What the project is about.
Fishing grew from a subsistence occupation to a thriving industry along the east coast during the last century; it became a way of life rather than a job. Everyone in the community had a role to play. ‘The Tale of the Herring Project’ aims to celebrate this way of life, discover the fish that were caught and the boats that were used.
How the herring united the harbours
A shared fishing heritage links the five communities of Amble, Newbiggin, Cullercoats, North Shields and Lowestoft. Although they have much in common each harbour has qualities that make it unique. Amble was famous for its coble building boat yard, Newbiggin has a maritime heritage that goes back to the early 14th century, Cullercoats fisherfolk were immortalised in the paintings of artist Winslow Homer and his artist associates, North Shields was one of the most important fish quays in England and Lowestoft (along with her neighbour Great Yarmouth) caught a staggering 60 million herring in a single day, It was also famous for its smoke houses.
Fishing was seasonal work, but perhaps the most important part of the year was the arrival of the herring. This happened in different months in different harbours, starting in Scotland in June and ending in Lowestoft in November. During this period of plenty, Scottish herring girls would follow the boats as they moved down the coast, joining the local women to gut, salt and pack thousands of tons of ‘Silver Darlings’.
As the herring migrated south the local fishermen would catch the fish as they came to their home port. A range of boats were used in this often dangerous occupation. In the smaller ports of Cullercoats, Newbiggin and Amble, cobles were used, in North Shields and Lowestoft larger herring drifters then later steam drifters were a common sight.
Workshops and Exhibitions.
Five schools, one in each area, investigated their maritime heritage in a series of workshops, these cumulated in a community exhibition and film show. These exhibitions are touring all the harbours so five individual studies become on large one.
The workshops were carried once a week for six weeks in each school. The children participated in a range of activities many which were unique to their harbour. These included; creel making, herring drifter and coble design and construction, fish identification and herring dissection. Outdoor learning was an important aspect of the project and all the children visited their local harbour and beach.
To date, North Shields, Cullercoats and Amble have had their community exhibitions. The Amble banner is currently being hosted by The Dovecote Centre in the town and all the banners will be on display in North Shields library from Monday July 18th.