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Elphinstone Kist   Folk-History, Work

Gourdon Memories (1)     by: Craig, Celia

Mrs Scott, Agnes, grew up at Lauriston, near St Cyrus, some eight miles south of Gourdon. She married and settled in Gourdon as a young woman, in the 1950s . Thereafter she shelled mussels and baited lines for many years once her husband, Jim, started going to the sea.

The Interview was conducted in Gourdon Scots. Agnes’ husband, Jim also contributes from time to time. Words in italics represent shorter responses by a different speaker within a longer answer. There are two short, somewhat indistinct portions, summarised by the interviewer.

This is an interview with Mrs Agnes Scott on the 25 May, 2007 about her early life and particularly about sheeling and baiting in Gourdon.

Celia : Right. Now. Okay. Agnes – we’re getting ready to start the interview and we’ve agreed that we’re gaen to speak Gurden, Gurden Scots. Okay. The first thing I’m gaen ti ask ye is fit’s yer full name?

Agnes : Agnes Elder Scott.

Celia : And fit wis yer date o birth?

Agnes : 12 September – fit year wis it?

Celia : 1928?

Agnes : 1928, that’s it.

Celia ; Which maks you ..? How auld are ye noo?

Agnes : 78

Celia ; 78 years auld yes – good age. Now I believe that ye didna grauw up in Gurden itsel. Far did ye grauw up?

Agnes : Alang at Lauriston and gaed ti the school at St Cyrus – afore ye come to The Bush (1) there’s a crossroads.

Celia : Aye, I ken exactly far ye mean. Yes. And you grew up there as a girl and ye gaed ti the school there and aathing but later on ye must hae fallen in love wi Jim – and ye got married –

Jim : She wis workin in Chivers (2)

Celia : Chivers – and that’s far ye met?

Agnes : No – I kinda kent him at the school and aathing, ye ken – aye.

Celia : But at some point ye came to settle in Gurden. Aye. Fan wid that hae been?

Agnes: I dah ken but I mind o yer father and yer mither.

Celia: Mmm. Ye settled in Gurden maybe the 1950s?

Agnes: Aye, mebbe – 53

Jim: I wis in the lichthooses and started the sea in Gurden.

Celia: And fit made you start the sea, Jim?

Jim; I wis at the salmon fishing wi mi father and them at Shieldhill but it wis eh a deid end job because ye got a job and fin that feenished ye were thrown oot sort o style.

Agnes; Ye hidna a job in the winter time, mair or less – so that wis fit started me aff wi the sheelin and baitin cause he gaed ti the sea.

Celia: Cause he gaed ti the sea. Did you hae ony connections wi fishing afore ye cam ti Gurden? No. Jist the salmon fishing?

Agnes: Nae even that

Celia: Jist tik a chance ti ask ye a quick question aboot salmon fishin, Jim if that’s aa right. Can ye describe mebbe fit t wis like at that time because yer speakin aboot the late forties, early fifties, are ye, fin ye were at the salmon fishing? Aye. Fit wid it hae been like at that time?

Jim : Well, I wis here twa- three years and it wis a coble/motor coble – wi an engine and we workit the maist nets alang the coast – eleven nets.

Celia : Far were ye fishin oot o? Here – Gurden (3) Oot o Gruden, nae Bervie!?

Jim ; No. I wis a year at Bervie afore that and eh – at Shieldhill.

Celia : Different salmon stations? Yes. So ye were at different stations belangin ti – Johnstone. The very first een ye gid ti, far wid that hae been?

Jim ; Well, I mind - I wis at Shieldhill a fortnicht wi Tam Mason and then I gaed ti Bervie eftir that. Hard work? Aye – but I didna think nothing ae it at that time. This wis the hardest place here as I sed ti ye – wi hid the masit nets and a big, lang cairry up the rocks.

Celia : Good catches?

Jim : Yes, very good.

Celia Typically how mony fish wid ye think ti bring in fae one haul o the nets?

Jim : Well, this time o the year noo in the month a Mai and a breeze o wind like that, ye micht hae gotten a score – or something like that.

Celia : And ye got a good price for a salmon? Oh aye. At that time. Ye canna get that noo. Ye canna get gid fish noo. That’s richt. Let’s taak a wee pause till wi hear fit’s goin on.

