Boston accent: Ray talks about the decline of the Boston fishing industry



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About the speaker

Ray Maltby (b.1927/06/06; male, retired fisherman)



Q: How big was the Boston fleet, then, as you first remember it?

A: Oh, we had – we had about forty – forty large smacks, you know, the old fifty-five, fifty plus feet. And a hell of a lot of small shellfish boats, mussel, cockle boats, you know, the smaller ones. I couldn’t tell you the number, but we had a hell of a fleet then. And didn’t – to give you a comparison, we’re now down to about fifteen or sixteen – no, less, probably ten, twelve of the larger type. Well, that’s about all. We haven’t got any – we’re down to about a dozen boats now, really, to say they’re working all the time. And that was the comparison. And that’s all due to – well, it’s not all due to the Common Fisheries policy, I must admit. It’s – a lot of it is because we had to reduce the fleet, you know, we’ve had to suffer the same as any other port. Because we’re classed as part of the – this is European Fishery and we’ve had to sort of decommission and one thing and another. And there have been these licences, and licences can cost you £30,000 for a precious dock licence. If you buy a boat you’ve got to – you can’t get another licence issued from the Ministry, you’ve got to have an existing one because you can’t increase the fleet. Well, you increase the catching power, you see. But, I mean, I’m still secretary for the Boston Fisheries Association, I like to, you know, maintain an interest. And it’s – this last six years, since they started – they started the dredging of the docking shoal, which is a few miles off the – off Skegness, Mablethorpe – for the Beach Replenishment Scheme. And that was – devastated our shell fishery. But, I mean, we say that, we know it. I mean, we’ve had six years of nothing because of the plume and the – from the dredging settling over – coming up the tide, settling over our brood mussels and cockles and smothering them. But we could never prove it. They’ve always told us the onus was on us to get some sand and have it analysed. Well, we just couldn’t afford to do it. And compensation claims, we’ve been all the years trying to get compensation for our chaps, and we’re still trying. But, as I say, now they’ve stopped dredging this last year, marvellous, miraculous recovery. Obviously there’s something wrong, you know what I mean? There’s got to be something that caused it. It’s not just a – it’s not just a coincidence after – I mean, we’ve had our ups and downs, we’ve had bad years in my time. I mean, I remember bad years and that, but nothing like this where you’ve been year after year without anything. I mean, we had to close the mussel beds. We asked for them to be closed. We asked the [inaudible 0:02:59] Fishery to close them because – to give them time to recover. But they didn’t recover, not until recently. Now, we’ve – the fisheries recovered and, strangely enough, ironically, now another company wants to start dredging on the [inaudible 0:03:19]. Which is nearer, which is much – which is closer up to our – you know. And not only that, it messed the shrimp fishery up as well when they started – when they started pumping the sand onto Skegness – on the beach, well, a lot of it washed off, settled on our most lucrative shrimp grounds. We lost – our fishermen lost a lot of money, lost four – well, some went out of business, as I say.

Q: I was going to say, it must be very difficult to survive something. Even if you know you’ve only got to hold on for a year or eighteen months, I mean, with all the costs involved, research and everything like that –

A: Oh, today it’s impossible, today – I mean, the cost of – the cost of – I mean, [inaudible 0:04:06] he just – he decommissioned his boat, The Provider, last year because he’s getting on a bit. So he made – he took advantage of the decommissioning scheme and he got paid for it. And he’s having another one built now. But, I mean, the cost of a new one, it’s going to cost him about £75 - £75,000 because he’s got to pay about £30,000 to get a licence. And he’s having another one built at – he’s having it built at Beverley, near Hull. And he’s expecting delivery in April. But, as I say, the cost now and gear – I mean, we’re all modernised now. They don’t do the old fashioned cockling over the side with the rake and the net. They’ve got suction dredges and powerful pumps and things, they cost a fortune. But the job’s completely altered since my time. I mean, even the shrimping job where we used to have long, twenty-four foot beam like a telegraph pole with trawl heads on each end. They’ve got – they work two smaller ones now, one either side. They have two outriggers and you can just – you can go in your Sunday suit with your collar and tie on now and sit there and come home as clean as when you went. You sit there pushing levers, it lifts the gear up over the side, another lever lowers the outriggers, you know, and then another one pays the warp away and you’re fishing.

Q: It’s the same on building sites now, the crane does all the digging, you – as you say, you could do it in your suit, couldn’t you?

A: Yeah.

Q: How important was the fishing industry to Boston, say, back in the ‘20s, ‘30s?

A: Well – well, going back before the turn of the century, in the late 1800s, Boston relied on fishing, the old trawlers. I mean, there was the old companies – the small companies like Stringers and so forth. And then there’s Boston Deep Sea Fishery and Ice Company, Freddie Parks and all those. And Boston was built on fish. The prosperity of this town was built on fish. But the Boston Company, they were the biggest employer of labour in the town. And, of course, it was a dispute with the Council over the Lockwood incident, when she blocked the river and then Freddie Parks, the Boston Company agreed to clear it for them at an agreed price. And then the Council refused to pay him. And he had to take them to the Admiralty Court in London. And, anyway, just before they were due to go in, they settled out of court. And he – then he was that disgusted with the Council, he come back to Boston and he took – he up skittled everything. He took all his trawlers, he had rope works making places, he had engineering works, he had everything on Boston Dock. And he took the lot to Fleetwood. And that was – and then the railway had just come into the town by then and, of course, that come in specifically for the fish. And, of course, that sort of run at a loss for a bit. But, I mean, well, we – I co-authored a book on the Boston Deep Sea Fishing Company, the full story, from when they – from the early – the late 1800s until its demise in the ‘70s, late ‘70s. And it chronicles everything. It’s got every one of their trawlers listed in and everything. It’s the story of their company. And it sold very well all round. Because Boston’s expand – Boston’s expanded to Lowestoft, [inaudible 0:07:55], Fleetwood, you know, and all the Grimsby and Hull. And it sold very well in all those ports because there’s people that could still identify with the company. And the Boston – but the in shore job, I mean, oh, the old days was marvellous. I mean, they say they was the hard days, bad old days. But, oh, I’d love to live them again.

[END OF RECORDING – 00:08:23]

Boston accent: Ray talks about the decline of the Boston fishing industry
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