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Just under a year ago, on the morning of October 1, 2017, the Bedouin people of the remote fishing village of Salloum in the far west of Egypt awoke to a strange sight. Beached on the Mediterranean shore not far from the village was a large steel cargo ship. No-one was on board and there were no clues as to the name of the abandoned vessel. While locals suspected that the ship might have been involved in migrant smuggling, marine investigators tried to determine the name of the 1,100 ton freighter.
Their enquiries never stretched as far as Pembroke Dock, but if they had there would have been plenty of men who worked in Hancock's shipyard in the 1970s who would have immediately recognised the mystery ship as the 'Fastnet Rock', launched from the yard in 1979. In the 40 years that she traded across the oceans, the 'Fastnet Rock' underwent many changes of ownership and name, eventually being registered as 'Maria M' in Tanzania in 2014. Thereafter her career is shrouded in mystery until she fetched up abandoned on the shores of the Sahara a year ago.
The story of the 'Fastnet Rock' is just one of many fascinating yarns to be found in David James' new book 'Hancock's Shipbuilding Company in Pembroke Dock'. The author is well known as a maritime historian and as the driving force behind the West Wales Maritime Heritage Trust which, as it happens, has its museum headquarters in part of Hancock's old yard in Front Street, Pembroke Dock.
With the aid of a wealth of archive images, many previously unpublished, the author traces the story of five generations of Hancocks and their association with the sea, firstly as respected Milford Haven pilots and then as trawler owners and shipbuilders in Milford Haven and, later, Pembroke Dock.
As the title of the book indicates, it is the latter part of the Hancock story that is concentrated upon - the sixty years of shipbuilding in Pembroke Dock that began with steam trawlers and went on to include wartime patrol boats, two Hobbs Point/ Neyland ferries, numerous barges, landing craft and cargo vessels and also the centre span of the Cleddau Bridge, before the yard closed in the early 1980s.
As part of his researches, the author has interviewed numerous former Hancock's employees to build up a picture of what it was like to work in the yard, and the book gives a real sense of the camaraderie that existed there and the pride that the workforce took in seeing the vessels that they built take to the water. Many of these vessels are still earning their keep all over the world, and it comes as a surprise to learn that the old paddle-driven 'Cleddau Queen' was last reported working as an oil rig diving support vessel off Nigeria just a few years ago.
With a fascinating appendix listing all the ships built in the various Front Street shipyards from the 1820s to the 1970s, this book will appeal to local and maritime historians alike, as well as to the many people who have family connections with a fondly-remembered Pembroke Dock enterprise.
'Hancock's Shipbuilding Company in Pembroke Dock' by David James is published by Pembroke and Monkton History Society. It will be launched by Mr Peter Hancock on September 29th in the old Hancock's shipyard.
OTHER BOOKS BY DAVID JAMES
| Down the Slipway by David James
||Of Monks and Seawolves by DaviId James
Enquiries for these 3 publications to email@example.com
Pembrokeshire's Hidden Haven
“Pembrokeshire’s Hidden Haven” – a table top revision of the “Secret Waterway” produced by the Society some years ago, telling the story of the waterside communities along the shores of the two Cleddau rivers [Daugleddau], copiously illustrated with colour, and black and white archive images.
£12.50, postage and package £2.50
from David Reed,
& Fairsea Close
Tel: 01646 663819