Novice catches Britain's biggest fish for 50 years

Keith Elliott,Angling Correspondent
Saturday 30 September 2000 00:00

Alan Glanville, a pensioner, went fishing for the first time this week and hauled in a 529lb bluefin tuna, the largest fish caught off the British Isles for nearly 50 years.

Alan Glanville, a pensioner, went fishing for the first time this week and hauled in a 529lb bluefin tuna, the largest fish caught off the British Isles for nearly 50 years.

Bluefin, which are so valuable that Japanese buyers pay £50,000 or more for one fish, have never been captured before on rod and line off Ireland. And for a 76-year-old novice to catch arguably the strongest fish in the world on his first trip is one of the great angling stories of all time. Small wonder that Mr Glanville said after making his catch: "I think it's all downhill from here."

This week a charter fishing skipper, Brian McGilloway, persuaded Mr Glanville to join him on his boat, Suzanne, to try for one of the large tuna that have been sighted off the north-west coast of Ireland over the past four years. Amazingly, Mr Glanville caught a 353-pounder, even though he had never handled a rod before. He went out the next day and caught his second tuna of 529lb.

"I think they call it beginner's luck," he said. The fish, also known as a tunny, took 45 minutes to land.

The catch is an Irish record, but not a British one - that is held by an 851-pounder caught off Scarborough in 1933 by Laurie Mitchell-Henry. One that weighed just 1lb heavier was caught in 1949 by Jack Hedley Lewis, a Lincolnshire farmer, but it was not accepted as a record because the rope used to haul it on to the scales was weighed with the fish.

Tuna transformed Scarborough from a sleepy seaside town into the Cannes of the 1930s. High society began to flock there, drawn by tales of the huge fish that could be caught only a few miles off the coast.

A special rail line ran from London, carrying people such as Lady Broughton, a legendary African big-game hunter who slept in a tent on the deck of her boat as she could not bear to go below. Tommy Sopwith, who challenged for the America's Cup in 1934, was a regular visitor, as were Captain T L Dugdale, later to become Minister of Agriculture; Baron de Rothschild in his yacht Eros, who preferred to fish for dabs while waiting for his guests to return with tunny; Lord Moyne, who always wore a red flannel suit, and was assassinated in Egypt; Colonel Edward Peel with his huge steam yacht St George and its Sudanese crew; Lord Astor, and the actor Charles Laughton.

The first tuna was caught in 1929 by the steam drifter Ascendant. This 560lb fish won the crew 50 shillings (£2.50 in today's money, but not today's prices), which was put up by a Scarborough showman who thought such a fish would draw tourists to the town. And he was right. Although they were never caught in huge numbers (the best year was 1949, when 46 were caught), the sheer size of the fish drew vast crowds.

From 1929 until 1939, a tuna of more than 700lb was caught every year and a women's world tuna challenge cup was held at Scarborough for many years. The last one was caught in 1954 by Harry Weatherley of Teddington, Middlesex, but none has been caught off British coastlines with a rod and reel until Mr Glanville's fish.

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