Hull distillery campaigns for heritage trawler’s final voyage

A fishing trawler, the last of its type in the world, that saw service in WW1 and is now rusting in the South Atlantic could be brought back to its home city of Hull thanks to the help of a local distillery.

The Hotham’s Distillery in Hull is hoping that funds raised through sales of its ‘Viola’ gin brand could help bring about the return the aged ship (after which it is named) to Humberside.

Just 50 bottles of the gin have been produced for the first batch and £10 from each will be donated to helping bring the ship back.

The distillery is the first sponsor of the ‘Viola Trust’ and it is hoped will be an important step in raising the profile of the project as well as bringing in funds.

The Viola was built in 1906 and was part of the fishing fleet that operated from Humber Docks in the early 20th century.

She and some 3,000 other civilian craft were requisitioned during the First World War by the Royal Navy and used as patrol boats.

During her wartime service she braved storms and enemy minefields and was reportedly involved in the sinking of two U-boats.

After the war she was used as a fishing vessel all over the world, finally ending up in Grytviken in South Georgia where she was abandoned in the 1970s when the whaling station there closed.

Despite being fairly rusty today, she is one of the last of the old steam trawlers made in East Yorkshire (indeed, the UK), her engines are still intact and given her history there is a group that would like her to see out her days in Hull where she will take her place alongside other ships at the maritime heritage display.

The government of South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands have already approved Viola‘s return but it will cost some £3 million to bring her back.

Hotham’s ‘Viola’ gin, an Old Tom style, is going on sale in time for Christmas and the range may be expanded if the launch is successful, with a Navy Strength being the obvious frontrunner for another edition.

Owner Emma Kinton, said: “The Viola is an important part of Hull’s history and we hope this will help to raise its profile and support the fund-raising campaign. We’ve already had a lot of orders for corporate gifts for Christmas and we expect to hear from many more people who want to buy something really unique which supports Hull’s heritage.

“Once the Christmas rush is out of the way we will be working on plans for an official launch of the Viola gin, maybe with some new ideas for maritime cocktails.”

Paul Escreet, chairman of SMS Towage and the Viola Trust, added: “We’re confident this will be a very successful partnership, promoting the expertise and innovation behind Hotham’s Distillery and raising awareness and money for the campaign to bring the Viola back to Hull.”

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