A Fishing Family History by Pat Cammish
Online - 16 June 2020
A Fishing Family History
A parcel came from Yorkshire last week
A treasure chest so to speak,
Delicate documents, photos fading,
Fishing logbooks, bills of lading,
From the past
The family was totally in thrall to the sea
Along that bleak coast, south of Whitby.
In small clinkered cobles*, launched off the sands,
The lives of the men were in their own hands,
On the deep.
Census returns in long ago,
Spidery handwriting, still let us know
That three times Great-Grandfather lived on Main Street,
Six sailor sons made his life complete,
And a daughter.
Photos spill out, a sepia drift,
Pale proof of existence of lives spent in thrift.
Two times Great-Grandfather Edmond looks worn.
His lugger, the Diligence suffered a storm,
And went down.
There, by the t'owd wall, Great-Grandfather bides
In family gansey* surveying the tides
From the end of the street facing the sea,
Where his beautiful sons, fishers all three,
Grandfather Robert the only one left,
Refusing the sea, set up shop with hands deft,
To make sea-boots for those still venturing the waves,
Defying the storms - and filling the graves
In the churchyard.
There's, Aunt Betsy's five-year-old face,
Beside your father dressed all in lace.
Next she stands, decked out like a flapper,
Then she's posed with her bridegroom dapper.
She's gone now.
Oh! that must be you in Dan Dare braces
Wrinkled socks, loose shoelaces.
That's our wedding at the Church on the cliff,
Both smiling out at the future, as if
by Pat Cammish
*coble :- (pronounced cobble) open wooden fishing boat with high prow and shallow draught for beach launching. Its design said to be based on that of Viking longboats.
*gansey:- navy blue wool, hand-knitted sweater with traditional patterned stitches. The patterns were specific to each family which aided the identification of victims of drowning.
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