, Colditz, Cruel Sea, Malta Story, Yangtse Incident, and others.  (The name ‘Yangtse’ and ‘Yangtze’ are interchangeable) Whilst working in Blackpool in the late 1960’s I worked with the mother of a young lad, killed during the ‘Yangtse Incident’, George Winter. She described in detail how she had a premonition of Georges death. I don’t think she ever got over it.

No. 818706, Able Seaman George Winter RN, of the British warship HMS ‘Amethyst’. In April 1949, Amethyst was to relieve HMS ‘Consort’ at Shanghai, via the Yangtse River. A few days into the journey, she was attacked and fired on by Communist Chinese shore-based artillery. In the attack, the ship was substantially damaged, eventually running aground on Rose Island in the river. With many casualties among the crew and ships officers, Amethyst was under regular bombardment for several weeks, before making a dash for safety, under cover of darkness.  Although the main story belongs to Amethyst, there were several other ships involved.  All in all, a real ‘Boys Own’ story.

George died of his wounds, age 19 whilst being transported under cover of darkness when the ship’s wounded were being secretly evacuated to a land-based hospital in Shanghai, with help from Chinese locals.  Wounded on the first day of the attack, he died two days later. He is buried in a lonely grave, without any of his shipmates, in Hungjao Road Cemetery, Shanghai, China. He is remembered on the Blackpool Cenotaph and Highfield School memorial.

In 1939, his parents Philip and Annie Winter are living in Knightsbridge Avenue, South Shore, Blackpool. Annie died in 1969, his father in 1967. George’s back story and life as a Sailor are not known, indeed I’ve had great difficulty in gathering information on him. The list of ‘Sources’ below is testament to that.

I have no direct connection with George, nor his family. I was simply intrigued by his mother’s tale and love of the film.  If you know of the family, or better still have a photograph, I’d be delighted to share the research with you.

MPC Jun 2021

Sources and Further Reasearch:

Response to enquiries about ‘George Winter’ at: https://www.maritimequest.com/warship_directory/great_britain/pages/sloops/hms_amethyst_u16_message_board_1_25.htm

Grave details at: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/172026852/george-winter

Basic personal details: http://www.patriotfiles.com/archive/navalhistory/xDKCasAlpha1945%20-presentS.htm

Births Marriages and deaths at: HTTP://wwwfreebmd.org.uk

Death details at: http://veterans.mod.uk/roll-of-honour.php?SerialNo=N7785

The Yangtse Incident Report to Parliament at: https://api.parliament.uk/historic-hansard/lords/1949/apr/26/the-yangtse-incident

1939 Registration, via Ancestry.co.uk

Naval General Service Medal (Yangtze Clasp) entitlement.

Description of the whole incident and George Winter briefly mentioned in Izzard, B., ‘Yangtze Showdown: China and the Ordeal of HMS Amethyst’, Seaforth Publishing, available on Google Books

Brief coverage of the Incident in: Western Morning News, Monday 25 April 1949, p 1 Col 3: ‘Cease-fire for Amethyst refused by Communists: Plymouth casualties in shelled frigate.

 

Gallantry at Sea on the Fylde Coast

Browsing a recently seen copy of ‘Lifeboat Gallantry’, by Barry Cox, based on earlier research of Major DV Henderson GM, I was struck by the number of entries associated with the Fylde Coast, specifically, the lifeboats of Lytham St Anne’s, Blackpool and Fleetwood.

My family has strong association with both the sea and Lifeboats on the Fylde Coast. My Great Grandfather was Coxswain at St Annes. My brother, a member of the Shore Crew at St Annes and my niece also trained on the St Annes Lifeboat. My wife and sister in law work in the shop at Blackpool Lifeboat Station. I penned a tribute to that family connection in my Blog at: https://fyldecoaster.wordpress.com/2015/04/18/the-mellings-a-lifeboat-connection/

This piece relies heavily on material received, with permission from Cox’s book. The book makes reference to 17 acts of gallantry by members of the Lifeboats Crews, which warranted Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) Medal Awards to 27 individuals up to 1998, with at least one member being awarded two medals and one, three.

‘Lifeboat in Tow’ taken from ‘Lifeboat Gallantry’ reproduced by kind permission of Spink & Son Ltd

 Newspaper reports, books and personal testimonies record the most spectacular incidents. The ‘Casualty’ boards in each of the stations, the commemorative plaques and monuments provides a clue to the remarkable and the mundane. As a simple guide, Blackpool Lifeboats are called out for around 100 ‘Shouts’ per year.

