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The Royal Burgh of Wick was founded in 1589 by Royal Charter. It developed slowly on the Wick River, on the eastern coast of Caithness. Herring fishing began from the town around 1760, and by 1795 there were 200 boats fishing out of Wick.
The new town of Pultneytown with its harbour was established across the river in 1805, heralding the real herring boom. This brought unprecedented wealth to the town, as well as a temporary influx of thousands of fishermen and herring girls from other parts of the country. Wick was clearly a lively town, with fierce rivalries between crews and some 50 taverns between the two towns at the height of the herring boom. Wick made up for this dissolute behaviour with 10 years of temperance early in the 20th century.