The Viola sits abandoned in South Georgia.
The Viola sits abandoned in South Georgia.

Efforts to return historic trawler Viola to Hull stepped up

A push to bring a historic steam trawler back to Hull has been stepped up.

The Viola sailed from the city more than 100 years ago – but now sits abandoned on the island of South Georgia in the southern Atlantic Ocean.

She was built in 1906 at Beverley Shipyard and became part of a fleet of 50 owned and operated by Hellyer Brothers.

After being requisitioned to defend the coast of the UK during the First World War, she sailed from Humber Dock, now Hull Marina, in 1918 – and never returned.

Now Hull City Council revealed a space is available for the Viola at the North End Shipyard as part of the £27.4 million Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City project.

Alan Johnson, the former Hull West and Hessle MP and patron of the Viola Trust, spoke at a fundraising event organised to help bring the vessel back to the city.

Alan Johnson, the former Hull West and Hessle MP, is patron of the Viola Trust.

Alan Johnson, the former Hull West and Hessle MP, is patron of the Viola Trust.

The event included the sale of bottles of Viola gin, hand-crafted by Hotham’s Distillery in Hull and launched at the event, held at 1884 Wine & Tapas Bar.

Mr Johnson, who has campaigned for Hull’s fishing families who lost thousands of men at sea, said: “The Viola was the only ship to have been involved in the First World War and the Falklands War. She would be a visitor attraction for whoever could get hold of her and we want her to come to Hull.”

The Viola went back to trawling under Norwegian owners and was then converted to catch whales. A further sale to an Argentine company saw her move to the South Atlantic to catch elephant seals.

She also supported expeditions to the area but when the whaling station at Grytviken closed in the mid-1960s, she was mothballed. She still sits on the beach where, in 1982, she was targeted by Argentine scrap metal merchants in one of the incidents that triggered the Falklands War.

The Viola on the beach at Grytviken. Picture:

The Viola on the beach at Grytviken. Picture:

Mr Johnson said the Viola Trust has secured clearance from the authorities in South Georgia to bring the ship back to Hull. ABP has agreed to provide a site where she can be restored and training bodies are standing by to provide young learners.

He said: “We all believe it would be a crying tragedy if we just allowed the ship to erode on that beach with people saying they wish we could have done something.”

Simon Green, director of cultural services for Hull Culture & Leisure Ltd, said the Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City project had been set up to celebrate the city’s links with the sea.

He said: “Part of our plan is about establishing Hull as a world-class destination. We need more people to come to Hull and be enamoured by Hull and its unique culture.

“We will refurbish our beautiful museum and will give people a flavour of what Queens Dock was like before it was a park. It will become a journey for people to walk through to get a flavour of that experience of a dock in the heart of Hull. The Arctic Corsair tells a tale and the Viola tells an extended link. Once she is here, there are a lot of opportunities for us to expand the scheme.”

Mr Green said the project could create about 50 jobs and 46 apprenticeships, providing opportunities for around 20,000 learners and attracting 300,000 visitors in year one.

Hull's museums will host a series of fun craft activities during the Easter holidays.
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