Mum ruled the roost

I had a lovely chat with a trawlerman who comes from a family whose connection to the Brixham fishing industry goes back to the 1500s. It was always assumed in his family that the kids would work on the trawlers. His dad was a fisherman and would be away from home for weeks at a time.

Mum ruled the roost

Mum ruled the roost.
Dad could be gone for up to ten days,
Chasing the fish and earning a wage,
She was strong.
Three of us to look after,
I don’t know how she did it.

It was kind of assumed that we’d follow him,
Become trawlermen, and indeed we did.
We hardly saw Dad through our childhood,
Though I was the youngest,
I probably saw him more than the others.
He’d learned, by then.
And I tried it too, the trawlers.
Didn’t like it.

There’s a photo somewhere of my
Great-great-grandfather,
Selling fish down by the Prince William,
My Grandfather
In his wet fish shop,
My other Grandfather,
He came down from Rye.
Since the 1500s we’ve been
Making our living this way.

Imagine what it’s like for a moment.
Beneath the hard exterior,
When the storms roll in there must be
Genuine fear, a husband
And sons at sea,
At mercy to the waves and the tides,
The inexplicable,
Good fortune, those twin propellers
Churning the water,
Miles and miles from land.

Mum ruled the roost.
Dad was always gone
And we knew he’d come home and spoil us,
Make up for it any way he could,
But it would be only too brief.
A couple of days,
And he’d be gone again.

Author: Robert Garnham

Performance and spoken word artist.

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