Monday, 30 January 2017

Made in Hull: Born and Bred

Over the years Hull has produced some famous names, like Amy Johnson, Maureen Lipman, Tom Courtney, Mick Ronson and Trevor Bolder. Others, like Philip Larkin, whilst not born here, have nonetheless made the city their home. In this issue of the History Centre’s ‘City of Culture’ blog we look at relatively unknown Hull people who, whilst not famous, still have interesting stories to tell.

The Brave Sailor…Captain Joseph Kendrick

First we meet Joseph Kendrick, born 1847 in Liverpool. Kendrick was a sailor who came to adopt Hull as his home after joining the Wilson Line shipping company in 1869 as a Second Mate. He was a talented sailor and was soon promoted to First Mate in 1872, then Master in the following year. As Master he served on-board various Wilson Line ships, including the Borodino, ARGO, Otto, Toledo, Hero and Rialto. But for our story we are interested in his time as master of the SS Apollo, a steam passenger and cargo ship built in 1865 by Earles Shipbuilding & Engineering Co. Ltd of Hull for the Wilson Line.

It was early morning on the 7 March 1882 and there was thick fog in the Bay of Biscay. The Apollo was seemingly alone sailing through the bay. All of a sudden, out of the fog loomed a French Steamer, the Precurseur. There was no time to take avoiding action and the two ships collided, with the French steamer hitting the Apollo mid-ship. The Apollo was destroyed, sinking into the sea, and many of the crew tragically lost their lives. Amazingly, Kendrick, who usually slept in the chart room which was located mid-ship, had decided to sleep in his own cabin, otherwise he would surely have perished with his fellow crew members. The Precurseur managed to remain afloat although it was badly damaged and, in a truly heroic manner, its crew rallied to rescue the surviving crew of the Apollo.

Account of Captain Kendrick pertaining to the wrecking of the SS Apollo [U DX275/1]

We know of this incident because Kendrick wrote an account of that day in 1882. It gives us a first-hand account of the tragedy. The incident was also reported in the newspapers including an article in the Hull Times on 11 Mar 1882. His story gives us an insight into the near misses and tragedies endured by Hull mariners in this period.

The Pacifist Campaigner… Ron Huzzard

From misty seas to campaigns against the fog of war now with the story of Ronald William Huzzard. Born in Hull on 29 February 1920, he studied engineering at Hull Technical College and became a member of the Mechanical Engineers Institute. He was a Quaker and a man of strong principle who believed that what was morally wrong could not be politically right. As such, he was a staunch pacifist, a member of the Labour Pacifist Fellowship (later Labour Action for Peace), and an active campaigner for peace in his work for the trade unions.

Civil Defence Warden Service, Fire Guard Section, Card for Ron Huzzard [C TYR/4/1/20610]

When WWII broke out Huzzard was working as a draughtsman, a reserved occupation, and the War Office attempted to recruit him. He refused to serve on moral grounds and was called before a tribunal to defend his conscientious objection to working for the War Office. Whilst morally unable to help the war effort, he nevertheless wished to help with social effects of war. He served as a Fire Guard under Air Raid Precaution provisions, he also served as a stretcher barer at Beverley Road hospital.

Huzzard’s commitment to peace was life-long. He counted as friends Philip Noel-Baker, Fenner Brockway and Gordon Schaffer, and shared their beliefs in the United Nations as a world body for peace. He was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, he wrote extensively on the United Nations and a range of other tops for Labour Action for Peace (of which he was appointed General Secretary in 1980). He was awarded the Frank Cousins Peace Award by the Transport and General Workers Union, and after his retirement in 1979 he spent five years working on the Quaker Commission for Peace.

The Botanist and Educator… Eva Crackles

From peace to peas, and a tenuous link to our final story of the botanist Florence Eva Crackles. Known as Eva, she was born in Hull on 23 January 1918. A strong lady, she was an early female student at University College Hull and graduated with a BSc in Botany, Zoology and Mathematics in 1940. She was passionate about her subject and enjoyed sharing this. She worked as a teacher at Malet Lambert High School throughout her career until her retirement in 1978. She also gave evening classes for the Workers Educational Association. In 1991 Eva was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Hull University in recognition of her extensive contribution to botany and teaching.

Photograph of Eva Crackles on the occassion of her recieving an honorary degree for services to botany and education [L DIEC]

Eva was also a great campaigner for her cause. She was a member of the Hull Scientific & Field Naturalists Club (from 1941), and the Yorkshire Naturalists Union (from 1943). She wrote a regular column in the Hull Daily Mail called ‘Crackles Country’, and she was an active champion at public enquiries for threatened sites of special scientific interest in East Yorkshire. In 1992 this work was recognized with the award of an MBE for services to Botany and its conservation.

Its thanks to Eva that we know so much about the flora of East Yorkshire through her collecting of wildflower samples at derelict bombsites in the aftermath of WWII, and through her decades of research which culminated in the publication of ‘The Flora of the East Riding of Yorkshire’ in 1990.

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Brave seafarers, pacifists working for a better world, and campaigners with real passion… these are just some of the characters our city has helped shape. If these stories have piqued your interest and you want to find out more about Hull and its people, you can visit us here at the History Centre.

Claire Weatherall, Assistant Archivist HUA

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