Celia : Okay, we’re back on tape. Noo fit I wis gaen ti ask ye next - is – kid you describe a typical day fin you were sheelin and baitin. Yes. Fit wid ye din first and foo early wid ye be up – aa the different bits that maak up a hale day’s work, sheelin and baitin.

Agnes : Well, aabody didna doh’t but I I yoosed ti rise – because I wisna si fest mebbe as some o them – I dah ken – fower a clock and then eftir I wis feenished baitin nearly denner time, I yoosed ti help him to redd (4).

Celia ; Now, ye’ve taen a big leap fae getting up at fower a clock ti denner time. So ye got up at fower a clock. Now fit wis next – made yersel a cup a tea, hid ye braakfast?

Jim : Bit she hid a helper, ye see.

Celia : Now did ye ging oot ti a sheddie or did ye bait in the hoose?

Agnes : Yes, sheddie oot there. Well, fin Shirley (5) wis little, I baited i the hoose. Cause she hid ti ging aboot in the hoose. I didna like ti lave her. But then eftir that it wis aa dohn in a shed. I yoosed ti ging oot ti the shed i the mornins.

Celia : So. Tell me aboot - exactly how did ye get the mussels? Did somebody sheel them for ye (6)?

Agnes : Well,, I usually hid a helper ti doh that. They cam wi a larry through the Sociation (7) Fishermen’s Association. Aye. That’s nae fit ye caa’d it? Fit wis it ye caa’d it?

Celia/Jim : Aye – the Gourdon Fishermen’s Association – doon at the old Post Office(8). William Street. Aye.

Celia : And they delivered the mussels.

Agnes : Aye, they collected them fae Montrose usually. Fae Johnstone’s.

Celia ; And you and yer helper – fa wis yer helper?

Agnes/Jim : Mary Christie a while - Mary Dorrit (9) ti start wi – Aye – quite a few different – Ella Spence. Ti feenish up wi it wis Mary Christie. She’d deid noo. She wis exactly the same age as me til a day.

Celia : So, now you and Mary are sittin doon wi a container wi mussels in it?

Agnes/ Jim : Troch (10).

Celia ; So, ye’ve got the mussel troch. The mussels are sittin inti the troch. Are they aa fool and dirty and garra (11) or dae ye hae ti wash them first?

Agnes ; I usually washed them first at the back door there.

Celia: So ye clean up the mussels. Aye – casue they were an affa maiss. Yer sittin aside the troch wi mussels intil’t and - tell me fit yer gaen ti yoose ti open up the mussels and far yer gaen ti pit it. Noo, I ken the answer, Agnes, cause I’m a fisherman’s dother as weel but this is ti get the details fae ye. So jist ging through it. Fit did ye yoose and far did ye pit them?

Agnes : Well, ye hid a sheel blade – fit ye caa’d a sheel blade – but ye kint that - and ye sheeled them intil a jar, or something for measuring foo much ye nought

Celia : That wid be a double jar – twa pund jar – or a pund – a jeely jar?

Agnes : Something onywye usually – ti sheel them inti

Celia ; And yer sheel blade – fit did that look like?

Agnes : Jim! Bring the sheel blade ben!

Celia : Noo jist tell us a bittie – this is your favourite sheel blade, is it?

Agnes : Well, it’s the only een noo, I hiv left. Jim – I think there’s eeniI the shed. Is there een i the shed yet?

Celia: Wid that be hame-made or wid ye be able to buy a sheel blade?

Agnes : They made them oot eh a knife….made them oot eh a knife

Celia : So the blade’s quite short?

Agnes ; Aye – no – there wid be a bit cut aff.

Celia: And the handle’s that bittie langer .

Agnes ; Aye – that’s widden handle, ye see. That’s nae the knife handle.

Celia : So that wis puttin thegithir. Did Jm maak that or did ye buy it fae the Soshie?

Jim: Yes., I made that. I made that.

Agnes : Did you maak that een?

Celia; Jim made that een. So custom-made ti be – the richt size for opening a mussel shell

Agnes : Aye, if ye got them that size. Ye ken yersel.

Celia : Now, there ye are. Yer sittin wi yer sheel blade, yer jar, yer trouch o mussels …

Agnes ; A bath ti pit the shells in – Yes, the empty shells – aye, the empty shells and they were lifted up wi the larry usually and hurled doon ti far they threw them awa.

Celia : And foo lang wid it taak ye ti sheel enough mussels for a hale line?

