Through a Fog Darkly

Going to sea in fog is not the ideal way to earn a living, but in post-war Britain times were tough. Rationing was still in force until the '50s, wages were low and Endeavour and the rest of Leigh's boats had to go to sea. Joe Deal was skipper then and his crew included the late George Cocks whose reminiscences we have touched on in the past, and who wrote the following account: ‘One morning it was very cold, dark and foggy when Bill and I went down to the boat. Other fishermen were moaning about the horrible weather with quite few wanting to go back home. Dawn was trying to cut through the fog and I said to Bill, "Are we going out?" He replied, "We shall go when the trees come clear on Two Tree Island.”’

On a clear day the island was visible but on that morning George and Bill could only just make out Endeavour and she was only 60 yards away. ‘Suddenly we could see the two trees as the fog lifted a little. "Come on George," said Bill.’

The tide was making fast and the other fishermen were running to their boats too. Endeavour's old Gardiner engine had been replaced with a Lister and Bill pressed the starter button. "Listen to this Cocksy,” he said as the engine started to run smoothly. “Better than turning that old handle. A thousand pound, all but a sixpence and that's going under the fireplace in the cabin." This was an old custom whenever a big job was done aboard.

The fog had returned as they headed out and George was sent forward. "Go forward and keep your ears open," Bill ordered. "Don't you mean my eyes?" I replied. "No, you can't see anything in this fog but you'll be able to hear things."

Bill was singing a hymn and suddenly George heard another voice from the fog. "Oh, that's Joe Beckett," said Bill and sure enough they saw him at last. After greeting each other Endeavour sailed on until Bill demanded the kettle went on. "We're here," Bill said. George remembers, "I looked around and thought, where's here?"

The answer was they were on the Blyth where the nets went over and the crew settled to their mugs of tea. They puttered on for a while until George said: “Bill, I can hear someone talking." "Christ!" he replied, dropped what he was doing in the engine room and slung the tiller hard over. Emerging from the fog was a large ship.

‘How we missed this ship I don't know. I could see the men, way up, and shouting to us. Without the skill and efforts of Bill we could have gone right into the side of it,’ George later wrote.

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