[GS] What were you saying about the barrels, the barrel maker?
[AB] Three, three women worked on a crew, and
a thousan herrin went intil a barrel, and they got one shilling,
old shilling, between the three of them. At wis their pay.
And still they made it, they made their pay out o it, because
they were experts at their job. And then the barrel making
wis the same they were jist paid according tae so much barrels
as they had to make every day.
[GS] How old were you when you started guttin
[AB] Oh well, I wisnae the, I wis in Crosse
& Blackwells for a couple of years and then went tae herrin,
but some o them jist came out the school at fourteen! And
went in tae guttin the herrin.
[GS] What was it like, what was it like for
you working at the herrin, was it
[AB] Well, it's funny to explain, because people
. they didn't know anything else and they were
jolly and they used to sing away when they were gutting, and
you wouldna believe it but they did! [laughs]
[GS] I've read, what sort of things did you
[AB] Oh mostly hymns, mostly hymns, because
they were [laughs] originally religiously orientated. And
down in Yarmouth in November, October November in the winter
time ootside guttin herrin, and still worked three nights
till six, three nights till nine, from six in the morning.
No tea breaks. Stopped for lunch and then carried on. [phone
[GS] Did ye, so did ye, so how did you learn
the guttin, did you just go along and learn from your mother?
[AB] Well eh, I was a packer, I packed the herring.
Two gutted, and one packed. There wisnae a lot of skill in't.
It was more speed.
[GS] So did they, did the packers never gut?
[AB] Well they could if they had to, but no,
it took at two women guttin, we took her packin tae keep her
going. They gutted the herrin and selected em intae different
tubs at the back, sizes, three different sizes maybe and then
they were packed in different barrels, different sizes and
sold as different sizes of herrin ye see.
[GS] What, what was it like during the, in the
second world war, were you involved in the industry then?
[AB] Well in the second world war, the fishing came to a halt.
The boats were a called up, the men were all away. And there
was no herrin fishin. A little round at the west coast, freshin
herrin but nae curin herrin. Ye see their market wis Russian,
the continent and at, at wis where their herrin went, well
at wis finished ye see.
[GS] There was er, there was one time, I know
from eh, my grandfather's point in the story, my grandfather
used to tell me that he spent a lot of time during the war,
he was too old for the services in the second world war, he
spent a lot of time up in Ullapool.
[AB] Aye, freshin herrin.
[GS] What's that?
[AB] That's jist icin em, and puttin them straight
to the market. Ye see, it wis saltin herrin at we did, salt
curin herrin. There wis no salt curin herrin during the war,
because there wisnae enough of them ye see, we used them for
the home market.
[GS] Was that what it was for?
[AB] Home market. Sent to Glasgow and round
a the markets, for food ye see, the people were glad of the
food, it's the best of food for them.
[GS] What was happened in Peterhead as far as
the fish were being caught, because I seem to remember, maybe
I'm wrong, but I seem to remember telling, him telling me
about lorries, lots and lots of lorries travelling back and
fore from Peterhead to Ullapool with boxes of fish, do you
know anything about that?
[AB] They used to bring em here tae make them
[AB] At's what they did here. They kippered
em. There wis no facilities in Ullapool for kippering herring
or that ye see, and then the home market had been limited
for fresh herrin, but the kippered herrin they kept for a
while longer ye see.
[GS] So were you involved in the kipperin trade?
[AB] Oh no, not after the war. Ah, my husband
was ye see. He stopped going to fishin after the war. He only
went one year after he come home fae the services and he went
intae the fish curin side, and he did fish and herring and
kippers and the lot ye see. And hid a shop, sold fish, at's
the side that he went into.
[GS] What, how do you, how do you remember the
eh, the effect of the war on the industry, was it just accepted
or was it a sad day for everybody in the town, or how did
[AB] Well I can remember the beginning of the war, they came
here and called up some o the boats, just before the war broke
out. Well the men went wi the boats. They'd a been out o a
job ye see. And they went wi the boats to Scapa Flow, tenderin
tae the battleships, ready made crews and boats and away they
went ye see. But we hid some conscientious objectors who didnae
go to the war and they kept on fishin, in a very small scale.
[GS] Do you think if there hadn't been conscientious
objectors that they would have all gone, was that the only
reason that fishing still carried on do ye think?
[AB] Yes. Ye see it wis a mined oot here, at's
why they were in Ullapool. They couldnae fish oot here for
mines. At's why they were round at Ullapool, is North Sea
was very heavily mined. That's why the boats went round there.
[GS] When you, when you first, was that your
first job, when you was guttin, well you were at Crosse &
Blackwells that was after left the school?
[AB] Crosse & Blackwells, when you left
the school and then I went away to the gutting. Simply because
I wanted to go to Yarmouth [laughs].
[GS] Did you get up to Shetland as well, did
you travel there?
[AB] I've been in the Orkneys, I've been in
Stronsay fishin, eh, guttin, one year. And then just in Yarmouth.
Hartlepool another year, half way down, the coast. Used to
go to Hartlepool. But my father used to go away in the month
of May and we never saw him again til December. He used to
go round to the west side, Stornoway and a' that places, doing
a special cure o herrin for America. Maggies, fit they ca'd
Maggies. They all went to America. Special herrin there wis
suitable for that kind a work.
[GS] Was, what was that, was that the cure that
made them suitable or was it the size?
[AB] It, the cure, well the herrin and the cure,
they were lightly cured and sent to America. Very expensive
I believe in America.
[GS] Oh, a bit of a delicacy.
[AB] Yes uh huh.
[GS] So when would that have been, what sort
[AB] Well that always went on ye see, there
wis always at special cure of herrin from the west side, because
my father used to go every year.
[GS] So what, when, when you said your, when
you say your father went in May, and was away for several
weeks, what, at what, what sort of years are we talking about
[AB] Well at's before the war ye see. Before
the war. At, I dinna ken if it ever came back or what ye see.
