James Burns – an early Hull & District AA member

Some members may be interested in a bit of history regarding a member of the Association from long ago. His name was James Burns. He was born in Hull in 1882. He lived at 5 Lincoln Street when he was growing up, and was one of ten children. In his early years he was a Shipwright labourer at a Hull shipyard. Later James became a warehouseman at Smith & Nephew, and in 1939 he was living at 13 Wenlock Terrace, off Rustenburg Street, in Hull. Later, he ended up in Bellfield Drive in Willerby. He loved fishing and went at every opportunity. He often took his grandson, Ian Macdonald Wallis, with him and they fished all around the local area. Ian’s wife, Elizabeth Wallis, has kindly sent me some of James Burns’ angling permits for 1955 (which I assume is the year he last fished or possibly passed away).

James Burns Members Book

James Burns’ Hull & DAAA member’s book for 1955. The price of an adult permit at that time was 3 shillings.

James Burns Members Book

James’ York & DAA member’s book. The cost was significantly more than a Hull permit at 7/6 per year.

James Burns Results

Interestingly, in the York book there is a list of winners of the matches for 1954. We can see that these were dominated by a certain L. Harmes of Bradford AA. Len Harmes subsequently moved to Hull and became a stalwart of the Hull match teams, winning many competitions. Apparently, he was taught many of his angling techniques by the famous Leeds angler Jim Bazley.

James Burns Permit

This is something I didn’t know existed. This is a special lady/juvenile fishing permit. It was issued by Hull & DAAA and the other local association that existed at the time, the Hull Angling Preservation Society. They had a Joint Committee and shared their waters. In about 1962 the Preservation Society merged with Hull & District AAA.

James Burns Permit

This is a permit to fish Melton Pond, now known as Welton Waters, situated next to the Association’s Brough Complex. Melton Pond at that time was owned by G & T Earle, a cement manufacturer whose beginnings were in Hull, but later were taken over by the Blue Circle Group. H&DAA leased Melton Pond for some years from the Blue Circle Group. Melton Pond was a popular local fishery, having a direct connection with the Humber, which allowed sea fish to enter the brackish water of the pond. The main interest was the flatties, and the fishery was extremely popular in the close season with regular ‘flattie’ matches. The saline water and large populations of shrimp also produced some exceptional-sized coarse fish, including 3lb roach. It was generally believed amongst the angling community that the fishery became badly polluted with effluent discharges from the nearby smelting works of Capper Pass and suffered a number of fish kills before Capper Pass closed down in 1991. There were numerous claims that the company was responsible for a significant number of incidences of leukemia, brain tumours and other cancers amongst its workers and local residents.

James Burns Norfolk Piscatorials

Despite an interest in the history of local angling clubs, this is one I’d never come across. James Burns was a member of the Norfolk Piscatorials. Where the name ‘Norfolk’ came from for a Hull angling club I have no idea. I’ve searched and am pretty sure there was never a public house in Hull with the name Norfolk in it (angling clubs were often based around public houses as meeting places and often adopted their name). It is further of interest because the president was a Stan Medcalf. Some older members may well remember Stan – he was the fishery inspector for the old Hull & East Yorkshire River Board, based in Beverley, who regularly checked fishing licences. Stan was also a dab hand with a seine net and moved fish around the area like musical chairs. The club secretary was Charlie Herring who was also involved in the administration of Hull & DAAA.

James Burns Rod Licence

Finally, we have the equivalent of what we would nowadays call a rod licence – but instead of the national rod licence that now covers you for the whole of the country, each region had their own. So James Burns actually had four to cover where he fished – Hull & East Yorkshire River Board, Yorkshire Ouse River Board, Trent River Board and the Lincolnshire River Board. We can see that the licence was issued by A.E. Dyson. This was ‘Jack’ Dyson who owned a fishing shop at 40 Wright Street in Hull. When I was a youngster I went in a few times to buy bits and bobs. I remember it had a large cased pike in the front window. Jack Dyson was a well know local angler and was part of the Hull Amalgamation team that won the National Championships in 1938, along with Stan Medcalf.


I have mentioned Len Harmes above, in relation to the York & DAA matches that he won in 1954. Here below is a photo of Len, a remarkable angler in his day, and the list of his staggering match results for 1955. I bumped into him once when I called in at Jim Whitfield’s ponds at North Frodingham, before they became out-and-out carp fisheries. At that time one of the ponds held some stocks of good quality roach, whose pedigree originated from the nearby River Hull. We had a chat about angling, but I wasn’t aware at the time just how good a match angler Len was, otherwise I might have listened a bit more carefully to what he had to say.

Len Harmes

Len Harmes match results