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A Fishing Family History by Pat Cammish

Arts Richmond

Online - 16 June 2020

A Fishing Family History by Pat Cammish

A Fishing Family History                                                                                               


A parcel came from Yorkshire  last week

A treasure chest so to speak,

Delicate documents, photos fading,

Fishing logbooks, bills of lading,

From the past



The family was totally in thrall to the sea

Along that bleak coast, south of Whitby.

 In small clinkered cobles*, launched off the sands,

The lives of the men were in their own hands,

On the deep.



Census returns in long ago,

Spidery handwriting, still let us know

That three times Great-Grandfather lived on Main Street,

 Six sailor sons made his life complete,

And a daughter.



Photos spill out, a sepia drift,

Pale proof of existence of lives spent in thrift.

Two times Great-Grandfather Edmond looks worn.

His lugger, the Diligence suffered a storm,

And went down.



There, by the t'owd wall, Great-Grandfather bides

In family gansey* surveying the tides

From the end of the street facing the sea,

Where his beautiful sons, fishers all three,

Were drowned.



Grandfather Robert the only one  left,

Refusing the sea, set up shop with hands deft,

To make sea-boots for those still venturing the waves,

Defying the storms - and filling the graves

In the churchyard.



There's, Aunt Betsy's five-year-old face,

Beside your father dressed all in lace.

Next she stands, decked out like a flapper,

Then she's posed with her bridegroom dapper.

She's gone now.



Oh! that must be you in Dan Dare braces

Wrinkled socks, loose shoelaces.

That's our wedding at the Church on the cliff,

Both  smiling out at the future, as if

We're immortal.


by Pat Cammish





*coble :-   (pronounced cobble) open wooden fishing boat with high prow                           and shallow draught for beach launching. Its design said to be                             based on that of  Viking longboats.


*gansey:-  navy blue wool, hand-knitted sweater with traditional patterned                          stitches. The patterns were specific to each family which aided                           the identification of victims of drowning.




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