'Proud to be a Cromer fisherman' - Tributes paid to Norfolk stalwart

Dennis Gaff, aged 65 in front of the fishing boat ‘Amanda Lynne’.

Dennis Gaff, aged 65 in front of the fishing boat ‘Amanda Lynne’. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Tributes have been paid to a stalwart of Cromer's fishing scene, who has died at the age of 90. 

When Dennis Gaff, who was born in the town, was asked later in life about his many years harvesting the bounty of the seas, he said: “It was something I loved to do and I was proud to be a Cromer fisherman”.

Dennis Gaff and others taking tourists at Cromer out on a boat trip. 

Dennis Gaff and others taking tourists at Cromer out on a boat trip. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Mr Gaff was born to parents William and Ethel, and attended Cromer Junior School and the newly-built Cromer Secondary School, just after the Second World War.

He spent a lot of his free time on the beach, and used to swim around Cromer Pier with his brother, Billy, during the summer months.

On leaving school, his father was keen for him to get a job in the building trade, but Mr Gaff made it clear that his future was to be a fisherman, and after a conversation with Henry 'Shrimp' Davies he embarked on a career that lasted a lifetime.

Dennis Gaff, far left, with other Cromer Lifeboat team members

Dennis Gaff, far left, with other Cromer Lifeboat team members: signalman Austin 'Stymie' Blythe, bowman Sidney 'Kelly' Harrison, second mechanic Leslie 'Yacker' Harrison, first mechanic Billy 'Swank' Davies, second coxswain Lewis 'Tuna' Harrison and coxswain Henry 'Shrimp' Davies. - Credit: Supplied by the family


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In his early years he worked for Cromer fishermen including Shrimp, Jimmy and Frank Davies, 'Kelly' Harrison, 'Little Joe' Davies and George Rook.

As a teenager he worked on drifter boats out of Great Yarmouth during the herring season with good friend, Buster Grout, and once spent 24 hours straight hauling in nets. 

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For his national service he served in the Royal Naval Reserve as a radio operator. 

Mr Gaff joined Cromer Lifeboat as a crewman in 1947, and also served as a mechanic of its No.2 lifeboat until 1967, when a D-Class type inshore lifeboat boat was allocated to Cromer.

Dennis Gaff, aged in his 50s, at work with a crab pot.

Dennis Gaff, aged in his 50s, at work with a crab pot. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Mr Gaff married Emily Leveridge in 1952, and they celebrated their 69th anniversary in February this year. Emily helped her husband with his fishing business, and they had four children: Billy, Robert, Lynne and Mandy. Mandy passed away in 1993.

In the late 1950s Mr Gaff had his first wooden clinker crab boat built by Billy May, of Potter Heigham, which he named the ‘William Robert’. He had many successful years in this boat, and in the mid 1970s Mr Gaff had the boat ‘Amanda Lynne’ built, again by Mr May.

In the early 1970s he owned and worked an ex-Scottish drifter out of Great Yarmouth named the ‘Glenngary’.

Mr Gaff mainly fished for crab and lobster but also had a great love for longshore fishing for herring.

He stopped going to sea at the age of 65 but continued to help his son Billy, himself a fisherman, in dressing crabs and overlooking crab pots until the age of 75.

After this time, he could often be seen keeping an eye on the fishing fraternity from Cromer's cliff.

Mr Gaff's funeral will be on September 29 at 1pm at Cromer Parish Church.

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