Agnes ; It took me fower oors onywye. Three, fower usually. Jim – aye it wid. Ye wid be lucky if ye got started at breakfast time ti bait.

Celia: And wis it – were they aisy ti get oot o the shell, Agnes? Were ye quick at that?

Agnes : Well, I wisna bad but some o them wis better than ithers. Some o them wis affa stiff to open. Ken, depends, I suppose far they’d been catched. They took them fae Montrose (12) sometimes. ... the Neeborough, the Teiy – aye somewye onywye, north..

Celia : So that wis a lang haul. Noo wid ye hiv stoppit for a cup a tea – maybe aboot six a clock or onything or wid ye jist carried on til ye were finished sheelin?

Agnes ; Oh no, stopped for mi breakfast and aathing. And then I’d a helper – which – she got breakfast – well, a roll or something.

Celia: So, eence ye hid enough mussels sheeled and inti the jar or inti the basin, ye were aboot ready to start baitin the line. That’s right. Okay – now maak a picture for us. You’re sittin –now fit wid be on yer richt hand side,and yer left hand side – in front o ye. Fit wid it be like? Fit wye wid it be set oot?

Agnes ; Well, ye wid hae a stool, maybe nae quite sa high as that wi a troch on’t, wi yer mussels in’t, a basin wi the back eh a chair. (13) Ye’d sheeled yer mussels inti something and then put them in the bath or whatever for getting them lifted oot a the wattir. Di you nae mind o that? Yes, I do but I’m jist wantin the details fae you. Foo’s that? Cause you’re the expert – laughter – Now, yer sittin wi yer mussels,now far’s the line and the skull (14)?

Agnes : Well, it’s jist sittin in the sheddie and aa. Ti yer richt hand, yer left hand side? And yer reddin it … the line’s sittin intil a basket …

Jim ; Ye redd it across this wye, on ti the skull, on a slope

Celia : So the basket’s on which side o you, Agnes? Far the line is that yer gaen ti be pittin …

Agnes : Ye tik it oot this side and bait and drap it inti the skull (15) – wi grass in.

Celia : Yes, aye – now a skull is like a lang, oval-shaped basket, halfwye marked wi a piece o board gaen across? That’s right. That’s right. Di ye pit, line the tap half, the tap o the oval wi grass? Aye . Or some people didna use grass avaa, did they?

Jim : Some folk yoosed grass and then ye yoosed paper atween the rows.

Celia: Sometimes ye didna need that. My mithir used ti bait toh. She didna sheel but she baited and she got so that she didna need ti pit in strips o paper atween the rows. Ye ken, she jist – Oh did she? Aye, but she wis maybe a bittie like you. She wisna affa, affa fest at it but she wis affa careful. But it did taak her a good lot o oors (16). So how mony mussels did ye pit on each hook as yer were takin the line across and yer were taakin the hook oot o the tippin?

Agnes : Well, sometimes ye hid good days because ye hid affa good mussels and next time, the mussels in the shells wis little which meant ye’d mair . Two or three on ti the ae hook? For aa that thon wis a affa life

Celia ; So that took ye anither great puckle oors. So yer layin rows eftir rows o baited mussels on the hooks. How mony hooks wis it? Now I do ken,Agnes. I’m jist askin because it’s for the record, ye see. So how mony hooks hid it been?

Agnes : Twelve hunder. One thousand two hunder.

Celia : 1200 hunder hooks, wi mebbe two or three mussels on each hook?

Agnes : Aye, dependin on the size o mussels. Sometime ye got a bit – one mussel did it. Ye’ll ken that. I do – but ye’d mebbe run awa fae it fan ye wis yunger. Nae muckle wunder. It wis an affa life.

Celia : Well, ye gaed awa ti the school and yer mithir jist carried on. She wis already up and oot in the sheddie.My mither baited when we were up at Selbie Place and she also baited when we moved doon ti Mowatt’s Lane. (17) I mind ye bidin at Selbie Place. Just customary. And then, fit time di ye think ye might hae finished? Early eftirnone – the middle o the efternone?

Jim : Na, she wid been feenished afore denner time.

Celia : Wid ye!? Oh that wis quick!

Agnes : Well, it wisna bad but – Oh that wis quick! But then I helpit him syne I the eftirnone.

Celia : So, ye feenished gin aboot denner time, cleared up but Jim hid twa things to doh. He wid hae come in fae the sea - he wid hae ti redd the back which is on the line but he wid also hae to redd the tangled line that came oot o the sea. So which did you help wi?

