Cat no. 608

Our Herring Industry

Running time21:51 Black & White Silent 1929 Lowestoft, Suffolk

Loading the player ...

The herring fishing industry.



The film begins by contrasting the old and new herring industries. Shows shots of low white-washed cottages from Hamna Voe, Lerwick and then moves to shots of steam drifters at the Quayside at Lowestoft. Many of these are from Scotland. One in view is marked BF - Banff. There are shots of the men working aboard, carrying on coal and steeping and mending nets. A buoy is pumped up. The drifters leave the harbour and put to sea. The skipper of the Renovelle looks out to sea using a pair of binoculars. Birds, shot at Noss Head, Lerwick, are filmed feeding on the sea. The long line is let out and the nets and buoys are attached. A shot below deck shows a fisherboy watching the line. The men above deck cast the nets.

The next sequence shows the men below decks in the cabin. They eat and prepare for bed. These men were crew of the Maid of Thule and they are shot on a set that was constructed in the market place at Lerwick. The next sequence shows fish in water and caught in the nets. This is also a cheat. The scenes were shot in tanks (scratches on the glass are visible in some shots) at the Plymouth Marine Biological Research Centre. The crew rise and set to work hauling in the nets and shaking the herring from them. The herring cargo is stored in the hold. The drifters are filmed steaming though the sea on their return to market. One is marked LO (Lossiemouth), another LK (Lerwick) and others are marked LT (Lowestoft) and YH (Yarmouth.) The scenes here are a mixture of Lowestoft and Yarmouth harbours. Back at the port, the drifters have to jostle for places along side the Quay. At Yarmouth salesmen and buyers go from boat to boat inspecting the catch. There are shots of the auction on the Quayside at Yarmouth. The fishermen complete unloading and the fishergirls walk along the Quay. There are lorries and horse drawn carts along the Quayside. There are further shots of the gulls. The fisher girls are filmed at work, gutting and slating the herring and packing them into barrels. There are shots of a train to represent that some of the fish leave Yarmouth by train for other towns. There follow shots of a ship to represent that most go back to sea and on to the Baltic.

Background Information:

EMB Films were made anonymously. Films to which Grierson and Walter Creighton put their names, including `Drifters' do not appear in the EMB catalogue.


A film about the herring industry was formally commissioned in 1928. The village used in the production was Hamna Voe in Shetland. The bird scenes were shot at Noss Head, Lerwick. The ship's interiors were re-created in the fishing market at Lerwick. The crew of the Maid of Thule, the first drifter commissioned by Grierson, re-enacted their lives below deck, even swearing at the cook. Grierson found that he couldn't get film of a decent catch off Shetland. He initially decided to try to stage a catch, buying up herring and placing them in the nets. These scenes had to be discarded. He moved to Lowestoft and commissioned the Renovelle. They went to sea in a gale to achieve the dramatic shots that Grierson wanted. Most of the trawlers had taken to harbour. The underwater scenes were shot in tanks (scratches on the glass are visible in some shots) at the Plymouth Marine Biological Research Centre. The 'herring' were roach; herring do not survive out of the sea. The dogfish and conger eels filmed with them were young, to retain the perspective. Shooting was over by the end of November, 1928. In the summer of 1929 the film was shown to the Empire Marketing Board's film committee. They didn't like the film as they had been expecting a straight documentary. Grierson re-cut the film for the Empire Marketing Board. That film became Our Herring Industry which is featured here. He sent his own cut to Olympic Kine Laboratories independently. This film became Drifters and was shown to the London Film Society on November 10th, 1929 alongside the film which had inspired its montage effect, Potemkin. In Documentary and Educational films of the 1930s Rachael Low claims that Drifting was also a shortened version of Drifters.

Featured Organisations:

Plymouth Marine Biological Research Centre

John Grierson

Basil Emmart

Terms and conditions

The Terms and Conditions apply to the website (the Website) and by accessing the website you are agreeing to abide by them.

 We may modify the terms and conditions or withdraw or deny access to the Website at any time at our sole discretion.

