LOOKING BACK: Morecambe Fishermen’s Choir through the years

Looking back, The Visitor, 1935, the original fishermen's choir
Looking back, The Visitor, 1935, the original fishermen's choir

The Morecambe Fishermen’s Choir first began in 1904 with several choristers featured in the 1935 edition of The Visitor.

Founded in 1904 the choir began after the Rev. G. H. Kennedy, who was the minister at Clarence Street in 1904, took inspiration to start a choral team.

In 1935 the choir still retained many of its original members, with only a few months passing since its foundation conductor, Mr James Cooper, retired from the position.

During his ministry at Morecambe, Mr Kennedy took a special interest in the fishermen.

He spent all his leisure time with them, and encouraged all to attend Church using his initiative and inviting them to sing solos at the services.

After including these fishermen soloists in many of the services at Clarence Street, Mr Kennedy was struck by the idea “Why not have all these fishermen singers together at one service?”

The choir rapidly became an established feature in the life of the town.

Its membership ranged from a man of over 30 years of age, bewhiskered Jim Woodhouse (known as “Admiral of the Fleet”) to young lads like Billy Baxter and “Bloney” Baxter.

Except for a break during the war years, when the fishermen of the choir put their knowledge of the sea at the disposal of their country and “did their bit” by joining the Navy, the choir sung every year since its inception to help deserving objects.

It raised hundreds of pounds for the Morecambe Hospital by its concerts in the Promenade band stands during the summer, and helped many other charitable causes.

In 1935 the biggest single effort of the choir was in pre-war days, when it raised over £100 by a concert at the Winter Gardens in aid of the dependants of the number of fishermen from Baycliffe, Ulverston, who were drowned to a man when their boat, laden with mussels, struck a sandbank and broke in tow.

Do you recognise any of these faces or names in the picture (above) of the original Fisherman’s Choir?

Back (from left): Rev. G. H. Kennedy (minister at Clarence Street Church), Mark Woodhouse (then chapel keeper), Robert Gardner, George Parkinson, Rev. W. G. Peck (at that time minister of Sandylands Methodist Church) and John Thomas Woodhouse.

Second row from back: James Cooper (founder-conductor), David Willacy, Edward Gardner (formerly a Fisheries Board officer), Johnnie Bolton, J. G. Gardner, Jim Woodhouse (“Admiral of the Fleet” and over 80 years of age at the time the photograph was taken), Edward Woodhouse, James Baxter, Percy Baxter, Richard Brown, Dick Mayor and T. H. Wheeldon (organist).

Third row from back (seated): Sam Baxter, Robert Baxter, Johnnie Houghton, Tom Cocking, “Happy Jack” Woodhouse, Adam Woodhouse, Jack Baxter, Harry Gardner, Billy (“Knocker”) Baxter.

Front Row: Jim Willacy, Dick Threlfall, Billy Baxter and (believe it or not)“Bloney” Baxter.