The ‘Lives Saved’ board at Blackpool Lifeboat Station

There’s been a lifeboat at St Annes and at Lytham since 1851, Fleetwood’s was established in 1859. Blackpool was a relative latecomer in 1864.

Cox’s book dates, describes and names the awards and the individuals and incidents, along with occasional photographs and illustrations. Like the book, in this piece, a timeline provides a recording framework. Download it below.

MPC
Nov 2020

Heritage: In the eye of the beholder

An observation by Mike Coyle

At any appropriate opportunity, I happily declare that I am a ‘Blackpool Heritage Volunteer’. I understand the nomenclature, I understand the role, I think I understand the concept, but the term ‘Heritage’ remains vague to me. So, what is ‘Heritage’ about? Is there somewhere I can find out, perhaps an online source I can interrogate for an answer?

Any attempt to get a rational definition is fraught with academic danger and intrigue. Heritage is confused by elements of tangibility and intangibility; perception and concept; cultural identity; ideas and memory.

First port of call, a dictionary. However, its not helpful:

Heritage (Noun): …features belonging to the culture of a particular society, such as traditions, languages, or buildings, that were created in the past and still have historical importance.

At this stage, it worth considering the origins of the word ‘Heritage’ to provide a clue towards a definition:

(Originally) c. 1200, “that which may be inherited,” from Old French iritage, eritage, Heritage “heir; inheritance, ancestral estate, heirloom,” from heriter “inherit,” from Late Latin hereditare, ultimately from Latin heres (genitive heredis) “heir” (see heredity). Meaning “condition or state transmitted from ancestors” is from 1620s.

That brings us a little closer, it’s about ‘Inheritance’, ‘something transmitted from ancestors’. But what is transmitted from ancestors. Further research suggests more complications. Harvey (2015) quotes Tunbridge and Ashworth (1996)

‘a contemporary product shaped from history’

A ‘product’ then? More complications! A product implies a tangible form, but we know that we can regard language, condition, skill, song, or other intangible as Heritage. I’ve inherited several phrases that my grandad used, ‘Never assume malice when stupidity will do!’; You’ve always got to have something to look forward to’. Does that represent a product?  It is contemporary because I use both regularly and it is shaped from history.

The ‘contemporary’ description is an important one, everyone will interpret or perceive a ‘product’ as ‘Heritage’ by his or her own measures and standards. My dad may well have perceived something of his Heritage or inheritance: his Uncles watch or his meticulous attention to detail, that I might discount from my perceptions of value.

We could regard Heritage as a service, which includes tangible artifacts and venues together with sets of intangibilities. A service because Heritage as a product ignores the role of users engaging with the products. Producing a loaf of bread without someone to eat it, remains a loaf of bread. The story of a loaf must include its purchase, consumption, and satisfaction of its consumers. Writers on service quality have scrutinised the elements comprising the service experience and the gaps in that service experience that impact on users of the service.

A modern, collective understanding of Heritage requires us to regard it as precious meaning we must impart a perception of value to others. A building like Blackpool’s Grand Theatre is regarded as part of our Heritage, to be treasured, retained, and left for future generations to enjoy and to pass on themselves. So now we can add a ‘temporal’ theme to Heritage. To protect what we inherit for future benefit and educate folk in their value.

The problems do not end there. An apposite, but fictitious quote can be found to describe the problem:

‘History is that certainty produced at the point at which the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.’

Briefly explained, the quote suggests rightly, that the ability and authenticity of the recorder of history (or in this case, Heritage) it totally dependent on the constraints on recording, adequate memory, interpretation and setting down those interpretations cogently.  We rely on style of writing, intellect and ability of both writer and reader equally.

Archaeologists do not have facts to work with, but they are able to interrogate their knowledge and experience, deduce and project understanding and interpretation of circumstantial features of an object, in a bid to help our understanding. But we, the public are left just a little insecure; can we really rely on the stories about lost Fylde villages – Kilgrimol, Singleton Thorpe, Waddum Thorpe, without specific evidence.

