Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Peter Coglan, centre; his son Lee on right; and Lee’s son Louie on left

John Cole launches book on generations of fishermen

After almost thirty years of photography, and almost two years of Kickstarter funding and design work, John Cole’s collection of photographs entitled Generations: Hastings Fishing Families will finally see the light of day. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths spoke to John Cole about his thoughts and memories of the Hastings fishing folk he got to know quite well – however, there will be a tinge of sadness as some fishermen featured in the book are no longer with us.

Gary Cornelius with his son Charlie

The launch will have a special poignancy as, sadly, fisherman Gary Cornelius died at sea the day before page proofs were sent to the printer. Gary is one of four fishermen featured on the cover of Generations. “I was worried that Gary’s family and friends would be upset seeing his photo on the cover. But Paul Joy and Yasmin Ornsby of the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society assured me that, quite the opposite, they would be touched to see him so honoured being on the cover of a book celebrating the Hastings fishing community.”

Commercial fishing is proportionally the second most dangerous occupation in the UK. Consequently this book is a reminder of that, but also a tribute to the bravery of fishermen who regularly go out to sea in all weather conditions – rough, calm, hot and cold.

One of John’s most striking images is of Henry Adams whom he photographed in 1991. His eyes certainly have a story to tell. He started his career as a fisherman until one day he watched as a colleague got his legs tangled in rope, was pulled overboard and drowned. Henry never went out to sea again. He became a Boy Ashore – helping the fishermen bring their catch off the boat – until he died in 1993.

John also has many positive memories of photographing the fishermen at sea, most especially the strong rapport between fathers and sons working together. Joe Britt, a lad of 15, regularly goes out with his father Danny on Jason Adam’s boat, Senlac Jack. When John asked young Joe what he liked most about being a fisherman, he said without hesitation, “I love being out with my dad all day. I wish I could go out more, but because I’m in school I can only go out on weekends and holidays.”

Similarly 13-year-old Alfie, who regularly goes out to sea with his father, Peter White, says he loves going out with his dad and wishes he could go out more often.

Mark Ball and his son Jamie

John went out to sea with a number of fathers and their sons  – Mark Ball and Jamie; Robert Ball and Shane; Jason Adams and Will; Heath Banfield and Warren; and once with three generations of fishermen on one boat, Peter, Lee and Louie Coglan – and says he was always impressed at their rapport and ease of working together under physically stressful conditions.

“I don’t want to over-sentimentalise their working relationship,” says John, “And of course there was the occasional taking the mick when things went wrong. But it is rare these days to see families literally working so closely together, day after day in the most trying of conditions, and still maintain a quiet, unspoken strong family bond.”

He adds, “I do hope as many people as possible can come to the launch, a chance to celebrate the men and women of the UK’s oldest beach-launched fishing communities, a community that may become extinct in the very near future.”

Rather than champagne and canapés at some posh location, John, Paul and Yasmin decided it would be much more appropriate to have the launch at the East Hastings Sea Angling Association in the morning, where the fishermen traditionally gather for a full English.

The book launch will be on Tuesday 21 September, from 9am till 12 noon, at the East Hastings Sea Angling Association, opposite the RNLI lifeboat station.

John will share the profits from the sale of Generations with the Hastings Fishermen’s Protection Society.

See a previous HOT article about John Cole and this project.

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Posted 20:18 Wednesday, Sep 15, 2021 In: Photography

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