A lifetime in fishing industry

9/11/13- Herring Fair, Hastings.  Tush Hamilton ENGSUS00120131011134255
9/11/13- Herring Fair, Hastings. Tush Hamilton ENGSUS00120131011134255

The first meeting of the new year proved to be a milestone for Hastings and Rother U3A, as it signed up its five hundred and first member.

A packed audience, including two visitors from Australia, enjoyed a talk by John (Tush) Hamilton on his life in the local fishing industry.

Tush is a well known local character, famous for serving up his freshly fried fish baps at events in Hastings and Bexhill with his wife Pat.

He spoke of his early memories of helping his father, a fish hawker, on his barrow round in Hastings. In those days there were 20 boats which caught mainly four types of local fish and there were 20 fish shops.

There were three types of boats: 30ft ones which had a deck and trawled using a net bag, 18ft – 20ft open boats[punts] which used many nets and rowing boats which used long lines with many hooks on them.‘Tush ’ considered drift nets to be eco-friendly as they go along the surface of the water.

The first person to land their fish was the first to sell it in a Dutch auction, where the price starts high and goes down until someone bids and then they can decide how much of the catch they want. A thousand stone (14 lbs), of fish was sold each day.

For those of us used to are fridges and freezers, it was interesting to learn fish was kept in ice brought in from an icehouse and hawkers would sell this as well.

Tush also recalled a curiously shaped pearl he found in an oyster, which he had fashioned into a brooch for his wife.

He mentioned the belief that seagulls were thought to be linked to various characters in the industry. He recalled how one seagull which came in with a plastic bag round its foot was linked to a character, who filleted fish, called Cooey. One of his friends’ Oxo’ was also well known for landing so many fish on one occasion that his boat was only inches above the surface.

The next lecture is on Monday February 22 at St Peter’s Community Centre, Bexhill Old Town, when Michael Sanders will be talking about ‘The Sun and The Moons within the Solar System’.

Coffee is available from 9.45 and the meeting starts at 10.30.

You can attend two meetings before you decide whether to join. On arrival you will be met by greeters and asked to sign in. If you decide to join, it costs £17 and then all the talks are free.

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