Scarborough fisherman Colin Jenkinson celebrates 70 years at sea

There are some jobs from which people can’t be separated, and talk to Colin Jenkinson for a few minutes and you’ll see he’s a fisherman. It’s in his bones.

By Corinne Macdonald
Tuesday, 24th December 2019, 11:24 am
Updated Tuesday, 31st December 2019, 10:18 am

The trade is almost woven into his DNA, he can trace his ancestors – all fishermen of Filey and Scarborough – back to the start of the 18th century, and the legacy continues with his grandson William, who still fishes out of Scarborough.

His late son Bill also joined him in the trade.

This year marks Colin’s 70th year at sea, an incredible feat for such a physical job.

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Colin Jenkinson at Whitby Harbour. Picture by Richard Ponter

Born in January 1935, he got his first taste of the job aged four when he went with his dad Charles just before World War Two, and again as a schoolboy spending two or three days’ fishing for herring on the Silver Line.

Though his dad said he wasn’t going to follow him to sea full time, Colin had other ideas. “I first went as crew in the school holidays in 1948 and I was on a quarter share and I got £15,” he said. “That was an awful lot of money.

“I left school in January 1950. I just missed out leaving at 14 and the school master said as soon as I was 15 I could leave.

“So on that day I came home from school and I was at sea the next day.”

Colin with his grandson William. Picture by Richard Ponter

“The year I left school, about 12 Scarborough fishermen went labouring for the council because there was nowt much doing.

“But that next winter fish came off controlled price and everybody who went working ashore came back into fishing because everybody was doing OK then.”

He gave that first £15 to his mum, but the opportunity to earn a decent living was only part of the attraction.

“If you’re going to be a fisherman you’ve got to want to do it or you won’t last,” he explained.

Our Pride in rough seas. Picture from Jenkinson family.

The first boat Colin bought was Margaret and William in 1963 and he went on to have seven over his career. His grandson still fishes on Our Sharon.

Colin, known as Dilt to the other fishermen, was an adventurous skipper and though fine weather is the best for fishing, he was notorious for going to sea in all conditions.

His wife Rachel said: “The number of times his crew came in and said to me ‘he’s absolutely mad’.

“They used to ring him up and say it’s given a terrible forecast, and he used to say it’ll have blown through by the time we’ve got there.

Front from left, Will and Colin Jenkinson and above, Bill Jenkinson. Picture from Jenkinson family.

“He’s always told me he had faith in his boat, but he has admitted that once or twice he was a bit dubious, to say the least.”

He and Rachel will have been married for 60 years next year, and it’s clear his wife has been a great support – waking at all hours to prep bait in the warehouse.

The couple have three children together, five grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

The sea and boats, in one way or another, have taken up most of Colin’s life – he was a member of Scarborough RNLI for 13 years from 1954.

In 2001 after he sold Our Pride, it didn’t take long before Colin and Rachel commissioned Parkol Marine Engineering in Whitby to build a 40 per cent scale replica of Captain Cook’s Endeavour, which they ran as a tourist attraction in Whitby for nine years.

Colin said: “It was the hardest job I’ve ever done.“

We once did 72 days with no break, we enjoyed it but by the time we did nine years we were glad to sell her.”

He then returned to where it all began – Scarborough harbour – working on a small potting boat.

“[Fishing] is something I always wanted to do,” he said. “It’s nice that I’m finishing up doing more or less what I started at, in a small boat. But we’ve been through it all, all types of fishing.

“I think my favourite was probably lining, I loved that. It was the best job in the world.”