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From | Tuesday 7 January 2020

Her Majesty’s Commissioner for South Georgia presented with a bottle of Viola gin by campaigner and maritime historian Dr Robb Robinson.

The Viola on the beach at Grytviken.

The campaign to return Hull's historic steam trawler Viola from the South Atlantic has received festive greetings from the region.

It follows the delivery of gifts from the people of Hull to Nigel Phillips CBE, Her Majesty’s Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, who was presented with a bottle of Viola gin, a commemorative Viola calendar and a signed Viola book by Dr Robb Robinson, maritime historian and one of the trustees leading the project.

Mr Phillips, who is also Governor of the Falkland Islands, also received a message in a bottle signed by Councillor Steve Wilson, Lord Mayor of Hull and Admiral of the Humber, and by around 50 guests who attended the launch of the latest edition of Viola gin at 1884 Wine & Tapas Bar in Hull.

He said: “It was lovely to meet with Dr Robinson and it is encouraging that fundraising continues to enable Viola/Dias to return to Hull permanently and that Hull City Council have secured her a place in the maritime heritage project.  She is certainly in need of considerable work but the Viola Trust has secured the support of the right team of people to help get that work done.”

Helen Havercroft, CEO of the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, added: “The Viola Trust and GSGSSI are working closely together on the detail of the move of Viola to make sure we get everything right.”

Robb recently returned from a lecture tour on a cruise to South America and the South Atlantic during which he visited Port Stanley in the Falkland Islands and was able to arrange an appointment to visit the Commissioner at Government House.

Dr Robb Robinson, right, presenting gifts to Nigel Phillips CBE, Her Majesty’s Commissioner for South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands and Governor of the Falkland Islands.

He took a bottle of Viola Old Tom Gin which was hand-made at Hotham’s Distillery in Hepworth’s Arcade, Hull and a second bottle containing the message which read: “On behalf of the people of Kingston upon Hull and the wider East Yorkshire area, the Viola Trust sends greetings and best wishes. With our thanks for your support and assistance for our efforts to return the Viola to Hull, and with our hopes for successful completion of the project and a strong, lasting partnership, we send a selection of commemorative Viola gifts. We also assure you of the warmest welcome on your future visits to our city.”

Robb also delivered a copy of the Viola “Homeward Bound” calendar signed by the artist, Larry Malkin, and a copy of the book, “Viola: The Life and Times of a Hull Steam Trawler”, co-written by Robb with Ian Hart.

Robb said: “I had a successful meeting with the Commissioner and the CEO in Government House, Stanley and was able to convey greetings from the Viola Trust and from the many supporters of the ship's return from both Hull and the East Riding and from much further afield.

“It was gratifying to realise from our conversation that the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands recognise the global importance of this little ship and its value in particular to the port of Hull and the Yorkshire's Maritime City project.”

The Viola sits on a beach where she was mothballed following the closure in 1964–65 of the old whaling station in Grytviken, South Georgia. The Viola Trust, which is led by a group of business people with strong maritime and heritage credentials with former Home Secretary Alan Johnson as Patron, has reached agreement with the Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands for her removal from Cumberland East Bay on South Georgia and return to Hull.

The Trust’s efforts now are focused on preparing for an environmental impact assessment prior to moving the Viola, negotiating with salvage experts for the vessel to be lifted, and securing funds for a project which is expected to cost around £3 million.

The Viola, which also became known as Dias, was built in Beverley in 1906 and operated as part of the Hellyer fleet of boxing trawlers. She was requisitioned to defend the UK in the Great War and left Hull for the last time in 1918 on a career which took her to Norway, Africa and Argentina, catching fish, hunting whales and elephant seals and supporting expeditions in the South Atlantic.

Read more about the Viola’s history here.