Herring Girls

Herring girls are knitting, gathered round the harbour seats,
Hands that are never idle, always busy for the fleet.
Their working clothes are ready and their fingers wrapped so neat,
But it doesn’t stop the salt from seeping through.

Early every morning with the sleep still in their e’e,
Two lassies for the gutting and the packer makes it three.
Herring girls are waiting on the Peterhead quay
To welcome the fishermen home.

It’s down into the herring yards ‘til late into the night,
In their leather boots and aprons with their head-scarves fastened tight.
A shilling for a barrel, an extra tanner if it’s right,
From Buckie all the way to Whitby town.

They drag the boats and launch the boats and keep the menfolk dry,
They fetch the fish and salt the fish and sell the fish forebye.
With dignity and pride although the pay is never high,
As they chase the silver darlings down the coast.

They gut the fish and pack the fish from Aberdeen to Shields,
Some lassies at the pickling, some working at the creels.
There’s coopers there and curers there and all the canny chiels
Who buy the herring landed on the quay.

Jenny loves a fisher lad, who has a quarter-share,
And every time his fleet moves on you’ll find young Jenny there.
Peggy’s always combing out the tangles in her hair,
And Marie wants to be the herring queen.

On Saturday there’s dancing with the working week behind,
On Sunday there’s the mission hall for bread and holy wine.
But on Monday you go back to dousing herring in the brine
And the week’s as long as ever it has been.

Herring Girls © Bill Adair/ Sad Jeb Music 2019

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