The Hull Trawler Challenge

I’ve been visiting James Morley’s web site What’s That Picture? for some time now, partly because he has an interesting collection of old photographs of his own, but also for the series of User Galleries containing some interesting images submitted by visitors to the site. However, the images in his set of hand coloured lantern slides which he has made the subject of his Hull Trawler Challenge are nothing short of spectacular.

With James’ permission, I would like to reproduce a few of these photographs here, as I think they are so unusually evocative of a way of life which is long gone, and probably quite foreign to most of us. Some readers whose ancestors were fishermen may find them particularly relevant and interesting. I hope, too, that this preview will give you a taste for more, and that you will want to view the entire, remarkable Hull Trawler collection hosted at Flickr. I think it’s well worth directing more readers to this interesting research project, in the hope that more clues to the background story behind the photographs and the photographer will be uncovered in due course.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture?
Hull Trawler H413 SS New Zealand
Hand coloured glass lantern slide
Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What’s That Picture?
The series of seventy eight lantern slides consist predominantly of photographs taken aboard two fishing trawlers from a fleet that was based in Hull (aka Kingston-upon-Hull, Yorkshire), a port on the north bank of the River Humber estuary on the north-east coast of England. The SS New Zealand (shown above) was built in Hull in 1898 and owned and operated by the Hull Steam Fishing & Ice Co Ltd. until being requisitioned as a troopship in 1916. It is during this early period of the ship’s life, i.e. in the decade or so prior to the ship’s war service, that the photographs appear to have been taken.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture?
Fishermen at work aboard SS New Zealand
Hand coloured glass lantern slide
Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What’s That Picture?
Some of the images show men at work bringing aboard or sorting fish.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture?
Fishermen eating, possibly aboard SS New Zealand
Hand coloured glass lantern slide
Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What’s That Picture?
Many more depict them eating, …

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture?
Fishermen relaxing aboard Hull trawler H1 SS Canada
Hand coloured glass lantern slide
Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What’s That Picture?
… relaxing …

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture?
Fishermen posing for the camera aboard SS New Zealand
Hand coloured glass lantern slide
Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What’s That Picture?
… or in groups deliberately posed for the camera, albeit on a violently pitching deck, complete with pets. Both cats and dogs appear in several of the images.

Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What's That Picture?
Heavy seas encountered aboard SS New Zealand
Black and white glass lantern slide
Image © and courtesy of James Morley & What’s That Picture?
While many of the photographs were obviously taken under relatively calm conditions, there are a significant number that clearly show heavy seas and a violently pitching deck, conditions that would have been commonly encountered by fishing fleets in the North Sea. The image above depicts a situation that I wouldn’t want to have been anywhere near carrying a digital camera, let along the cumbersome photographic equipment that would have been required a hundred years ago. Nineteenth century newspapers e.g. the The Hull Packet and East Riding Times, are full of reports of sailors and fisherman lost at sea by being washed overboard, and it must have been a very dangerous means to earn a living.

Although my own ancestors from Norfolk, also on the east coast facing the North Sea, were largely farming folk, while searching parish registers I came across several entries for burials of unidentified bodies found washed up on the beach, presumably men who had been lost at sea and presumed drowned. It was obviously not an rare occurrence.

The images provide a wonderful insight into the lives of these hardy men, a lifestyle that has all but vanished, and I urge you to visit the Hull Trawler Challenge pages and browse the full set of full size images here. Many thanks to James Morley for permission to reproduce the images.

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~ by gluepot on Monday, May 18, 2009.

2 Responses to “The Hull Trawler Challenge”

  1. >The coloured slides are absolutely stunning. Wow!

  2. >I’m glad you enjoyed them, I guess as much as I did.Oh, and I suppose it’s a little late, but welcome to NZ from a fellow immigrant. 🙂

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