In your use of the Website you agree not to, at any time:

  1. Conduct or promote any illegal activities
  2. Attempt to reverse engineer or jeopardize in any way the correct functioning of the Website and its services or otherwise attempt to derive the source code or other code or software that enables the operation of this website.
  3. Use any automatic, electronic or manual process not provided by this website to access search or harvest any information from the website or to interfere in any way with its proper functioning.
  4. Mirror or frame the website or any portion thereof, place pop-up windows over its pages or otherwise affect the display of its pages.

Every effort has been made to exclude or flag content that may be upsetting or cause offence and not to include films that are unsuitable, however the East Anglian Film Archive bears no responsibility for people under the age of 18 viewing the Website or for any offence that may be caused by people viewing the Website. If you feel that some items could cause offence please contact us in the first instance. If you would like to have access to any of the films available for purposes not permitted by these Terms and Conditions, including any commercial venture, then please contact us.


The content of the Website including but not limited to the text are Copyright © 2011 The East Anglian Film Archive of the University of East Anglia.

The copyright in the original film materials and the digital reproductions of all still and moving images herein and their arrangements in many cases may be owned by a number of parties. Any requests for copyright clearance for use of the material should be directed to the East Anglian Film Archive in the first instance. It is the requester’s responsibility to obtain such necessary clearance and the East Anglian Film Archive will not be held responsible for any failure on the requester’s part to do so.

The contents on the Website may be accessed as view only and purely for non commercial personal, educational and cultural interest. Under no circumstances shall any content be downloaded, transferred, copied or re-produced in whole or in part in any manner or in or on any media without the prior written consent of The East Anglian Film Archive.

The East Anglian Film Archive would like to thank those who allowed copyright permission for the use and display of works that appear on this site.


The East Anglian Film Archive has made every reasonable effort to locate, contact and acknowledge copyright owners. There are a small number of cases where, despite our efforts, the copyright owner has not been identified. In these cases, we welcome contact from copyright owners and will take immediate action to gain any appropriate clearances or remove the items if requested.

We do not guarantee that the Website will be compatible with any and all hardware or software which you may use nor that the Website will be available all of the time or at any specific times.

The East Anglian Film Archive makes no warranty that the Website is free from computer viruses or any other malicious or impairing computer program.

The Website contains links to other websites with their own terms and conditions. The East Anglian Film Archive is not responsible for the terms and conditions of these websites.


The East Anglian Film Archive is committed to a high standard of quality in all its work and with this in mind every attempt has been made to present up to date and accurate information on this website. However, visitors need to bear in mind that it is possible that information contained on this website may be out of date, incomplete, the opinion of the author or the opinion  “of the time” and may contain technical inaccuracies and typographical errors. We accept no responsibility for keeping the information in these pages up to date or liability for not doing so. If you notice information that needs to be updated or corrected, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Personal data

The Website may contain some personal data such as names of film-makers, some film participants etc. We have taken all reasonable care to ensure that we operate within the provisions of data protection legislation. If you believe that any of the data on the Website causes or is likely to cause damage or distress to you or any other living person, please contact us with details.

Liability and indemnification

Any unauthorised use you make of the University of East Anglia or East Anglian Film Archive copyright and/or trademarks will constitute an infringement of the University of East Anglia’s Intellectual Property and may lead to legal action and other such remedies in accordance with the governing law.

You agree to indemnify and hold harmless the University of East Anglia and its employees, affiliates and students

Except to the extent prohibited by the governing law the University of East Anglia accepts no responsibility for any use you may make of the Website.

The University of East Anglia is only liable to you for direct losses which you may reasonably be expected to suffer where you can show that such losses were as a result of our breach of these terms and conditions. Any implied warranties and conditions are fully excluded.

Our Liability to you shall in no circumstances include any loss of profit or revenue or any other indirect losses you may incur whether foreseen or not.

Governing Law

The Laws of England and Wales shall govern and the Courts of England and Wales shall have exclusive jurisdiction over

  1. The formation, existence, construction, performance, validity and all other aspects of these terms and conditions whatsoever
  2. Any and all claims made by you or us for any and all breaches acts omissions, misuses, liability and copyright claims as set out in these terms and conditions.

The East Anglian Film Archive is owned and operated by the University of East Anglia

© 2011 The East Anglian Film Archive of the University of East Anglia.