From May to September for 100 years, an army of Scotswomen would following the “Silver Darlings’ (herrings) and descend upon the fishing communities along the the East Coast.
Known as herring or fisher girls, the women from the Western Isles, Shetland and eastern Scotland travelled along the British coast working as gutters and packers carrying their belongings as they travelled.
The women worked in teams of three, two gutters and one packer – the tallest girl (being the one who could reach the bottom of the barrel the easiest) would have the task of packing the barrels. The team would travel, work and live together for the entire season.
Conditions were harsh. In addition to the long hours freezing conditions, the girls had to wrap their fingers with cloth, or ‘cloots’, and tie them with string for protection against their sharp knives.
Although the herring trade began to decline in the 1930s due to dwindling stocks and increased competition from a wider range of tinned foods, the herring girls continued to follow the migrating shoals in the early post-War years.