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Edwardian

Red Herring, or, Fish in a Barrel

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This month's Great Eastern Railway Society Journal is largely devoted to the seasonal migration of Scottish female fish workers to East Anglia as they followed the herring fleets down the east coast to Yarmouth and Lowestoft. The article is by Alan Summers and found in the Great Eastern Journal No.176, October 2018.

 

I think this annual migration, usually taking place in early October, is well known, but it is fascinating to see an article devoted to the running of specials to cater for this movement during the Edwardian period.

 

By way of background, it might be worth noting that the purpose of the fish lassie's onshore work was to gut the fish for pickling in barrels of brine.  Pickled herring seems to have suited the palate of Russians and Germans particularly, and, even when fishing resumed after the Great War, the trade suffered from the conditions obtaining in these markets. Curing, I read, turned herring red.

 

The fishwife specials originated in either the GNoS or the NB.  Notices of the period, summarised in the article, show empty stock being gathered for these trains, and some of the NB notices specify dual-braked stock, and GNoS notices specify vacuum fitted stock.  I doubt that the fish lassies would have travelled in anything other than third class, and these would I imagine be ordinary carriages, not sleepers.  There are descriptions of the ladies brewing tea on stoves in the compartments on the long journey south.  One NB notice of 1909 specifies "Saloons and First Compartments must not be used for fish workers"!

 

I have reproduced one table and a map from the Journal (without permission), because they show the interesting variety of routes by which the workers traversed England en route to the East Anglian ports. One of the more, for me, interesting and unexpected routes was the LNWR along the Nene Valley to make an end-on connection with the GER at Peterborough East.  Of course, Midland (Settle & Carlisle) routed trains could go via Peterborough, but interestingly also dropped down to join the GER at Cambridge.  

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Does the article say if Scottish fish trucks were used for moving the fish or was the article just about the movement of people?

 

Marc

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Is it clear that the stock used was from the two Scottish companies?

 

Does the article say if Scottish fish trucks were used for moving the fish or was the article just about the movement of people?

 

Marc

 

I think the implication is that the coaching stock is native to the originating Scottish companies, and there are notices dealing with internal empty stock movements prior to forming the specials.

 

There is some reference to the movement of fish, but the specials concerned involved moving the work force, though there is a reference to fish trucks being used for the workers' luggage, which may suggest the Scottish companies were taking the opportunity to sendi their fitted fish trucks south.  Having said that, if I understand correctly, the bulk of the herring would be exported straight out of ports like Yarmouth to Russia and Germany. 

 

But, I've put the magazine down half-read somewhere and at present I can't for the life of me find it!

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