Comrade – Society History – 1990’s

1990 – ‘Spilling the Wind’, Shanties and Race Revival

Following filming last September, David Beresford’s half hour documentary, “Spilling the Wind”, finally aired on Yorkshire Television at 10.30 on April 26. The programme was beautifully made with a blend of sailing shots, old photographs, interviews and music giving a vivid picture of both keels in the past and the Society’s work in the present.

A force 5 from the south-west meant that COMRADE was limited to the mainsail for filming. Moored at Victoria Lock, Goole with the mainsail set and the wind blowing from behind, she strained at her stern rope until the TV man said ‘GO’ and COMRADE came out of the lock like a ‘rat up a drainpipe!’

Filming took place from four viewpoints, on board, on land, from another vessel and from the air. Some spectacular flying was performed by the helicopter with the cameraman hanging out of the door, on one occasion flying towards the ship at about 60 knots with its skids 8 feet above the water and at the last moment going up vertically into the sky. Unfortunately, this was somewhat disconcerting for the two crew members on the foredeck who were facing aft and did not see the chopper coming!

On the final day the film crew used a support vessel (with rapidly overheating engine) to land at the Humber Bridge and shoot a sequence as COMRADE sailed under the longest single span in the world. With a flat calm this was achieved with engine going full chat and the sails hanging limply from the yards (the producer assured us that it would look good on screen). After several runs COMRADE set off back up-river as the wind started to blow from the south-west giving the film crew some additional material as she was put through her paces for about three-quarters of an hour.

A Shanty evening and barbecue was held on board COMRADE and AMY HOWSON on the Ancholme at South Ferriby on Saturday June 30.

COMRADE, AMY HOWSON and the Sobriety Project vessel AUDREY were invited to attend the Hull Sea Shanty Festival over the weekend of September 8/9 and the Whitaker Group sponsored our ships to the tune of £100 each to cover expenses. Aboard COMRADE was a continuous video performance of the recent documentary “Spilling the Wind”.

To coincide with the festival “Shanty Jack” (Pete Hayselden) asked if we would race COMRADE against AMY HOWSON. After finding a trophy sponsor, Eric Hammond who builds steel fishing boats at Barton, both crews agreed along with the Billy Boy AUDREY and the “scale Sprits” l Barge ROSIE PROBERT. On Sunday at 0815 hours all four ships penned out into the Humber, holding position with engines, they crossed the startline more-or-less as one, COMRADE quickly dropped back with fouled gear and with a gentle force 2 wind the ‘little spritty’ gradually dropped the field astern. On the return leg after passing under the Humber Bridge the wind dropped away to virtually nothing, COMRADE began to overtake the rest of the field. As the buoy marking the finishing line neared COMRADE continued to draw clear, a remark to the effect “we could win this race” was quickly squashed from aft. As the line was crossed at last the crew demonstrated their complete indifference to the whole affair by jumping up and down on the deck, shouting, cheering and blowing the foghorn!


Sea Shanty Festival - Race on the Humber - Comrade, Amy Howson and Audrey

Sea Shanty Festival – Race on the Humber – Comrade, Amy Howson and Audrey

1991 – A New Society Chairman

During the winter COMRADE was slipped at Cook’s of New Holland, some plating was necessary but the surveyor was happy with her and the Society’s programme of steady maintenance. The port side floors and frames received attention to match last winter’s work on the starboard side.

Our first and only chairman of 20 years has opted for a new life in Wales and therefore John Hainsworth had to relinquish his post to Jim Thompson, an unenviable task considering the high regard in which he is held.

John, along with Cedric Lodge, built up and maintained the momentum that led to the purchase of COMRADE and AMY HOWSON. He defused difficult situations between opposing Council Members, gathered together many historical documents and photographs, found out and talked to surviving keelmen and sloopmen, gave slide shows and talks on behalf of the Society and organised most of the exhibitions, in other words he will be greatly missed.

On Saturday July 6 a Shanty evening and barbecue was held at South Ferriby, commencing at 2000 hours.

Kath Sparne has agreed to take over from Mary Wilson as Membership Secretary.

The second Hull Sea Shanty Festival was held over the weekend of Friday 13 to Sunday 15 September when the second ‘Humber Barge Race’ took place between COMRADE, AMY HOWSON, JUNE and the Sobriety Project vessel AUDREY. Unfortunately, COMRADE had to hand over the trophy to AMY’s crew this time, but there’s always next year…

1992 – It’s better to be in…

COMRADE had no major projects for the winter but there were enough medium and small tasks to keep the workforce as busy as ever.

John Hainsworth was given Honorary Membership of the Society at the AGM as a small token of appreciation for the immense contribution he has made.

The summer sailing programme largely took place as planned. In general the weather was not unduly hostile, with two notable exceptions, one being a Sunday in late September when VTS spent the morning declaring “”wind zero, visibility zero”” for all reporting stations from Trent Falls to Spurn, and the other!

September commenced with both ships attending the 3rd Shanty Festival in Hull Marina. COMRADE was brought across the week before for a lick of paint and a tidy up. Friday saw the full line-up of traditional vessels moored up consisting of AUDREY (Billy Boy), EXCELSIOR (Sailing Trawler), AMY HOWSON (Sloop) and, of course, COMRADE (Keel).

The cog-boat was to be seen sculling about the marina from time-to-time and remarks like “isn’t it time you bought two oars?” were met with a friendly smile.

Saturday dawned bright and sunny, light westerly winds meant that COMRADE’s sails could be set to perfection and the amount of interest this generated proved it to be the right decision. Leaving a watchman aboard the crew retired to the “Green Bricks” for a little lubrication and shanty singing.

During the afternoon Robert Simper and his wife Pearl spent quite a lot of time aboard COMRADE and also in the cog-boat photographing the craft along the east wall. For those who do not know, Robert writes books on traditional vessels and had come up for the race. As afternoon wore into evening the crew and the two guests had a very pleasant meal overlooking the marina followed by a pint or two in the company of AMY’s crew when the merits of the two ships were argued in a completely unbiased manner!!!

Sunday heralded a totally different day; the wind played a marina melody amongst the rigging of the yachts, which was only drowned with the onset of heavy rain. The wind was a steady force 5, gusting 6 and forecast 7 later so, after a lot of walking about on the lockhead and dark discussions in AMY’s hold, the decision to cancel the race was taken.

The “Green Bricks”, once again, seemed to be a popular sanctuary from the weather, full of enthusiastic singers both amateur and professional, very enjoyable but not as good as sailing. Quite a few people were disappointed, including the crews, Robert and Pearl, and the stalwarts who had turned out to see the “barges” race.

Having taken the decision to cancel there always comes a time when you think should we have gone? In the very early days of the Society, it was quickly appreciated that the ships were no longer working vessels in the true sense and they don’t have to go “come hell or high water”. Fred Schofield set the pattern with his philosophy “It’s better to be in the dock wishing you’d gone, than be out on the river wishing the hell you hadn’t!”

No comments yet.

Please Login to Comment.