I lost interest in the same efter we went intae the other
side of the fishin ye see. Although my husband wis in Ullapool
one year freshin herrin for the markets in the continent.
At's just herrin not gutted, jist intae the barrels as they're
caught, we salt. Fit they ca'd freshin herrin, and exported
like at ye see.
[GS] So they wouldn't have lasted very long?
[AB] No, it didna last long. But then it's a
different method now altogether ye see. Different method.
One boat now will take as many as a fleet of boats used to
[GS] Well that's it. What, what do you think,
what do you think, have you got any sort of eh, views on how,
how thins are going with the, with the fishing trade in Peterhead,
where you think it's going to go or what's going to happen?
[AB] Well it's a complete different trade now the fishin trade.
It's a complete different trade. It's whitefish it's the main
thing here now. Well at wisn't here before the war. There
wis very little
When my husband first started his shop
he hid tae go to Fraserburgh for fish, at's foo thins have
changed round, there's nae fish hardly landing in Fraserburgh,
not to the extent at there is here.
[GS] And whitefish that's the
[AB] Whitefish, at's the haddocks and cod and
whitin and a that sort of thing. The herrin the pelagic fish
ye see, what they call the pelagic fish.
[GS] So what's happening to the herring, what's
happening to the herring industry, is there still herring
[AB] Oh yes, the boats, it's a closed shop ye
see. There's only a few boats licensed to do that work now
ye see. I think they're ashore just now because they get a
quota to catch and once the quota's catched, at's the finish
until they get a start again. Mackerel. The boats at's catching
the herrin are the same ones as catchin the mackerel. Purse
net boats, big boats wi the purse nets.
[GS] So that's, is that the Lunar Bow, and the
[AB] Yes, yes, at's them.
[GS] That's the Buchans?
[AB] The Buchans.
[GS] And then there's the Tait family in Fraserburgh,
that have got the...and are they
[AB] That's cousins!
[GS] Are they? How do you think that came about
that it's got, it's got down to just sort of like a handful,
a handful of families involved?
[AB] Well ye see, I think this licences began
first wi English boats, and then they were stopped. I think
it wis English boats that wis the last that got licences.
I don't know, would it be the, the eh, conservation, would
it be the conservation?
[GS] So they, they're just the few boats that
have the magic licences and they take the herring?
[AB] And nobody else will get one, and if you
stop, if you decide to retire and sell your boat, you can
sell your licence which belongs to you, you got for naething,
and they're getting as has a million pound for it.
[GS] Are they?
[AB] Yes. Clear o their boat. At they got for
nothing. Nobody else can get one ye see, if you want to go
to the purse net, you want to make a start, well ye canna
get a start, it's too expensive.
[GS] So you can't, you can't just, you literally
can't work your way up to that class of fishing, if
[AB] No. A young man would never get a start.
To buy a boat and buy a licence. The boats are so big, they're
costing about two million pounds I think it is.
[GS] I know, they're, they're huge, huge.
[AB] They're getting bigger and bigger and bigger
ye see. But eh, that's the thing with the licence ye can't,
ye can't get a licence fae the government, you've tae buy
[GS] So what we've got really is the situation
where it used to employ literally hundreds of people
[AB] Down to two, three families.
[GS] Do you think they're catching the same
amount of fish?
[AB] They're catching twice as many! They can
take terrific hauls of herring.
[GS] And in terms of like a season, do you think
they would bring home, they would bring ashore as many, as
many herring as they would have done when you were
[AB] Oh yes, yes mmm hmm. It's colossal the
thing the herring, tae. And bring them in alive, and they
don't touch them. It's completely renovated. They suck them
in and the suck them oot.
[GS] So the crews on the boat, they're not actually
working with the fish?
[AB] No, they hardly touch them. It's the owner's
ats making the money ye see. Course the crews are doing well
too, or they wouldnae be there. You're a floatin!
[GS] But they are probably away for longer stretches
of time, are they generally?
[AB] No they work out of
here sometimes. Sometimes they are round at the west side,
it just depending on where the
the mackerel are mostly
around by the west coast, and they go round by Ullapool and
that's where the lorries go back and fore wi a this loads
o mackerel and a this sort of thing. They just follow the
fish where the fish is.
[GS] So what happens, what's happening in Peterhead
as far as the fresh fish are concerned, what happens then?
[AB] The whitefish?
[GS] No I was going to say the mackerel, say
they bring the mackerel ashore in Ullapool then its brought
over here by lorry, then what happens?
[AB] Well, it's iced and then sent away to their
markets. I suppose it'll be some iced straight in Ullapool.
I'm nae sae well versed fit really.
[GS] No, it's interesting thought. And what
about the whitefish?
[AB] Ah well, but they're landed here ye see!
[GS] But that's the smaller boats?
[AB] They're smaller boats, they're landed here,
they're processed here. That's creates the work ye see. A
lot of people, young people, wi good jobs making good money
filletin the fish, the haddocks and the cod and at sort of
thing. That brings more work into the town. Although I believe
there's quite a lot employed amon the haven selecting doon
there doon at the harbour, some o Don Company or yon. But
eh, there's been quite a revolution. I mean in the summertime
this place used tae be seething wi people from the Highlands.
Men come to go on the boats and the girls come tae work amon
the herrin. Everybody's back house or loft or anything, there
wis fish workers stayin in it. All here workin for the season's
[GS] When, when would that have been August?
[AB] Well that would have been June, July, August.
September at wis finished, the fishin wis finished and they
mended their nets and made ready for Yarmouth. At wis October,
[GS] So how did you girls get down there, was
[AB] Oh special trains, special trains came
straight to Peterhead.
[TM] Did you all go together?
[AB] Yes, maybe over three days or four days.
Oh huge trains used to come in, and the whole town turned
out and a the children off the school seein the boats goin
away and the women going away. Nivver come back ye see [laughs]
[TM] How long would the boats take to get down
[AB] Oh the boats took a few days, sometimes
they would hae a shot o herrin on the way going down, Grimsby
or Hull or at places. And ye hiv to go in and fill up wi coal
ye see, and, they were a coal burnin in those days ye see,
at wis the steam drifters.
