Fish has been in Jackie Bencic’s family for generations. But after 46 years selling to the folk of Dinnington, she feels it is time to fold up her market apron.
Emotions ran high as Jackie retired from her stall last week on what just happened to be her 70th birthday.
She is one of the last remaining original stall holders, and she was showered with flowers, gifts and cards by well wishers on her last day.
“I live in Grimsby - where all the best fish comes from. But Dinnington market means the world to me. My son even married a Dinnington girl,” said Jackie.
She started the stall with her first husband John. Sadly he passed away, and their son John took up his position as man of the family business.
Every Friday, without fail, Jackie and John get up at 3.30am to bring the daily catch or fresh fish from Grimsby to Dinnington.
“I remember one time about 30 years ago it had snowed so deep that it was up to the edge of the counter,” said Jackie.
“Once you have got your fish you have got to sell it. So we set off driving, my husband kept stopping to dig us out.”
“This was in the days before the motorway so we were coming on the smaller roads through Gainsborough.”
“And when we got here, we were the only market traders who had made it.”
Jackie has lots of fond memories of the way Dinnington market used to be.
Back when the pit was still open, she said miners would queue in the morning to buy their fish.
“It was good for them. It would fill them up, but it was too heavy to take down the mine,” said Jackie.
“They would queue all the way down the main aisle of the market and you wouldn’t see daylight until 1pm when it had calmed down.”
Jackie has become a ‘grandma’ figure at Dinnington Market, taking youngsters under her wing and entertaining customers with her friendly banter.
Market manager Stephen Borkowski said: “Customers bring their grandchildren to see her and she is always buying presents for all the kids on birthdays and Christmas.”
“She’s very generous, very well respected and we will miss her greatly.”
Another veteran market trader Ann Davey, who sells costume jewellery, remembers Jackie being there when she joined the market on her parents’ stall aged just 17.
“She’s just brilliant. She is very outgoing, she calls a spade a spade but she is very fair and friendly - and she knows how to sell fish,” said Ann.
Jackie describes her four-and-a-half decades in the fish trade as a ‘labour of love’.
“People call me the fish lady,” she said. “I love it when the children come to visit the stall because I can pass all my years of knowledge onto them and introduce them to how tasty fish can be - they love it.”
Jackie and John also supply many Dinnington businesses with their fish, and some of it has even reached Canada.
Said Jackie: “We have a lady who sends her daughter in Canada a freezer box of our fish. She’s originally from Dinnington and she can’t live without it.”
“I have made lots of friends in this job, they range from six months to 94. I have loved serving them but it’s time to have a rest.”