Fish Wife

"FISH WIFE" It tells of two women one from Scotland the other from North Shields.Margaret Rose Garbutt, has a violent abusive husband who beats her up whilst pregnant she runs away from from Sterling and when her baby is born is forced to give her up. years later she ends up working in the kipper factory on North Shields fish quay where she meets Irene Milsip who had such a bad home life that when she was set up on a blind date met Jimmy Johnson who she marries more out of desperation than love. Jimmy is a waster and is having an affair behind Irene's back with an Irish immigrants daughter until Irene's friend finds a letter in the street. Annabelle Crosby is faced with a dilemma- does she tell her friend or let the affair go on. This is the story of hardship and struggle of two women during the 1960's and their rise to success but one thing they will never forget is their roots. FISH WIFE is a tale of love, ambition, family values, and friendship.


10. 10

When they reach the gate to his house he held the gate for Rose. He then went into his pocket and took out a bunch of keys he took one off the key ring and gave it to Rose.

“Now you can come and go as you please.




Irene Johnson worked in the kipper house like a lot of women in the town. Every morning Monday to Friday they would be gutting, filleting and racking dozens of herring ready to be smoked. The oak or pine sawdust would be set alight once all the herring was ready to be smoked and the doors would lock until they were ready to be transported all over the country where they were sold in pairs. Herring in the 1960’s was a staple of many families living in North Shields. It was cheap and very good for you as the fish contained a lot of vital omega fish oils. The cod from the North Sea was starting to become more popular and the humble herring was pushed to one side along with mackerel and Pollock. Monk fish was rolled in batter and sold as mock scampi.

A lot of people ate monk fish steamed in milk and onions.


Irene turned up for work at 6am as did the rest of the work force waiting for the herring to be delivered each woman stood with their overalls and black rubber pinnie

 The fish was brought in by the popper motorised wagons piled some twelve boxes high.

These women could gut and fillet a herring in the time it took to sneeze; they never stopped until lunch time where they were given just thirty minutes to go to the toilet eat and have a cigarette. A lot of the women sang as they worked to break up the monotony of the work the work was hard and long and the wage was four pounds a week; six if you worked all day on Saturday.

Irene was surprised at how many people spoke to her that morning.

It was hello Irene are you alreet love or how’s you and your husband Jimmy getting on.

“Come on oot with it Phyllis; what’s gannin on?

“Whey nowt is gannin on with us said Phyllis; it’s your man you should be lookin’ to.”

“What’s he been up to now like?

“Whey I think you should be askin’ him that question.”

“Ask your neighbour Annabelle she found the letter addressed to your man in the street of all places.

“What are you talkin’ aboot woman it don’t make sense.”

“Has the penny not dropped yet like?

“She’s a bit slow on the bloody up take if you ask me said Lynn Bewick who worked in the fish cake factory across the road.

“Your man has got his self a floosie woman don’t you know?

“Don’t talk daft Jimmy wouldn’t; she stopped herself and then thought back over the last few months Jimmy had been going out a lot dressed up saying he was going to play darts with his mates. She found it unusual that he didn’t smell of beer or try it on as he usually did when he had had a pint or two of Newcastle Brown Ale.

For the rest of the day Irene was in bits and couldn’t concentrate on her work.

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