Agnes : I helpit wi them aa. I yoosed ti redd the back if I wis dune early afore he cam in fae the sea – I yoosed ti redd the back and sometimes I yoosed ti – I yoosed ti help mi father ti redd the line – and ye kinda, ken, checked that the tippin wis aricht and the hook and twisted it roond again inti the tippens and ony that were needin sorted, they were caa’d wints. Aye, that;s richt! Meanin they wanted something done – they were wints – so they either hid ti get the hook beaten on again or a new tippen. So that tangled line took a good while ti – clear, ti redd. Noo Jim’ll tell yi foo ye hid ti redd the back. Jim.

Jim: Well, the line wis shot ower a funnel and it hid ti be very near guaranteed ti ging clear because if it didna and the hook bounced back, it kid mebbe pick up a bunch.

Celia : So, it wis ti mak sure that the line wis gaen ti run clear ower the funnel? Caa’d it a funnel bunch. (18)

Celia : Now, I’m gaen ti ask Jim. Did you get muckle funnel bunches aff Agnes’s baitin?!

Jim : No, I didna that! No. No

Celia : Very good. That wis excellent,
.
Jim : Less than ithers I wid say.

Agnes : There’s nae doot there wis better baiters than …

Celia : My father used ti say that he very near widna hae ti bathir reddin his back cause mi mithir coiled it that carefully but yet he did, but he said, “Gosh,I widna hardly need ti redd the back, Ciss – Ye’ve made that a good job o coilin it.”

Agnes : I yoosed ti redd the back ti him sometimes if I wis dune early but I yoosed ti lift it up and redd it fae the start again. An affa life. Fin ye think aboot it noo, if ye’d puttin in the oors inti they car factories or somewye that we put in ti the sea, ye wid be a richt lot better aff.

Celia : Ye would ; ye would. Tell me something that Govie said. (19) He has a theory aboot this. I’m nae shoor if ye wid agree but he thoucht that the weemen should hiv got an actual wage – Aye – and then they wid hae been able to hae a stamp Aye and they wid hae able to get unemployment benefit. Certainly – and a bigger pension. And a bigger pension – and it nevir happened, did it? The woman jist – she did it – oot a love.

Agnes : I dah ken if it wis love.

Celia : Love and duty?

Agnes ; Sometimes there wisna muckle fin the mussels wis that size!

Celia ; Dearie me. So the hale day started at 4 a clock in tne morning – the sheelin, the baitin, the reddin the back, the reddin the line. Fit did ye hate the maist aboot it – and fit wis – or nae hate - fit wis mebbe the aisiest?

Agnes ; Cauld mornins I think’s the very worst. I’ll tell ye fit I didna like ti start – fin Shirley wis a bairn and I’d ti doh’t i the kitchen there. I didna like it at that time. cause - ken it did maak a maiss and ye’d that often oot and in ti ging and I didna like that. It’s nae a job I wid pick like but it wisna bad.

Celia : Did ye prefer sheelin ti baitin or baitin ti sheelin?


Agnes : I dah ken. I wisna very smert at neen o them – I think

Celia : Ye sound as if ye were. Jim’s noddin – he’s sayin ye were smert.

Agnes : He wis lucky. Cause I sheeled and baited – wi a helper – but I also helped him a great lot cause,well, near aabody had a hand helper thae days.

The next words are unclear.

Celia : Noo Jim, were you gaen ti the sea wi Welsh (20) aa that time or were ye wi different … ..

Jim : Gaed thirty – six year

Celia : Thirty – sis years wi Welsh. Fit wis Welsh’s boat – the Enterprise, wis it? The Enterprise. Aye. How mony o a crew did that – wid that be?

Jim : Fower maistly. Sometimes we hid five Sandy Welsh cam wi wi eftir a puckle years. To feenish up wi wi hid twa.

Celia ; And di you hae ony theories aboot over-fishin, Jim? Govie and Jamesie and George Leiper aa hiv their theories aboot it. (21) Yes, I’ve… Fit’s your theory aboot it?

Jim : Well, the biggest theory aboot fishin is the fit di ye caa them – the bait – sand eels. Sand eels, aye, the feedin .They tried ti ban them – the Dutchmen, the Danes, folk oot here in the Firth o Forth because the boats, and then there wis big boats cam up a net atween them and took awa the sprats and the sand eels and …

Celia : Fit were they yoosin the sand eels for?