Harvey (2015), expresses concern in the way that Heritage is presented to the public and the influence of presentation on our interpretation and perception of Heritage products:

‘… a visit to a cathedral has always been a highly mediated and controlled Heritage-related event. Just like museums, their layout and architecture, fixtures and fittings, practices and ritual, are carefully choreographed, replicated and constructed in order to convey messages about the ‘order of things’ as represented through a specific notion of the past.’

Like all ‘truths’ of the past or present, Heritage is subject to interpretation, understanding and acceptance. Much has been written recently about efficaciousness of ‘Truth’. Today, truth is under close scrutiny, with advent of ‘fake’ news, ‘Augmented Reality’, ‘Artificial Intelligence’, ‘Conspiracy Theory’, and bias. There is much scepticism, re-interpretation (noting the recent Colston incident in Bristol), even denial of truth, presenting a real opportunity for academic research relating these modern conventions and constructs to Heritage.

As we move closer to a definition, what’s Heritage for? What is its role or purpose? We need to consider both its altruistic role and its commercial role. As a subject rather than a product, Heritage provides us with a glimpse into practices and behaviour, not to mention skills and culture, of the past, rather than simply museum references.

The commercial imperative, or saleability of Heritage presents both opportunity and risk. Opportunity to capitalise on public appeal and attraction of Heritage concepts, exhibits and venues. Risk in the betraying the integrity of those concepts, exhibits and venues, in favour of a marketing benefit, increased footfall or contribution to costs.

There is a third consideration of purpose, that is organisational development. National and local authorities have found a convenient banner in ‘Heritage’ to bundle those functions, that were previously stove piped in to function silos, libraries, museums, archives, historic properties, etc. The Heritage Council of Ireland goes further by defining its version of Heritage thus:

Our Heritage comprises:  …the tangible – our historical sites, buildings, monuments, objects in museum artefacts and archives; the natural – our waterways, landscapes, woodlands, bogs, uplands, native wildlife, insects, plants, trees, birds, and animals; the intangible – our customs, sports, music, dance, folklore, crafts, skills, and knowledge.

Our tangible, intangible and natural Heritage and all the associated myths, legends, traditions, and memories provide us with a common language and insight that enables us to communicate on a deep level with each other and to express ourselves in a unique way to the outside world.

By broadening the definition, the organisation finds efficiency in delivery of its mission and services. It also imposes ‘democratisation’ of definitions for Heritage, requiring us to agree a standardised interpretation of what Heritage means to society. For example, Heritage in Fleetwood necessarily includes heavy reference to its seafaring history; in Horwich, its Railway and Locomotive Works; in Blackpool, its entertainment venues, and connections; in the National Trust, its stately homes, and gardens.

So where does this leave us in attempting to define Heritage? It has become clear to me that Heritage is in the eye of the beholder. It is what people say it is, depending on what it is seeking to achieve. I am still happy to declare that I am a Blackpool Heritage Volunteer.

Mike Coyle
Oct 2020

Sources and further reading

Definition at:
Oxford English Dictionary and
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/Heritage. Accessed on 06/10/2020

Heritage Council of Ireland at:
https://www.Heritagecouncil.ie/what-is-Heritage. Accessed on 06/10/2020

Harvey, DC., (2015), The History of Heritage, Ashgate Research Companion Available at:
http://www.campusincamps.ps/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Harvey-Heritage-08.pdf. Accessed on 06/10/2020

Etymology of the term ‘Heritage’ at:
https://www.etymonline.com/word/Heritage. Accessed on 05/10/2020

Fictitious quote regarding recording history at:
Patrick LaGrange, a fictitious philosopher quoted in Barnes, J., 2011, ‘The Sense of an Ending’, Jonathon Cape, London.

Service Quality Tangibles and Intangibles
Zeithaml VA., Parasuraman A., Berry, LL., (1990), Delivering Quality Service: Balancing Customer Perceptions and Expectations, Simon and Schuster

Blackpool’s Forgotten Heroes

By Peter Beighton

This essay was first published in ‘The Manchester Genealogist’, 2000, Vol 36, No 3, pp186-187 published by Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society (M&LFHS)

Dec30 004

The Memorial in the Town Hall Reception

A hundred years ago, on May 30th, 1900, five Blackpool men were fighting for their lives. They were members of a small British army column that had been surprised by the Boers in a dawn attack at Faber’s Put, about fifty miles west of Kimberley. Of the five comrades, one was killed, and another was wounded in this battle.

