Grimsby: far from a comically grim fishing port

There's more to the place than you might know from watching Sacha Baron Cohen's comedy film, writes Charles Kenyon

Charles Kenyon
Charles Kenyon

Viewers of Sacha Baron Cohen's Lincolnshire epic Grimsby, filmed in Tilbury, Essex, with mostly Yorkshire accents, might not know that in the 1950s Grimsby was the biggest fishing port in the world. The work was well paid (skippers had special baggy suits to carry the cash) but it was dangerous.

During the Second World War, 2,400 men were lost in Grimsby trawlers used for inshore naval service, and the town was bombed heavily. At one time, about 700 trawlers operated from the port, but this has been reduced to about five thanks to the Cod Wars with Iceland in the 1970s and EU fishing policy directives. Thousands of fishing families lost their livelihoods and many widows face old age without 2support from their traditional wider seafaring family.

I came to know the Grimsby Fishermen's Dependents Fund when using it to administer our local almshouses and learned about the scale of voluntary sector support for former fishing families and the many charities and missions involved. The fund has now linked with the Grimsby Sailors' and Fishing Charity, which specialises in providing housing for people over 60. It looks after elderly people associated with the 1950s heyday. Even though Grimsby fish retain a certain cachet in the restaurant industry, most of the catch that goes through the modern fish market comes from countries such as Norway or Spain, some of it even lorried in from other ports. The film is quite funny and I hope it might prompt a bit of extra charity for the area.

Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen,

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