[GS] So, what sort of years are we talking about
maybe when you started the guttin, would it be between the
[AB] But then there wis guttin for years and
years before the wars
[GS] Oh aye, I've got going right back in time
[AB] Right back to my mother's
time, and you're saying your grandfather's day. Supposed to
have been Holland, they come fae Holland first tae gut herrin
here, apparently. But as far back as I can remember ye see
my mither used to go to guttin. Everybody used to go in the
summer time to gut for the few weeks. Well the people lived
round about the fishin yards ye see, not away across here,
away down fit we called the Loanheads. And the curing yards
ye see. Everybody went down tae gut, skippers wives and everybody
went out to gut the herrin.
[GS] What was the Queenie like in the those
[AB] Well there wis a hive of industry. There
wis curin yards across there too. And some o them stayed there
in huts on the yards, not to be so far fae the work, because
you had to work all the hours of the night until yer herrin
wis finished. If it wis, if ye hid herrin till twelve o clock
at night, ye hid tae stand there and gut the herrin.
[GS] So, and the drifters were coming in
[AB] They came in at all time ye see, jist all
hours they came.
[GS] Would they have been going back and fore
more or less en masse, or would they be turning up at different
times the boats?
[AB] En masse. They, they come in in the mornin,
and the sales went all day, as their boats come in they sold
the herrin. It went on all day.
[GS] And, and, what, what was the situation,
would the, would the eh, would the skipper, would he be free,
to sell, or was he open to sell his herring to whoever offered
him the best price?
[AB] There wis an aunction room, and they were
all unctioned, doon at the market. Herrin, they put up a sample.
The sample wis laid out and the fish curers they could bid
for their herring. They were all unctioned.
[GS] So the boats would have been kinda queuing
up for their market space?
[AB] Yes they'd a be comin in with their herrin.
Oh it wis a hive o industry.
[TM] Did they make a great effort to come in
[AB] Yes, they did. And some boats maybe quicker,
bigger engines could get in that little bit quicker ye see.
And some days, you were overpowered wi herring. Couldnae get
them sold. I've seen the boats out again, dumping them into
the sea. Couldnae get them sold.
[GS] So there must have been, there must have
been, like a good season must have been a right balance. It's
not necessarily the season when you caught the most fish?
[AB] Well ye see, the prices varied, you're
right there, the prices varied so much.
[GS] The less fish the higher price really.
[AB] Yes, but they hid tae get so much, ye see.
They hid tae get so much. It depended on the markets. The
Jews dealt a lot wi the herrin. The Jews used tae set a price
tae the curers. Especially
there wis big curers, wi
mebbe twenty, thirty crews o women, but then there wis a lot
a smaller curers wi three crews, mebbe four crews o women.
And is smaller curers sometimes were sorta pushed for money
in the winter time and made a deal wi Jews and sold their
herrin afore they ivver hid them bought at a price and sometimes
they lost. A lot o them went bankrupt. They hid tae get money
tae get their barrels. Well they made a deal wi the Jews,
there wis two, three Jews stayed in Peterhead, and they bought
the herrin on spec. Well if it wis a year a dearer, you lost
out ye see. A lot o fish curers went bankrupt.
[GS] Was that the name of the game, or was that,
was it, was it more to do with the war situations and that
or was that different again?
[AB] No it was nothing to do with the war. At
wis jist the name of the game. Jist the name of the game.
They bought them and then in good markets and bad markets,
they took, they jist took a chance. If they wis needin the
money ye see, tae get the barrels made. But then they hid
no commitment to their fish workers, they just took them on
and paid them as they made their, as they did their herrin
[GS] So they wouldn't, there was no, eh, obviously
in those, at that time, there wasn't any facilities, for eh,
for eh, sort of the welfare of the workers I mean. How high
were you from a curer's point of view I mean, was that even
[AB] It didn't exist. They'd no commitment to
them. If ye wis ill, ye were off, and you never got no pay,
there wis no holiday pay, there wis nothin like that. At just
didnae exist. You got paid for what you did.
[TM] When you worked you worked, when you didn't
[AB] Nothing. That's how it was. They, they
hid a, they hid a job every mornin, like fillin up the herrin
which they got two pence an hour for. What we called filling
[GS] What was that?
[AB] The salt melted and the herrin gaed down.
And before they could get the lids in and the barrels sided
on for room, well the women went out in the mornin at six
o clock and emptied some barrels
[GS] That was the previous day's herrin
[AB] Previous day's herrin, they stood all night
and they settled wi the salt melted, and they settled, mebbe
down about that. and they went out in the mornin and filled
up wi their barrels and filled them up. And then the ends
went in and they laid for a week and they hid tae be filled
up again, and that wis the last o the, ready for shipment.
[GS] And then what would happen. The foreign boats would come
in and stock up
[AB] Well, the buyers, the inspectors came from
Russia if they wanted tae buy the herrin, and they hid a look
at them and if they were satisfied wi them they bought them,
and then the boats came in, the big cargo boats come in and
took them away.
[GS] How often were you paid then?
[AB] We were paid eh, weekly wi herrin. What
you got at ??? Monday. But this hourly thing you got at the
end of the year. The filling up money you got at the end of
the year. At wis your bonanza at the end o the year.
[GS] How much would that have been?
[AB] Oh, mebbe five or six pound, tuppence an
hour ye see.
[GS] You could do quite a lot with five or six
pounds or could you or not?
[AB] Well in those days! At's right. Away tae
Aberdeen on a spendin spree! [laughs] It's a different way
[GS] Did you collect the little bits of china
and things from the places you went to from Yarmouth and that?
[AB] Used to yes, nae sae much in my time, I
think afore my time they did use to collect china.
[GS] I know that my granny, her house was full
of little eh, ashtrays, and ornaments from Yarmouth or Peal
on the Isle of Man, or Shetland.
