Ron Wilkinson

Ron discusses his life as a fishermen, starting from his first trip as a cook’s assistant to eventually becoming a skipper. He discusses life on board ships, the dangers at sea and life at home alongside other aspects of the industry. He also discusses leaving the industry and becoming first a teacher and then a driver before finally retiring.

Media No: 1103
Interviewee Forename: Ron
Interviewee Surname: Wilkinson
Year of Birth 1936
Interviewer: Dan Dearing
Location: Interviewee’s Home
Date of Interview: 22/02/2017
Duration (HH:MM:SS): 01:39:22


Time Code Notes

[00:00:00] Talk about earliest memories of brothers who were fishermen. Had much better pay than shore workers, could take families out. Saw fishermen as exciting and wondered what life would be like as one. Went on ‘pleasure trip’ as an 11 year old on trawler for 3 weeks. Was very sea sick.

[00:03:32] More detail on first pleasure trip and description of being sea sick.

[00:05:30] Left school without any qualifications, natural employer was fishing industry. Started off as shore worker but saw it as dead end job. Fishing industry offered better pay, and was an opportunity to advance. Had a bit of adventure about it, never thought about danger but had excitement and anticipation about it.

[00:08:30] Views on other fishermen. Story of brother in law who was captured during the war and was glamorous to him.

[00:10:00] Got into industry through family member. Could just sign on a ship and give it a go without any  training. Good description of progression from Cooks assistant to deck crew and differences between factions.

[00:15:00] More description of first working trip and seasickness. Talks about staying on in the industry which goes into section about pride of being part of the industry.

[00:19:34] Talks about the ‘jaundiced’ view of fishermen, as being always drunk. ‘You wouldn’t come home and go to church’. Fishermen were looked down on – local judge was seen as having a thing against fishermen, though most were good.

[00:22:40] Dangers of fishing – didn’t think about it much. It was just like going to work in a morning. Tragedies made you think a bit, but you just a carried on. Talk about dangers at sea, ships icing up and capsizing, ‘dodging’ bad weather.

[00:27:40] Talks about experience on Kingston Peridot (subsequently lost), when the ship ‘laid down’ in rough seas. Sees that as closest call. Considers himself to have been lucky in his time at sea.

[00:29:27] Question asking him describe experience on trawler in rough seas, instead goes into thoughts about what fishermen would have gone through knowing they were trapped and in serious danger.

[00:33:30] Was just going trip to trip, but becoming married man with responsibilities changed it from an adventure into a occupation.

[00:35:50] How the money was worked out and divided between the crew.

[00:39:00] Having money as young man. Talk of clubs and pubs around city that he would visit, local artists he would watch.

[00:42:30] Talk about situation of weeks at sea followed by a few days at home. Only gap would be ships refit for a month or so. How work would be be arranged from ship to ship. Talk about trawler owners and how unsympathetic they were to workers.

[00:47:50]  No real job security. At lower levels you would be kept on if you did a good job. Skippers and mates ‘were only as good as their last trip’.

[00:50:50] Talk about life on ship. You had to get on with people, nowhere else to go. Good cook was important for ship morale. Lots of examples of food that they ate.

[00:58:00] Recreation time on board. Different work schedule on way out and back. Music and card games. Technically wasn’t supposed to drink aboard, but most people did. Drinking was done on way out, no one was stupid enough to drink when actually fishing.

[01:03:10] Rituals and superstitions of industry. His opinion is it was mostly in the mind of writers. Wives were more superstitious then the men – i.e. not washing on the day he went away.

[01:06:10] Detailed description of typical day when actually fishing.

[01:10:30] How hard the work was, how tired you would be at the end.

[01:12:20] What it was like having a family and being away. Thinks it was more difficult for the wives, they had to do everything, running the household. Got more time at home in later years. Talk about switch to stern trawlers at much longer trips away, he never went on these. Phone interrupts interview.

[01:17:30] Description of modern trawler and facilities on board and how they compare. Phone interrupts again.

[01:20:33] Small interruption. Facilities on board trawler in his day. Improved through 60s and 70s. Career progression through to skipper. More detail on requirements to move through ranks. Failed to progress past boatswain at first due to eyesight, then rules were changed. Spent year as skipper when industry was in decline.

[01:27:10] Decides to leave industry due to work drying up. Went into teaching at the nautical college for 3 years. Then went to Saudi Arabia for 15 years to teach. Couldn’t retire at first so got jobs driving taxis and deliveries. Adjustment to spending time at home.

[01:33:20] Reaction to industry declining. Thinks things could have been handled much better.

[01:35:00] Talks about notable memories. Lost Trawlermen’s day and installing memorial on St.Andrews Quay. Pride at becoming skipper. Thinks lots of fishing memories will be lost.

These time code notes are provided as a rough guide to the above recording. Untold Hull would like to thank all the volunteers who took part for their time and hard work in producing this information.