Edna Davidson, a herring bookkeeper from Great Yarmouth in 2019. Edna was born and grew up in Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire, a town steeped in fishing heritage. She came to Norfolk as a sixteen-year-old in 1949, travelling down by train with the band of migratory fisherwomen known as ‘herring girls’ or ‘herring lassies’.
Collected by Craig Easton
The women would travel every year, mirroring the fleet’s journey as it followed the migrating shoals south through the summer and autumn, ending up in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Unlike the gutters and the packers, Edna did not work outdoors on the quayside but was a bookkeeper working in the offices of the Scottish curing firms. Like many of the herring girls, Edna married and stayed in Norfolk and lived her whole life in Great Yarmouth. She is the last of the Scottish fisher girls, a reminder of the extraordinary history of this unique band of British working women.
‘Yarmouth was a wonderful place to us, coming from a little town with half a dozen shops. Yarmouth was a Mecca. Oh, it was awful going home because that was winter. It was winter all year round there. But we all loved it, because we all came back next year for more. Wherever the herring were, the girls went. All the boats used to moor up, tie up at the weekend because the Scots fishermen, they never fished on a Sunday. The Englishmen did, but never the Scots. They all went to church with a Bible under their arm and sang hymns. They got drunk on Saturday, then went to church on Sunday to have their sins forgiven and then Monday they were all out at sea again.’