[AB] Aye, from Yarmouth, at's it. Aye, little
presents that they used to bring home ye see. Always plenty
presents come home from Yarmouth for the children and everything
[GS] What always fascinated me about that was,
she was almost obsessed with collecting bits of china and
if you drive around Peterhead now you still, it's a different
quality, but you still see rows of little Doulton figures
[AB] Oh aye, this wis me, I just little eh,
had a coat o arms on them, is at fit your
[GS] At's the sort of thing aye.
[TM] Wee platies.
[AB] At's right.
[GS] Ashtrays and eh, just silly little things
like a lighthouse with an eggtimer on the side of it, and
Yarmouth written on it.
[AB] At's right aye. well they would have brought
that home for their friends and at ye see. People didnae have
the money to buy expensive eens.
[GS] Did you feel in some ways, privilege isn't
the word, but in, but the difference between, as you said
earlier on, it was attractive, the fact that although you
were doing like a labouring sort of job that wasn't in any
way pleasant, but at least you were in a situation where your
job took you to different places, which might be something
you wouldn't find in other
[AB] Yes, that was a compensation. Oh you could
go away, as I say, to Hartlepool, or Shields, or eh, Lerwick
and Stronsay and at places and then down to Yarmouth or Lowestoft.
And it wis, it wis a diversion ye see, a change.
[TM] And you had your own money then.
[AB] You had so much per week. And eh, you lodged
in a house and the landlady there would make your food, and
went out and that. It wis like a holiday actually! [laughs]
You'd no house work.
[GS] Apart from the fifteen hours graft every
[TM] And did you take the money home to your
[AB] Well, yer eh, yer, fit we ca'd yer guttin
money, when you went to Yarmouth that all left, lay until
the end of the year, and you got it when you was comin home,
so home you came wi the money.
[TM] And when you went down to Yarmouth did
you know there was a job waiting for you?
[AB] Oh yes, you knew your job. The people you
were going to work with, you was signed on here and they paid
your fare down. Oh no, you knew your job before you left.
Oh yes, you was all crewed up to go down.
[GS] Have you ever seen any photographs, incidentally, of
the trains with the, with the quines on them?
[AB] Not o the trains, no.
[GS] That's something I've, that's been something
that I've been trying to find. I just can't find any anywhere.
I've never seen
[AB] The trains, and it wis big trains that
used tae come through. And they went straight from Peterhead
straight to Yarmouth.
[GS] They didn't stop?
[AB] No, but the last year at I wis, the last
two year at I wis, we went by bus, and we stopped all night
[TM] What year was that?
[AB] It must hae been cheaper. The curers paid
yer fare ye see, and then I suppose it'd been cheaper and
we took down by bus. But it wisnae a fine journey.
[GS] And who was, eh, on the trains, who was
on the trains. Would it be just have been, just guttin quines,
of your own age and older, and younger?
[AB] Gutting quines and coopers.
[GS] The coopers travelled on the trains?
[AB] Special trains yes, for gutting quines
and coopers. Noo, I mean there wis no eating facilities, no
buffet cars or nothin like at, ye wis jist intae yer carriage.
One, two, three, six?? ye sat there all night. There was no,
luxuries. [laughs] But then we didnae expect them.
[TM] And did you bring your own tools, your
[AB] Not going to Yarmouth, no no. The landlady
you stayed with provided all that. usually two crews stayed
together, at wis six. But then they were at poor they were
glaid o your money.
[GS] No, I think Tom's meaning, the actual tools
[AB] Your own gutting knife?
[TM] Your gutting knife.
[AB] Well, yes, they mostly liked their one
knife to work with. This is ma daughter comin in, mebbe ma
husband and a', and hae the story a' finished. [laughs] Story
a' finished, ye'll hae tae tell him yer nae needin him now.
[GS] Got the sack?
[AB] No, no, no longer required.
[GS] Didn't deliver the goods! [laughs]
[AB] I left him here waitin for ye, ye see!
[laughs] I think ye should scrap a that rubbish I've been
[GS] No, no it's just for ourselves. Just to
sort of listen to, just to remember.
[AB] Aye, ye'll jist pick oot fit ye, I dinna
like the look o his face! [laughs]
[GS] No, no you won't be in any situation that
you'll regret. [End of Side A.]
How did you, how would you, how would you kinda sum
up, what, what life was like for you, in your early days of
being involved in the fishin in Peterhead, compared to what
it's like now, now for a young woman?
[AB] Well, it's difficult to compare, ye see,
there's jist nae
fit wid ye compare? The money situation?
That jist disnae come intae it ye see, I mean they're a better
off noo than ever we were. But eh, the whole way of life's
different ye see.
[GS] Were you, when you first started, was it
still at the stage when the whole sorta family was one way
or other dependant on the sea?
[AB] Yes, I would say it was. I would say, when
I started first.
[GS] See, what we're trying to do, the good
thing about being able to speak to you both is, the fact that
we've got the, the man and the woman sorta points of view.
Somebody, that ???
[JDB] Well, she'd be the last o that crowd,
and I'm aboot the last o this side. There's nae mony mair
o us left, nae that I ken o.
[AB] Oh well, they're still gan tae the herring,
as I say, but
[JDB] But a different method, ye see. It wis
drift net in my day.
[GS] Was that the steam drifters?
[JDB] Steam drifters aye.
[AB] Steam drifters.
[GS] Did the, when the, when the MFV's come in, the diesels,
the diesel boats
[JDB] Aye, that wis the back o the war.
[GS] And were you still, you, that was about
the time you were finished going to sea was it?
[JDB] I was, I was still going to sea when they
come in, but I stopped then. I wis awa at the service a the
war, and fan I come hame I couldnae compete wi them that wis
conscientious objectors. They hid the money ye see and I hidnae.
[AB] They bought a the nets.
