One of my favourite old British films is “The Admirable Crichton,” starring Kenneth Moor, which just happened to be the heading of this 1960’s trawling article, from an unknown source, kindly forwarded to me by Milford’s Barry Thynne.

“At precisely 8 0’clock on the morning of Jan 10th (1962), the 4 year old trawler Arthur Cavanagh unobtrusively slipped her moorings in Milford docks, and with a farewell blast on her siren, began the last journey of her eventful life.

On the face of it, this departure of an ageing ship for the scrapyards, merits no widespread regret, being an everyday event, yet when Arthur Cavanagh rounded St Anne’s Head, it marked the end of an era on the West Coast, the passing of a class of trawler the like of which, in terms of services rendered, will never have its peer.

The Arthur Cavanagh was the last of the West Coast’s Castle class trawlers which probably played a greater part in the development of the country’s hake fishery than any other single factor.

The class itself resulted from the need experienced by the Admiralty, in the First World War, for a vessel which might be used for patrol work and minesweeping, yet be suitable for peaceful pursuits at such time as hostilities ceased.

At the time, Consolidated Fisheries Ltd of Swansea had a number of craft sailing for them which had been specifically built for hake fishing on the West Coast.

In length 125’ and propelled by triple expansion engines, they had proved ideal for the task, and so it was that the Admiralty set in train, a large scale building programme, which soon resulted in vessels of the Castle class being launched from shipyards all round the country. The move was inspired.

Ideal for their appointed tasks, they did excellent service throughout the war, and proved worthy memorials to the men who fought with Nelson in the Victory at Trafalgar, after whom they were named.

After 1918 however, their war service completed, many were towed to lonely inlets and laid up.

Yet it was not long before the West Coast Owners realised what a boon such vessels would be to the fast rising hake fishery.

Engines restarted, funnel covers were removed, and the Castle class entered the next phase in its career, Milford, Fleetwood and Swansea taking the major part of the fleet, and sending them to the prolific Irish and Scottish grounds.

The influence of the class to become world-wide.

In the mid-thirties, there were Castle class trawlers sailing from 9 countries.

France and Belgium had 11 each, Spain 9, South Africa 2, New Zealand, Norway and Germany one each, while an owner in Greece boasted 3.

In Britain, the fleet was split up roughly between seven ports.

Milford Haven topped the list with 36, Fleetwood 24, Hull 21, Swansea 17, Grimsby 7, Granton and Aberdeen 1.

Thus over 50% of the total fleet were engaged in hake fishing.

It was appropriate that the then major hake port, Milford Haven, should send Arthur Cavanagh to represent her at the 1935 Spithead Review.

In the 1930’s, firms such as the Iago Steam Trawler Co Ltd and Boston Deep Sea Fisheries Ltd had a big stake in Castle class trawlers, while Milford companies such as Jenkerson & Jones Ltd and Brand & Curzon had built up very large fleets, consisting almost exclusively of vessels of such type.

In the former cases it is certain that Castles assisted greatly in laying a basis for these companies importance as trawler owners.

Yet the splendid design could not be spared for fishing after 1939, and once again the Admiralty reaped the benefit of its foresight.

Minesweeping, patrolling, coastal escort work all came within their province, and their achievements of 1914-18 were repeated.

Happily, although the war years thinned the class, with enemy mines and bombs accounting for many, the majority were able to return to peace time duties after 1945.

The next phase in the history of the Castle Class is probably one of the brightest.

The hake grounds, rested by 5 years of war, were packed with fish. Costs were not over heavy, and the vessels able to stand the rigours of the Atlantic.

More often than not packed with fish, the craft plied to and from the grounds and reaped a handsome profit.

Then came disaster. The price of coal soared, hake started to thin on the Western grounds, repair bills showed notable increases.

Age was catching up with the old Castles, their star was waning. One by one they started to filter to the scrapyard, unable to keep up with the times, or compete with the diesels which were now being turned out with increasing momentum.

The old Cavanagh, which had fished in her time from the Butt of Lewis to the coast of Morocco, survived because she had been converted to oil burning, but even she has now had to concede to defeat.

Her departure from a virtually deserted dock was watched in silence.

It epitomised the ending of an era, the like of which will never be seen again and the passing of a trawler which might rightly be termed an Admirable Crichton of the sea.”

And this week, having read that I’d be including it, I had a call from Harry Orchard to say that his father , William John Orchard, sadly killed in 1942 on RNVR duty, was once a skipper on the Cavanagh.

Here’s a snap of her from my John “Stevo” Stevenson collection.

Now for our teasers, the answer to last week’s brain cells shuffler ( what is unusual about the words..revive, banana, grammar...etc) ..they become palindromes when you take the first letter and put it at the back.

Those unphased by it all were..

Les Haynes, Joyce Layton, Cynthia Edwards, Elinor Jones, Derek Rees, Anne & Jets Llewellyn.

Many thanks to all.

I leave you with this proverbial nugget...everyone reaps what he sows...except if you’re an amateur gardener!

See you next time.