Ex-trawlermen sought for new Cod War film

Fisherman's reunion at Fleetwood Conservative Club.'L-R  Leon O'Flaherty, Carole Newsham, Nora O'Flaherty and Billy Wade.
Fisherman's reunion at Fleetwood Conservative Club.'L-R Leon O'Flaherty, Carole Newsham, Nora O'Flaherty and Billy Wade.

A film maker is planning to shoot a short documentary about the demise of Fleetwood’s fishing industry.

And Simon Sharp wants to hear from ex-trawlermen who have plenty to say about their experiences after their livelihoods were destroyed as a result of the Cod Wars.

The conflict with Iceland in the 1970s finally resulted in British deep sea fishermen being excluded from the Icelandic fishing grounds they had fished for generations.

In Fleetwood, the fall-out was catastrophic, mainly for the fishermen but also for other dockside industries which relied on the fleet for work.

Within a few short years, the big distance water trawlers which had packed Fleetwood docks for years were gone, with thousands of fishermen having to look for alternative work.

Some went to work in the North Sea on standby boats for the oil industry, or towing vessels.

Others transferred to the small inshore boats.

Yet even this industry was eventually to be hit by a different menace - tough EU quotas under the Common Fisheries Policy which affected earning power and shrank this fleet down to a mere handful.

And other deep sea fishermen left the sea altogether and took work with land-based employers such the old ICI site in Thornton.

Years later a Government compensation scheme was set up to help those whose livelihoods were damaged, but even this scheme proved hit and miss.

Simon, 42, who lives near Chorley and has made a number of online documentary films, is hoping to distil several hours of footage down to a 20 minute film, which will be available online.

He said: “I prefer my subjects to do the talking and I am looking for people who are passionate about what happened to the Fleetwood fishing industry and want to relay their experiences.

“I am not looking to create a dry history lesson - I don’t want to tell people what happened, I want to show them, through the words of the men themselves.

“These people are priceless - in a few years they will be gone and those amazing experiences will be lost forever.

“I want to capture just a little of that experience for posterity. Not enough is known about these stories, outside the fishing ports themselves.”

One ex-fisherman, Leon O’Flaherty, has been contacted by Simon.

Leon, 69, of Leven Avenue, Fleetwood, spent some 30 years at sea, including eight years on the inshore boats, and said: “Deep sea fishing was a tough, dangerous job, three weeks at sea, three days off, then back to sea.

“What made it enjoyable was the camaraderie you got with the crews, who would mostly be Fleetwood lads you’d known for years. That’s something we all missed when the industry died - no other job was like it.”

Simon can be contacted on 01772 600585.