A book describing the industry that was once a mainstay of Thanet’s community and economy is published this month. Writer and historian Michael Hunt, whose previous work A History of Ramsgate Harbour was re-published last year, has produced a detailed but highly readable description of a commercial sea fishery the legacy of which still informs Ramsgate, Margate and Broadstairs life. From the local industry’s earliest traces, through its 19th century hey-day, to the still important, ‘though contracted, fishery of today A History of the Ramsgate Fishing Industry encompasses a thousand years of Thanet men and women’s engagement with the sea.
The author evokes not only the image, familiar to our great-grandparents, of harbours packed side-to-side with herring boats and sailing trawlers, but the area’s largely forgotten involvement with the Icelandic cod fishery, the migration of fishing families and their craft around the coast of Britain, their involvement in the political and economic squabbles of mediaeval monarchs, and all against a backdrop of the tragedy and heroism endemic to this most dangerous of trades. From the intricacies of boiling-up livers for oil (a ‘detailed and fairly disgusting description’) to the lad who could crack marbles with his teeth (‘he was always a quiet boy, was Percy’) this is a story long-overdue for the telling.
The development of fishing boats and activities of their crews in peace and war; the rivalries that existed (and still exist) between local and Continental fishermen are examined – sometimes to comic effect (‘the darned Mounseers danced and gesticulated and threatened worse than ever’) - but frequently tragically, as in the recounting of losses through shipwreck, storm or enemy action.
With dozens of black & white illustrations and copious source notes for readers wishing to explore the subject further this book makes a valuable addition to the history lover’s bookshelf.
Also available online, post free to UK addresses, at http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/a_history_of_the_ramsgate_fishing_industry.htm