The fish finger is sixty years old today! Good old Bird’s Eye inventing such a delicious and revolutionary childhood food just a couple of years before I was born. I loved those cod sticks covered in breadcrumbs and it seems that my childhood menu consisted mainly of fish fingers, sausages, beans, fried eggs, chips and the dreaded roast with far too many vegetables and gloopy Bisto gravy on a Sunday.
For a while it looked like they could be made from herring, but trials proved that the public preferred cod and cod won the day. The original fish fingers were individually hand wrapped in wax film, inserted in a waxed cardboard box and at one shilling and eight pence per box of ten they were a bargain. So much easier that going to the Tuesday market for fish and then boning and battering it. ‘No bones, no waste, no smell, no fuss’, as an early ad campaign said. It was every busy stay-at-home, chain smoking, tea drinking, TV watching, fifties mother’s dream. Of course most people didn’t have freezers, so you had to eat them pretty quickly. No problem there though.
And then there was the captain himself Captain Birdseye (aka Captain Igloo everywhere else in the world), a kind of cross between someone’s granddad who’d been in the merchant navy and Father Christmas. He talked like a pirate, had a twinkle in his not quite glass eye, was played by some pretty dodgy actors, and turned up on our black and white screens in 1967. Even when battered fish fingers came along he got a mention, although no appearance, as Bernard Bresslaw pretended to be the ship’s chef.
1955 was the year Ruth Ellis hanged, Winston Churchill resigned as Prime Minister, Albert Einstein died, Disneyland opened in California, the first Guinness Book of Records was published, James Dean died in his car, ITV began broadcasting, and the Vietnam War broke out. But I think it was mainly about the invention of the fish finger, what a great year.