The Anglo-Boer War broke out in October 1899 and after a series of early defeats, the British army called for volunteers from the contemporary equivalent of today’s Territorials. Many came forward, but only the best were chosen; in this way, on January 4th, 1900, the five Blackpool men attested for service in South Africa with D squadron of the 23rd Company, Imperial Yeomanry. For the next four weeks the 120 horsemen in this unit practised cavalry manoeuvres on Blackpool beach and improved their shooting skills on the rifle range at Rossall.

On February 10th, the troopers and their mounts were given a hearty send-off when they entrained at North Station for Liverpool, to commence the three-week voyage to Cape Town in the troopship “Afric”. On arrival in South Africa they were posted to a dusty camp at Picketberg Road, a dry mountainous region about 60 miles north of Cape Town. In early May, the 23rd IY travelled by train for three days to Belmont, on the railway line to the south of Kimberley, where a major battle had been fought a few months previously. Here they joined a column tasked with clearing the Boer commandos who were still active in these parts. Their new comrades included half a battalion of a famous Cape Town unit, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Volunteer Rifles and a small detachment of Canadian artillery. In all they totalled about 500 men.

Three days later the column reached Faber’s Put, (well or water hole), about fifty miles to the west of Kimberley. They settled down for a cold night on the open Veldt, in a shallow valley ringed by small hills. During the night, the Boer commandos avoided the sentries and crept close to the camp, firing on the British from three sides at first light. Two hours later, it was all over; the British had 23 dead and 32 wounded, while the Boers had similar casualties. Of the Blackpool men, William Coulston had been killed by a Mauser bullet, while Reggie Carter had been shot in the foot.

DSC02258

The Memorial

The participants on both sides have not been completely forgotten and on May 27th, 2000, a service of commemoration was held on the site of the battle at Faber’s Put and a monument was unveiled. The Blackpool men are also named on a memorial plaque in the Town Hall. A few facts are known about them:

William Coulston: (killed) Born 1865. Blackpool, plumber by trade, living at 102 Caunce St. Husband of Kate and father of Leonard and John Noble. He was a son of John Coulston.

Reginald Percy Bell Carter: (wounded) Born 1876, Stockton-on-Tees, auctioneer, living at 102 Bloomfield Rd. son of Thomas Carter.

Albert Hilton: Born 1871, Manchester. publican, living at Ivy Villa. Dickson St with his mother, Selina. After the war, Hilton served for many years in the Blackpool troop of the DLOY, whom he represented at the coronation of King George V. He had family links with the Clarence Hotel, Hyde Rd, Manchester.

John Marland Partington: Born 1874, Rochdale, joiner, son of William Partington.

Frederick Whalley: Born 1876, Rochdale, draper, living at 104 Caunce St, son of Christopher Whalley.

The first batch of volunteers had signed on for a 12-month period of service and in early 1901, they were replaced by a Relieving Draft. The second group of Blackpool men are named on the Town Hall memorial:

H Barnes; J C Butler; H Calderbank; J Cooke; W E Fisher; W E Gormlie; T E Lewthwaite; A McQuade; R Riddehough; E Round; W Talbot; J W Towler; W Tranter; H Wilson; W Womack; J Yates.

Information concerning these men is scanty, although a few details are known about the following:

Randolph Riddehough: Born 1874, Darwen, Coachman. living at 7 Yates St. Gunshot wound to the abdomen at Willowvale on 6.11.1901.

William Talbot: Born 1880, Blackpool. fruiterer. 101 Warbreck Rd, son of Jacob Talbot. (recruited by Corporal RHO Hill. who subsequently owned a well-known departmental store in Blackpool.)

Joseph William Towler: Born 1880, Blackburn. Plumber (apprenticed to Coulston), 29 Regent St, son of Robert Towler.

William Womack Born 1879. Rochdale. Engine Cleaner, 10 Ribble Place, son of Samuel Womack.

Further recruitment took place in the closing stages of the war. Three Blackpool men who were posted to the 32″ Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry are listed on the Town Hall Memorial:

F Parkinson; F Smith; H Webb

Fleetwood Parkinson: Born 1882, Blackpool. He settled in Kimberley where he became an engineer in the diamond mines. Parkinson achieved considerable distinction in World War 1, when he raised a troop of horsemen for the allied attack on German South West Africa (now Namibia). Parkinson’s Horse, as they were known, took part in a daring crossing of the Kalahari Desert which took the German forces in the rear and hastened their surrender.

