Hunt for Doc Martin scene ship
PUBLISHED: 20:49 03 September 2015 | UPDATED: 20:49 03 September 2015
A POPULAR topic here is the appearance of classic vehicles bearing Great Yarmouth's original and exclusive index letters - EX. Two have been in television favourite Downton Abbey, for example. Today we follow a similar trend, albeit water-borne.
John Clarke, a former Yarmouthian long domiciled in Dorset, reports spotting a boat bearing our familiar YH port registration (YH563) in a a West Country harbour scene during a recent episode TV’s Doc Martin.
My friend Ken Hemp, of Belton, trawled through a list of all the YH drifters from the early 20th century, but for some reason, there was never a YH563. He did find a 50-ton sailing trawler (YH563) in 1879; she was once part of the dominant Hewett fleet but was sold to Holland in 1914.
So she was not the boat in the Doc Martin programme.
Ken had also noticed YH563 on television, describing her as probably made from fibreglass, with a wheelhouse forward and an open well to the stern. John Clarke and I decided that as she was merely in the background and not involved in the plot, it must be a genuine registration.
When puzzled, try Google! And the internet search giant came up trumps.YH563 is the 16ft Highlight, based in Port Isaac in Cornwall where the light-hearted medical drama series is filmed although it purports to be Portwenn. She is constructed from fibreglass and is a fishing craft with a licence to catch shellfish.
From the late 1980s, official registration of ships and boats was centralised from local port offices to a Government department. Yarmouth is listed among 39 others, but since that transfer it has become officially “Great Yarmouth” whereas I recall that hitherto the “Great” was not permitted, only the “Yarmouth”.
In the Seventies, when Norfolk Line’s frequent roll-on/roll-off ferries between here and Holland kept our port busy, I flew to the Netherlands to cover the launch of the Duke of Norfolk. There was an amusing – or embarrassing, depending on viewpoint – glitch at the naming ceremony when it was pointed out that her official port of registration had to be Yarmouth and not Great Yarmouth.
So the “Great” was obliterated, but its removal meant that the “Yarmouth” was thereafter no longer central beneath her name, Duke of Norfolk.
Apparently ship owners have freedom of choice over which of the UK’s 40 official ports of registration to select. Somehow I doubt if many new Great Yarmouth registrations are made nowadays, other than small craft like the Alicats being produced at the former Fellows/Richards shipyard at Southtown.
I cannot remember the last time I saw a bigger vessel with Yarmouth or Great Yarmouth on her stern. Perhaps that is because they no longer berth in the river where the public can see them but are secreted away in the Outer Harbour for some obscure reason.
As for Great Yarmouth-registered fishing craft, like the Highlight spotted in TV’s Doc Martin, they retain the traditional YH prefix and numbers, like the fleet of local herring drifters before that fishery dwindled to nought in the Sixties.
So from our riverside, let us return to Bells Road, once a prime Gorleston shopping area and featured in several columns lately. Reader Angela Bailey, of Beccles Road, Bradwell, was prompted to write when she saw my photograph of Bussey’s grocery and provision shop in a previous column.
The shop was on the corner of Bells and Springfield Roads, and Angela (nee Holt) writes: “I was born on Springfield Road and as child I loved going into Bussey’s. It had a long shiny wooden counter the whole length of the shop, and beautiful glass-fronted cupboards which housed sugar and dried fruit, all weighed on big brass scales and presented in thick blue bags.
“At the far end of the shop were the bacon and cheese and a huge bacon slicer. There was always a big fluffy cat curled up on a chair – and one day it scratched me!”
As for Mrs Edith Adams’ off-licence, “we used to collect Corona bottles, and when we had enough, we would return them to her for twopence each (just under today’s decimal penny) and she would give us a new bottle of Corona.
“Bert Wells had a cycle repair shop almost opposite the chip shop, and my brother as a boy used to make and paint price signs for him to earn a few pence.
“At the top of Bells Road was Mr Ward, the shoe mender. I can still remember the lovely smell of his shop. Then there was a greengrocer, and next to that was the butcher’s where on a Saturday my Mum would send me to buy a piece of topside for about 12 shillings (60p today). Considering there were five of us, that was quite a bargain by today’s standards.
“I have very fond memories of Bells Road and feel sad that it seems so quiet now.”
Fizzy drink Corona has long disappeared, presumably robbed of its commercial sparkle by numerous competitors. Its early novelty was its wire-hinged stopper which could never be detached, enabling bottles to be reused.