Grimsby’s hosting of a special exhibition to mark 750 years of the Worshipful Company of Fishmongers provided an opportune location for industry leaders to pay their respects at the passing of the Queen.
A large portrait by Pietro Annigoni, a copy of the original hanging in Fishmongers’ Hall, is the focal point of the Grimsby Fishing Heritage Centre display. And it provided a poignant backdrop as royal connections were remembered.
Company liveryman Wynne Griffiths CBE, former chief executive of Young’s Seafood, and Grimsby Fish Merchants’ Association secretariat Simon Dwyer were joined by Fishermen’s Mission superintendent and mission area officer Suesan Brown, who led a prayer ahead of a minute’s silence.
Read more: Humber business community pays tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Mr Griffiths, wearing his high-ranking honour for the first time since being presented it, said: “It is a very lucky coincidence that the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee coincided with the 750th anniversary of the Fishmongers Company getting its royal charter. Because of those two things coming together, we ended up with a very expensive replica of the original painting of the Queen by Pietro Annigoni.
“It is a happy coincidence we have this painting here in Grimsby, so people can come and pay their respects, both mourning our magnificent Queen and celebrating an absolutely outstanding life. It is great that the Fishmongers have been able to provide that and for it to celebrate the appointment of the King.”
Mr Griffiths also paid tribute to the Princess Royal, a warden of The Fishmongers’ Company, who presented him with his CBE following recognition to services to the food industry in 2009, when the Queen was taken ill. She has been a constant beside Her Majesty this week.
Respect and rapport flowed in equal measure at the gathering, with merchants joining from several town businesses, including Alfred Enderby, a supplier of traditionally smoked fish to the Royal family.
Mr Dwyer recounted the Queen’s visit in 1958 and those of the King, as Prince of Wales, in 1978 and 2004 - when he toured Coldwater’s processing plant - now Hilton Seafood.
But it was a tale involving a 40lb sturgeon - classed as royal fish - that proved the highlight, as the clock was wound back to January 1953 with help from a special book published to mark the centenary of Grimsby FMA.
Oscar Cleve had bought the rare protected species after it was landed on the docks. With the rights to it belonging to the Crown, it was offered to the new Queen, though tradition with King George VI had previously seen it politely declined.
A telegram arrived accepting, much to the shock of the merchant, who had subsequently sold it to a customer in Somerset. Thankfully it hadn’t been plated up, and a 10-hour journey through winter fog and ice ensued to get Her Majesty the fish dish from Grimsby to Buckingham Palace, via Yeovil.
Supt Brown said the Queen had “done so much for the fishing community and towns and villages round the UK” during her reign. She said: “She made so many visits and always showed an interest in us, as well as stealing our sturgeon! She had a love for fish and her faith.”
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