Fleetwood Parkinson kept his links with Blackpool and married Maude, the eldest daughter of Sir John Bickerstaffe who masterminded the building of the Blackpool Tower. The couple eventually returned to Blackpool and lived in Hornby Rd. Parkinson died in Blackpool in 1947.

 

The Author: Professor Peter Beighton of the Department of Human Genetics, University of Cape Town, Medical School.  At the time of original publication, Professor Beighton was writing a book on the activities of the Blackpool Volunteers in the Anglo-Boer War (See Sources & Further Research below). He was asking for any available information from the descendants of these men or any other Blackpool Volunteers who served in South Africa. Access to diaries and photographs would be especially welcomed.

Transcribers Note:  It is worth recording that the Memorial includes the names of 24 Members of the St John Ambulance Brigade and 2 Blackpool Police Officers.

 

Sources and Further Research

Beighton, P., 2000, ‘The Manchester Genealogist’, Vol 36, No 3, pp186-187, Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society (M&LFHS)

Beighton, P., 1998, The Blackpool Division of the St John Ambulance Brigade: The Early Years, ASIN: B0000CP8V6.  (Currently out of Print). Available at: Imperial War Museum Catalogue Ref: LBY 98/1940

P Beighton, P., &  de Villiers, JC, 1997, ‘The St John Ambulance Brigade In The South African War 1899-1902: Casualties and Memorials in South Africa’, Military History Journal (incorporating Museum Review), Vol 10 No 5, June 1997, The South African, Military History Society. Available at:  https://www.samilitaryhistory.org/vol105de.html  Accessed July 15-16, 2020

Images Copyright by Mike Coyle

Transcribed by MPC
July 2020

Polish Squadrons in Blackpool

Polish Air Force Emblem WW2 (Wikipedia)

Prompted by watching the film ‘Hurricane’ recently and being aware of the role of RAF Squires Gate played during the second World War, I was intrigued to discover the role of the Polish Air Force and their connection with Blackpool.  303 Squadron, featured in the film, was formed at Squires Gate in July 1940.

Blackpool, home to Squires Gate Aerodrome, served as the Depot and home of the free Polish Air Force from 1940. Polish airmen that had fought bravely for their own country, had managed to flee to France when Poland fell to the Nazi onslaught of 1939; only to flee again at the Fall of France in 1940.

Upwards of 200,000 Poles arrived in England and immediately enlisted in the RAF and other allied armed services, intent on continuing the fight against the Germans. Many having lost their families to Nazi oppression and torture. Their fight was personal.

Initially, the RAF were reluctant to both recognise the fighting ability of these ‘Foreign‘ fighters and to allocate them to existing squadrons. Language and ‘cultural’ differences serving as excuses for putting these experienced pilots through basic training and English language courses. On ‘satisfactory completion’ of initial training and induction, they were allocated to newly formed Polish Air Force fighter and bomber Squadrons under RAF control.  Testament to the number of Polish Pilots, 15 squadrons were formed from their number.

During World War 2, Blackpool, Weeton & Kirkham provided to largest RAF Training area. RAF ‘Squires Gate’ came into being on December 1st 1939. Among many other activities: – Elementary Flying School; Navigation School; Anti-Aircraft Operations; Reconnaissance School; Photographic School; Wireless and Telegraphy School; School of Air Sea rescue; Blind Approach Training; Transatlantic Flights; Ground Ops Training; Aircraft manufacture and many other undertakings, it was to be home for Polish Air Force (PAF) training and a Squadron base. Walton (1998) records over 750,000 RAF Personnel passed through Blackpool during the war, with 45,000 resident at any one time.

RAF Squires gate also served as the training and dispersal depot for Polish pilots and Ground Crew to the Fighter, Bomber, Coastal, Special Ops and support Squadrons in locations all over England. Several Polish Air Force Squadrons were formed up in Blackpool too. 303, 306, 307, 308, 317,

303 Squadron formed in Blackpool fought in the Battle of Britain, it was based at RAF Northolt in East London at the time and equipped with Hawker Hurricanes.  303 Squadron was responsible for almost 20% of the German aircraft destroyed during the Battle.  A dramatization of the exploits of 303 Sqn has been cast in the film ‘Hurricane’ (Netflix, 2018)

DSC04396

Memorial to Sgt Pudrycki

One Polish flyer has a direct connection with the Fylde Coast. Sgt Ottan Pudrycki, a Spitfire Pilot of 306 Sqn was killed when his Spitfire crashed in the grounds of King Edward School on Dec 5th 1941 during a training exercise in poor weather. He was reported to have made every effort to avoid hitting the School.  A plaque to his memory was unveiled at the school in 1991.