[JDB] And I hid tae leave the sea, and I wouldnae
ging tae, I wis the skipper, I'd been the skipper a the war
ye see. So I come ashore, and, worked, built up a business
[GS] What was that, your curing?
[JDB] I wis curing and kipperin, I wis everything.
[AB] Fish curing. There's a shop ye see.
[JDB] Big ice factory in the hairbour wis mine
[GS] You didn't too badly then
[JDB] Oh money wise I'd nae complaint. But my
mind wis aye on the sea. My mind wis aye
[AB] Wir son, wir son goes to sea.
[AB] Wir son goes to sea.
[JDB] Ma son's still skipper o his ane boat.
[GS] What sorta, what boat's he got?
[JDB] The Fairline.
[AB] It's the whitefishin he's at.
[AB] Aye. whitefish.
[JDB] One o the bigger boats, ninety, fit is
she? Ninety fit?
[AB] Oh, I've nae idea. It's nae boats like
the purse net boats or naethin ye see.
[GS] No, at the, at's the, from what I can gather,
that's a kinda closed shop is it, the big purse net licences?
[JDB] Yes, completely.
[AB] Oh aye, it's a closed shop.
[GS] The Mafia?
[GS] The Buchan mafia? [laughs]
[JDB] Well I dinna ken, it's mebbe
[AB] Well, they're nae, are they Buchans? They're
Taits at's in the Broch. But they're cousins ye see. But,
I think it's jist, I dinna think it's because they're cousins
that they're there, they were the first at went intae the
job when it wisn't a closed shop. It's gradually moved intill
a closed shop, ye see what I mean. They went intae the job
fen it wisn't a closed shop. You could buy a boat
[JDB] The government made it a closed shop.
[AB] The government made it a closed shop. So
although they're a cousins
[JDB] How's your job going?
[JDB] How's the job going?
[GS] It's going well, everything's fine. Everybody's
working away, I think we're, we're getting somewhere. We're
sort of weeding out the problems and hopefully getting everything
[TM] Holding out for truth and decency.
[GS] Holding out for truth and decency and everything
[AB] Oh, you'll find you'll pick up bits and
pieces then make a story.
[GS] Well as far as, generally, as far as the,
as far as the general sorta history of Peterhead, especially
when you go back beyond the whaling and that, I mean, we're
eh, we're well clued up on it, we've done a lot of research
into it, into that. But em, as I said the reason for this
sorta conversation with, with, with yourselves, is just to
sorta like, get, get the information, and get the, get the
feel for the place you can't get from books.
[AB] No, no, no, no, but people was involved
in't. But as I say it wis jist a way of life. The girls went
?? and boyfriends went tae the fishin and they went away tae
be beside their boyfriends. [laughs] That was the reason.
[GS] Was it?
[AB] Well it was one of the reasons. But there
was nothing else. Crosse and Blackwell employed a few people,
there wis a woollen mill up at the ither, eh the town which
is still there, at employed a few people, but then at wis
people who taen nothing to do with fishin, wasn't brought
up on the fishin, what we'd called 'townspeople' . At's ???
[JDB] There wis the two classes in Peterhead,
there was the fishing people and the townspeople. And they
didn't even walk on the same side of the street. The left
hand side going down was the fishin side, the other side was
the townspeople. They never mixed.
[AB] Very little, they didna mix.
[JDB] And if a fisherman, if a fisher person
married into a town person, it was an absolute disaster. Ken,
she couldna do his work ye see.
[AB] Ye'd tae mend the nets and athing ye see
[JDB] A fisherman, and a fisherman without a
wife to work for him to mend his nets and to bait his lines
if he wis going to lines, wis hopeless.
[AB] The baiting lines and athing wis stopped
when we come up.
[JDB] Oh aye, oh aye. Ah the sma lines.
[AB] We'd tae mend the nets ye see. But we made
wir nets, he used to gie me nets
[JDB] I went to the great lines, but the small
lines was finished afore I started. We wis at it one year.
[GS] When was the small lines
finished, what sort of time would that hae been?
[JDB] Well, I would say it nivver recovered
after the first war. It still carried on a few year but it
wis never a financial success.
[GS] When you talk about great line and small
line, are you actually talking about the size of the lines,
or the size of the fish, or the, or the
[JDB] Everything wis in the same, a bigger size
[AB] The lines, the size o the lines.
[GS] So what's the difference then between the
small lines and the great lines?
[JDB] Well the small lines caught mostly haddocks
and whitings and flukes, flat fish. The great lines caught
cod and skate and ling and bigger fish.
[AB] They gaed further afield.
[JDB] They went further afield.
[AB] Bigger boats went further afield.
[JDB] There's still a number o them goin yet
[AB] There's none oot o here noo, though.
[AB] I think there's a few from Norway still
[GS] And were, were they, with the small lines,
was that, was that smaller boats that you were using?
[JDB] Sma boats aye.
[AB] Aye, jist went off for ???
[JDB] And you took your lines home and baited
them at home, and carried them down to the boat and shot them
out o the boat and pulled them in the morning.
[GS] What kind of boats, sail boats, motor boats?
[AB] Motor boats.
[JDB] Well originally it wis a sail boats of
course. But in my day, the first war, and durin the whole
of the first war, it wis motor boats.
[AB] But then we were nivver involved in that
ye see, at would be???
[JDB] No, no.
[GS] Would that have been what I would know,
or I would believe to be a ripper boat?
[JDB] Well, mebbe, a a ripper boat, yes, jist
slightly bigger than a ripper boat. But they hid the engine
ye see, the ripper boats wis maistly sailin and rippin.
[AB] They nivver used nae bait wi the ripper
boats ye see. [laughs] They jist workit chance! [laughs]
[GS] I've done a bit, I remember when I was
really little, I've got memories of ma, one of ma uncles takin
me out on his ripper from Gamrie. But that, that seems to
have disappeared altogether now, has it, am I right?
[both] Oh completely!
[JDB] But not
[AB] There's nae fish here near hand.
[JDB] There's nae the quality, the amount o
fish tae catch em wi ripper.
