27762: Pultneytown, Wick, Caithness

Pultneytown is now a district of the town of Wick, in Caithness in the far north of mainland Scotland. Until 1902 however, it was a distinct town separate from the Royal Burgh of Wick across the river.

Pultneytown was named after Sir William Pultney, governor of the British Fisheries Society who commission Thomas Telford to build a planned town to accommodate the burgeoning herring industry. Begun in 1805, Pultneytown revolved around the herring industry and in season, thousands upon thousands of herring fishers and gutters took up temporary residence in the town as they followed the ‘silver darlings’ down the coast. The town consisted of a fine harbour, coopers’ yards and gutting sheds, with row-houses in Lower Pultney and finer homes in Upper Pultney. At the height of the herring industry, the harbour was packed tight with herring boats and the town was a hive of activity.

Many men and women from the Western Isles spent seasons in Wick and Pultneytown, earning wages to take home to the Island; relations between the Gaelic-speaking visiting crews and the English-speaking Wickers were not always cordial and feuds were common, including the Great Wick Fight.

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