Other legacies remain in the town:

‘The Polish Club’ on Hornby Road, Blackpool served as the Polish Officers Club and was referred to as the Polish Club until its change of use to offices.

The upstairs room, the original Club Bar holds memorials and artefacts from its time as the officers Club.

Polish Air Force Memorial at Sacred Heart RC Church, Blackpool

DSC07046

Polish Air Force Graves and Memorial in Layton Cemetery.

Despite the extraordinary contribution to Britain’s war effort, the Polish contingent was not included in the Nation’s Victory Parade in London. Under pressure from Stalin, the Polish armed services were declined an invitation. Under pressure from the RAF, 25 Polish servicemen did finally get an invite.

Recognising that the Polish ex-service personnel and civilian refugees would not be able to return home after the war, the Government introduced the ‘Polish Resettlement Corps (PRC)’ in May 1946, to assist in resettlement and integration. At the time however, it was reported that 56% of the population in the UK expressed the opinion that Poles should be repatriated (Daily Mail, 29/10/2016).  Immediately post war, the Soviets took possession of Poland and many Polish servicemen and women stayed in the UK in fear of reprisals back home, many had also lost their families to the war.

A further 2018 BAFTA nominated film ‘The Last Witness’, details the ‘Katyn Forest Massacre’, when the Soviets murdered 22,000 Polish Officers and ‘Intelligencia’ in 1940. The early part of the film deals with the Polish ‘Resettlement’ arrangements and the post-war animosity towards Poles in the UK.

Blackpool retains its proud association with Poland, even 80 years after the War.

MPC
July 2020

Sources & Further Research

No participation in the Victory Parade
http://Polishsquadronsremembered.com/mailonline.html
and
https://www.britishpoles.uk/polish-armed-forces-not-invited-to-the-victory-parade-in-1946/

Polish Squadrons history
http://polishsquadronsremembered.com/

Polish Squadrons in RAF at:
https://www.rafmuseum.org.uk/research/online-exhibitions/the-polish-air-force-in-world-war-2/polish-squadrons.aspx

Buildings and activity history of Squires Gate at:
https://sites.google.com/site/blackpoolairportsquiresgate/home/1940

Wikipedia  Search: ‘303 sqn’; ‘302 sqn’; ‘Battle of Britain’

Images

Copyright MP Coyle

Others referenced

A Blackpool Bobby: man on a mission

BlackpoolPoliceBadge

Blackpool Police Badge

It was late November 1946, an Allied Internment Camp in the heart of Germany. A dark room lit by a single lamp hanging from the centre of the ceiling. Two men, one sat shackled to a shabby, heavy table, the second stood over, facing him with an intense glare, awaiting some sort of response. A uniformed guard looked on. The second had just placed 3 well-handled photographs in front of the first, three men in RAF uniform, smiles on their faces, hatless. The first man looked emotionless at them. ‘Do you recognise these men?’ The straight face turned to slight surprise. A second time, more forcefully, ‘Do you recognise these men?’. ‘I was only carrying out orders! I have a family to think of’ was the eventual reply. His fate was sealed!

The interview was the end of two day’s determined, gruelling and rigorous interrogation. The first man was an ex Gestapo Officer, imprisoned under suspicion, by the Allies three months earlier. He had been caught working under an assumed name on a farm and recognised whilst on an infrequent trip into town, by a local policemen. He had been on the list of those wanted for the murder of fifty British and Allied Airmen, hunted by the Special Investigation Branch of the RAF Police, the investigation headed by Squadron Leader Frank McKenna. This was only one of the interrogations McKenna and his team would carry out, until all the perpetrators were caught.

The three men in the photographs were three of the fifty airmen murdered following their escape from ‘Stalag Luft III’ Prisoner of War camp in Sagan, south west of Berlin. The Escape was immortalised in the 1960s film ‘The Great Escape’. The murder was also portrayed in the film.

The interrogator was Frank McKenna, an ex Blackpool Detective Sergeant, appointed by Churchill to find and bring to Justice the murderers of the fifty Airmen.

