Artwork on the move in Yarmouth and Gorleston
MOVING pictures – no, not cinema-type movies – have acquired a new meaning in Great Yarmouth and Gorleston in the past year or two. Admittedly, it is only an occasional glimpse, just once a week, and you have to be in the right place at the right time to be able to admire and enjoy this treat in the traffic.
In particular, port enthusiasts and lovers of maritime matters will be smitten by the admirable images.
Many once-familiar commercial vehicles have disappeared from the borough’s streets through business closures, relocation and rationalising. Names and liveries once familiar hereabouts have gone. For example, we have been deprived of refrigerated BirdsEye “artics”, timber lorries from importers Jewson and Palgrave and Brown, Bessey and Palmer coal delivery vehicles, Matthes and Purdy bakers’ vans, fishing industry lorries and mechanised brewery drays with Steward and Patteson or Lacons sign-written on them.
So, what are these “moving pictures”?
Well, they are paintings of a bustling major port harking back to prewar. No, not dear old Yarmouth, for the main vessel depicted would probably be too large even to get into our new outer harbour. Because the paintings cover both entire sides of a 54ft articulated trailer bearing Dutch number-plates, there are no words telling us what business it is about: indeed, putting this information on the pictures would detract from them.
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That the rig carries Netherlands number plates leads to the correct assumption that the port scene is also from that nation. It is Rotterdam, and the main ship is one of the famous Holland-America luxury liners, probably one bearing the same name as the port.
The cargo being transported in the long trailer? Yes, Dutch flowers. The doors at the back reveal Dutch Quality Flowers
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For several months I had been intrigued by this scenic sensation, but whenever I chanced upon it, I was either unable to stop while driving or on a bus, or without a camera anyway. It was usually parked beside Floral Designs on the corner of Church Lane and Magdalen Way in Gorleston, delivering fresh blooms from across the North Sea.
Then my luck was in, for it was pulling away from that florist as I drove past and, because my camera was in my car, I followed it. My luck was in, for within a couple of minutes it stopped outside The Rose Garden on Middleton Road.
Trying to ask questions of the Dutch driver and his mate as they busily unloaded flowers galore and checked their paperwork was not easy, for they had a tight schedule to catch a ferry back to their base in Holland.
Their gleaming new rig belongs to a wholesaler and visits the borough once a week, I gathered, making five calls, bringing beautiful blooms across the North Sea on a Hook of Holland to Harwich roll-on/roll-off ferry. The driver agreed that the superb art-work on either side of the long trailer does attract envious and interested attention. It’s a wonder that it has not proved a hazard to other road users as drivers suddenly spot it, crane their necks for a better view...and lose their awareness and concentration momentarily.
The breathtaking scenes both depict the same location and shipping but are different from one another. They were executed by Paul Kerrebijn, a leading Dutch illustrator and artist who specialises in “industrial” settings rather than pretty-pretty landscapes or still life. He did not paint them on the trailer, of course, but his original was subjected to a bit of technical wizardry and placed on the sides, probably given a protective coating.
I estimate that the era was the Twenties when transatlantic cruising was much in vogue among the monied. Research leads me to believe that the twin-funnel liner depicted is the Rotterdam; it has the Holland-America funnel markings, and could be the 650ft vessel built in 1908 to carry more than 3000 passengers and scrapped in 1940.
Also under steam in the illustration is a passenger ferry, busily plying her way around the large port.
It reminded me that in 1973 Yarmouth was a port-of-call for a Holland-America ship, the 614ft Veendam – the former Argentina, expensively refitted for the evolving cruise market. The owners were experimenting with a different voyage, visiting “attractive English resorts, places where we can anchor near the shore.”
The line’s UK managing director told me at the time: “We decided to include Yarmouth because we thought this part of England has something unusual to offer and it is not well known to many continental tourists.”
The plan was for her to anchor half a-mile offshore after crossing from Rotterdam, then a simple ferry trip ashore for her passengers while she was clearly visible to eager onlookers on Yarmouth and Gorleston’s seafronts and piers. But recent depth soundings by the Royal Navy revealed that there might be only nine inches of water beneath her keel at the chosen anchorage point, so she had to heave to farther out.
That, coupled with a haze, meant ship and shore were out of sight of one another! It also lengthened the trip to the Fishwharf by her own launches and the Yarmouth pleasure steamer Norwich Belle, chartered for the day. Coaches awaited for passengers and took them to see Norfolk sights; but those who opted to stay in Yarmouth found most shops closed because it was Thursday - early closing day!
Holland-America never returned to Yarmouth.
I enjoyed the day for, as I was covering the Veendam’s visit, I was among the civic party led by mayor and mayoress Bill and Olive Davy. We were entertained on board for a few hours before being ferried ashore so she could sail to her next port of call after a disappointing day here.