Fish Tales Man: more on Sir Alfred Bannister

26 Apr 2016

Somewhere in the JCS Fish archives is a reference to the renowned Grimsby businessman, Alfred Bannister.

There can’t be many old “Grimmies” or “Grimbarians” who had links to the Fish Docks who wouldn’t know the name … Here was a man who started with little in a working class household and who climbed the ladder of success due to his keen eye for a business deal, his innovative skills – and bloody, hard work.

Like many towns, the area around Grimsby had good brickmaking resources. My old Dad, ex regular army, became a brick yard labourer. It was a real slog of a job. Yet this was the first job that the young Alfred undertook, probably around the age of 13 or 14. He stuck at it for almost a year, but decided that it wasn’t the life for him and he fancied a life on the ocean waves. I’m not sure if fishing smacks sailed the oceans, but they certainly sailed the seas – the North Sea in particular – and Alfred joined one such smack as a trainee cook – another tough job.

But cooking wasn’t his dream job, and Alfred set to studying for his skipper’s “ticket”, whilst he sailed on the trawlers “Saxon” and “Teuton”. He achieved his “ticket” at the age of 21 and by the age of 23 he was in command of the trawler “Chieftan”. 

Now, tradition has it that fishermen used to blow all of their trip pay outs on visits down Freeman Street, keeping the publican of the Dogger Bank pub in Freeman Street in the lifestyle that he’d become accustomed to! However, Mr Francis Dolan couldn’t rely on Alfred to put food on his table, for the young man had his sights set on higher things. Alfred bought in to some of the trawlers on which he sailed. At the age of 33 he decided to go ashore, where he helped form two companies. One of these was the Forward Steam Fishing Company, as well as one in his own name. Now some people have a finger in another pie. Not Alfred, he had “hands” in other pies. Here are those pies – and they’re not JCS Fish “fish pies”!

First ever secretary of the Fishing Vessel Owners Exchange.

Director of Great Grimsby coal Salt and Tanning Co.

Director of Grimsby Cordage.

Director of the Grimsby Ice Company.

Director of Grimsby Plumbing Company.

Director of Grimsby Salvage and Towing Company.

Louise Coulbeck – have you been blessed with your relative’s work ethic?

Would Alfred have had the time to deliver all those roles if he’d been messing around on a play station in his youth instead of carting heavy bricks around?

But, ever the ambitious man, our Alfred even had time to dabble in local politics for 23 years and was beaten to being the Town’s Liberal M.P. by one Mr H. Tickler. This man, Alfred Bannister, must have been an absolute workhorse. He certainly earned and deserved his success. The Coulbeck family must be very proud of their links to him. 

Of course, even super heroes have to meet their maker, and so it was for Sir Alfred Bannister, who had by now received Royal recognition for his extraordinary contribution to the towns of Grimsby and Cleethorpes. The great man passed away in 1931, still only 63 years old. Of course, his companies carried on after his demise and the family name continued for many years. The Saxon name shall be forever linked to him. My old employers, Marine Diesel Services Limited, did repair work on the Saxon Forward, Saxon Onward and the Saxon Progress in the 1970’s.

I’ve had news that the Saxon Onward went to Australia in 1976, was converted to a stern trawler, and now operates out of Hobart, Tasmania fishing in the South East Trawl Sector of Australia for deep sea species and market fish …. Now what would Alf have made of that!

A pleasant couple of hours in Grimsby Library revealed a list of ships owned by his companies in 1929. So, I’ll bid you goodbye for now and present their names and numbers as an appendix.


Fish Tales Man

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