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Thursday, 5 December 2013

ex-Hull skipper Jim Williams turns family story into a book

IT BEGAN as a simple memoir for his family, but now fisherman veteran Jim Williams is looking forward to his autobiography being published this week.

Called Swinging The Lamp, the book charts the life of Mr Williams from boyhood to present day. The 86-year-old ex-skipper began his career as a boy sailor with the Royal Navy before spending 27 years as a trawler skipper. Published by Riverhead Books of Hull, the book will be launched this week.

Mr Williams said: "Originally, I just wanted to write something for my family. "But one of the volunteers on the Arctic Corsair said they wanted to read it. "They came back and told me I should provide more depth, bring it up to date and then publish it. "It has been very interesting to write, but you have to make sure you get all the dates, times and names right. "It brought back many memories, both good and bad."

Mr Williams finished his education early, aged just 12 , because of the war. By aged 15, he joined the Navy, where he remained for three years. After leaving the Navy, Mr Williams became a trawlerman and was a mate on the Arctic Corsair, which is now a tourist attraction where he currently works as a guide.

He was in the industry for 27 years and became a successful skipper. He has also been involved in fishing heritage group Stand and helped set up the local branch of the Veterans' Association of the Navy.

He said: "I have had many highs and lows over the years and some rather scary moments. Anyone involved in the fishing industry will have experienced the same. "I have been reasonably successful as a skipper and I enjoyed the good landings. "I remember being involved in the Normandy landings when our ship helped tow the Mulberry harbour, which we had to transport in sections, so the troops could land. "I have been lucky in married life and was with my wife, Olga, for 60 years before she died."

West Hull and Hessle MP Alan Johnson wrote the forward for the book. In it he said: "There was much that was poetic and romantic about Hull's fishing industry. "Place names such as Spitzbergen and Bear Island, men venturing abroad at a time when most of their peers would have never even crossed the Humber, and charting of the sea bed from instinct and knowledge rather than any scientific education.

"But there was much that was without any romance at all. In 150 years of distant water trawling from Hull, 900 ships left never to return. More than 6,000 men were killed. "The story of the trawlermen who worked in the most dangerous of peace time occupations has never been sufficiently told. "Jimmy Williams is the perfect man to tell it. His personality epitomises all that was good about the trawlermen – courage, stoicism, loyalty and above all, humanity and good humour. "Fishing is no longer the lifeblood of Hull, but it's still its heartbeat; and nobody has a bigger heart than Jimmy Williams."

Swinging The Lamp will be launched at the Maritime Museum in Queen Victoria Square, on Thursday at 2.30pm 

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