A look back at the ‘fisher lasses’

Scottish fisher girls
Scottish fisher girls

These pictures of Scottish fisher girls hard at work in Scarborough were sent in by local postcard collector Charles Braithwaite.

During August of each year between the 1890s and 1914, the girls, having followed the herring fishing fleet down the East coast during a ten-week season, continued their employment for about a couple of weeks here in Scarborough, one of the country’s largest herring ports.

Charles said: “The other cards show that, apart from the take-over on all three piers, there was lots of activity on the South beach and Sandside.

“With the seemingly wall-to-wall carpet of gutted fish, the smell must have wafted over large areas of the town and caused a distraction to our visitors, and yet it is apparent that many regarded the scenes of the girls at work as an attraction, as will be observed in some of the cards.

“Each girl could gut 50 herrings a minute, which were then packed in salt at the rate of 1,000 per barrel, most of which was exported.

“From what little I have discovered as regards wages, lodgings and miscellaneous expenses, it is hoped that was be a fitting reward left to take back to their homes in Scotland.

“Despite the fact that the girls would spend much of their spare time washing their clothes according to the requirements of the landladies, I can imagine that the latter would have some difficulty in attracting tourists either during, or for long after the fleet, had set sail.”

Apart from the Pathe News films, it is known that similar industrious scenes were recorded by photographers and artists at other ports of call, leading to the production of countless picture postcards that would be sent to addresses countrywide.

Charles concluded: “Since there were so many close-up pictures of many of the girls, one can imagine that they regarded themselves as the celebrities of that era.”