This Month’s Q&A With Jim Hebden of Hebdens Seafood
Jim – When did you first become involved in the fishing industry?
My father was a fisherman and, when a berth became free on the boat he worked on, I joined that
crew. That was in 1958, I was seventeen. Before that I worked in a butchers shop, waiting for a fisherman’s job to become available.
Did you ever own your own boat?
Yes over the years we owned three boats. The first was small and then they got progressively bigger.
They were called Ocean Venture, Harvester and Ocean Venture 11.
How long did you work at sea?
In total 35 years. I guess over that time I had experience in nearly all types of fishing, including crabbing, long line fishing, dog and rock salmon fishing, prawn fishing and herring fishing.
How did you decide what to fish?
The seasons and the weather determine what is available.
How did you start doing farmers’ markets?
After giving up fishing, my wife Mary and I used to sell crabs at car boot sales. When farmers’ markets first started we gave it a go. As time when on there were more and more markets so we went to as many as possible. This meant that we had to rent our own premises to prepare the produce. We use about 100 crabs a week which we dress. The 100 crabs will make about thirty dressed crabs. We also sell large crabs whole. Mary makes the pate fresh for the markets to her own recipe.
What is your best-selling produce?
It is strange but that very much depends on which market we go to. At Oakwood it would be crab and white fish, at Otley we sell a great deal of mackerel and at Headingley the customers buy everything! We usually sell out there.
Jim, do you ever think of retiring?
Technically, I have retired! My son Richard took over the business five years ago. I just come along to help as I enjoy meeting the customers.
So what else do you do with your spare time – golf, knitting?
Golf! No, I can’t think of anything worse – waste of time! But knitting- not exactly, but I do teach one day a week at the fishing school in Whitby which includes showing students how to mend nets and make crab pots. I suppose that is a bit like knitting. It is good to pass on the skills I have learnt to the next generation and I enjoy working with young people.
I am also writing my autobiography because I have lived quite an unusual and varied life as a fisherman. It has been a time of great change and a lot of Whitby and the industry as I first knew it will not be seen again. I think it’s important to record that way of life and community.
You must have a lot of stories from that time at sea. Can you whet our appetite with one of them?
Sometimes we used to catch extra-large fish which would not fit in the boxes; we used to put them on shelves instead till we could do something with them. One day we caught an extra-large cod and when we got round to cleaning it we found a whole musical cassette in its stomach. A reporter from our local radio station got to hear about it and took the cassette home and discovered that it still played!
Was it Marillion with lead singer Fish?
No it wasn’t, but strangely one of the tracks was “I am a prisoner”
What is your Favourite type music?
Sole drum n bass.
What about a favourite TV character?
It would have to be Pike in Dad’s Army.
Suggestions for favourite book?
The Shellfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.
Thank you Jim
There is only one London Underground station which does not contain any of the letters in the word MACKEREL. Can you work out which it is (without using the Internet – answer next month)?