Look back at Scarborough’s tunny and herring fishing past

Submitted'Herring girls 'Photo courtesy of the Max Payne Collection
Submitted'Herring girls 'Photo courtesy of the Max Payne Collection

Scarborough Maritime Heritage Centre has a new exhibition on show that takes a look back at herring and tunny fishing in the town.

The exhibition at the centre in Eastborough features an array of nostalgic photographs and interesting documents.

Volunteer Michael Knaggs explained: “Herring fishing was going on right up until the very late 1950s.

“The origins of the song Scarborough Fair are linked to it, as the herring would be here from July to September.

“It was to do with a 45-day fair for the herring season. Everybody would turn up.

“The herring girls came down from Aberdeen along the east coast and could gut, clean and pack about 50 to 60 herring a minute.”

The main season in Scarborough was from August to September, with the herring moving south all the time and the teams moving south as far as Lowestoft.

Tunny fishing, which was at its peak from 1920 to the 1950s, is another important part of Scarborough’s fishing heritage.

Michael said: “The Second World War extended it as fish stocks recovered. It kept tunny fishing going for another 10 years.”

Tunny was caught on big game fishing trips for sport rather than for food.

The fish itself ended up as cat food and fertiliser, but a big one caught today would sell for around £100,000.

Tunny fishing attracted some big names to Scarborough such as the Rothschilds and actor Errol Flynn, who used an assumed name during his visit.

A world-record-breaking tunny was caught off Scarborough in the 1930s by a Mr Mitchell-Henry weighing an incredible 851lb.

Though the sport of tunny fishing has died out, the tunny may be on their way back to local waters.

Michael said: “We’ve heard rumours that they’re coming back - mainly smaller size ones from 50lb to 100lb.”

The centre is open from 11am to 4pm Wednesdays to Sundays. Free entry. Call (01723) 369361 for details.