11 November 2023 - 18 March 2024
The colourful character, costume and culture of Scotland’s Fishwives
Although fishing is commonly thought of as being dominated by men, women contributed directly to the industry through their work in preparing the gear, processing the catch, and then selling the fish. It was this latter activity that brought the fisherwomen into closest contact with wider society, and in this role that they were known as “Fishwives”.
While women working in the herring industry were generally employed, fishwives worked for themselves, selling the fish caught by their family members or bought directly from the fishermen. They would work all year round, their wares varying with the seasons from shellfish to white fish to oily fish, ungutted or filleted, fresh, salted or smoked.
Being independent and distinctive saleswomen, fishwives gathered a reputation – both positive and negative – in the eyes of the public. They were admired for their hard work, colourful clothing, strength of character and healthy looks, while often being scorned for their harsh tongues and loud voices: “to scold like a fishwife” was a well-used phrase.