A BANBRIDGE merchant unveiled plans in 1949 to speed Ulster fish to the British market at a time when it was asserted that if nothing was done the industry would shrink drastically.
If his transport experiment proved successful Mr. Jack Dobbin of Dobbin Bros. Fish and Fruit Merchants was to speed up delivery so that fish landed at Kilkeel would reach London’s Billingsgate Market 36 hours later, rather than 72 hours later, as was then the case.
Mr. Dobbin, who bought his fish at Kilkeel, was to put on the road as soon as possible a lorry able to carry 10 tons of fish and fitted with an insulated container kept cool byb the evaporation of a chemical.
The loaded lorry would be driven to Larne Habour and enter the vehicle ferry sailing to reston, from whence it would proceed by road direct to London.
Given favourable conditions the journey should be accomplished in 36 hours, it was reported, and at the most, 60 hours.
Another plan was to use a container without a chemical and instead put more ice in the fish boxes. Boxes made from an aluminium alloy would be tried, as it was felt the existing wooden boxes carried bacteria no matter how well they were washed.
Mr. Dobbin’s lorry had been hired from a firm in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, the Ulster Transport Authority, whose permission was required, having readily agreed to the experiment.
This method of shipping 10 tons of fish might be scuccessful, it was suggested, but it remained ot be seen if it would do for shipping 100 tons - the quantity the merchants wanted to send each day.
The purchase of expensive lorries and the fact that the Larne-Preston Ferry had only three sailings eachh week were obvious problems, but the experiment was worthwhile nevertheless, “if only because of the fact that if nothing is done the industry will shrink drastically”.
The Northern Ireland Wholesale Fish Merchants’ Association and the Ulster Sea Fishermen’s Association had appointed a consultative commmittee to seek a solution to the transport problem; one of the plans they were to consider was setting up an independent carrier service from a Co. Down port to an English of Scottish port.
At the time some of the fish traffic was consigned via Larne and Stranraer, but most of it went via Heysham.
The Belfast dockrs would not handle it after 5pm or 6pm each day and as the merchants could not get the catch to the docks by that time, the sih often lay over for a day.