Beginning working life at 14 as a net braider (or perhaps initially only ‘filling the needle’ for someone with experience who braided the fishing nets), and finishing it at 60 ‘on the line’ producing supermarket ready meals, is a life story I hear from time to time when making a visit before a Funeral. I often say of such a life that it demonstrates the Grimsby story. Before the Second World War the support network for the huge trawler fleet landing fish here shaped whole communities. By the 1980s the number of boats landing fish was tiny but the Fish Market on the docks remains the largest in the country and the food processing industry had become a significant employer instead.
In 2001, I took quite a different Funeral. It was for Ralph Williams whose huge refrigerated trucks transported lots of this fish (perhaps landed in Scotland and brought for sale in Grimsby or bought in Grimsby and taken to be processed elsewhere). His family told me that his grandfather had run a fish cart business on the docks so the development of his firm also illustrates the Grimsby story, right through to being taken over by Quayside four years after his death.
Ralph’s widow Marie, a neighbour of St Michael’s, a kind and generous person, and a quite presence not only on Sunday morning but also at our mid-week Communion, died yesterday. We shall miss her a great deal. I was driving by the docks soon after I heard and went in to take these pictures: one of Ralph Williams’ now half derelict buildings on the North Wall (representing the large number of trawlers which used to dock there and the small family businesses which used to support them) and one of Quayside’s trucks (representing the continued life of the new high tech Fish Market at which it is just beginning to unload). We thank God for Ralph and Marie Williams.