Category Archives: wooden boat

‘Dreg songs’ of the Firth of Forth oyster fishery – an appeal for information

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Song collector James Madison Carpenter shanties, sea songs

Song collector Carpenter recorded songs from the Firth of Forth oyster fishery

Folklorist and shanty expert Bob Walser has put out an appeal for information about the old Firth of Forth oyster fishing – can anyone help him please?

Bob is engaged in what must be one of the most enviable jobs I can imagine – research the material collected by the USA collector James Madison Carpenter, who recorded a large amount of material in the UK.

‘I wonder if you could help me locate imagesor descriptions of the boats, dredges, methods etc of the Firth of Forth oyster fishery – woodcuts, paintings, photos of reproduction boats – etc. Anything at all!

‘I’m trying to get an idea of how the fishing was done in the 18th and 19th centuries: how many men per boat, dredging under sail or oars, single dredge or more, what shape were the dredges, how were the oysters etc?

‘The oyster dredgers in the Firth of Forth in years gone by sang what are called ‘dreg songs’, which seem to have been particular – perhaps unique – to that fishery. There are several recordings of these songs in the James Madison Carpenter Collection and I am trying to better understand how they functioned: how was the work done and how were the songs used?

‘I hope to use this information in the notes to the songs in the critical edition of the collection when it is published and perhaps in presentations or academic papers exploring this song tradition. I’d also like at some time to ‘bring the songs home’ to Fisherrow and Cockenzie where Carpenter recorded them – but for now that’s a dream… ‘

Thanks Bob – I’ve looked and found nothing on this particular fishery in any of the standard works I possess – the Chatham Directory, The Working Boats of Britain, Beach Boats of Britain or Traditional Fishing Boats of Britain and Ireland – but I wonder whether the boats used were like the small creel boats that used to be employed in the area?

Can anyone help please?

For an earlier post on Carpenter’s work, click here.

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Turk’s auction – are you missing the small wooden boat bargains of the year?

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These photos come from a viewing of the items being auctioned at Turk’s Boatyard at Chatham on Saturday.

Julie and I went over in the company of a clutch of other boating enthusiasts, and a pleasant, sociable and productive time we had, as you may gather from Chris Partridge’s post about the outing at his Rowing for Pleasure weblog. And yes I did manage to snap up a nice pair of oars and a sign from a hire boat business – as Chris observes, Turk’s are disposing of generations-worth of old-style hardware, models, rigs and who knows what else.

By now, I’d hope that most trad boat enthusiasts who use the Internet regularly are probably aware of the astonishing auction of equipment and craft belonging to the Turk’s business. If not, I’d advise you to quickly take a look at this earlier intheboatshed.net post about the sale, which closes on the 14th April.

Jolly outing though it was, however, I was a little saddened and surprised by how few other people were looking at the lots on Saturday. If this was close to indicating the level of interest in the auction, I thought, the sad end to all this could be that a number of interesting, even historic, craft will be disposed of in some other way, possibly even burned for all I know. But looking at the prices at least some of the boats are attracting that doesn’t now seem so likely – though after seeing the lots I can say for certain that there are still some real bargains to be had.

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Photos of the traditional wooden clinker-built fleet of fishing boats at Hastings

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Quite a few of the traditional wooden clinker built boats survive among the beach-based fishing fleet at Hastings

These photos are part of a collection of shots I took of the beach boat fishing fleet at Hastings in the Easter Bank Holiday sunshine earlier this week. I’ll put up some more in the coming days.

Looking back, this is the first time I’ve photographed the boats in just over three years and I’m impressed that there seem to be almost as many of the traditional wooden clinker built beach boats as there were on my last visit. It’s particulary pleasing to see how many of the smaller boats are now being cared for and used by the local sea angling society, which seems to include some seriously hard working enthusiasts. Long may they prosper!

For more intheboatshed.net posts relating to Hastings and its fishing fleet, click here. I think you’ll find some interesting material.

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