If asked to name the UK’s biggest fishing port many people will answer “Grimsby”. That was certainly true in the 1950’s when over 500 trawlers set out to sea. Today only a handful of boats remain but the outreach work for the Fishermen’s Mission in Grimsby is as vibrant as ever.
Superintendent Tony Jewitt, who has served in Grimsby since 2010, sets the scene,
“The Fishermen’s Mission building was housed in a portacabin on the Grimsby Fish Docks, close to the fish market. However, the demand from retired fisher folk far outstripped that of active fishermen so we moved our operations into the community ensuring we were in the thick of the action”
Today Grimsby’s Fishermen’s Mission in housed in an NHS building allowing scope for cross referral, ensuring the best possible care for over 1,000 beneficiaries. The bulk of Grimsby’s work concentrates on retired or shipwrecked fishermen and their families. Their needs range from providing a simple washing machine to more complex issues where multi-agency involvement is necessary. Tony speaks of some typical cases,
“Recently we helped a fishing family with a disabled daughter in need of a new custom made chair to aid her mobility. Later that year we arranged the makeover of several elderly fishermen’s homes.”
At Grimsby and throughout the UK the Fishermen’s Mission look beyond just the provision of equipment to discover what the real needs in the fishing community are. This is what it means to be in the thick of the action, as Tony explains,
“Grimsby has a huge problem with isolation and loneliness. To begin to combat this we have our annual fishermen’s reunion. Up to 200 retired fishermen meet at the town’ National Fishermen Heritage Centre to meet old friends and make new ones. It’s a great event for former fishermen to ‘hook up’ and talk days gone by.”
Tony also speaks of the Lost Fishermen’s Service at Grimsby Minister,
“This important service gives an opportunity for those who have lost someone at sea, or are grieving more recently, to come together and share each-other pain”
The expensive needs of the Grimsby fishing community keep Tony Jewitt in the thick of the action. But through the grace of God there is also joy in making a real difference to the Grimsby fishing folk he has been called to serve.