How Fleetwood's last big trawler Jacinta became the pride of the port

Retired Gazette journalist David Pearce takes a look at the life of Fleetwood’s Heritage Trawler, Jacinta

Friday, 27th December 2019, 5:00 pm

This is the story of a ship from Fleetwood and of the men who sailed in her and the adventures they had.

Our tale begins in 1972 in Wallsend where a trawler named Jacinta was built for the family-owned Marr group .

She was radically different in design from traditional trawlers .

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Jacinta arrives in Fleetwood after a trip to the Icelandic fishing grounds in July 1972

For her crew of 16 it meant less time in the cold and wet on the open deck because handling the nets had been automated and the processing of fish was done under cover in the factory below decks.

Jacinta broke earnings records and was the last big ship to land a trip in Fleetwood in 1982 when Britain was excluded from the Icelandic fishing grounds.

The Marr family switched Jacinta to Hull to be closer to other areas like the Norwegian Coast and the White Sea. Her success continued until, in 1995, a major engine failure meant Jacinta was heading for the scrapyard. But company chairman Alan Marr gave the ship instead to a group of enthusiasts in Fleetwood who planned to preserve her as a heritage vessel.

Their leader was Alan’s cousin, Lionel Marr who became chairman of the Jacinta Charitable Trust, the new owners of Jacinta. Financial backing came from Tony Lofthouse of Fisherman’s Friend fame and I was Lionel’s right hand man. These three trustees had a lifelong interest in trawlers, had sailed in them as passengers and knew the fishing industry well They had worked together on other community projects like the celebrations of Fleetwood’s 150th birthday.

Crew members of the Jacinta Trust

Jacinta was in a very poor state when she arrived in Fleetwood towed in by a tug and volunteers joined the Trustees to get the ship ready for visitors.

Right away the Jacinta team established a comradeship and being part of that has been, for me, a wonderful experience over the years.

Visitors came from far and wide to look round Jacinta. Schoolchildren learned that fish doesn’t just come from the supermarket or the chip shop. The ship became a base for community events and music – we even had a christening with the bell as a font!

Eventually the Trustees were able to buy a second hand engine and equip Jacinta for sea again. At first Skipper Tom Watson was in charge and then Skipper Tony Barkworth. Under his command Jacinta visited ports in England, Ireland. Scotland and Wales. At the Bristol Maritime Festival 10,000 people came onboard. In 2015 Jacinta represented the fishing industry at the Spithead Review when the Queen inspected an armada of ships off the Isle of Wight and then entered the Portsmouth dockyard to meet the public who often commented how they enjoyed talking to the crew – men who had spent their lives in the fishing industry. Lionel and I did the cooking.

Jacinta at her berth in Fleetwood Docks

Chief Engineer Bill Greene was always at the controls. He had worked on the ship at the builder’s, sailed in Jacinta during fishing days and then as a heritage ship.

Although a fortune was spent on maintaining Jacinta with visits to the Cammell Laird shipyard at Birkenhead the hull deteriorated and officials banned Jacinta from leaving the dock. Attempts by divers to fix the problem were not successful.

My fellow trustees Lionel and Tony died within five weeks of one another in 2018 and Lionel’s wife Jill stepped up to became a trustee. We spent 12 months exploring ideas to give Jacinta a future but reluctantly concluded that the ship has reached the end of her life and she will be scrapped next year.

Finance is a consideration but, more importantly, the state of the ship and the lack of a business structure going forward into the future.

Pictured left is the late Lionel Marr, who was one of the trustees, Richard Farrar and Dave Pearce

Jill said: A lot of work has gone into the Jacinta project – a lot of heartache too. But the Jacinta team achieved what they set out to do. For nearly 25 years they told the story of fishing in Fleetwood and the men and women who made it happen. And they had a lot of fun along the way.

As we drank a pre-Christmas pint in the Royal Oak – once the trawlermens local – a member of the crew told me: It’s been a privilege to be part of this, Dave.

I wholeheartedly agreed with him.

**Although Jacinta will be scrapped, a group of local people are hoping that the 142ft long ship’s vivid history will live on.

They plan to set up a group to collect priceless stories, photos and memories which will keep memories of her fishing legacy alive.

And artefacts from the ship will also form part of a display at Fleetwood Museum.

A function on board Jacinta
Dave Pearce at the helm on board Jacinta
Jacinta at sea