Built in Beverley in 1906, the Viola’s remarkable journey took her from the North Sea, where she was engaged in life or death struggles with German U-boats during the First World War, to her days spent as a whaling ship off the coast of Africa.
Today, the 113-year-old Viola, almost the only survivor of the 3,000 fishing vessels which saw active service in the Great War, lies beached alongside the rotting quays of an abandoned whaling station on the island of South Georgia in the southern Atlantic.
Now the trustees behind the campaign to bring her home have launched their latest fundraising and awareness effort, as hopes rise that she will finally set off on the 7,745-mile journey back to Hull next summer or the year after.
Artist Larry Malkin features the Viola on the cover of a new calendar Homeward Bound, along with 12 other famous Hull ships. The paintings will be auctioned in 2020, with the artist donating 50 per cent of the proceeds towards the Viola Trust.
Mr Malkin said he fell in love with the ship when he started painting her and researching her incredible story. He said: “I feel such an affinity with this boat. When you look at the size of it – only 90ft long – to think she went all the way to Grytviken (in South Georgia) and it is now abandoned.
“We need to get it back, otherwise we lose the maritime history of Hull.”
Amazingly, the wooden decking on the ship is “as good as the day she was built” and her engines are in working order.
However, the plan would to float her back the 7,745 miles home on a barge – at the cost of £1.5m, with another £1.5m needed to restore her. Project manager Norman Court said campaigners had to be “fairly guarded so as not to complicate things” in the build-up to the announcement earlier this month that Hull Council had scooped a £13.6m grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund for a project to protect and promote Hull’s rich maritime history.
“We can now be a bit more bold and start drawing attention to Viola,” he said.
The hope is Viola will one day sit alongside Hull’s historic sidewinder trawler, Arctic Corsair, in the newly renovated North End Shipyard.
Mr Court said promises and commitments he had received were “very strong” once the vessel was home. The £1.5m needed to bring her home could be drastically reduced if she is transported as a return load. He said: “With a fair wind, it will be next summer, and with complications the year after.”
Dr Robb Robinson, who discovered Viola’s bell in 2006 on a Norwegian farm, has been among those who have championed the campaign to bring Viola back to Yorkshire.
Dr Robinson said: “I’m as confident as I have ever been we can pull this off. It is something we have to go for. We have this incredible maritime history but the Arctic Corsair excepted, we are very short on historic ships.”