[AB] The fish wis thicker then and they could
jist gae oot and catch them. At's far they landed at Gamrie
a while langer.. [laughs]
[JDB] Imagine haulin a hook up and down, and
the chance a hittin a fish. Well they hid tae be pretty plentiful
afore ye did at ye see. Well at's gone, away.
[AB] No, no that's away. Gone.
[GS] Never to be seen again.
[JDB] Well never's a long time.
[AB] I doubt it. There's jist aye changes. Everything
changes roon aboot.
[JDB] A but I'm very sorry I missed ye!
[GS] It's ok.
[AB] But the fisherwifes have no nets to mend
now ye see, their nets are a made o nylon and, strong nylon.
It wis cotton nets!
[JDB] At wis anither thing, if you were a fisherman
you had to marry a fisherwoman to repair your nets you see,
in the closed season. There wis the different seasons in at
days, ye didnae go to the sea twelve month like they do now.
[GS] So how was the year split up?
[JDB] Well you started in the home fishin in
the month of May.
[JDB] May, June, July, August, intae September.
[GS] Fishing for what?
[Both] The herring.
[JDB] Then you stopped and repaired your nets
and made ready for Yarmouth. Then you fished down in Yarmouth
and East Anglia for September, October, November and you was
home on 1 December. Then you tied up fae December, January
into February. It was a much more leisurely job then, ye'd
long times ashore ye see.
[AB] Oh, they've harder work now, they work
much harder now, they're at it a the year round now.
[JDB] Oh aye, they're steady, They're steady
at it now. But then of course on the ither hand it's a mechanical
now, it wis a holdin in my day ye see.
[AB] They've still go out in the winter time,
they never went afore. The men his tae go to sea now in the
weather that they nivver went before.
[GS] So it's wrong really for, for people like
meself, who don't understand, or, or don't, haven't been involved
in it, to assume that life, or the working life was harder
then that it is now for a fisherman. What would you say?
[JDB] Well, it depends what type of fisherman
you was. If you were a trawl fisherman oot o Aberdeen, at
wis murder. At wis 52 weeks a year, a whole year. And at started
away about the turn o the century. At's when Aberdeen started.
[AB] They went a the year round ye see, at wis
a different job. But it's out now the trawlin it's finished
ye see. Is sea nets knocket them out, they're more efficient
and they knocked them out you see.
[JDB] Oh it's completely finished. But eh
[AB] But eh, they go far harder to sea now than
they used to do.
[JDB] But eh, their job's nae sae hard and they've
much better conditions.
[AB] Their boats are better,
they've much better conditions aboard their boats. But eh,
it's jist a different job I would say now athegither. I mean
they're going, they used to, nobody went on Saturdays, they
came in on Saturday and they nivver went out again till Monday.
[JDB] Oh no there wis no fishin on Sunday but
that was for religious reasons ye see.
[AB] Ah, but they jist wis a
[GS] Was that, was that stuck to, was that a
hard and fast rule with everybody?
[JDB] Well it wasn't a rule, but it was unwritten
[AB] Ah but everybody observed it, whether they
were religious or no, there wis nobody went on Sunday.
[JDB] there wis some English boats went, but
no Scots boats.
[AB] No they never went on Sunday.
[GS] And that's even when you were working down
South as well, you still had your Sunday's off?
[JDB] Yes, always Sunday ashore.
[AB] Still hid Sunday.
[TM] Was that true for the gutters as well?
[talking across each other]
[AB] Yes, oh yes, no gutting on Sunday, no no.
Worked until six o clock on Saturday and at wis it, you got
Sunday off. Oh no, no work on Sunday.
[JDB] Oh no there wis nae, no work on Sunday.
There was no work on Sunday.
[GS] What did you do on, what did you do on
Sundays when you were down in Yarmouth. Apart from lie on
[AB] Recover! Recovered wi???
[JDB] Lots o things unmentionable. [laughs]
[GS] Oh come on this is what we want!
[AB] Oh no, no, no, you keep your mouth shut,
because at man says things that's not true. Not true no.
[JDB] She's feared I'll expose her. [laughs]
[AB] No, no, no, but he says things, he exaggerates.
[JDB] No, but it
[AB] No, it wis eh, we used to go away to the
dancing on a Saturday night at Yarmouth ????
[JDB] Of course if you were a drinkin man it
was a real booze up. But I never drank.
[TM] What kind of dancing did you do?
[AB] Oh jist, well the band used tae come up
fae here, old time dancin that we did.
[TM] Like Circassian Circles and Grand Marches?
[AB] Aye, aye, at would hae been, I think the
English people thought we was mad. They never used to come!
[GS] So did you maintain your own sorta community
down there in Yarmouth. You sorta like moved in, that was
it, that was you and?
[AB] Uh huh, definitely.
[JDB] Even, we hid wir own church.
[AB] Oh, our church wis oot the door.
[JDB] Oh aye, it wis aye full.
[AB] It wis packed. Wir church, we a' went tae
wir church, we a' went tae wir pub, and we ?? dancin. [laughs]
[TM] And you lodged with your own friends from
[AB] No, no, we hid tae lodge wi the English
woman ye see! [laughs]
[JDB] And then they pairted a' the bairns fan
they come hame. [laughs]
[TM] But I mean the other people, the other
gutters in your lodgings would have been from here as well?
[JDB] Oh aye.
[AB] Two crews would have been in one house.
[JDB] The guttin was all from local people here.
[AB] Aye, there wis no Yarmouth people.
[GS] None at all?
[AB] No, it's been said, that they thought we
were creatures of the porpoise! [laughs]
[JDB] No, no the English folk didna go intil't.
[AB] No, no. The shops and athing did well out
o it ye see, because there wis a lot o money spent ??? [tape
faint] buying presents and a that kind a thing. And a that
people to feed ye see, thousands of people went down there
and ??? fishing. Is place wis empty, I'm telling ye! Is place
[GS] Cause they'd all a been there, the coopers,
and the, and the fish buyers, everybody would have been based
[AB] Coopers and the gutters, everybody.
