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Herring fishing

Fishing for herring was of little interest until the technique of curing them with salt in barrels was mastered.

From the 15th to the 17th centuries fishing for herring around Shetland was dominated by the Dutch. They used drift nets to catch the fish before they were cured onboard the large decked boats or 'busses' that carried everything needed on a trip.

Herring stations were located at Hamar's Voe, Hillswick, Hamnavoe and Heylor. At the herring stations it was usually girls and women who were employed as gutters. When the boats landed their catch, the herring was put into troughs called farlins. The women were so adept at their profession that a single cut with a gutting knife removed the entrails, the herring then being passed on to the packers, who lightly salted and layered the fish in barrels. After a day or two the herring were repacked, this was done at least once more, before being sealed for export.

RETURN to History

By 1914 no herring stations were left in this area. Fifies and Zulu class herring boats had been used, but by the station closures, steam drifters were in common use and they could go quickly to and from the fishing grounds and land fresher fish at the main markets in Lerwick and Scalloway, so ending another era.

Fish barrels stacked at Hillswick, Shetland
In 1905, for no apparent reason the herring fishing totally failed in this area, while in other parts of Shetland, record catches were being landed. Many people rightly or wrongly blamed this catastrophe on pollution being caused by the whaling stations at Ronas Voe.

 

 

 

 

 

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