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Friday, 23 January 2015

RIP Mervyn Mountjoy 1950-2015

One of Newlyn's itinerant long-term visiting fisherman, Mervyn Mountjoy passed away on the 10th of January.


Although Mervyn hailed form Bideford he spent many years fishing from Newlyn and 'commuting' back home between longer trips. A quiet and quietly spoken man, Mervyn left long-lasting marks on the port in other ways.



From L-R, fellow fishermen Chris 'Bish' Care, a very young Don Liddicoat (now skipper of the Filadelfia), a rather youthful and petite Billy Bun (at the time on the Keriolet), a slightly more ribust Roger Coutsoubus who was crewiing on the Galilean at the time and Mervyn Mountjoy


these were taken in the bottom bar of the Swordfish at Christmas around 1985...



possibly the same year - from L-R, Nigel 'Rockets' Richards, Mervyn and Brain Gruzelier raise a glass over a Christmas dinner aboard the Ocean Harvester back in the harbour after the final trip of the year - it's possible that Nigel, Brian and Gary hold some kind of port record as the three of them were with Mervyn as a crew for over 20 years - the fourth member of the crew, also only rarely changing with such notable characters as Roger Coutsoubus (origianlly from Padstow)young Charlie Barnes being the last - all testimony to the harmony that Mervyn created aboard his boats...



whenever the harbour was full of French trawlers during the winter sheltering from the weather Mervyn would be down the quay - keeping up friendships made from when he was one of a handful of boats from Newlyn that fished for langoustine on the Smalls off Milford Haven amidst a huge fleet of Breton boats from St Guenole, Guilvinec and Loctudy...



best of these Breton friends was Alain J├ęgou seen here with his prawn trawler the Riquita coming through the gaps in Newlyn after she had been shelterdecked...



here she is a few years earlier with a full trip of fish aboard waiting to land in St Guenole - or 'St Gee' as it is called...



another of his Breton friends was Dominique L'Apart, skipper of L'Apart Bihen from Douarnenez...


at that time Mervyn was fishing with the Galilean which he had bought from local Porthleven fisherman Bobby Jewell when she was the Bajyma. When Mervyn first trawled for prawns with her amongst the crew were Matt Watson and a certain Neil Brockman - at the time neither knew one end of a needle from another!. Amongst many Breton skippers over the years (Mervyn had taught himself to speak pretty good French) he also became friends with St Guenole skipper Alain Bougueon who had the Galilean built - a 'Classique' trawler as they were known in Brittany as at that time many of the French skippers were busy having a new generation of steel stern trawler built that would eventually come to epitomise their fleet...



this re-build programme meant that there were many of these boats coming across the channel to England - Mervyn eventually sold the Galilean to the far north - though she never actually made it to her new home port as she sank while under tow by the Douglas? lifeboat (who pulled the stem out of her) while on her way through the Irish Sea after leaving Fleetwood...



here Rockets is busy mending the boat's prawn trawls (passing in the background is the Ygraine, now brought back to Newlyn and currently in Penzance dock being refitted) though in those days he was in possession of...



considerably more hair than today...



in those days times were harder and earnings considerably less than today for the boat and the crews, here is the Galilean, taken around 1983 when she went back to her home port of St Guenole in Brittany to have a 'new' winch fitted  - which was the port where she was built back in 1958 - a fact that did not escape the attention of the local press at the time who used the headline, "L'Ancien Bateau de St Guenole" in the story about her! - Mervyn took great exception to this thinking that the word 'ancien' meant ancient and was therefore somewhat derogatory (sic) when describing his beloved boat - until he was informed that the word actually means 'previous' - during that trip to Brittany Mervyn and his trusty crew were treated to a trip very early one morning to Guilvinec to see a boat that was for sale (the night after Mardis Gras in Douarnenez- another story) - it was the Ar Bageergan... 


Ar Bageergan in 1996 in Newlyn newly rigged for line and pole tuna fishing - and netting.
- currently she is the resident pirate ship in Penzance dock as the Bag 'O Rags as she was known when a Newlyn gill netter...


on the Galilean a new winch meant a few new deck planks had to be fitted - though if you asked the crew at the time they would have suggested to extend that to Mervyn to include the entire deck not just a few feet under the winch (as per the photo) - based on anecdotal stories of the accommodation aboard her that was so 'up-market' it was rumoured that all the bunks were 'en suite' with their very own showers (in poor weather) - around that time a guy who had worked as a roughneck on the North Sea rigs for years thought he would try fishing as a career change - one prawning trip (around 9 days at the time) on the Galilean was  enough to convince him that working on a rig possessed qualities that he not even aware of - for one thing, rigs didn't roll all over the place and you got to sleep more than a few hours a day - not surprisingly he went back on the rigs and told all his mates that fishermen were just crazy...


after she was sold away the regular crew of Gary... 



Rockets seen here mending in the side deck at sea...



and Brian on the winch shooting away enjoyed the positive luxury that the new Ocean Harvester offered after the somewhat basic accommodation and accoutrements aboard the Galilean...


seen here after having a new stern towing gantry fitted in Newlyn... 


and like the boat before she was a fine sea boat...


and one of around a twenty 40-60 foot trawlers that worked from Newlyn in the 1980s...


and like most she was fitted with all the latest in fishing and navigation electronics like the sophisticated (in its day!) somewhat solid Decca 350T chart plotter...



which was driven by the huge Decca Mk21 navigator...


however, Mervyn was not one to live in the past and careful scrutiny of the wheelhouse photo reveals a lack of a Mk21 and the latest in navigation aids aboard the 'OH' as she was known in the form of a Kelvin Hughes navigator (top right) - this piece of kit was one of a new kind of electronics hardware which led to the rapid demise of the global Decca navigation system after a huge court case over the use of the Decca station signals as, although it initially used the same signal stations it could be bought for around £1200 as compared to the Decca Plotter which had to be rented for around the same money annually! - a no-brainer really for cost conscious skipper owners like Merv...


of course, like any other trawler, the OH would come fast on occasion - necessitating a rapid exit from the bunk for all hands (on this occasion it was captain Gary at the time while Merv had a trip off) to haul the gear and get going again...


and of course sometime the problems got bigger necessitating more serious intervention from proper engineers!

One time when trawling he slipped a disc at sea - when the boat managed to get back to Newlyn and alongside the quay he had to wait hours until high water as he could not straighten his back to get up the ladder to the top of the quay.

He was a great lover of tradition and celebrating the past so in 1992 Billy Stevenson gave Mervyn command of the Excellent - seen here leaving Newlyn...



on her way to the 1992 Brest and Douarnenez Festival - and when it comes to Festivals these guys have it sewn up - bon ambience!...



with her - the trip was notable for one of the crew falling from the wheelhouse in the hot weather... 


Mervyn was one of the quiet ones - the fact that three of his crew were with him almost continually for over twenty years says something in itself! - but he also made himself heard in many other ways - not all connected with fishing - he sat on many committees and was a founder member of the Cornish Ice Works, had a close liaison with W&S for a short while and, after retiring from the sea, he went back to raising Dexter cattle and other small breeds on his smallholding near his hometown of Bideford. For many years he was an active and much respected member of the NFFO - see a tribute here http://nffo.org.uk/news/mervyn-mountjoy.html

There is a service to celebrate the life of Mervyn to be held at Westward Ho! Baptist Church, on Wednesday the 28th of January at 11am.