Frank McKenna, was born in Church, Accrington in February 1906. Frank had been a pupil at Sacred Heart School, Blackpool and had lived in Huntley Avenue, Layton. He and his younger brother John, joined the Police like their father. At the outbreak of war, Frank was living with his wife Eunice and son Terence in Lyndhurst Avenue, South Shore. Sadly, Terence died in 1941, at the age of just 9 Years.

Frank joined the RAF in 1943 as a Sgt Flight Engineer, flying 30 missions over Germany. He was commissioned to Pilot Officer in November 1944 with 622 Sqn at Squires Gate. In December 1944 he transferred to the RAF Police Special Investigation Branch.

During the ‘Great Escape’ from Stalag Luft III,  76 escaped, 23 were captured and returned to the camp; only 3 eventually escaped to allied lines. The remaining 50 were to be the subject of McKenna’s investigations.

On a direct order from Hitler, these 50 were to be recaptured at all costs and executed. 150,000 German troops along with the dreaded Gestapo with national and local police, were detailed to find them. At the beginning of the investigations, McKenna had little to go on, no names, no witnesses, no confirmed locations, he had commented that ‘they launched their enquiries in utter darkness’.

Frank-McKenna-and-Erich-Zacharius

Frank McKenna with Eric Zacharius, one of his Gestapo prisoners.

Despite the initial dearth of clues, the statistics of the investigations are impressive, from such a poor start: 329 suspects were tracked down; 72 identified as played an active role in the murders of whom 23 were directly complicit (18 of these were Gestapo officers); of the 72 identified, 21 went to the gallows; 17 received prison sentences; 6 were killed in wartime; 7 killed themselves; 5 had the cases against them dropped; 3 had sentences overturned; 1 turned material witness, 1 remained and remains free. There was insufficient evidence against the rest.

He and his Commanding Officer were awarded the OBE in  for their ‘Outstanding’ work. On demobilisation from the RAF in 1948, McKenna resumed his career with Blackpool Borough Police, but retained his Commission in the RAF Volunteer Reserve, Provost Branch. In 1954 he was posted to Cyprus as Assistant Provost Marshall, to serve during the EOKA Emergency. For his ‘exceptional work’ there, he was ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ in 1958. He retired from the RAF in 1965, however, continuing to work for the MoD, finally retiring to Ansdell in 1971.

Local press in 1952, records a well received talk given by Frank to Fleetwood Round Table, ‘How the murderers of the RAF Officers from Stalg Luft 3 were hunted’. In it he recounted the 20,000 people interviewed, travelling 100,000 miles over 10 countries

Family Grave Stone

The McKenna Family Grave in Layton Cemetery.

McKenna died in Ansdell in 1994, aged 88 and is buried in Layton Cemetery. His story has only come to light since his death.

The 2013 book ‘The Human Game’ details the extraordinary investigation, the fate of the fifty and capture of the murderers. The Author Simon Reid also discusses the nature of the ‘Only carrying out orders’ defence.

albert-pierrepoint-sitting-down

Albert Pierrepoint

In a final twist to the Blackpool connection, Albert Pierrepoint was the British Executioner sent to Germany as ‘Lead Executioner’ to deal with Nazi War Criminals. On his retirement, Albert bought a Pub in Oldham and later one in Hoole, Preston. Throughout his career, he took his holidays at the Headlands Hotel in South Shore.

MPC
Oct 2019, Revised Feb 2021

Sources

Reid, S., (2013), The Human Game: Hunting the Great Escape Murderers, Constable, London

Siegphyl, 2014 available at:  https://www.warhistoryonline.com/war-articles/murder-great-escapers-mission-blackpool-police-track-nazi-killers.html

Article on the 70th Anniversary of the Great Escape, highlighting McKenna’s role at:
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/nazis-who-murdered-great-escapers-3269861

Talk to Fleetwood Round Table at:
Fleetwood Chronical, 25/01/1952, p 11, Col 1

Images

Blackpool Police Badge at:
https://www.cultmancollectables.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=10015

Frank McKenna at:
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/real-life-stories/nazis-who-murdered-great-escapers-3269861

Gravestone by the Author.

Albert Pierrepoint at:
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p036bk5b

Blackpool: Hub of Technology

Blackpool can boast a host of technological innovation, most of that innovation remains largely uncelebrated. Innovators and entrepreneurs from the beginnings of Blackpool have moved knowledge forward and capitalised on the experience of doing so.