[JDB] Abody came fae here. The special trains
left here and took em a tae Yarmouth, naething a the wey.
[AB] Everybody mm hmm. Here and the Broch? Up
the coast. Nothing further south than this, but up the coast,
[JDB] Ah well, there wis doon the Sooth firth?
[AB] Very few, nae tae the same extent.
[JDB] Ah, about a few thousand.
[AB] No this was the Yarmouth places, Peterhead
and the Broch, and Buckie and at places there wis
[JDB] Oh aye, at wis the main places.
[GS] What about up north, did you travel up
[AB] A lot o them went up to Shetland. One year
[JDB] Well as I say, when they finished in December
down here, on the Scottish coast, we went up tae
[AB] Ah but at wis the fishin, the herrin fish,
at wis the month o May.
[JDB] Herrin fishin, at's the circle at went.
There wis Peterhead
[AB] Started in Lerwick
wi Stronsay ye
see. May, May, ere it started.
[talking across each other]
[JDB] Started in Lerwick if ye like, in the
month o March, March, May. Well March and a. And then they
come doon here and worket until the month o September and
then they went doon tae Stor, Shet eh.
[JDB] Yarmouth and workit till the end o the
[AB] I min one year ma father, he workit wi
Sandy Widdies[?], ye say your folk wis workit wi, they tried
their fishin doon in the channel, Falmouth. It wisnae a success.
They nivver went back. They never got no fish to gut. There
was only one year me and my father gaed there, doon to Falmouth.
[JDB] But the fishin never recovered after the
first war. That finished it.
[AB] Oh after the first war, it did, it did
[JDB] Oh no, it went doon every year. I think.
There wis a thousan boats going but every year there wis less
and less. That wis because the Russian market disappeared
ye see, the revolution came along and they didnae hae money
tae buy anything, they couldnae buy herring.
[AB] ??? the Russians.
[JDB] At's where the biggest part o them went.
[AB] They used to come intae the yard and took
one oot o the barrel, and take a bite out o it to see that
it was aright. Mm hm, at's how they tasted them! Uh huh. We've
been in Russia, we spent a holiday in Russia.
[JDB] But I dealt a lot of years with the Russians
and I found them alright to deal wi. If a Russian passed his
word you could depend that was it. If it wis a Frenchman or
a German, ach, it, the ?? stopped and nivver come back and
things like at. But nae the Russians.
[AB] [laughs] There's always an inspection and
they turned up, and they, and they branded em and that was
them when they bought them. And away they went ye see.
[JDB] But when the revolution started, the Russian
revolution, they didnae hae the money tae buy them. It wis
cash, you needed cash, it's no use a piece of paper.
[AB] A lot of them went bankrupt ye see, the
[JDB] Oh aye.
[AB] There wis people we were friendly wi, the
Soutars, and they used tae hae a barrel, fit wid it hae been,
[JDB] Marks, at wis German Marks, yes.
[AB] They sent their herrin tae Germany and
they paid them in Marks, and a they got them they were useless.
I can remember gan across and liftin the lid lookin in on
a fortune in Marks, and they werenae worth ??, at people were
[GS] Hard times eh?
[AB] Aye, they didnae get nothing for them.
They took their herrin. Was it recently there wis a pay out,
jist a token payment, some o the sailors. Jist a couple o
[JDB] But, but I would say
that the fishin's on a bonanza now, more so than ever it wis.
No doot there's boats that dinna do a lot, but you always
get that you see. Some boats do better than others.
[AB] Well it's always been a case o ye get fit
ye, get fit ye catch kinda business, there's been no guaranteed
[GS] What do you think makes the difference
then between a successful and a not successful, not such a
[JDB] A successful skipper.
[TM] That means someone who knows where the
fish is, or how to do it, or?
[JDB] Well, you'll get people, you'll get men
that whatever you put them to, they're a success. Well at's
more so at the fishing. Because your on your own, your away
two hundred mile down, and you canna depend on somebody next
door, your on your own.
[AB] No, your completely on your own. Your own
piece of ?? There's no street names in the North Sea [laughs]
[JDB] If you catch the fish you're a big man,
if you don't you're out.
[GS] How did you fare yourself when you were
a skipper as a fisherman. How, how do, how do you, apart from
[JDB] I thocht I was the best in Peterhead.
I'll be quite frank wi ye. [laughs]
[GS] Your unbiased opinion of course!
[JDB] Well I'll tell you my unbiased opinion,
I never got a chance. Because when I got back from the service
after doin up until, nineteen forty
., nineteen forty
six I come hame.
[AB] Ye wis never actually skippered the herring
[JDB] Ye see, afore I got home the thing was
fully goin, and I never got in. There wis a scheme come out
and Boothby come in doon to oor house and I talked it over
with him and it was going to be great things for the ex-servicemen
but they completely forgot about the war effort.
[AB] This MFVs, when they took them oot o the
service. Some o them wis never actually in the services, they
were new. And fishermen were gan tae get priority.
[JDB] No priority.
[GS] For the boats?
[AB] They never got, they never got priority.
[GS] So what happened to them then?
[AB] They were sold to the highest bidder.
[JDB] I'll tell ye. The first lot o boats that
come oot o the service, released from the service, they were
built during the war as MFVs for mine sweepin and tenderin,
and a thousand different jobs, well they were released to
the fishin trade and instead of being allocated tae the servicemen
or ex-service as they were going to be, they were sold on
the open market. Well when that happened the ex-service didn't
have a chance. I was in company wi a company in Peterhead,
the Scottish Steam Company, they had a lot a drifters, and
they wanted tae get intae the, the MFVs, the new boats that
wis comin in, the boats as are now, the equivalent of them.