Jim : Well, Denmark, they took them ti a factory on the pier – made fish meal. Fish meal. Which is stupid.

Celia : So by removing that – that wis detrimental?

Jim : Yes, and killed the birds, sea birds toh.

Celia : You wid pit it doon ti that?

Jim ; Well, I wid say that wis the biggest fault. Yes. The lines didna over-fish. No. Ye kid ging oot the day and get ten boxes, the morn ten boxes, the next day twenty. It wis the seine net. … anither day sevin. Ye aye got something.

Celia : But the seine net put paid ti that? Yes.

Agnes : The seine net wis preferable (22) Oh aye.

Jim : Sometimes we wis tap o the tree in Scotland wi the wages. And sometimes we wis oot a luck.

Celia : Yes, but although the seine net, Agnes says it wis preferable fae the point o view o nae haen ti sheel and bait, it wisna such a good method o fishin. It took ower muckle fish.

Jim : It destroyed the buddom.

Celia ; Yes. Aye. And a lot o these methods now for scallops and so on. Today’s trawlers are scoopin up everything right aff the bottom, aren’t they?

Jim : It’s jist like walkin alang the road, the bare road and on baith sides there’s green grass and fields and far the scallop dredges gotten doon, that’s the road.

Celia : Terrible, terrible.

Agnes : I’m gaen ti pit on the kettle noo.

Celia ; Are ye!?

Brief pause.

Celia ; Okay now we’ve spoken a good bittie aboot sheelin and baitin but fit aboot village life. There wid be a number o things happenin, social life in the village. Fit wid you have participated in there?

Agnes : Well, if ye wis sheelin and baitin in oor time, if ye wis, ye didna really hae muckle time ti ging ti things cause, unless it wis a Friday or a Setturday, because ye wis up ower early in the mornins. And aathing - so – ye didna hae muckle – o a life that wye. I aye likit Gurden richt enough. I nevir hid nothing …

Celia : Did ye enjoy things like the Pensioners and the Guild? (23) Concerts, Galas?

Agnes : Aye, the School concerts and aathing. Aye, aye.

Celia : Did ye ever ging on ti ony o the stalls at the Lifeboat Galas or that?

Jim : Aye ye were eence or twa – wi Margaret Wyllie.

Agnes : Aye – Jim Stewart ...

Celia : Wid that be the famous Wheel o Fortune wi Jim Stewart? (24)

Agnes ; You wid be there! Aye.

Jim : Wi his tartan jaiket.

Celia : And Jim, did Welsh tik his boat oot for boat trips, the gala days?

Jim : That’s far we did maist an aa – but ye dah get ti di that noo.

Celia : No – Health and Safety wid be against that. Ye widna hae proper conditions.

Jim : They made a lot o money wi that. There wis a big demand for that. Aye, there was.

Agnes : Aye, there wis a richt demand for it at that time. There wis a richt lot o folk jist cam doon jist for that.

Celia ; And ye mentioned Shirley now – fit did… Did Shirley participate ava inti the sheelin and baitin like?

Agnes/Jim : No, no

Jim : We didna want her ti hae nothing ti doh wi it.

Agnes ; No, there wisna an affa lot o young folk did it though thir mither did it

Celia : They did inti Govie’s day , inti your day perhaps, Jim like and mi father’s day. Mi father and them aa hid ti sheel a jar o mussels afore they gid ti the school. They didna hae, ken, his mither widna hiv hid a sheeler or helper and they wid sheel a jar afore they gid ti the school.

Jim : Shirley wis ahint that, ye see.

Celia : I wis also – I didna doh that aither. Ye jist gid awa ti the school. Ye were nevir asked – it wisna expected but I did help my father ti redd (25). I mind I got a hook hauled inti mi finger. Did ye?! I also gid ti the sea wi my father – I mind o that - ae summer fin he wis gaen (ti the creels) – ye cam back fae Canada – atween twa trips – I wis teachin in Canada, at university in Canada at that time. Wis ye!? Uhuh and I gid ti the sea wi mi father – oh – the hale summer. We were workin - we thought it wis a lot o creels at the time but they work mair noo. We must hae been working – oh - at least aichty creels, ye ken and we didna board them. We ran them, so that made it even. quicker, a process. We were tikin oot the remains o the auld bait and pittin in the new bait. But, eh, yeah, I likit that. (26) Enjoyed that.

