North Shields Fishermen Heritage Project Campaigning To Preserve History And Heritage of Fish Quay
Written by Keith Bays on 19th November 2021
A campaign in North Shields is gaining momentum in its pursuit of raising £55,000 for a Herring Girl statue.
The North East Fishermen’s Project is aiming to preserve the history and heritage of the area, and the latest campaign is part of that effort.
The Herring Girls often worked long days in difficult conditions and played their part not only in the fishing industry, but also in supporting their families.
Project chairman Terry McDermott said: “The project started in 2015 and has went from strength to strength, we plucked a little bit of nothing out of the air and we created Fiddlers Green, the statue of the fishermen, and we’ve created a book of remembrance which is on public display at North Shields library.”
McDermott added: “We now want to get another statue in place as the women deserve the same recognition as the men in the fishing industry. It’s a worthwhile and justifiable cause and we want as many people as possible to send us a donation.”
Many of the trustees and volunteers that are involved with the Heritage Project have family connections to the fish quay.
Trustee Lyn Collins said: “I got involved in fishing because my whole family was. My grandfather was a skipper and my father and my uncles were all involved in fishing. So when the project came up and Terry asked me to be on the committee I was happy to do it.”
Owner of Orbis Support Limited and volunteer Nigel Devine said: “I remember coming down here as a kid and just being mesmerized by what was going on and trying to fish off Lloyd’s jetty, and just spending time on the fish quay was unreal as a kid.”
Devine added: “The project resonated with me in part, because it celebrates the role women had which I think does go unrecognised often.”
Fishermen from North Shields also had to work long hours in tough conditions, at times with no sleep and poor accommodation.
Project chairman McDermott said: “The job was very hard indeed some men would cry when they went away on a fishing boat when they were going away for long trips, the accommodation and conditions where hard it’s not a luxury life.”
Fishermen also had to deal with the fact that there was no guarantee of a decent wage despite their hard work.
Trustee Lyn Collins added: “My dad had 18p to show for 10 days working away as he had taken out a £40.00 sub because my mam had said she needed money to pay rent and buy food. But when he got back he settled up with only £40.18 and once the sub was taken out of that he had only 18p to pick up.”
The fish quay is still a working quay and the biggest prawn port on the North East coast, but it is evolving.
Whilst it still supports fishing, albeit on a smaller scale, it has blossomed into a fashionable place for locals and visitors.
Numerous restaurants and bars now occupy the fish quay, but the history and heritage can be seen everywhere which many feel is still important.
Cameron Boyd co-owner of The Low Lights Tavern said: “It’s nice that the fish quay is still busy, but you also want it to be somewhere people remember what their heritage is, where there’s something to see and pin it down as a destination Fiddlers Green has certainly been that and something extra with the Herring girl statue would be brilliant.”
Retired fishermen and trustee Bob Webster said: “This area used to be an industrial area basically fishing and that’s it, and the only entertainment down here was at the fishermen’s pubs and over the last 15 or 20 years the area has gradually changed and went in the opposite direction towards entertainment.”
While the trustees acknowledge that the entertainment industry is breathing new life into the the fish quay, preserving history and heritage is vitally important.
McDermott said: “I think it is very important that our history and heritage is recorded, and that it’s not allowed to just drift away as though it never happened.”
To find out more information, volunteer or donate, contact the North Shields Fishermen’s Heritage Project via their Facebook Page.