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After the trawl : memory and afterlife in the wake of Hull's distant-water trawl fishery from 1976

Byrne, Jo


Jo Byrne


David J. (David John), 1954 Starkey

Robin Diaper


From the late nineteenth century the city of Hull became synonymous with trawling. For almost a century its distant-water fishery developed as a strongly place-centered industry, concentrated in the western port district of Hessle Road. Here, amid a diverse urban economy, the requirements and customs of trawling created a distinctive social geography and local culture. In 1976, a perfect storm of rising oil prices, declining fish stocks and changes in global policy forced Hull’s fishery into rapid decline. In the years that followed, new practices enabled a smaller fishery to survive. Yet while fish merchants and processors continued their trade, the distant-water fleet was scrapped, sold or redeployed. This thesis engages oral history framed by documentary research, to examine the lived experience of Hull’s fishery in a decade of contraction and decline. The research is located in, and contributes to, the overlapping fields of fisheries history, cultural geography and cultural curatorship. In synthesising time, place and memory, the thesis constructs a holistic narrative of interweaving stories and converging themes that reveal the intricacies of this human interaction with the marine environment. It moves between land and sea, juxtaposing global and local factors. For Hull’s fishery, international politics and globalised fishing brought change directly to its door, while new seafaring operations altered the rhythms of life ashore. After 1976, as Hull’s surviving fishery reconfigured itself for global markets, it left old practices and associations in its wake and the repercussions were felt in the physical spaces and cultural networks of the fishing community. The thesis examines disruption and adaptation in a maritime industry, drawing upon geographical theories of ‘place’ to explore a changing relationship with the sea. It further considers how fishing is remembered and represented in Hull, as the former fishing communities seek the ‘right place’ for a trawling past in the future city.


Byrne, J. (2015). After the trawl : memory and afterlife in the wake of Hull's distant-water trawl fishery from 1976. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Nov 3, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jan 2, 2024
Keywords History
Public URL
Additional Information Department of History, The University of Hull
Award Date Jun 1, 2015


Thesis (45.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2015 Jo Byrne. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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