Local woman was angling legend

The hunt is on to discover the final resting place of Bluebell Klean - a Hastings character who was known for being an accomplished musician and composer as well as a brilliant sea angler.

Wednesday, 1st November 2017, 2:50 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 10:17 pm
Bluebell Klean SUS-171030-114915001

Bluebell featured regularly in the pages of the Hastings and St Leonards Observer for her fishing feats, primarily between the two world wars.

Researcher Mike Standish said: “Sadly we have been unable to find her grave despite the help of a professional researcher as well as fishing historian Ted Hide at Eastbourne.

“There are several of us in this project cooperating with the Hastings Fishermen’s Museum to find the grave and tell the story of this great local character.

“We originally discovered her in a Jewish family tree. She was the great aunt of a descendant, whose grandfather arrived on his own as a 14-year-old refugee from Germany in the middle of the 19th century.

“We first found a photo of this great aunt in a London concert advertisement of the Great War, and then later in the fishing news of many post-war editions of this newspaper (founded 1859).

“Later we began to realise that in this unmarried ancestor we had come across a most remarkable lady.

“In the newspapers she was referred to as ‘Bluebell’ Klean. Before and throughout the Great War she was performing in London as a top concert pianist and music composer.

“One of her concerts was given before the then Prince and Princess of Wales. Meanwhile she was playing for and teaching blind veterans at St Dunstan’s.

“Her brother was killed on the Somme in France in 1916. After World War One she continued with her music, composing now under a new name, Maud Gilson for reasons unknown.

“Her music was then played quite widely including on the ‘Proms’, and today you can still hear it on You Tube, and can buy some of it on E-Bay for as little as £8.

“But ‘Bluebell’ (her birth names were Isobel Maude Klean, born London 1875) then transformed her life, moving from music to competitive sea fishing.

“Between the wars she entered almost every sea fishing competition in Sussex and Kent.

“Travelling around on her Indian motorcycle and sidecar, she was a tremendous success, winning fishing cups and prizes all over the south-east.

“Indeed many of her big fish triumphs were covered by the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, including a picture of her at Hastings in 1922 proudly displaying the largest Conger Eel caught in the country.

“She even talked of trying to catch a shark in Cornwall.

“She then mainly lived in Hastings and from one of her interviews published in The Observer it was clear that she was quite a tom-boy - an expert gardener, a bridge and billiards player attending professional billiards championships, and occasionally she liked to go birds nesting.

“The last mention of ‘Bluebell’ in the Hastings Observer or elsewhere was in 1941 during WW2 when she was in Hastings where her furniture and famous piano were stolen, and then retrieved.

“She died in the Hastings Registration District on 28th Feb 1950 aged 74, but no word about her death or of an obituary can we find in the papers or elsewhere.

“Finally, despite several weeks searching for her grave by a local group based at the Hastings Fishermen’s Museum which holds one of her major trophies (, we have failed to find where this fascinating local character lies.

“Perhaps she decided to be buried at sea? If you know or find where our ‘Bluebell’ (ISABEL MAUDE KLEAN) is, please contact the Fishermen’s Museum 01424-461446.”