Trams, Street Lighting & illuminations 1879

Development of practical uses for Electricity centred on Blackpool in the 1870s. Experiments by Siemens on electric ‘Traction’ just 6 years earlier, led to the beginnings of Blackpool trams. Blackpool Council, ever on the lookout for new ideas, quickly adopted this ‘Conduit Electric Tramway System’ for Blackpool’s promenade in 1885. It was the first ‘Mass Transit System’ in the world.

Street lighting too was pioneered in Blackpool. Until 1879 municipal street lighting was provided by gas, then in a flash of brilliance, the Council set aside £5000 to test 8 dynamo powered ‘Arc’ lights, six on the promenade and two on Victoria (North) Pier. The Switch on was advertised widely advertised and tens of thousands of people came to see the magnificent ‘Artificial Sunshine’, street lighting was born in Blackpool.

The famous ‘Illuminations’ followed in 1912, with a huge ‘switch on’ ceremony for a 10,000 lamp display, around Princess Parade was headed by Princess Louise, the Princess Royal. The display was so successful that the council planned a re-run of the illuminations in September of the same year, and every year since, apart from war years

The Tower

1891 saw the laying the Foundation Stone of what has become an iconic symbol of Seaside holiday, Blackpool Tower. The tower was built using cutting edge technology of the time ‘Portable Hydraulic Riveting’, pioneered on the Tower and still used Worldwide today.

The structural engineers employed to build the Tower, also invented the ‘Water Brake Dynomometer’, used in the newly built Tower Aquarium.

TVR Cars

In 1946, local boy Trevor Wilkinson established an engineering company, repairing fairground rides and motor cars in Blackpool. By 1949 Trevcar Motors (later TVR) produced its first lightweight motor car chassis.  TVR introduced a car manufacturing production system known as ‘iStream’, cutting the manufacturing processes to 25% of the size of a traditional process and using 60% less energy.

Jaguar Cars

Another local boy, William ‘Billy’ Lyons, who attended Arnold School, joined William Walmsley, a neighbour, to start small business to produce Swallow Motor Cycle Sidecars, later converting the bodies of Austin 7’s to stylish designs. Swallow changed its name to Jaguar Cars in 1935, moving away from Blackpool to Coventry to meet increasing demand.

Gledhill’s

Blackpool’s own Gledhill Engineering pioneered insulated hot water cylinders in 1965. More recently introducing ‘Lightweight’ hot water cylinders using a new ‘circumferential’ welding technology.

Microwave

Technology was always at the forefront in the teaching in the college. Way back in 1947 when the Head of Engineering, R.H. Garner and Head of Catering, William Rees-Jones, worked on the technology known during the war, when RADAR Technicians noticed they could cook sausages when placing them close to the Radar transmitter. The Bakery Department decided to try and beat the record set by the Italians to produce a loaf within 2 hours. The Departments worked together to produce an oven based on those early RADAR experiences and techniques applied to the early plastics industry. The ‘Dialectric’ oven was shown at the ‘Country Comes to Town’ exhibition at Stanley Park, Blackpool. The loaves were cooked in 4 minutes! The Heads took their ‘invention’ to a number of commercial and universities, the largest, GEC suggested there would no commercial value in the project!

In the 80’s and 90’s Courtfield flourished, leading the way in contemporary cooking and preparation methods and new technology: Microwave, ‘Induction’, ‘Sous Vide’.

Blackpool and The Fylde College has recently opened its Advanced Technology Centre on the Bispham Campus. It will enhance skills in advanced engineering and manufacturing industry. In a further development. In a further development, the College and Lancashire Enterprise Partnership has established Lancashire Energy HQ in Blackpool. The new facility aims to support renewable and low-carbon energy generation, and traditional oil and gas industries.

ERNIE

Premium Bond’s ‘Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment’, or ‘ERNIE’, was invented by one of the original Bletchley Park code breakers in 1956. Since 1957, there have been four generations of ERNIE. With continuous advances in technology, each has become faster and smaller. If ERNIE 1 were still in use today, it would take over 100 days to complete a draw. ERNIE 4 only takes around 5 hours!

The Premium Bonds office was based in St Annes-on-Sea until it moved to a new site in Marton, Blackpool in 1978.

MPC
Sept 2017