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:
- The history of the east coast herring industry: http://sites.scran.ac.uk/secf_final/silver/index.php
- The Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther: http://www.scotfishmuseum.org/index.html
- Stornoway Herring Girls from the Virtual Hebrides: http://www.virtualheb.co.uk/the-herring-girls-stornoway-western-isles.html
- The Stonehaven Fishing History: http://www.mearns.org.uk/stonehaven/fishing.htm
- The Angus Macleod Archive: http://www.angusmacleodarchive.org.uk/browse/index.php?path=%252F7.%2BFishing
- Fishing boat registration letters: http://www.denholma.freeserve.co.uk/fish/fishingports.htm
- Indexes to Dumfries, Kirkcudbright, Stranraer & Wigtown shipping registers: http://www.dgcommunity.net/historicalindexes/default.aspx
- Ships built in Aberdeen since 1811: http://www.aberdeenships.com/
- Lists of fishing boats built by W R McIntosh of Buckie: http://glennmci.brinkster.net/mcibb/listcomp.html
- The Herring Fisheries of Scotland – published in 1883: http://www.archive.org/details/herringfisheries00duffiala
- Down to the Sea and account of life in the fishing villages of Hilton, Balintore & Shandwick from the Ross and Cromarty Heritage Society: http://www.rchs.uhi.ac.uk/communit/p37/ht/hy/DTTS/Cover.html
- The Herring, its natural history and national importance by John M Mitchell, published in 1876: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=3Iw-AAAAcAAJ&dq=The%20Herring%2C%20its%20natural%20history%20and%20national%20importance&pg=PR3#v=onepage&q&f=false
- The Transport and Society Network list of online resources: http://transportandsociety.com/routine.html