Thursday, June 11, 2020

John Guthrie: The boy who stole the 'Girl Jean'

This newsreel shows the end of an incident in which a 14-year-old called John Guthrie piloted a large fishing boat over the North Sea.

A 2015 article from the Courier tells the story:

The missing Arbroath High pupil was “the boy” in the “mystery of the Girl and the boy” that dominated news headlines across the globe.

Despite a general election going on at the time, on every street corner and in every house, shop and office in Arbroath in January 1950 the talk was of the boy and the Girl - the Girl Jean, a two-year-old trawler belonging to Joseph Cargill.

She also went missing and the people of Arbroath believed the boy and the Girl were together, as the teenager was known to have sea fever badly.

Their discovery, says the paper, ended a huge search involving fishing communities, the Royal Navy, the RAF, coastguards and the Norwegian authorities.

Sadly, things did not end as happily as the newsreel imagined:

The incident brought John a stiff penalty as he was sent to an approved school for three-and-a-half years after an appearance at a juvenile court.

His mistake also cost him any chance of the career at sea he so longed for.

The 'Girl Pat' mentioned at start turns out to have her own Wikipedia entry:

Girl Pat was a small fishing trawler, based at the Lincolnshire port of Grimsby, that in 1936 was the subject of a media sensation when its captain took it on an unauthorised transatlantic voyage.


david walsh said...

Sorry to be clogging up your comments space today. Intrigued by your tales of wandering wayward trawlers. Another, more recent 1991, tale was of the Whitby based Helga Maria - a wooden hulk (or so it seemed to me) filling up space on the towns quayside. (I live about 12 miles from Whitby) However, the tubs owner, a well known local eccentric called Jack Lammiman have other ideas. He was obsessed by Whitby's maritime history and the Arctic explorers who sailed from the town, and, in secret, set out to re-create a voyage to Jan Mayan Land in the wake of famous Whitby skipper, William Scoresby. His crew was made up of some ladies "of a certain age" who seemed to dote on him, and a cleric who seemed to the original whiskey priest. He evaded the coastguards who were determined to stop him for his own safety and quietly drifted out one night on an ebb tide before gunning the Helga Maria northwards. Evading rescuers from neighbouring maritime countries and the Russian Arctic Fleet en route, he made it to his destination, and then returned home to a rapturous welcome from locals and a visit to the local magistrates court. The story was made into a film "Captain Jack" starring Bob Hoskins as Lammiman and Maureen Lippman as his principle romantic interest on board. Alas, the film appears to be unobtainable now. More on Jack (who died 5 years ago) at; and the film on wiki;

Jonathan Calder said...

You are very welcome here and thanks for the information on the Helga Maria.

I was struck by the contrast between the 'boys will be boys' tone of the newsreel commentary and what actually happened to John Guthrie.