Jim : But ye see, ye kidna doh that noo. Ye kidna hae dohn that fin we gaed..Yer boat widna cairry the crabs. We workit 180, 240 wis the maist. (27) Did ye? I got less than a meenit ti empty the creel, tik oot the biat, pit in anither een. I yoosed ti doh aa that.

Celia : Well, I did that, that time I wis gaen wi mi father and that involved tying up the bait for creel fishing. Yes, I’ve done that an aa. Jist ti maak it clear for fit we’re saying, this is fishing for crabs and lobsters, crabs caa’d partans, of course, aye. (28)

Jim : :Lines winter …

Agnes : There wis mair money in’t than ye thoucht..

Celia : Yes, yes. So Agnes, if ye were haen ti sum up that wye o life, fit wid ye say? Wis it a really hard wye o life? Oh aye. Are ye gled it’s aa ower? Did it hae some things that ye thoucht micht be valuable?

Agnes : Well, o the twa choices, I wid say I’m gled it’s stopped. I dah believe ye wid get young folk ti doh it noo.

Celia : Probably not, no.

Agnes ; We must hae been aboot the last crowd that …

The next portion is blurred but Jim is commending line fishing for its product.

Celia : Yes, it wid - cause I think line fishing gaed ye the perfect fish

Jim : The fish wis lyin there wi their moos open ….

Agnes commends fish caught off Catterline and Jim mentions the Montrose Bank – Affa gid fish.

Celia: Absolutely special. Ye canna get them like that noo. They werena damaged at aa wi the line whereas they could be damaged intil a trawl. Let me jist hae a quick check that I’ve asked ye aathing. Yes. Awa and pit on the kettle. Aye. I think, if there’s onything ye wanted ti add, Jim – I wondered if ye wanted ti add onything aboot yer War service or onything or are ye jist wantin ti …

Jim : I wis called up in 1942. Roy Souter and Roger Munro … - there wis five o us onywye and we wia aa called up. But I wis in the Royal Navy - they were in the Patrol Service. Oh right , my father wis in the Royal Navy toh. Aye – which wis a bittie mair strict.. …And I wis at D-Day.

Celia : Jamesie said he wis at Dunkirk but you said yer were at D-Day – that wis 1945?

Jim : Aye roond aboot that, yes I wis at D-Day. Roy Souter aye says to me there wis only me and him at D-Day fae Gurden. I couldna really tell ye. (29)

Celia ; Aye and what sort o experience wis that, gaen ti the War? I mean wis it something ye were faird at, aa the time – and ye jist hid duties ti doh and that wis that?

Jim : No, no! that’s the funny thing aboot it. I nevir saw naebody that wis faird. No. Ye hid ti doh’t and ye did it. Yes

Agnes : There wise een or twa though fae Gurden lost. Yes.

Jim : Joe Craig. Joe Craig.

Celia : My father’s brother, Joseph wis killed on the HMS Beverely –in 1943

Jim : Beverly. He yoosed ti say ti me, “If there’s a job ti be done, send for the Beverly. They yoosed ti cry. Did they?

Jim : Aye, so he said. He wis a great lad. I likit Joe.

Celia : Aye, he wis a good lad accordin ti fit I hear.

Jim : I wis on a ship caa’d the Hound. ( The Hound). We wis the third ship on D-Day gaen across but the seecond een’s sweep got blawn up, so we hid ti ging seecond because they gaed ahint een anither, a bittie awa fae een anither…

Celia : Wis ye mine sweepin?

Jim : Yes. The first een gaed i the open wattir and ye wis a bittie shelter’t because ye were gaen far he’d swept and the next went this wye. The nearest thing ti hell, there evir wis.

Celia : Pretty dangerous. Oh terrible. My father wis on Atlantic convoys at one point because they were in the Reserve, they were called up in 1939, well, they were called up for the Phoney War – I mind o them gaen awa - and then they were called up, ye ken, right away. They were jist off – I mind o them gaen awa - at the toot! So your generation did braw weel, whether it wis at the War or whether it wis workin cause ye worked hard, didn’t ye? Yes.

Agnes : Hey, it must be a gid whilie since your folk deid? Yer father.

Celia : Yes, aye, my father deid in 1993 and my mither deid in 1994, so that’s 13 and 14 years ago and I miss them every day. Every day.

Agnes : I believe that. Ye henna nae mair connections. Very few. Farer oot than like a cousin even.

