Unique record of life at sea

George Greaves' study of a Hastings fishing boat
George Greaves' study of a Hastings fishing boat

A NEW book captures the memories and experiences of those working in the Hastings fishing industry and gives an insight into the working of a trade deeply rooted in the history of the town.

Voices from the Hastings Stade is a collection of transcribed interviews with members of the Hastings fishing industry.

The interviewees reminisce, express their concerns and speculate on what lies ahead for the Hastings fishing industry. Locals know that the fishermen have an accent and vocabulary that is unlike any other and this is clearly apparent in the verbatim transcriptions.

The contributors to the book in content order are: Charlie ‘Perkins’ Adams, Jimmy ‘Toller’ Adams, Peter Adams, John Barrow, Mick Barrow, Steve Barrow, Graham Coglan, John ‘Tush’ Hamilton, Paul Joy, Peter Kenward, Jack Simmons, John ‘Siddy’ Starr, Brian Stent, Doug White and 
Mark Woodley.

All convey an unflinchingly honest view of life as a Hastings fisherman.

The repetition of surnames and inherited nicknames reveals to what extent fishing in Hastings is a family business, as it has been for many generations - some of the names reach back to the Domesday Book.

The birth dates of the fishermen who recounted their stories for the book range from 1925 to 1976, and their stories span the aftermath of one world war to surviving the second, in which some of them served.

All men told of financial hardship and of having to find work ashore to augment the unreliable income from the sea. Some took to fishing as soon as they were legally old enough, others tried different callings before they answered that of the sea, either by choice or necessity.

Despite the use of up-to-date equipment and modern technology, fishing is still a hard and dangerous occupation.

To quote one fisherman: “We’re the last of the hunters. We live off our wits and by the knowledge we learn over time.”

Paul Joy, who is chairman of the Fishermen’s Protection Society, is not only well-known locally but has been widely seen on TV news programmes and documentaries covering varied subjects, from the current state and future of the fishing industry, to fish-cooking programmes.

Paul has kindly consented to sit for the annual public portrait painting by Hastings artist Juliette Dodd, at this year’s Books Born in Hastings Exhibition.

The sitting and exhibition will take place in the council chamber at Hastings town hall at noon on Saturday, October 12.

The exhibition, mounted by local authors, illustrators and publishers, opens at 10.30am. There is no admission charge and there will be free tea, coffee and light refreshments are available.

Voices from the Hastings Stade priced £7.50, edited by Peter Broughton and Philip Ormsby, is available from Hastings Fishermen’s Museum and from Victoria Seymour’s stand at the Books Born in Hastings Exhibition.

The Fishermen’s Museum at Rock-a-Nore is open daily, 10am to 5pm.

Formerly the Fishermen’s Church, it now exhibits many fishing artefacts of yesteryear, the centrepiece of which is The Enterprise, one of the last Hastings sailing luggers.

Entry is free but donations are welcome.