Discover The Boy James

A group of retired fishermen are inviting people to find out more about the life of a traditional fishing boat they have been restoring on Clifford’s Fort outside the Old Low Light Heritage Centre on North Shields Fish Quay.

On Friday 21 July at 10.30am they will be available at the Boy James coble to talk about the coble’s history as a local fishing boat, including pointing out some of the fishing grounds beyond the piers and describing the challenges involved when working on a coble. They will also talk about their project to restore it. The outdoor session will last up to an hour.

Places at £4pp can be booked by clicking on the button above.

Similar sessions are planned for the coming months – watch out for details.

The coble was used to fish along the North East coast for 55 years before being given to the retired fishermen to restore so it could be used to help raise awareness of the local fishing industry and traditional fishing methods.

One member of the group, Mick Smith, who fished on the coble said: “We know that a lot of people are interested in the coble because when we have been carrying out restoration work, they have come over and asked questions.

“Now that the restoration is complete, we are keen to use the Boy James as a way of explaining the important part played by cobles in the local fishing industry. From Clifford’s Fort where she is standing, we can even look out to the last places where the Boy James worked.”

Mick will be joined by other members of the group who have extensive experience over many years of fishing on different types of boats.

The coble was built at Dawson’s boatyard in Seahouses in 1960 and named the Violet Stevenson (BK 124). Isaac Stevenson and his sons fished on the coble from Boulmer harbour until she was deregistered in 2010.

She was then owned by Hector Handyside, a master coble boat builder at Amble who carried out some restoration work. Three years later she was bought by Dennis, known as Ned, Clark and his son Peter and renamed Boy James after Peter’s first-born child.

For two years Peter used the Boy James to fish from the south side of South Shields pier (known to local fishermen as ‘the playground’) and from the south side of South Shields beach. It was during this period that Mick Smith worked on the coble.

Eventually, due to changes in regulations, it was becoming unviable to continue using the coble so it was decided she should go into retirement and be on view to the public on Clifford’s Fort.

Mick got hooked on fishing when as a young apprentice electrician at Alnwick he used to go down to Amble and ask the local fishermen to take him out to sea with them. He wanted to go and work on trawlers but his parents were not keen so instead he joined the Merchant Navy, before coming ashore when he got married and later joining the police. Even during his police career, fishing was a big pull and on days off, he went out to sea. He then left the police force and worked on various fishing boats. This included helping the Clark family to build a trawler called the Luc that he worked on for 40 years.



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