Blessing of the Fleet: Some crays, a crown and camaraderie

• Tony Palmiotti (the young chap at rear) with crew members from the Patricia and Elsie, and Silvia Del Rosso, after the donation of the baby Jesus crown (happily back in place for this photo). Photo courtesy Tony Palmiotti.

ONE of the great stories captured in the Blessing of the Fleet 70th anniversary book is the rescue of the Slav boat Elsie by Nicola Camporeale and the crew of the Patricia.

It was Easter 1955, says Tony Palmiotti who was 17 years old and had not long been working the cray boats, when a call-out came that the Elsie had broken down and needed a new engine.

Mr Palmiotti says they towed the boat in, but because of delays caused by the Easter long weekend, the skipper of the Elsie, George, decided he no longer wanted his catch of crayfish; a sizeable haul amounting to 23 or 24 bags.

George offered them to Mr Camporeale as way of reward for the rescue, but the proud Italian wouldn’t hear of it.

He similarly turned down the offer of monetary compensation, believing it was the duty of sailors to look after each other.

Eventually in exasperation the Slav captain told them: “Give it to the Madonna”.

The crew of the Patricia agreed, and among the gifts they were able to purchase was a new golden crown to replace one that had been stolen from the baby Jesus on the Madonna dei Martiri statue.

Mr Palmiotti says the Blessing has provided him with a lifetime of stories, and he’s most proud of his role leading the procession for 15 years before having to give up two years ago because his ageing legs were no longer up to the long march.

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