This song is about Scots lassies from the fishing communities of the North East of Scotland going down to the English port of Yarmouth to gut the herring.
Come aa ye fisher lassies now an come awa wi me,
Fae Cairnbulg and Gamrie and fae Inverallochie,
Fae Buckie and fae Aiberdeen and a' the country roon,
We're awa tae gut the herrin, we're awa tae Yermouth toon.
You rise up in the morning wi your bundles in your hand,
Be at the station early or you'll shairly hae to stand,
Tak plenty to eat and a kettle for your tea,
Or you'll shairly die o hunger on the way to Yermouth quay.
The journey it's a lang ane and it taks a day or twa,
And when you reach your lodgins sure it's soond asleep you fa,
But ye rise at five wi the sleep still in your e'e,
You're awa tae find the gutting yairds alang the Yermouth quay.
It's early in the mornin and it's late into the nicht,
Your hands aa cut and chappit and they look an unco sicht,
And you greet like a wean when you pit them in the bree,
And you wish you were a thoosand miles awa fae Yermouth quay.
There's coopers there and curers there and buyers, canny chiels,
And lassies at the pickling and others at the creels,
And you'll wish the fish had been aa left in the sea
By the time you finish guttin herrin on the Yermouth quay.
We've gutted fish in Lerwick and in Stornoway and Shields,
Warked along the Humber 'mongst the barrels and the creels;
Whitby, Grimsby, we've traivelled up and doon,
But the place to see the herrin is the quay at Yermouth toon.
The song was made to a traditional tune by Ewan MacColl for the award-winning Radio Ballad programme 'Singing The Fishing'.
Women and girls travelled up to Shetland and down to Yarmouth following the herring catch. They could gut herring so fast that in films of them at work the hands are a blur. The gutted herring were packed into barrels and salted to be preserved.
Listen to 'Song of the Fishgutters' performed by Christine Kydd.
From Dark Pearls, CUL 115D, Culburnie Records.