And I, the provost who lived up here, I was personally acquaint
wi him, oh we'll get one, but it was no use. The price we'll
put in wis eicht and a half thoosan pound, well at wis a fortune
tae me as an ex-serviceman. You didnae make onything a the
war, but it wis nothin tae the conchies ye see, they were
makin piles a money a the war. They were glad tae get something
tae spend their money on. And we were a forced oot.
[AB] ??? a grievance.
[JDB] Of course I would say that has gone the
other way now. The young servicemen at were away tae war,
when they came home, they were maybe a better quality of man,
I don't know, I'm inclined to think at. But they've gradually
forced their way in and pushed the conchies out.
[AB] Well, it's nae such a thing noo as conchies.
[JDB] No, no, well
[GS] Is there still a, is there still a, a,
bad blood between the generations, or is it all over?
[AB] No, no, no it's a forgotten.
[JDB] No. The place at you come fae was full
[AB] Aye, Gamrie.
[JDB] Gamrie wis rotten wi them. Reed rotten.
[AB] Aye, it wis full o conchies, there were
a', it wis ?? brethren and athing ye see.
[TM] And fisherfolk who marry
townspeople now, or is it???
[AB] Oh aye [laughs]. the towns girls are a'
aifter the fishermen now! [laughs]. They wouldnae have them
when I was young.
[JDB] Oh aye, but there's a big difference now
ye see. Ye see when she was young, a fisher girl had to be
able to do fisher work, nowadays at doesn't matter.
[AB] No it doesn't matter. They're in great
demand noo the fishermen!
[TM] Unless she's a diesel mechanic.
[AB] That make a good ??? [talking across]
[GS] A computer operator maybe eh?
[TM] Did any women ever go out on the boats.
[AB] Oh no, not from here.
[GS] Have you ever heard of any women working
on a fishing boat?
[JDB] Not from here.
[AB] The Russian boats come across though ???
[JDB] A but they've never done it here.
[TM] Nowadays do you mean?
[AB] Uh huh.
[GS] How did you feel about the superstitions
and things, was that, was that really a strong thing or was
that just something
[AB] No, it's dying oot.
[JDB] Well nae wi me. But it was wi ma father.
And my father was a very sensible man but still he had that
bit about him about superstition. If I was standing on the
deck when we went oot, whistlin, you know whistling a tune,
a wallop on the side o the heid. Stop whistlin. If ye whistled
you blew the win up! [laughs]
[TM] What about seeing somebody with red hair
on the way to the boat?
[AB] Oh I think that red hair was aright! [laughs]
[JDB] Well, I never heard that one. But if you
met women of ill repute that was bad.
[TM] Well that's bad news anyway!
[JDB] That was a bad haul! [laughs]
[GS] I don't think that's anything to do with
superstition. I think we're talking about facts now! [laughs]
[JDB] There wis certain things that you werenae
allowed to speak about aboard the boat.
[GS] Such as?
[JDB] Well ma father wouldnae allow ye tae spik
aboot what we ca'd caul iron. At wis the name we wis for a
[AB] Oh aye, a salmon, at wis taboo!
[JDB] Salmon, if ye, if ye wis spikkin in the
cabin aboot salmon, ye'd tae ca it caul iron.
[AB] They didna like a minister to put in an
[JDB] A minister wisnae allowed aboard a boat,
nor near a boat! A minister of religion.
[AB] [laughs] And they like them, jist the auld
[JDB] A 'sandy camel' wis a pig. At wis bad
luck an a. There wis certain things that through the years
[GS] A 'sandy campbell?'
[JDB] 'Sandy camel' aye.
[AB] Camel, camel, you heard o camels in the
[GS] Oh a 'sandy camel,' aye.
[AB] 'Sandy camel.'
[GS] So, you, what would, when would you, you
wouldn't say 'pig', is that what you're saying?
[JDB] Oh definitely not. I never kent any fisherman
that would mention at work aboard their boat, even supposin
they believed that they didna believe it, just didna take
[TM] Just in case.
[AB] Just in case. Like going under a ladder,
you dinna take a chance.
[talking across each other]
[JDB] But that's all aboot died away now. There's
still a lot o them dinna like it ye mention certain things
[AB] ??? Ah but they're nae, they're nae superstitious
now the same.
[AB] They're nae sae superstitious noo ye see.
They're a up tae date, and mechanised and a computerised.
[JDB] There's certain things your own son John
wouldnae manage, wouldnae spik aboot.
[AB] Jist a a different way of life.
[JDB] Just a tradition come doon ye see.
[GS] So it still exists, it still exists to
[GS] It's strange to me that they wouldn't,
you wouldn't allow, a, a, a religious man on your boat, and
everything when, when eh the community was eh basically a
sorta like a religious community.
[talking across each other]
[JDB] Ah but they wouldnae allow that. That
was not allowed. That wisnae his place, his place was up in,
his place was up in the pulpit and they nivver went doon tae
the boats. Oh no, they nivver gaed near a harbour.
[AB] No, no, they didnae like em. And the minister
knew it too! [laughs] Nivver went ye see.
[TM] They would have know they weren't welcome.
[AB] Oh they knew they werenae welcome.
[JDB] They didnae want them. Jist their belief
[AB] I dae ken far at stems from.
[GS] I was wondering if you knew, if you knew
the eh, the origin of any of that sort of thing, I know it
must go back a long way?
[JDB] Well I, there must be an origin, but I
couldnae say where it came fae.
[AB] The mission at wis, it wis in between ye
see, the missioner, the mission man, he woulda got on board
the boats now, he coulda got aboard the boats.
[TM] Just not an actual minister?
[AB] As long as he hadna the collar on [laughs]
[JDB] Not a minister of the gospel no.
[AB] Of the cloth.
[JDB] Although they were mostly all church going
people in that days, 100%. But eh, they would never allow
a minister to go onto the boats.
[TM] Yes, you mentioned the
singing down on the, amongst the guttin girls.
[AB] Uh huh.
[TM] And it was mostly hymns?
[AB] Mostly hymns that they sang
[JDB] Oh it was all hymns.
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