Harry The Haddock is the inflatable lucky charm inspiring Grimsby

‘This is a celebration of where we have come’: Harry Haddock is the inflatable lucky charm inspiring Grimsby Town’s FA Cup run 34 years since the terrace craze that gave birth to the mascot… despite initially being named after the wrong fish!

  • Grimsby face Brighton in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup on Sunday 
  • Their inflatable mascot originally started with football writer Nigel Lowther
  • He made a joke about ordering some inflatable fish after Grimsby won a game

If you are going to christen your football club’s inflatable lucky charm ‘Harry Haddock’, you best make sure it’s a haddock, especially in a town such as Grimsby, so synonymous with the fishing industry.

’As soon as it went on sale, we had Grimsby fish merchants ringing the newsroom and telling us, “That’s not a haddock, it’s a rainbow trout!”,’ reveals Nigel Lowther, a former Grimsby Telegraph reporter.

The year was 1989 and Lowther, then a 21-year-old rookie, had inadvertently started a terrace craze. Thirty-four years on and Harry Haddock is back, as was evident when League Two Grimsby Town beat Southampton in the FA Cup fifth round to set up Sunday afternoon’s trip to Brighton.

So, how did the Mariners’ mascot come about?

‘I was sent up to Middlesbrough to cover the FA Cup third round and was asked for a report from the terraces,’ begins 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

‘It was at the time of inflatables – Manchester City had their bananas – and, in my report, I wrote, “I believe the inflatable fish are on order”. From that one comment we started getting letters asking how and when readers could buy these fish. That was never 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 some.

‘I’d only just passed my driving test and went down in a company car and came back with 200 fish. When we put them on sale two days later, the queue around Telegraph House in Grimsby went hundreds of yards down the street. They sold out in a matter of minutes.

‘So, the assistant editor went down and brought a carload back, and then we sent a Sherpa van down. We ended up selling 2,000 at £2.99 each. We deliberately didn’t make much profit. It was a bit of fun, a gimmick. It was all about the fans.’

It certainly brought a smile when the town’s fisherman got in touch to point out the newspaper’s error. Although, as Lowther admits, ‘Harry Rainbow Trout’ doesn’t quite have the same ring.

‘When I saw it at first glance in a London warehouse, and obviously you couldn’t share photographs back then, I rang the office and they asked if it looked anything like a fish. I said, “Yes, it looks like a fish”. But I hadn’t a clue what type. I just knew that it looked good and was big and inflatable. That’s all we needed.’

Wimbledon’s Plough Lane looked more like a fishmonger as thousands of the inflatables made headlines, more so than the game itself, a 3-1 win for the top-flight club.

Anthony Driscoll-Glennon celebrates victory over Southampton with Harry The Haddock

Lowther adds: ‘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 folklore.

‘It is incredible to see him back this season and for it to have coincided with our run to the quarter-finals. The scenes at Southampton were unbelievable, and they will be again today. I honestly think seeing all these fish in the away end has been an inspiration for the players.

‘But the club is on such a resurgence. Harry Haddock reflects what has happened under new owners (Jason Stockwood and Andrew Pettit) since 2021. This is a celebration of where we have come. We have all bought into this new regime. Grimsby Town is at the heart of the community and is being used as a vehicle for change in the wider town. We are fortunate to have fans as owners who are willing to back the football club.

‘I’m also pleased to report that the latest version of Harry does look like a haddock!’

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