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News > Memories at Hymers > Opening the Archives: Cape Otranto Trip

Opening the Archives: Cape Otranto Trip

Schoolboys’ Visit to the Cape Otranto in May 1962
Skipper Neilson (middle) with Junior School Headmaster, Norman Ransom (right), with Form IIB
Skipper Neilson (middle) with Junior School Headmaster, Norman Ransom (right), with Form IIB

Possibly from that background himself, Mr Ransom (OH 1935-40, OH Staff 1953-84, former Junior Headmaster from 1975) was always interested when any of his class said they came from a fishing background. So, meaning that he would be the skipper, one day he asked me if my father had got his own ship yet. When I answered that he couldn’t afford to buy one, he fell about laughing. The rest of the form didn’t understand the joke, either.

On hearing that David Neilsen’s (OH 1961-66) father had been given command of the company’s latest diesel-electric trawler (built at the Beverley yard where my grandfather worked), he arranged for the whole class to go round and see it one Wednesday afternoon. No special transport or Hi-Viz vests in those days; Mr. Ransom simply hailed a normal service bus and the conductor let us all on condition we sat three to each seat. The next bus took us down Hessle Road to West Dock Avenue, leading to the Dock Estate. I knew this street well: its all-pervading smell of diesel oil and fish let you know where you were. I had been there on visits to the dock with my father, or with my uncle to meet him as the ship came in from its three-week trip. Hull Corporation was planning to knock down these streets of small Victorian terraced houses: yet everyone was smart and well-kept.

Cape Otranto

The Cape Otranto was moored directly alongside the quay; no need to clamber over a couple of other ships moored side-by-side, as I’d often had to do before. We were shown the deck where the trawl was opened at the cod end, and writhing fish came on board to be gutted in the open. When we descended into the fish room, young Neisen and I were the only ones who knew to go down the step ladder backwards. We saw where the fish was stowed in ice.  We looked at the mess deck and the galley and one of the crew’s cabins where one of the men would get a well-earned sleep after many hours on duty.

We heard of the rough and dangerous conditions at sea. How sixty-foot waves would crash over the ship and occasionally a man would be washed overboard (my father wrote an account of such an incident and how the deckhand was rescued.) We learned how important it was to prevent the icing of the superstructure so she didn’t get top heavy and go over.  Skipper Neilson would go on to win the coveted Silver Cod Trophy, the industry’s award for the top skipper in Hull.

The Hull Daily Mail photographer was there with his camera, at Mr. Ransom’s invitation, and took three photographs, one of which was published the following evening. At the end of the visit, we went in file back to Hessle Road where we took different buses to our different ways home. Likewise, some years later, we would leave Hymers and go our ways: two of the boys in the picture went to Oxford; three went into the NHS as dentists and a pharmacist; some went into varied family businesses where one became head of the trade’s national association; there was a future senior policeman and a teacher among us too, and those are just the ones I know about.

Chris Bee
OH 1961-70

The Hymerian - July 1962

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