In 1965 my late father, Meurig Davies (MBE), came home from working 8 years in the merchant navy, to 'settle down' with my mother. As a second officer, he had sailed on general cargo ships, to many different ports, mainly in Argentina, Africa and Norway. He started a job in Hotpoint factory, in Llandudno Junction, as a supervisor on the factory floor. He used to describe the period he worked there as, 'being like a seagull kept in a cage'. An accident whilst operating a machine, that should have been guarded, left him with two damaged fingers and as a result he was given some compensation.
Skylark on Llandudno Beach before the wheelhouse
'Skylark' in the River Conwy with her new wheelhouse.
Meurig and 'Skylark' waiting to load an angling party on Deganwy Beach
He decided to buy a boat and start an angling business. The 'Skylark' was engaged in passenger trips in Llandudno Bay at the time and was for sale. She would need a new engine and a wheelhouse. Meurig bought her and fitted a marinised ford van engine into her. My Taid (grandfather) was a handy carpenter so he built the wheelhouse. Meurig started to work the Skylark from Deganwy beach a place with no jetty or pontoon to land and embark the anglers but it was close to his home. Skylark was shallow draughted in the bow so the anglers could embark along a plank. Yes they had to walk the plank before they even started their day! The bookings developed and before long he left Hotpoint and started angling trips full time.
Meurig and angler, Glyn Watkins, with a fine Tope aboard 'Skylark'
In these early years all the fishing was ground fishing and distances travelled were never more than a few miles from Conwy. Most species at that time throughout the UK were very plentiful. There was no GPS, and echo sounders were very rudimentary affairs. All marks were pinpointed using transits off the land so it was very difficult to relocate a good fishing spot when more than about three or four miles from the land.
The Skylark was a wooden boat and in the early 70's fiberglass boats were becoming more popular. In 1973 Meurig decided the business was doing well enough to warrant buying a new faster, fiberglass vessel. He visited various yards around the UK but the Lochin 33 design captured his attention more than any other. They were built in Rye in Sussex. The builder, Frank Nichols, actually built racing car bodies but had a Naval architect, Robert Tucker, design a hull that he could start building. In 1974 Meurig took delivery of the first hull that Lochin Marine had actually fitted out themselves (they had only previously built the hulls to be fitted out in other yards). She was 33 feet long and could criuse at a speed of about 14 knots.
Lady Gwen steaming across Conwy Bay with the Great Orme in the background
At that time fishing over wrecks was becoming more popular, but to locate the wrecks a more sophisticated navigation method was needed. Commercial fishing trawlers were using the Decca Navigator (Mk21), but it could only be hired and not purchased. It cost around £1400 a year to hire which back then was a considerable amount of money. Meurig went out one day with one of the trawlers to fish a wreck off the Great Orme. He couldn't believe the cod fishing they had that day, many fish in the 10-20 lb bracket. So he came back and ordered a Decca Navigator the next day.
I know it sounds like one of those 'good old days' stories but fishing at that time was pretty incredible within 10 miles of the shore. Between 1974 and 1980 this is the list of my best fish, Cod 22lb, Pollack 17lb, Thornback Ray 21lb, Blonde Ray 26lb 12oz, that I can remember. They really were the 'hay days' of angling with about fifteen charter vessels operating from Conwy at the time and of course one from Deganwy. I can remember during summer school holidays that every day would have a booking, Dad even running two 7 hour trips a day each weekend. There was at that time much industry in the North West, steelworks, coal mines, chemical plant, all of which employed workers on shifts, so many anglers had time off in the week as well as weekends. Its also worth noting at that time there were 6-8 full time trawlers (40-70 foot) working from Conwy, either trawling or queen/king scallop fishing.
Carl with a 22lb cod caught on a Red Gill whilst fishing for pollack