A Place Beyond The Priory

 "A Place Beyond the Priory " This is a story about Life in North Shields during the 1900's-1920's Tom Farrow is a third generation coble fisherman, Who meets and falls in love with a young herring girl who has travelled from the isle of Barra in the outer Hebrides looking for work. Margaret Linnie, her two friends Kerstin McDonald and Beth Munro all end up on the gutting line in Tyne Brand - their unscrupulous foreman Albert Mortimer treats all the girls on the line like animals including his wife Lizzie who bares him 11 children. forced into a marriage she did not want, Lizzie is abused by Albert for his own sexual gratification. She was in love with a young Greek boy called Leonidas Kostalas whom she had known from her days at school and lost her virginity to but her father will not allow them to marry- this is a story of love and betrayal and will keep you riveted until the last page is read.


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“You picked the wrong time to come for a visit though Tom; the weather here is set to change in a day or two.

“Aye the doctor said; I’ve got to bring my boat ashore tomorrow.’

“If you bring her to the beach we can tow her onto it; she will be safe there.’

Tom thanked Isla for the stew which was hot and tasty.

Margaret sat up talking with her mother until one in the morning Tom had gone to his room and went off in no time. One thing about Tom he could sleep anywhere.

Chris and Beth and Steve and Kerstin went to bed early too. It had been an eventful twenty four hours and they all hoped that the weather would hold out so they could get back.


There was a group of men waiting on the beach as Tom, Chris and Steve steered the boat into the shallows a set of wheels were pushed up to the boat and then fed underneath they were secured with two heavy blocks then the ropes were tied around both sides of the cleats then the loose ends tied to Ralphie Mason’s tractor. It took less than fifteen minutes to drag the boat ashore it was pulled to a safe enough distance then secured with a large tarpaulin sheet that Tom used in bad weather back home. It would keep the inside of the boat dry and protect the engine.

“When they were done Tom asked if they could help elsewhere. There was always work to be done on the farms so Tom, Chris, and Steve spent the day cleaning out barns, feeding the animals. They learned about milking the cattle which had to be done three times a day. The milk was then loaded onto a cart and taken around the island and sold.

Cheese making was another skill they learned; the women worked too; they cooked cleaned and knitted thick jumpers in various patterns that would be sold on to tourists who came to the island in the summer months. Later that day the winds began to pick up and the temperature dropped to minus twelve. It would get even colder in the next few days. The fires in every house were built up and every house had a good supply of logs to burn stacked high in a shed. The barges that came to the island brought the wood which was taken to the saw mills to be either used for boat building or burned as fuel. The main source of fuel came from the peat bogs. The peat was also burned to extract paraffin oil which lit the lamps, made candles, and acted as a lubricant sheep dip to kill off ticks. The wool in the Outer Hebrides produced Harris Tweed coats and jackets that were very popular. The use of wind became a valuable source of electricity in later years. They had one large generator that controlled the observatory which was run by a wind turbine.

The locals utilised everything at their disposal. Seaweed was collected and eaten along with mussels, whelks, cockles, and limpets. They even timed the migration of the elver (baby eels) that would make the long journey across land and sea to the Saragossa Sea; collected in their thousands they we pickled and fried up to make a meal.

Puffins were caught using nets and eaten as a meat source. Then there was the pilot whale which the islanders hunted. Sixty whales were killed each year to feed the 789 islanders on Barra.  There was an annual celebration when this happened. They say the tradition came from the Vikings who settled on these islands.

Beer was another thing that the Vikings brought. Made on the island, it was still very popular with the locals as well as a good supply of whiskey from the distillery. After a days hard work the men returned and the women made sure that they were well fed.



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