One of Yorkshire's last distant water fishermen, Kirkella's Charlie Waddy, retires after half a century at sea

FOR half a century he has ploughed the rolling main, one of the last members of a once mighty fleet, feeding the nation with the fish to go with the chips.

The first mate of Hull’s Kirkella, Charlie, 63, the face of the fight to save what is the UK’s last distant water trawler, has retired, following his final trip fishing for cod off Svalbard.

Kirkella’s precious haul - 650 tonnes of fillets - is now heading to fish and chips shops across the land. “It was absolutely atrocious, minus 20C, hurricane winds, icebergs,” said Charlie.

Over the weekend hundreds of pals from the many trawlers he has served on - from Germany, Iceland and Denmark too - beat a path to Hull to celebrate the “final settling”.

Charlie Waddy, aged 63, one of Hull's longest serving fishermen, is retiring after half a century at sea Picture: James Hardisty

Charlie is one of a dwindling band of local men hailing from Hessle Road - the heart of the city’s former fishing community.

His uncles were bobbers, his brother went to sea, while the other was a fish filleter.

Father Arthur was lost at sea in 1961 when the Arctic Viking went down off Flamborough Head, leaving his mum to bring up seven children. Charlie was just three but says it never put him off going to sea.

In fact seven years later when he was just 10 he went on his first pleasure trip off Iceland. He remembers he didn't get a share of the takings - but got £10 in tips.

Charlie standing by the Kirkella in Hull Docks Picture: James Hardisty

Things, of course, are vastly different now - the Cod Wars of the 1970s shrank the port’s traditional fishing grounds. Charlie remembers lobbing potatoes at the Icelandic gunboats intent on cutting their warps, but in the end the crews’ resistance proved futile.

The pickings are even smaller now as a result of the recent round of talks with the Norwegians.

“When I started there were hundreds of ships out of Hull, you could come out of one and into another in a couple of days,” he said. “Now you wouldn’t get a job on a ship like this as there aren’t the quotas.”

Back then there were none of the mod cons of gym, sauna, cinema room, that the Kirkella has. There was a “sit up and beg bath”, ten men to a cabin, and in the early days they got fed fish as bacon and eggs were considered too expensive.

Father Arthur was lost off Flamborough Head after a three-week trip to the White Sea aged 47. He'd been at sea more than 26 years

They got the BBC World Service on a Sunday, and men would take along their record and cassette players for a bit of music on board.

“Some ships you’d have to pump up water from the engine room with a hand pump - you’d run up and somebody would be sat in the bath,” he recalls with a smile.

His favourite ship of all time? The trawler Dane. “The skipper Captain Jack Lilly was a party animal - he used to look after us all. We are not even allowed an Irn-Bru now.”

As well as carrying out the duties of what the French call the second skipper, Charlie also got called in when crew were injured and has a picture showing his handiwork - a neatly stitched eyelid after a crewmember was hit in the eye with the gun of a pressure washer.

In Kirkella's wheelhouse Picture: James Hardisty

He has mentored countless younger fishermen when they started out.

Local lad Dean Jackson who has been at sea with Charlie since he was 16 will be first mate now.

Charlie, a grandfather of three, said: “I’m going to miss it there’s absolutely no doubt, but everything comes to an end. My main reason is I’ve had next to no time with (wife) Anita over the years and I’ve decided to do it mainly for her.”

He first went to sea on a "pleasure" trip aged just 10 two years after the Triple Trawler Tragedy where the three ships were lost in the space of a few weeks in 1968 Picture: James Hardisty