Cat no. 181

Scotch Fisher Girls at Yarmouth

Running time4:18 Colour Silent 1935 Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

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Scottish fisher girls gutting and packing herring at Great Yarmouth.



The film opens with a shot from the beach shooting out to sea, at boats coming into the harbour. The film features a steam drifter at it makes its way up river. At South Quay, men unload the catch. Most of the remaining film shows the fisher girls gutting the herring. They also carry the baskets and pack the herring in barrels (kitts) of salt and ice for export. These scenes are intercut with shots of the boats at sea and by the Quay. On one shot the girls are watched by a woman in a hat and coat. The film ends with the boats putting out to sea. The drifters appear to carry sails. Herring boats all carried missen sails to allow them to lie to wind.

Background Information:

The 1920s and 1930s were a period of uncertainty and depression for the herring industry at Yarmouth. The main reason was the collapse of the German and Russian markets on which Yarmouth had become dependant before the First World War. (80% of the herring catch had been exported to Russia.) Alternative markets were hard to find. Many firms gave up on the herring business altogether. The Smith's Dock Fleet was run down, Horatio Fenner Ltd. sold their six drifters in 1927 and Westmacott Ltd. sold their fleet of 11 in 1932. Bloomfields were taken over by the Leverhulme Group in 1929. Most newly built vessels were dual purpose drifter/trawlers. The herring industry in Great Yarmouth was still predominantly Scottish, although they too were withdrawing. In 1925 they were represented by 757 boats and 4,000 fisher girls. By 1936 the figures were nearer 460 and 2,000. In 1936, the fisher girls went on strike, successfully, for an increase in wages from 10d. to 1s. per barrel. Although attempts were made to regulate the industry, the Herring Industry Board was set up in 1935, by 1938 it was clear that many steam drifters were not earning enough to cover expenses. (C. Lewis. The Yarmouth Herring Industry, Norfolk Museums Service, 1988).

Victor Harrison

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