The Street Urchin

The Street Urchin is set in North shields and tells of young Billy Phelps a promising young footballer- his father is a trawlerman and has no time for his children or his wife when he meets a Norwegian girl and begins an affair.
The impact of the the marriage break up and triumph over adversity are told in this heartwarming story.


4. 4

“Right lads we are here shouted Albert from the wheel house.”

The crew rushed to put on their oilskins before shooting the net. The cod end was lowered in first followed by the kytes or better know as the otter boards. Each one was lowered gently into the sea hung from a steel frame known as the gallows. One otter board at the fore end of the boat and one aft. Once they start shooting the net the skipper informs Alvin Willis to slow the boat down. There is a heavy ground rope that keeps the lower lip of the net down and several float to keep the upper lip of the net up. The wire rope called a warp then it is run out from a winch slowly the net is lowered onto the sea bed where it is dragged along the bottom. The two otter boards scare the fish which then get caught up in the net and end up in the cod end where there is no escape. Both ends of the wire rope are joined together by a towing block attached to a rail near the stern.

Trawling can now begin; the skipper tells Alvin to increase the speed by three quarters ahead one of the crew then takes the wheel and the course is set.


Trawling for over three hours before the skipper tells the crew to haul in the nets.

Tony and John Asiamiah begin to pull the net in. Mick Armstrong separates the warps from the towing block and the power driven winch slowly bring the net to the surface. The otter boards are secured to the gallows and then the boat begins to roll and pitch as the net is winched on board. This is an anxious time for the skipper and crew because they have no idea of the size of the catch at this point and it can be very dangerous in bad weather. Men can be easily swept overboard.

The lower lip is winched on board then secured to the rail then the main net is dragged on board. Chris Lorrimer is responsible when the winch and derrick lift the cod end on board. He releases the cod line and the catch is dropped onto the deck.

Chris reties the cod line and the net is shot again. This process goes on for several hours until the hold is full. All hands apart from the skipper are then required to sort, gut, box then ice the fish. They are stored away until they reach harbour. The smell from the gutting can turn the hardest of men who can become nauseous with the stink. The gutting of fish must be done at sea as stipulated by the fishing commission.

The gulls, guillemots, and sea petrels dive time after time as undersized fish and guts are thrown overboard. Once fishing has stopped then the crew can take a rest. The only one still working is Ralphie who is preparing a meal for the crew with hot tea.

The time is four thirty in the morning and the crew have been working flat out for eleven hours. Albert pokes his head out of the wheel house to tell the lads that grub is up. Ralphie has made fish and chips with mushy peas with lemon wedges and bread and butter.

There is plenty to go around as the catch was good with over four hundred boxes.

Three days at sea and they were pulling back into the harbour mouth at North Shields.

The gut is busy with popper lorry’s that take the fish to the fish wagons once the boat has unloaded its bounty. The fish is then transported by rail and road all over the country. 

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