‘It’s a celebration of where we’ve come’: Harry The Haddock is the inflatable lucky charm that inspires Grimsby Town’s FA Cup run 34 years since the terrace craze gave birth to the mascot… despite the first is named after the wrong fish!
- Grimsby face Brighton in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Sunday
- Their inflatable mascot was originally started by football writer Nigel Lowther
- He joked about ordering some inflatable fish after Grimsby won a game
If you’re going to christen your football club’s inflatable lucky charm ‘Harry Haddock’, you better make sure it’s haddock, especially in a town like Grimsby, which is synonymous with the fishing industry.
‘As soon as it went on sale, we rang the Grimsby fishmongers in the newsroom and told us, “That’s not haddock, it’s a rainbow trout!”,’ revealed Nigel Lowther, a former Grimsby Telegraph reporter.
The year was 1989 and Lowther, then a 21-year-old rookie, accidentally started a terrace craze. Thirty-four years and Harry Haddock is back, as seen when League Two Grimsby Town beat Southampton in the fifth round of the FA Cup to set up Sunday afternoon’s trip to Brighton.
So, how did the Mariners mascot come to be?
‘I was sent to Middlesbrough to cover the third round of the FA Cup and asked for a report from the terraces,’ began Lowther, recalling a match in which Marc North scored two late goals in a 2-1 win for the Fourth Division side.
Grimsby mascot The Mighty Mariner poses with the famous Harry Haddock inflatable
‘That was in the era of inflatables – Manchester City had their bananas – and, in my report, I wrote, “I believe the inflatable fish is in order”. From that one comment we started getting letters asking how and when readers could buy these fish. That was not the intention.
‘Then we drew Wimbledon in the fifth round, the FA Cup holders, and the sports editor asked me to find some fish. Eventually, I found a warehouse in North London that said they had it.
‘I just passed my drive and got into the company car and came back with 200 fish. When we sold them two days later, the queue around Telegraph House in Grimsby was hundreds of yards down the street. They sold out within minutes.
‘So, the assistant editor came down and brought a carload, and then we sent a Sherpa van down. We are selling 2,000 at £2.99 each. We purposely did not make a lot of money. Pretty fun, gimmicky. It’s about the fans.’
It certainly brought a smile when the town’s fisherman got in touch to point out the newspaper’s inaccuracy. Although, as Lowther admits, ‘Harry Rainbow Trout’ doesn’t quite have the same ring.
‘When I first saw it in a warehouse in London, and obviously you can’t share photos then, I called the office and they asked if it looked like a fish. I said, “Yes, like a fish”. But I have no idea what kind. I just know it looks nice and big and inflatable. That’s all we need.’
Wimbledon’s Plow Lane looked like a fishmonger as thousands of inflatables headlined, more than the game itself, a 3-1 win for the top-flight club.
Anthony Driscoll-Glennon celebrates the victory against Southampton with Harry The Haddock
Lowther added: ‘I wrote a letter and sent one to Des Lynam and he waved it on Match of the Day. That was it, Harry Haddock was cemented in Grimsby Town legend.
‘It’s fantastic to see him back this season and for it to coincide with our run to the quarter-finals. The scenes in Southampton were incredible, and they will be again today. Honestly, I thought that seeing all these fish in the distance was an inspiration for the players.
‘But the club is in such a renaissance. Harry Haddock reflects on what has happened under new owners (Jason Stockwood and Andrew Pettit) from 2021. It’s a celebration of where we’ve come. We all bought into this new regime. Grimsby Town is at the heart of the community and is used as a vehicle for change in the wider town. We are fortunate to have fans as owners willing to support the football club.
‘I’m also happy to report that the latest version of Harry looks like a haddock!’
News/Image Sources: Daily Mail