Celia ; That’s the nearest I hiv, is a cousin

Jim : My mither died fin I wis awa sailin oot o Portsmouth.

Celia : But you were already mairriet at that time, were ye? No. Ye werena marriet at that time.

Jim ; I jist got hame in time ti gie mi face a wash and ga waa up the road ti the funeral.

Celia : Fa’s funeral?

Jim : Mi mither’s.

Celia : Oh, yer mithir’s funeral. Of course, of course. Oh aye, right. Ye got compassionate leave?

Jim : Yes, I got three days. Goodness. That’s aa I got.


The Interview was ended with thanks at the this point, the end of Side 1 of the tape.


Words : 5,299




Summary Outline

• Early years – school at Lauriston – Agnes and Jim
• Jim at the salmon fishing
• Agnes describes a typical day sheelin and baitin
• Up at 4 o’ clock to start the day’s work
• Working either in the house or in the shed
• Delivery of mussels – Gourdon Fishermen’s Association
• Washing the “garra” off the mussels
• Using a special sheel blade
• Sheelin with a helper
• The mussel troch – the bath for empty shells, the basin, the jar
• Baiting commences after breakfast, after some four hours of sheelin mussels
• The equipment – the line basket, the skull, the grass lining, the paper strips between rows of mussels
• Baiting two, sometimes three, rarely one mussel/s per hook , 1200 hooks in all
• Baiting completed around dinnertime, at least another four hours later
• Helping Jim – by reddin the line back/reddin the back – “wints” to be replaced, new hooks beaten on – new tippens
• Jim redds the tangled line shot at sea, over a funnel
• Funnel bunches – Agnes baited a clear line
• Govie Cargill’s theory about a proper wage for women baiting and sheeling and the knock-on advantages – unemployment benefit – bigger pension
• The worst things – the cold mornings and baiting in the house when daughter was small
• Theory of over-fishing
• Line fishing compared with seine net fishing.
• Village life – concerts, galas, boat trips
• Social changes mean that girls pursue education, not following their mothers into sheeling and baiting.
• Creel fishing – partans, lobsters, interviewer going to sea with her father
• Summing up
• Jim’s War Service in the Navy




Extracts for Elphinstone Kist website : work

Interview with Mrs Agnes Scott, with contributions from Mr Jim Scott

The Woman’s Role in Line Fishing in Gourdon (Gurden) – 1950s – 1980s

Mrs Agnes Scott, of Gourdon, born 1928 recounts the life of a Gourdon fisherman’s wife, 1950s – 1980s , focusing on the role of the woman in line fishing, her contributions, sheelin and baitin – shelling the mussels and baiting the lines.

Hagin risen at four in the morning, Agnes commenced work shelling mussels with her helper.




