Thursday, 24 October 2013

Deal's greatest ambassador to angling

Deal’s greatest ambassador to angling

By David Chamberlain

Throughout the autumn of 1963, there were a group of anglers who frequented the south corner of the bottom deck on Deal Pier most evenings. They were taking advantage of the prolific cod stocks that the previous cold winter had revived.  One such man excelled in the task and managed to find more and larger fish than most. Born in January, 1900, Cecil James Barber Hurd was always recognisable in his duffle coat and black beret. He was at all times known as Jim and was the proprietor of the local tackle shop, The Foc’sle, which was situated opposite the entrance of Deal Pier.
In 1925 Jim Hurd had married the previous owner of The Foc’sle’s daughter, Margaret Marshall, who was also a keen angler. Eventually he took over the running of the shop, which had been established in 1909, until his death in 1978. They had a daughter, Alison, who was born in 1930. Throughout his life he had dedicated himself to angling and the promotion of Deal as being the Mecca of angling. He joined the Deal and Walmer Angling Association (founded in 1904 and one of the oldest clubs in England) as a young man and was Vice-chairman by 1927; finally becoming chairman for a period of 18 years.

As chairman, Jim Hurd took a keen interest in angling politics and was elected onto the standing committee of the National Federation of Sea Anglers (NFSA) which, at that time, was developing and taking over from the previous governing body the British Sea Angling Society.  He helped form the rules and regulations being used by the Federation that has only recently been made defunct and is now incorporated in the Angling Trust. In 1950 he instigated that the Deal and Walmer Angling Association (D&WAA) hold a tope festival. The tope are a small shark which frequented the Goodwin Sands. On the first festival 89 anglers participated and caught 12 large tope. This event became popular and anglers from all over Britain came to Deal to enter.

 The Deal and Walmer Angling Association honoured him with a life membership in 1952 and a Vice-Presidency in 1955. It would have been the same year that the national body, the NFSA, also awarded Jim the tribute of becoming a life member and two years later Vice-Chairman and Vice-President of their organisation.
Jim Hurd’s tireless enthusiasm made Deal the centre of angling - and him an ambassador of the sport. Local boatmen, hotel keepers and shopkeepers made a good living from the fishermen that came to Deal. He wrote up-to-date reports for the Fishing Gazette, a national angling paper, which was read by anglers all over Britain. From his tackle shop he invented many kinds of tackle that improved the anglers’ catches and was way ahead of his time in rod design. To own a custom built rod by JB Hurd with the Foc’sle transfer on it was the ultimate in angling equipment.

It is doubtful that the small group of anglers who clustered around their rods under the dim lights of Deal Pier in the autumn of 1963 had realised all the good work that this large man, attired in his duffel coat and beret, had done in the past … if they did they would have felt it a privilege to have known Jim Hurd.          


The demise of the boats at Deal

The demise of the boats at Deal

By David Chamberlain

At the beginning of the 1960s, a Deal boatman’s licence could be obtained from Deal pier master, Captain Harris. Although there were new builds, many of the pleasure boats were old and some had been converted from sail to motor. The skills of Deal boatmen were renowned and the only accidents that happened, in the many boats that plied for hire, were the occasional soaking to their clientele.  However, in August 1966, the pleasure boat Dalwin was sunk off Cornwall with the loss of 31 lives, and this would affect the way these boats were licensed from then on.

The shock waves of this disaster carried throughout Britain and the Government requested that local seaside councils take another look at their responsibilities to the general public and the licensing of boatmen and their vessels. Deal Council insisted that all boatmen took a test and received a Board of Trade certificate. These verbal tests were carried out at the old Quarter Deck building with a B.O.T examiner in charge. This licence was duly issued allowing the skipper to take afloat 250 passengers … but only three miles out to sea.

The Council also expected all boats that wished to take fare paying passengers should be seaworthy and issued a yellow plastic plaque which was screwed to the bow of the craft for the public to view. When the Board of Trade was dissolved, and new boatmen required a licence, the Council asked that the Deal & Walmer Inshore Fishermans Association provide a test for the prospective applicants. This was carried out with the help of three full time boatmen, an observer and an officer from the Council’s foreshore department. Everybody was happy and the reputation of boatmen and safety of passengers was one hundred percent. However, the three mile licence was a bone of contention. This argument was brought up at a council meeting in the Town Hall and the boatmen managed to temporary convince the council that they had a ten mile from land dispensation.

Eventually the Government tightened the screws and insisted that the boats carried a vast amount of safety equipment onboard and a professional survey be carried out on the vessels plying for hire. The boatmen were to have a licence issued from a national governing body which would be relevant to all English ports. The argument of the Deal boatmen was that, as they operated from the beach, their crafts were smaller than those from harbours and did not have the room to stow the extra equipment and life rafts. Their needs did not come into the equation and many were priced out of making it a viable business proposition. 

The many angling boats, that were once a familiar sight along the beach, started to disappear, and at this time of writing there is only one plying for hire. Safety is not only paramount but, in this day and age, it is imperative. However, those halcyon days that brought many happy memories to thousands of boat anglers who had fished from Deal’s piscatorial paradise … are just memories.