Hal officially master of his trade

Hal Dawson has received the Worshipful Master Fishmonger award.
Hal Dawson has received the Worshipful Master Fishmonger award.

A Portadown fishmonger is officially a prize catch after being awarded the title of Worshipful Master Fishmonger, the first ever in Northern Ireland.

Hal Dawson received the prestigious award from Her Royal Highness Princess Anne at a lavish ceremony held in Fishmongers Hall in the City of London last month.

The accolade is reserved for only the finest of fishmongers and Hal is the first and only Worshipful Master Fishmonger from Northern Ireland or the Republic.

He is one of just ten awarded across the whole of the United Kingdom and spoke of his delight to the Portadown Times.

“I am absolutely thrilled, it is an absolute career highlight,” he said.

“It is the sort of thing that you dream about, you aspire to it but you know that there’s going to be real difficulty achieving it.”

The Fishmongers’ Company is one of the Twelve Great Livery Companies of the City of London, and among the most ancient of the City Guilds.

“I am actually pinching myself. It’s the most magnificent building you have ever seen.

“The four of us went over for a meeting in the hall, we just thought it was a regional meeting.

“We walked in through the door, the whole squad stood up and applauded. We looked at each other and wondered what they were doing.

“It is peer driven, your own peer group put you forward.

“A Master Fishmonger needs to have a working knowledge or hands on experience of every element that makes up the fish catching, fish processing, and fish retailing/wholesaling industry.

“There are only ten worshipful masters between England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

“I have permission to walk with the worshipful fish mongers company at the Lord Mayor’s Parade.

“It’s a really big thing, it’s as big a thing you can get within the industry.”

Hal opened his fish retail business in 1974, which expanded two more businesses in Armagh and Down before selling them and opening a training business in 2000.

Since then he has been delivering fish handling and filleting courses in England and Northern Ireland: “I head up the Northern Ireland training network with Seafish, along with Dr Lynn Gilmore.”