Fisher folk and fisher lassies


St Monans - a typical Fife fishing village

St Monans - a typical Fife fishing village

Herring has always formed an important part of Scotland’s economy and many of us have both male and female ancestors who were part of the herring trade.

What became known as the “Scotch cure” was reputedly invented by a Dutchman at the end of the 14th century and involved gutting and removing the gills of the fish which were then packed “sardine fashion” in barrels, their tails towards the centre, with a layer of salt between each layer of fish.

Herring is a seasonal fish and many fishermen tried to extend the season by following the shoals from the east coast of Scotland in winter and spring, to the west coast in early summer, round the Shetlands in mid-summer, down the north-east coast in late summer through autumn and ending up in England off the coast of East Anglia in December.

Uniquely to the Scottish herring trade, armies of young girls followed the fishing fleet to provide the seasonal labour needed to deal with the catches.

By the middle of the 19th century the major commercial markets were overseas in Germany, Poland and Russia; in Scotland herring (“silver darlings”) was regarded as a poor man’s food.

To find out more about the herring trade, try some of these links:

Modern fishing boats being repaired in Gamrie, Banffshire

Modern fishing boats being repaired in Gamrie, Banffshire

Sheena

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