Seahouses and District Probus Club

REMEMBERING BILL: The chairman of Seahouses Probus Club, Roger Howell, opened the meeting with comments about this year being the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and reminding single fellows that it was a leap year.

He asked that we spend a short time quietly reflecting on the passing of Bill Vincent, who was a founder member of the club. Roger then welcomed new members Malcolm Graham and Ian Wilkinson.

Bill Godfrey, the social secretary, outlined possible visits during the coming year and asked for opinions so that two or three could be organised.

The main item for the meeting was a talk by Tony Barrow on the Maritime Heritage of the North East Coast.

Tony, a former lecturer at Newcastle University, gave an absorbing summary of the activities and background to what has been going on along our coast for the last 100 to 200 years.

Tony showed a photograph of a Turner painting of 1799 with sailing boats used for trade in the Coquet near Warkworth Castle, a photograph of Seaton Sluice showing the new cut (dug out in 1764) and an aerial photograph of the mouth of the Tyne to point out the site of a Roman harbour. This illustrated the long association of sea trade with our region.

Shipping trade was only one element of our use of the sea. Fishing has been going on along our coast for centuries and the Northumberland coble, which was the basic fishing boat, is still being used.

The fishing families were all close knit communities and tended to live near each other. The fishermen’s squares are still evident but now mainly used as holiday homes.

To illustrate local connections during the Second World War, Tony told of the submarine Seahorse leaving Blyth, a submarine base in both world wars, in January 1940 which was lost with all hands.

The landlady at the Astley Arms put a bottle of Johnny Walker whisky behind the bar ready for the return of Seahorse. It stayed there for many years and is now in a maritime museum.

Joseph Baker-Cresswell, of Budle Hall, led the naval group that captured the German Enigma coding machine, which enabled Bletchley Park to crack German messages. The final connection mentioned was the Kelly, built on the Tyne and commanded by Earl Mountbatten.

David Wilson gave the vote of thanks for an excellent talk.