Monday, 10 January 2022

Grimmy Mike RIP.

There are, or rather were, two well-known skippers called Mike in Newlyn, both referred to by their ports of origin, Milford Mike and Grimmy Mike. Whilst Milford Mike is currently a contender for the oldest working fisherman in the port, sad news has reached Newlyn that Grimmy Mike has gone to the big wheelhouse in the sky.

Grimmy in the Betty G ahead of the Scillonian III and Edward Harvey in the Sheila Cherie.

For those who are not aware, Mike Mahon, better known as Grimmy Mike became something of living legend in Newlyn and beyond. The photo above epitomises Grimmy's political fishing career - the little guy steaming ahead, singlehandedly trying to champion his beloved fishing industry battling against the full weight of legislation in the form the much-hated CFP (Common Fisheries Policy)


Grimmy arrived in Newlyn from his beloved Grimsby back in the early 1980s. He was one of the first 'Grimmy' to do so and, like so many who followed him, he became a permanent fixture in Newlyn and almost local. Grimmy was hard to miss...


after a short period skippering aboard Stevenson's beam trawlers like the Algrie Grimmy bought his first boat, the Jo-Al but soon replaced her with the steel stern trawler, Betty G - for the first few years he worked with a crewman...


Grimmy (bearded) on the deck of the Fern with crew Dave Rhodda in diving gear

he saved Christmas for me once - his crew at the time was Dave Rhodda who appeared at my door around Saturday midnight, "Grimmy's desperate, the fishing is good and I'm too ill to go on" - we made the last Christmas market with a solid landing of monk and flats...


his other forté was catching mor-ki (lesser spotted dogfish) supplying many of the inshore potters with bait over the years...


a big guy with a big mouth, he was never slow in voicing his opinion...


especially when it came to his intense hatred for Brussels and the injustice that the Common Fisheries Policy's quota system forced upon the UK that saw him and his fellow skippers dump tons of perfectly good fish, dead, back into the sea, that really got to him...


his trademark wellies, normally first choice for yellow-wellied yachtsmen announced his presence on the quay...

where he aimed his most fervent and forthright comments for politicians and the media - seen here in 2008 offering Labour's Jonathon Shaw (it is interesting, with hindsight to read this article by Richard Benyon from 2016 in the run-up to the Referendum ) some less than gentle words of advice on how to improve the terms of the CFP for British fishermen...



a staunch supporter of Britishness saw him adorn the boat with 'up yours' EU posters - seen here on his wheeelhouse door - if Grimmy had had his way Newlyn, we would still be selling fish with a shout auction in stones and pounds - the media loved him, he looked the part and was guaranteed to say what he felt and be contentious, having little regard for the niceties of political correctness in the process...


he became so frustrated by a system that forced him to dump perfectly good fish that he invested in a pirate's hat, symbolising what he felt he had been forced to become - time and time again he would land boxes of haddock when there was almost no quota to speak of and give it away to pensioners and others - even the Mission (which in those days served the local fishing community lunchtime 'specials') benefitted from his generosity whenever he landed...


here he is clutching his most recent settling sheet highlighting the issue of quotas and dumping...


Grimmy's finest moment came when he sought the support of Canadian Fisheries minister, Brian Tobin who flew to Newlyn for the 1995 Fish Festival...

local MP David Harris is seen her holding one of the Canadian flags that were handed out to Newlyn fishermen...


and it is one of those very same flags that is flying at half-mast today over the Newlyn Harbour office...

Talking with Phil Stebbings who directed the film The Deadline

Grimmy's beef with the EU grew evermore vocal...


he was an early member of UKIP and in 2005 supported local UKIP candidate and ex-fisherman Micky Faulkner - the two of them together in his wheelhouse of the J-Anne that he had downsized from the Betty G to work solely singlehanded - notice the tobacco tin with a supply of ready-rolled roll-ups to hand - if the weather allowed, Grimmy would go weeks without returning home to his long-suffering teacher wife Joan  - his longest 'trip' was 28 days, landing to the market at night, sleeping on the boat in the harbour...


where, if the weather or damaged trawl decreed it, he was a common sight aboard the boat on the new pontoons seemingly with a never-ending supply of mending needles in his hand...


or selling one of the hundreds of dog leads that he wove and dyed himself while sat at the wheel during his famously long tows - which sometimes went well over 12 hours - the wheelhouse was always littered, literally and figuratively, with reading material that ranged from the latest Defra/MMO missives, to newspapers and books - freelance journalist Christopher Booker became a big fan of Grimmy and in one 2009 article likened the treatment of fishermen akin to that of 'drug dealers' by the MMO... 


if there was ever a film crew down the quay the chances were that the lens would be pointed in Grimmy's direction, though this must have been a particularly serious take as he seems to have brushed his hair and donned shore gear...


by then, a new winch was being toasted aboard the J-Anne enabling him to continue...



shoot away on his favourite ground, NW of the Wolf and follow the 10.2 west (for those that remember the Decca 350T track plotter) but, with increasing health issues of the back and leg variety, a common affliction amongst fishermen who began on sidewinders and three week trips inside the Arctic Circle...


it was time for Grimmy to retire and, yet another of his beloved boats, the J-Anne was broken up...



but not before he got to play tugboat, manoeuvring the Scillys supply ship Gry Maritha into Penzance Dry Dock......


years after the Betty G had followed the same fate. A few years ago, not long after his wife Joan had passed away, Grimmy decided to head back to the town that bears his name, not a move based on an improved climatic conditions but one that seemed to reflect his need for solitude while at the same time being in the familiar surroundings of his youth. 


His return did not go unnoticed and a reunion was held in the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre for him; with his customary forthrightness he told the Grimsby Telegraph,

"When I came back to stay I doubted anyone would ever remember me. But there they all were welcoming me back and questioning why I had left Cornwall. "Some said I was stupid to return to Grimsby but when I saw this house opposite the pub where they do breakfast for £2.90 and we have Wybers Chippy with the best fish and chips anywhere, it was not a difficult decision. It is first class."  He added: "Every shop I go into the staff and everyone are so friendly. You don't get that down there."

In catch-up phone conversations he talked of the consequences of Brexit as incredibly frustrating - it seemed that everything he had been warning against and fighting for had transpired to deal a near fatal blow to the industry that he had worked in and supported so passionately for so many years had just been a huge waste of time and effort. Phil Lockley, who must have reported on more of his exploits than most wrote a three part series (part I, part 2, part 3)in the Fishing News a few years back, chronicling Grimmy's life - worth a read.

He will be remembered for many things, not just for being one of the port's characters but for his outspokenness and vision of a different, just world where everyone deserved a chance. He was the first trawler skipper to work singlehanded on a regular basis - it was very much frowned upon by many in the late 80s - their concern exemplified one occasion when he trapped his oilskins while hauling the doors - his frantically waving arm mistaken by several passing boats as a friendly gesture - until a lack of his presence (which was considerable) on VHF Ch10 aroused concern from those fishing near him - suffice to say all ended well and did not deter him in the slightest. No doubt too that somewhere up there he is charging around on yet another knackered scooter, no licence, no CBT, un-buttoned antique helmet, fag in mouth and flogging dog leads in various colours and chatting to anyone who cares to stop and listen and berating anyone or anything that gets in his way.


RIP Grimmy.



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