(1) The Bush Hotel near St Cyrus was a popular hostelry in the 60s, 70s and 80s.
(2) Agnes’ husband, Jim refers to the well-known fruit and vegetable factory in Montrose.
(3) Gurden is the local pronunciation of Gourdon.
(4) Reddin refers to clearing the tangled line that had been brought home after being “shot” at sea and the fish taken off the 1200 hooks that had been baited. This line was untangled, repaired if necessary and sorted into baskets, ready to be used again next day. For further details of line fishing, see Interview with Andrew Gove Cargill where the different stages of the process are fully described - sheelin, baiting, shooting the line, redding the line, redding the baited line back..
(5) Shirley is Agnes and Jim’s daughter.
(6) It was common for a wife to have a sheeler opening the mussels in the large quantities necessary for a 1200 hook line requiring at least two mussels per hook. The sheeler might work from home or come to the baiting shed to sheel there. This made the task more companionable and enabled the baiter to get going with the baiting which in itself was a long and “eident” task, taking at least four hours. The helper might also bait a few hooks to the baiter’s hand, thus speeding the process further.
(7) The Gourdon Fishermen’s Association collected the mussels from different sources and delivered quantities daily to individual households in boxes, ready to be shelled and used the next day. I well remember my mother and father heaving heavy boxes of mussels through to the baiting shed, sometime in the dark on a wintry night, especially if the Association lorry delivering the mussels had done its round late in the day. The mussels were unwashed.
(8) The Gourdon Fishermen’s Association had its premises in William Street where it provided numerous items, rather like a ship’s chandler’s establishment as well as undertaking the collection and delivery of mussels. The fish salesman also had his office there and the money for each boat’s catch would be collected from there each Saturday for “dealing out” in shares to the crew in the Skipper’s house.
(9) Dorrit is Gurden fro Dorward. Christie is pronounced with a long “i” – Christ – ee.
(10) I wis waitin for her to say the word. I’m trying ti get the words. A troch is usually a wooden container with raised sides.
(11) The mussels were delivered unwashed, coated in a kind of mud and when water was added it turned thick – and was described a garra watter.
(12) Montrose is some 12 miles south of Gourdon
(13) Agnes indicates a somewhat higher than knee-high table where the tape recorder is sitting as we record. The chair back acts as a curved board made from the chair back where a small supply of mussels is placed for picking up for the next few hooks, constantly replenished from the basin itself.
(14) The skull is a long oblong-shaped basket where the biated hooks and line are placed.
(15) The line has been coiled into a large basket which is placed on the baiter’s left. She picks up the first length and starts passing it across, loosening the first hook which is then baited with one, usually two, sometimes three mussels from the basin board in front of the baiter. That baited hook is placed on the small board or rod placed across the centre of the skull and the portion of line coiled in the bottom part of the skull. This process is repeated till the first row is completed and the next row begun and many rows thereafter till the whole 1200 hook line is baited. The upper part of the skull where the hooks were placed was usually lined with grass to keep the baited mussels secure. Sometimes paper could be used instead. Some baiters also placed thin strips of paper between each row of baited hooks in the skull.
(16) Like Agnes, my mother, Elizabeth Craig (Ciss) was an inabootcomer who undertook to bait for her husband and commit to the rather arduous life as a fisherman’s wife.
(17) The house at Mowatt’s Lane had been built by my great grandfather Mowatt on my grandmother’s side
(18) The funnel was a cylinder-shaped device and the line was shot out over the funnel, over the side of the boat to ensure that it ran out cleanly to fish.
(19) See Interview with Andrew Gove Cargill of Gourdon
(20) Alex Welsh was a well-kent Gourdon skipper.
(21) Each interviewed for Elphinstone, q.v.
(22) Agnes is clearly thinking here how much less work seine net fishing entailed for the women – i.e. no sheelin or baitin!
(23) The Gourdon Old Age Pensioners Association met regularly throughout the 50s – 80s, as did the Guild which still survives unlike the Pensioners. The concerts and concert party were well-received. The interviewer and her father formed part of the concert party for many years, performing on the piano and violin respectively, and singing! The interviewer’s mother was a keen Guilder!
(24) Jim Stewart was the Fish Salesman and a leading light in the village events – concerts, galas etc. He ran the Wheel of Fortune stand, assisted by Gourdon ladies – Margaret Wyllie, Agnes herself, usually fishermen’s wives who dressed in the traditional fisher gear for the event – with the plaid/tartan shawls etc.
(25) This was only an occasional and brief help! It is interesting sociologically to note this change whereby young girls were” excused” from the hard graft of sheelin and baitin, instead pursuing education. Both Shirley and myself, earlier ( I am considerably older than Shirley and was teaching at Mackie Academy when Shirley was in S5/6 there) became teachers. Govie Cargill’s children also pursued other careers.
(26) The bait was usually fish heads or other parts and had to be tied up the day before going to sea. Enough bait had to be prepared for at least 80 creels. The creels were winched/hauled aboard and each creel opened at the trap, emptied of the catch, of partans (crabs) and the occasional precious lobster, the old bait removed and the new bait tied in place. The creel was closed and shot overboard again. Then the next creel was processed till the fleet of twenty was complete and the bough could be cast off to mark the place where the fleet of creels was situated. My father sometimes operated fleets of twenty-five, instead of the traditional twenty. I particularly enjoyed being at the tiller of an early morning, steering the boat up the path of the rising sun, dazzling, brilliant – pure joy!
(27) Jim was working with a bigger crew than simply the two of my father and myself.
(28) Shell fish were sent by rail to Billingsgate Fish Market in London till Doctor Beeching shut the useful branch lines and started the demise of fishing for crabs and lobsters. Alternative buyers appeared and disappeared over time till now only a few boats are left fishing in this way. Scallop fishing off Montrose is now pursued. Inshore fishing per se is in a parlous condition as is indeed all fishing, including the ultra-modern trawl fishing.
(29) Agnes invervenes to ask if the interviewer is cold.



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