61882: Herring Girls from North Lochs (Dewar Report)

The Dewar Commission took evidence of the state of healthcare, and other social matters, around the Highlands and Islands in 1912. Mrs Isabella Burns, wife of the schoolteacher in Fidigary School, Crossbost, gave evidence in Stornoway on 14 October 1912. She answered questions about the local girls going away to the herring fishing:

The men go fishing, do they, all round the coast, to Shetland and Fraserborough and Lowestoft and these places? – Yes

Do the women go too? – Yes

How many on an average go from each house? Two from each house? – I think about that.

Or more than that? – I would not like to say. I can say this, that in the village of Ranish this last summer there was only one girl over fifteen left in the township. All the rest were away engaged on the East Coast at gutting.

The population of Ranish is 468? – Yes

How long does a girl remain away from home? – From six to eight weeks, and sometimes more. She comes home and then goes back again to the English fishing. They left for the English fishing about a fortnight ago. They will come home about the end of November.

That is about twelve weeks? – They are away for fully that period.

They live at home all the rest of the year? – Yes

Do many of the girls go as domestic servants from your district? – Very few.

I suppose they get better pay as fishcurers? – Yes. They use all their family in the spring-time for peat-cutting and digging the croft.

Do the women dig the croft? – Yes

And dig the peat too? – Yes

What do they do? – I have never known a girl from district, engaged at the gutting, to marry any but a Lewis man, nor yet of a man marrying a girl except a Lewis girl.

Record Type:
Story, Report or Tradition
Type Of Story Report Tradition:
Testimony Or Evidence
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