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Seafood book unearthed vessels registration surprise

PUBLISHED: 09:48 09 December 2017 | UPDATED: 09:48 09 December 2017

The D'Arcy Cooper, featured in the painting. Picture: KEN HEMP COLLECTION

The D'Arcy Cooper, featured in the painting. Picture: KEN HEMP COLLECTION

Picture: KEN HEMP COLLECTION

One thing leads to another, it is claimed, but in this case the outcome was four others!

The sailing drifter Boy Harry, over a century ago. Picture: KEN HEMP COLLECTION The sailing drifter Boy Harry, over a century ago. Picture: KEN HEMP COLLECTION

Our River Yare became a tidal Memory Lane - all because a man on the other side of England bought a book about seafood recipes in a charity shop!

Browsing through his purchase seeking a recipe he fancied Jim Meehan, of Crosby, near Liverpool, came across a monochrome picture of a painting captioned “Drifters leaving Gorleston”. As none of the three drifters’ names was visible, and he was curious, he Googled online the only identification he could spot: YH370.

That, of course, was a Great Yarmouth port registration, and on to Jim’s computer screen came my email address plus my 2015 column about YH registered small boats spotted by ITV viewers in “Doc Martin” programmes, filmed in Cornwall.

Also, that feature mentioned the Autumn Sun (YH370), skippered by my late father when she hit severe weather off Cornwall in the 1960s and had to seek help from the St Ives lifeboat during a 10-hour ordeal.

Short-lived: the Copious, blown up by a mine within her first year. Picture: STANLEY EARL COLLECTION Short-lived: the Copious, blown up by a mine within her first year. Picture: STANLEY EARL COLLECTION

When Jim contacted me, I had to point out that the YH370 in the painting was not the Autumn Sun! And it scotched my long-held belief that port registrations “died” when a boat was scrapped or lost, and were not reallocated.

The painting was by nationally-acclaimed artist Rowland Fisher (1885-1969), of Upper Cliff Road, Gorleston.

In the foreground is the steam drifter, YH370. Further research showed that in the 20th century no fewer than four YH370s were in our drifter fleet, the number passed on when previous holders surrendered it.

Years ago Ken Hemp of Belton gave me a list of Yarmouth fishing vessel registrations in 1907, 1913, 1923, 1937 and 1953 from which I ascertained that before the Autumn Sun was built in 1956, two other drifters had been YH370. In 1907 the Boy Harry was listed, a wind-powered sailing drifter - clearly not the vessel in the painting.

Heading out of our twin piers for the fishing grounds: the painting which sparked the search. Picture: ROWLAND FISHER Heading out of our twin piers for the fishing grounds: the painting which sparked the search. Picture: ROWLAND FISHER

Thirty years later, YH370 was the D’Arcy Cooper, one of the dominant Bloomfield fleet and named after the chairman of Lever Brothers (later Unilever); YH392, the Hilda Cooper, was named after his wife. Possibly they were the only drifters in the large Bloomfield fleet not to bear the “Ocean” prefix, often preceding names of the conglomerate’s products - like Ocean Lifebuoy, Vim, Lux, Sunlight...

Then Stanley Earl, secretary of the Port of Lowestoft Research Society, surprised me by locating a fourth YH370 - the Copious, built in 1914 for the local Eastick family but sunk after striking a mine in the Corton Gap, with the loss of all hands, in the November.

The picture in Jim Meehan’s book was in monochrome whereas the original painting was obviously in colour, helping identification - for example, with funnel markings and hull. But accomplished artist and port lover John Clifford, of Springfield Road, Gorleston, was confident he had a copy of the painting somewhere and trawled through his reference books and memorabilia until he found it... pasted in a scrapbook!

It had been used in colour as a calendar picture, and the funnel was distinctive - a pink-ish bottom, separated from the black top by two silver rings - the Bloomfield livery. So it was indeed the D’Arcy Cooper, commandeered for war service in 1939 but sunk after being attacked by German aircraft off Harwich in 1941.

The Autumn Sun, whose skippers included Peggotty's father. Picture: KEN HEMP COLLECTION The Autumn Sun, whose skippers included Peggotty's father. Picture: KEN HEMP COLLECTION

Gorleston-born Rowland Fisher, son of a master mariner, specialised in seascapes although he was equally adept in other subjects. In 1927 he and other professional and amateur artists helped to found the Great Yarmouth and District Society of Artists which recently celebrated its 90th anniversary with an annual exhibition.

Fisher enjoyed holidays painting in the West Country and was elected to membership of the St Ives Society of Artists.

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