What was the Silver Cod and what did it represent?

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Published: Wednesday 19th April 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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We’ve teamed up with Hull Museums to bring you a weekly series of historical facts and tales.

Today, we’re looking at what the Silver Cod Trophy meant to British trawlers in the mid-twentieth century.

Running from 1954 to 1968, the Silver Cod Trophy was an annual award organised by the British Trawlers’ Federation. The honour was given to the vessel that caught the largest amount of fish during that year.

The first winner to grasp the Silver Cod was the Arctic Warrior. Built in Beverley in 1937, the Warrior survived fire damage and managed to continue sailing until 1975.

Meanwhile, the most successful trawler in the 15 years of the competition was the Somerset Maugham.

She won the trophy a whopping four times, receiving the award three times in a row between the years of 1965 and 1967. Other ships to be given the trophy included Lord Beatty, Stella Leonis, the Prince Charles, and lastly the Primella in 1968.

The average amount of days out at sea spent by an award-winning trawler was 381. In the meantime, the average kits of fish caught was 40,933.

The trophy itself is literally a silver cod. Made from 100 ounces of silver, the foot-high sculpture was designed by famous silversmith Leslie Durbin.

He is also known for making the Stalingrad sword of honour, a two-edged fighting weapon presented by Winston Churchill to Joseph Stalin in November 1943. Durbin also made items for King George VI.

A smaller version of the award was also crafted. This was given to Skipper Norman Longthorpe and his crew, who sailed the brand new Falstaff.

Built in the 1950s, the Hull trawler set out to the Icelandic sea in 1959. The crew of 19 managed to catch an amazing 400,000 stone of fish during their 332 days away.

The catch was worth two million pounds in today’s money.

You can see this trophy, plus a replica of the full-size award, at the Hull Maritime Museum. The skipper’s trophy is part of a large collection of donated items from one of Longthorpe’s relatives.

Along with the Cod itself, there’s a scrapbook Norman kept from the award ceremony. A menu from the Annual Silver Cod Dinner at the Fishmonger’s Hall in London is in there. Fittingly, the starter for the fancy award ceremony meal was cod.

There’s also a telex report and a BBC interview with the skipper. The interview is a particularly interesting piece, in which Longthorpe discusses his exciting adventures.

Other awards that trawlers could be awarded included the Boothby Trophy, the Golden Haddock, the Prunier Trophy and the Maitland Trophy. The latter ran from 1968 until 2010.

You can find Hull Maritime Museum in Queen Victoria Square. Entry is free and the museum opens 10am-5pm Monday-Wednesday, 10am-7pm Thursdays, 10am-5pm Friday-Saturday and 11am-4:30pm Sundays.

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Published: Wednesday 19th April 2017 by Rich Sutherland

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