In a scene reminiscent of the Ealing Comedy film, Whisky Galore, which was released in 19-49 and was based on the real life sinking of the SS Politician in1941 off the coast of Eriskay,(Outer Hebrides) and the unauthorised removal of the cargo of whisky by the inhabitants of the island, and in which the residents were constantly at odds with The Customs and Excise men employed in trying to deter the ingenuity which the islanders displayed in removing the 50,000 cases, the riverside village of Paull was soon to be experiencing a similar unexpected windfall with the sinking of the SS Bergsund on May the Twentieth 1949.
Built by Furness Shipbuilding Co Ltd and launched in 1948 for Swedish owners, the Bergsund sank in the River Humber off no 10 bouy after a collision with the Hull trawler Lord Hotham when inbound from Stockholm via London for Hull.
With the prevailing westerly winds blowing fairly strongly, part of the deck cargo of timber was soon washed ashore onto the river bank at Paull where it was quickly collected by residents, and was left to dry for a few days, before being put to various uses in and around the homes of the village. In the day’s following the sinking, more and more Spruce and Pine came ashore until the villagers were having trouble to accommodate the windfall of new and unused quality timber. this had been unavailable previously, especially so in the war years with residents having been used to salvaging used and fire damaged scorched timber, frequently after the air raids on the Hull Docks, or picking up used pounder boards which had been used in the storage of fish on board trawlers.
The appearance of small wooden cases washing ashore caused further excitement, when it was realised that they contained Danish bacon and butter, so much so that rowing boats (coggies) launched to intercept them before they reached shore, it was said that it tasted fine after a good wash in fresh water, other crates also washed ashore, clearly marked, American Sweetened Lard, but things took a sudden dramatic turn when HM Customs and Excise officers took an interest in the proceedings, this brought activities to a premature end.
At the time, I was in my fourth year of working for a living, being employed at Hull Distillery Co Ltd as an apprentice Joiner, so I was conversant with the difficulties in obtaining first grade Joinery timber, or any timber for that matter as it was still on licence, we would place a request to the relevant authority knowing full well that we would only receive half of it!. Usually delivered from Horsley Smith and Co of Hedon Road, Hull, it was a common occurrence when cutting timber with a large circular saw to hit remnants of shrapnel or a bullet, bullets were not too dangerous if they happened to be lead, as they didn’t fly through the air when hit.
With members of The Humber Conservancy Board arriving in the village, they were soon very interested in attempting to retrieve some of the timber, Paull and the vicinity took a sudden different appearance, with activities being carried out as though there was about to be a village inspection similarly efficient as a modern day clean up for a Britain in Bloom Competition.
It was rumoured that on careful inspection however, stamped ends of timber still peeped from beneath garden sheds, probably extra ceiling joists had been installed in attics, and loft floors were reinforced, suggestions were rife that some lengths also having been cut to fit the width of potato rows on the allotments, with the tops of Arran Pilots and other varieties of second earlies concealing them.
The allotments were on the site of where St Andrews Close is built now, so the spoils hadn’t needed to have been carried far.
One of the elderly residents, commenting on the quality of the netted enclosures built to protect the soft fruit such as raspberries, cultivated brambles and loganberries, had noticed that they were outstanding that particular year, said *my wod,iv’e nivver seen owt quite like it”. The question whether the authorities had noticed the quality of these masterpieces, and the extensive amount of new build chicken runs in the village, remains unanswered.
What’s the saying, It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good ?
J R Uney,Hedon.